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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/489

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HEREDITY IN RELATION TO EDUCATION.

of human nature, is supposed to devise methods that accord with them. Even with such views he may not become a very successful teacher, because teaching is an art, and it is one thing to understand in the abstract and another thing to apply. But given the natural aptitude for the art, it is surely plain that the application will be more in harmony with our nature if that be understood. And in the application great skill will be required so that the individual will not be lost sight of. In fact, it is just here that the art of so many falls short. They lack the insight to recognize just what constitutes the individuality in each case and to adapt to this. I will therefore endeavor to assist in some measure in the solution of this problem by calling attention to a guide to the individual nature through the subject of heredity.

From the earliest times heredity, or the resemblance of offspring to parents, has been admitted in some vague way at least; and if this were now as clearly recognized for man as it is by breeders of our domestic animals, I would anticipate greater human progress than is likely till sound views on this subject are more widespread and more deeply impressed. How few have ever seriously sat down and pondered upon such questions as these: Why is my nature such as it is? To what degree am I and in what measure are ancestors concerned in my being what I am? What am I likely to become? I presume one might safely affirm that most persons here never directly faced such considerations at all. Probably many would regard it as impossible to account in any approximately satisfactory way for their physical and mental status, and would be very apt to refer the latter in no small degree to what is commonly known as education.

But if we were to visit the establishment of some successful breeder of domestic animals we would find no such hazy mental condition. The breeder does know why his stock is such as it is. You point to some admirable specimen and compare it with another of plainly inferior merit and ask him the reason why. He does not attempt to explain the difference by the pasture, but he tells you that the less valuable animal is a common cross-breed without extended pedigree, while the other is derived from ancestors that he can trace for generations, and the parents of which are now on his farm, the purchase price being a large one.

The breeder would have been greatly puzzled if such ancestors had produced offspring entirely unworthy of themselves. The same applies to the vegetable world. "Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?" But apparently we often expect this rule to be reversed in regard to human beings. The fact is, man was so much regarded as a creature apart by himself with laws of his own—laws that were every now and then at least interfered with in some inexplicable way—that the public mind got demoralized;