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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/701

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SCIENCE IN EDUCATION.

science began to be introduced into our schools, it was still taught in the old or literary fashion. Lectures and lessons were given by masters who got up their information from books, but had no practical knowledge of the subjects they taught. Class-books were written by men equally destitute of a personal acquaintance with any department of science. The lessons were learned by rote, and not infrequently afforded opportunities rather for frolic than for instruction. Happily, this state of things, though not quite extinct, is rapidly passing away. Practical instruction is everywhere coming into use, while the old-fashioned cut-and-dry lesson-book is giving way to the laboratory, the field excursion, and the school museum.

It is mainly through the eyes that we gain our knowledge and appreciation of the world in which we live. But we are not all equally endowed with the gift of intelligent vision. On the contrary, in no respect, perhaps, do we differ more from each other than in our powers of observation. Obviously, a man who has a quick eye to note what passes around him must, in the ordinary affairs of life, stand at a considerable advantage over another man who moves unobservantly on his course. We can not create an observing faculty any more than we can create a memory, but we may do much to develop both. This is a feature in education of much more practical and national importance than might be supposed. I suspect that it lies closer than might be imagined to the success of our commercial relations abroad. Our prevalent system of instruction has for generations past done nothing to cultivate the habit of observation, and has thus undoubtedly left us at a disadvantage in comparison with nations that have adopted methods of tuition wherein the observing faculty is regularly trained. With our world-wide commerce we have gone on supplying to foreign countries the same manufactured goods for which our fathers found markets in all quarters of the globe. Our traders, however, now find themselves in competition with traders from other nations who have been trained to better use of their powers of observation, and who, taking careful note of the gradually changing tastes and requirements of the races which they visit, have been quick to report these changes and to take means for meeting them. Thus, in our own centers of trade, we find ourselves in danger of being displaced by rivals with sharper eyes and greater powers of adaptation.

It is the special function of science to cultivate this faculty of observation. Here in Mason College, from the very beginning of your scientific studies you have been taught to use your eyes, to watch the phenomena that appear and disappear around you, to note the sequence and relation of these phenomena, and thus, as it were, to enter beneath the surface into the very soul of things. You can