Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/60

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oneself—on which the most advanced science depends, may by a proper system be cultivated in the youngest scholar of the most elementary school. Curiosity and the desire to find out the reason of things is a natural, and to the ignorant an inconvenient, propensity of almost every child; and there lies before the instructor the whole realm of nature knowledge in which this propensity can be cultivated. If children in village schools spent less of their early youth in learning mechanically to read, write and cipher, and-more in searching hedgerows and ditch-bottoms for flowers, insects, or other natural objects, their intelligence would be developed by active research, and they would better learn to read, write and cipher in the end. The faculty of finding out things for oneself is one of the most valuable with which a child can be endowed. There is hardly a calling or business in life in which it is not better to know how to search out information than to possess it already stored. Everything, moreover, which is discovered sticks in the memory and becomes a more secure possession for life than facts lazily imbibed from books and lectures. The faculty of turning to practical uses knowledge possessed might be more cultivated in primary schools. It can to a limited extent, but to a limited extent only, be tested by examination. Essays, compositions, problems in mathematics and science, call forth the power of using acquired knowledge. Mere acquisition of knowledge does not necessarily confer the power to make use of it. In actual life a very scanty store of knowledge, coupled with the capacity to apply it adroitly, is of more value than boundless information which the possessor cannot turn to practical use. Some measures should be taken to cultivate taste in primary schools. Children are keen admirers. They can be early taught to look for and appreciate what is beautiful in drawing and painting, in poetry and music, in nature, and in life and character. The effect of such learning on manners has been observed from remote antiquity.

Physical exercises are a proper subject for primary schools, especially in the artificial life led by children in great cities: both those which develop chests and limbs, atrophied by impure air and the want of healthy games, and those which discipline the hand and the eye—the latter to perceive and appreciate more of what is seen, the former to obey more readily and exactly the impulses of the will. Advantage should be taken of the fact that the children come daily under the observation of a quasi-public officer—the school teacher—to secure them protection, to which they are already entitled by law, against hunger, nakedness, dirt, over-work, and other kinds of cruelty and neglect. Children's ailments and diseases should by periodic inspection be detected: the milder ones, such as sores and chilblains, treated on the spot, the more serious removed to the care of parents or hospitals. Diseases of the eye and all maladies that would impair the capacity of