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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/166

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

een States a small majority of the people are of low general intelligence; and this mere counting of the entries may show me that, when taking the States one by one, I have made a somewhat different estimate of the general intelligence of the people of the entire country from that which I made when looking at all the people of the country as an undivided mass.

If still unsatisfied with my judgment, I may proceed to subdivide each State into its counties, and take the counties as enumeration units. I may go through the process of recording my judgments by entering symbols in the several columns of my table, and at the end I may again count up my totals of high, medium, and low intelligence. Obviously, I can do this work only if I am able to travel through every county in the United States, and, by interviews with people, by forming general impressions and by visiting schools, get a fairly definite idea of the relative intelligence of each civil division; or if, being unable to make this personal inquiry, I resort to printed information—namely, educational reports, miscellaneous public documents, historical records, newspapers, and other objective data throwing light upon the intellectual status of these various divisions. This, I find, is an enormous labor; but if I conscientiously perform it I correct my subjective impressions, and there is a fair presumption that my final result is a judgment vastly nearer the truth than was my first general impression of the intelligence of the whole undivided mass of the American population.

Thus the conscientious use of the method which I have suggested insures, in the interest of precision, two important modifications of ordinary sociological description: First, it subjects the purely subjective processes of judgment to a certain correction and measurement; secondly, it leads the observer step by step, and almost unconsciously, to resort more and more to definite objective data in place of first impressions.

Essentially the same method, by slight modifications of detail, may be extended to historical inquiries. How often do we encounter in historical monographs the statement that, since a certain date, there has been a marked increase of this or that activity, or that such a trait or such a habit, occasionally observed half a century ago, is now characteristic of whole sections or populations! To the credit of the historians, it must be said that careful men seldom make such statements without offering in substantiation of them a certain amount of objective evidence. But the method is loose, and it has the radical defect of permitting such terms as "increase" and "decrease," "great increase" and "great decrease" to stand for different quantities when applied to differ-