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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/112

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

for the exposition and enforcement of thought. The fundamental importance to the speaker and writer of finding effective symbols for his thought is perhaps best illustrated by the parables of Christ; "without a parable spake he not unto them."

The larger facts of modern science constitute an incomparable challenge and stimulus to the imagination. The electric thrill circles the earth ere a swift-footed Achilles could gird up his loins to run. An instructor in rhetoric in the University of Chicago recently stated that the most vivid and imaginative themes which came to him from a certain class were written by some pupils interested in geology upon simple topics connected with the history of the earth. Some of the great writers of coming days are already

. . . nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science.

The value of scientific study is not to be measured, of course, by the extent to which it ministers to the production and appreciation of good literature. The necessity of some knowledge of science, in order that the educated man may possess his intellectual birthright as a member of his own generation, furnishes a fundamental and unanswerable argument for such study. That ideal of education will never go entirely out of fashion which demands that each student make a brave and earnest attempt, even though it can never be more than partially successful, "to see life steadily, and see it whole." This ideal will always appeal to some minds, and its advocates will judge colleges and universities by their success in furnishing education of this type.

Is there any practical difficulty besides the obvious limitations of time and strength which prevents students of literature from obtaining an outline knowledge of the more important branches of modern science? Unquestionably, the great difficulty is a conviction on the part of these students themselves that scientific study is without value for them. But in some cases this is not the only obstacle. Some of the introductory courses in science in the American institutions of collegiate grade seem to be planned for those who wish to make specialties of the sciences. Brief, synoptic culture courses—such as can be covered, let us say, by means of a daily class exercise for a period of twelve weeks—are accessible in many institutions, and sometimes in all of the major sciences; but in other cases they are disbelieved in and are not offered. In study of this sort, of course, two or three hours of field or laboratory work often take the place of a lecture or recitation. Sometimes the first course in a particular science, while brief enough to come under the description given above, is evidently planned entirely as "first steps," not as a synoptic course that shall by itself minister to a broad culture.