Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/267

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By Professor GEORGE F. SWAIN.

WITH the enormous progress in the arts and sciences which has characterized especially the last half of the nineteenth century, education has kept well abreast, although its progress has been gradual and it is not always easy to recognize the great advances that have been made. In the sciences, a discovery is made or a machine invented that in the course of a few years forms the basis of a new industry, gives occupation to thousands and places within the reach of almost every one conveniences previously attainable only by the few. In education no such sudden revolutions occur, and great changes are introduced by degrees without producing any commotion or any surprise. From the days of Erasmus and Rabelais, if not earlier, educational reformers have urged the importance of studying things rather than books about things, of cultivating the hand and eye as well as the mind, of training the perceptive powers, of cultivating a habit of observation and discrimination, and of developing the faculty of judgment. Yet, notwithstanding all that has been said and written, progress in this direction has until recently been very slow. Carlyle, apparently looking at the matter almost from the old scholastic standpoint, expressed the opinion that the true university of modern times was a great library; books, not things, should be studied. It would conform more to the modern point of view to say that the true university of the twentieth century is a great laboratory. Even the function of a library in our modern institutions of learning is perhaps more that of a laboratory than that of a mere storehouse of facts and opinions.

It is perhaps not too much to say that the development in the direction indicated has been greatest in our own country; that the United States have taken the lead in the revolution against the old method of teaching, and that at the present time the higher schools of this country are examples of the best practice and the highest development of the laboratory method. It may, therefore, be of interest to give the readers of this magazine a brief account of the school which has in these respects been one of the foremost, if indeed it has not led the schools of this country, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

With the development of the natural sciences and the growth of the constructive arts, natural science long ago gained a place in the