Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/652

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



I SHALL not attempt to go over all the ground covered by the above topic, but shall simple lay special stress upon a few points. I shall put in a plea for genuine, systematic laboratory work upon plants and animals; shall insist that, in studying both, students become familiar with the general structure, physiology, and classification of members of all the main groups from the lowest to the highest; shall urge the necessity of teachers especially trained for the work; and I shall then attempt to point out the training that should result from such a course of study.

It should not be necessary to spend much time in urging the importance of laboratory work in the study of biological subjects. It seems strange that any teacher should ever think of having a pupil spend the precious hours of his school life in studying plants and animals in any other way. But the fact that only a small per cent of our teachers are pursuing the laboratory method makes it imperative that somebody plead in behalf of the students of our public schools. By laboratory work I mean the dissection of plants and animals for the purpose of discovering the facts concerning them, not the verifying of statements made by text-book or teacher. It is a very common mistake on the part of teachers to think they are doing the best they can for their pupils when they themselves bring in or require the pupils to obtain specimens that will illustrate their own or text-book statements. Students should be original investigators, and should be deprived of none of the pleasures connected with original investigation. Only laboratory guides and reference books should be put into their hands. The teacher and laboratory manual should aid pupils in the discovery of truth, but should never rob them of the pleasure of discovering it for themselves when practicable. As F. Mühlberg says:[1] "Of course, one gets on faster with a child by carrying it, but it is for the child's interest to teach it to run and swim for itself. In the same way it is better not to give young scholars scientific knowledge ready made, but to teach them the way to it. By imparting to them results obtained by others the ideal purpose of instruction is seriously prejudiced, the sense of scientifically accurate thinking is destroyed, the belief in authority is increased instead of checked, and the mind becomes surfeited, instead of finding

  1. Natural Science in Secondary Schools. Bureau of Education, Washington, D. C, 1882, p. 3.