Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/260

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IT is impossible to turn one's attention in the direction of education to-day without being reminded that the present century has been characterized not only by a steady advance in our knowledge of the natural sciences, but by an ever-widening popularization of that knowledge. And one of the facts that strike us most forcibly in connection with this educational growth along scientific lines is that it has been coincident in time with the recent extension of educational rights and privileges for women. The physical sciences have therefore assumed prominence in women's education from the time that public attention was first focused upon them, and scientific instruction given to girls has been, from the time it was introduced into their education, in no way different from, or inferior to, that provided for their brothers.

The late Professor Huxley, in his speech on Scientific Education, delivered in 1869, described very forcibly the movement then arising toward a reform in school education from the side of natural knowledge—a movement which owed its existence in large part to his own persistent exertions. "The head masters," he says, "of our public schools—Eton, Harrow, Winchester—have addressed themselves to the problem of introducing instruction in physical science among the studies of those great educational bodies with much honesty of purpose and enlightenment of understanding, and I live in hope that, before long, important changes in this direction will be carried into effect in those strongholds of ancient prescription." Such was the provision, or lack of provision, for scientific training in the English public schools little more than a quarter of a century ago; and it is only necessary to glance at the prospectus issued by any one of the secondary schools for either sex, on both sides of the Atlantic, in the present year of grace, to find abundant evidence that, so far as "important changes" are concerned, Professor Huxley's very modest hope is now more than fulfilled. So radical a change in the old order could not, however, be effected without opposition; and this opposition found its most distinguished supporter in a man whose efforts toward the improvement of education were no less earnest than Professor Huxley's own. In 1871 Matthew Arnold wrote as follows: "If there is any other body of men which strikes one . . . as having before it a future still more brilliant than its present it is the friends of physical science. Now, their revolt against the tyranny of letters is notorious.