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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/168

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164
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

on' (goad). 'To plunge a weapon into some one, to make a jagged wound' (gored). 'An animal' (goat?). 'A greedy person' (gourmand). 'A chasm or piece of land that is very much lower than the surrounding land' (gorge).

The definitions thus far quoted are by college students, and though most of them are exceptional rather than characteristic of the definitions of college students, they are surprising as well as amusing.

One English teacher was so astonished at the 'depth of ignorance' displayed by the definitions of his freshman class in English that he had all the papers looked over by his assistants, who all agreed that the results were 'shocking.' They, however, saw no relation between the definitions and the scholarship of individual pupils. (As has already been stated the figures show that those ranking high in scholarship knew on an average about 5 per cent, more words than those ranking low in scholarship.)

Character of the definitions changed greatly with age. Descriptions which are so common in the high school and college papers are rarely or never given by children in the kindergarten and primary grades. The same is true of definitions by synonyms and inclusions under larger terms. The younger children nearly always define by mention of some specific incident, e. g., 'A chair is to sit on'; 'Baby stands up by a chair'; 'A bee goes around a piazza and makes a noise.' What anything can do, or what can be done to it, or with it, is of most importance in early knowledge of all things, hence we find the definitions of children expressing action and use more than anything else. Reference to personal experience of self and friends is also common. These facts are of great significance to pedagogy, strongly endorsing the change now being made from the old descriptive 'object lesson' to the better forms of nature study in which use is made the center of interest.