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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/220

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

stantiated by a relatively large number of cases; the cases, moreover, must be collected in a wholly unobjectionable manner; that is, in a manner in which the principle of selection bears no influence upon the longevity. To my knowledge adequate statistics which exhibit the relative longevity of different classes do not exist, and they certainly do not exist with regard to great men. We may therefore conclude that the facts which have thus far been collected are not opposed to the conclusion that great men enjoy favorable longevity, but they certainly have not established or contributed to the establishment of this fact. While it is not impossible to collect material which may serve as corroborative evidence of the longevity of great men, it seems probable that we must be content with evidence of a far inferior character.

Although I regard Mr. Thayer's argument concerning longevity as entirely fallacious, I find myself in sympathy with his main contention. It seems to me that much of the evidence which has been brought forward to assimilate greatness with degeneracy is of questionable value and that the logical force of such evidence has been very much overrated. That genius and insanity are related is probably capable not of demonstration, but of a moderate degree of substantiation; but this evidence must be both judiciously collected and judiciously interpreted. It cannot be presented in a popular form without subjecting it to the danger of serious and harmful misrepresentation. In the same way the question of degeneracy and its bearing upon modern life has been frequently misstated, so that statements of protests such as Mr. Thayer offers are both opportune and likely to have a wholesome effect. But the present concern is only with the relation of longevity to greatness as an indication of the absence of degeneracy. That long life is inconsistent with a general degeneracy may be admitted; but that great men exhibit this quality to any unusual degree has certainly not been proven.

Joseph Jastrow.
University of Wisconsin.
 

SCHOOL REFORM.

School teachers and educational reformers undoubtedly take themselves and their ideas too seriously. Accordingly one rejoices to see an eminent man put his own affairs aside for a moment and discuss educational theories in a humorous vein. Even ridicule should be welcomed if it can relieve the sombre earnestness of the educational platform and press. Professor Münsterberg, in the Atlantic Monthly for May, has done pedagogy this service by subjecting the elective system and professional training for high-school teachers to considerable good-natured ridicule. His article is so readable that one is led to suppose that it was written to be read, not to be believed. Moreover, Professor Münsterberg's eminence as a psychologist should not be taken as a sign that he thinks he knows aught of education. He has himself warned us against the illusion that psychology can derive truth about teaching, or that the psychologist can inform the teacher or anything of value. It may be that the wholesome matters of fact, as well as the brilliant imaginative criticism of this article are only play. The very strenuousness of the teacher's nature, however, will probably lead him to try to extract some new gospel of reform from Professor Münsterberg's lightest pleasantry; consequently it seems wise to consider the article as a serious argument and provide a possible antidote for it.

Professor Münsterberg contends that it is unwise to give high-school teachers special professional education apart from knowledge of the subjects which they are to teach; that it is folly to replace a prescribed course of study by an elective system; that the salvation of our schools depends upon the scholarship of the teachers and the attitude of parents. As the reformers agree heartily with this last claim (unless it is