Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/696

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

taught, and the new subjects enlist the attention and sympathy of large classes of pupils whom the earlier studies only languidly interested. Nevertheless, it is incumbent on those who have advocated and carried out this change to ask themselves whether it has brought with it no drawbacks. They may be sure that no such extensive reform could possibly be accomplished without defects appearing somewhere. And it is well to look these defects in the face and, as far as may be possible, remove them. In considering how I might best discharge the duty with which I have been honored of addressing the students of Mason College this evening, I have thought that it might not be inappropriate if, as a representative of science, I were to venture to point out some of the drawbacks as well as the advantages of the position which science has attained in our educational system.

At the outset no impartial onlooker can fail to notice that the natural reaction against the dominance of the older learning has tended to induce an undervaluing of the benefits which that learning afforded and can still bestow. In this college, indeed, and in other institutions more specially designed for instruction in science, provision has also been made for the teaching of Latin, Greek, and the more important modern languages and literatures. But in such institutions these subjects usually hold only a subordinate place. It can hardly be denied that generally throughout the country, even although the literary side of education still maintains its pre-eminence in our public schools and universities, it is losing ground, and that every year it occupies less of the attention of students of science. The range of studies which the science examinations demand is always widening, while the academic period within which these studies must be crowded undergoes no extension. Those students, therefore, who, whether from necessity or choice, have taken their college education in science, naturally experience no little difficulty in finding time for the absolutely essential subjects required for their degrees. Well may they declare that it is hopeless for them to attempt to engage in anything more, and especially in anything that will not tell directly on their places in the final class lists. With the best will in the world, and with even, sometimes, a bent for literary pursuits, they may believe themselves compelled to devote their whole time and energies to the multifarious exactions of their science curriculum.

Such a result of our latest reformation in education may be unavoidable, but it is surely matter for regret. A training in science and scientific methods, admirable as it is in so many ways, fails to supply those humanizing influences which the older learning can so well impart. For the moral stimulus that comes from an associa-