Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/18

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Agassiz had a profound interest in popular education, but the soul of that interest was for improvement in its methods. In the matter of public instruction he was a revolutionist and a propagandist. He warred with current ideas and consecrated practises. He condemned in the most emphatic way the wretched lesson-learning routine that prevails in the schools. ... He never wearied in the endeavor to propagate more rational opinions, and we can not doubt that the seed thus sown will yet ripen into most valuable fruit. He denounced our wordy and bookish education as baseless and unreal, and demanded such a change in our system of instruction as shall bring the pupils face to face with nature herself, and call out the mind by direct exercise upon phenomena—the facts, laws, relations and realities of the world of experience.

The abundance of this educational fruit is indicated by Liberty H. Bailey, an exponent alike of "nature-study teaching" and of "science-teaching for science' sake":

Agassiz gave us the motto, "Study nature, not books." He taught the study of nature by the natural method. ... And, although his teaching may not have been nature-study, as we understand the term—being given from the investigator's or the specialist's view-point, and intended primarily for students and adults—the present nature-study movement undoubtedly is a proximate result of the forces that he set in motion. ("The Nature-study Idea," pp. 5, 6, 8.)

Summer schools and biologic stations are now so common at the seashore and by inland waters that those who attend them for instruction or research do not always realize their origin with Agassiz, thirty-five years ago in the establishment of "The Anderson School of Natural History at Penikese Island." Its history is given in the report of the trustees, and various aspects of it have been presented in the publications enumerated in my article, "Agassiz at Penikese."[1] The first session was directed by Agassiz himself, in the last summer of his life; the second by his son. "Although," to quote Mrs. Agassiz (p. 772), "the Penikese school may be said to have died with its master, it lives anew in many a seaside laboratory organized upon the same plan."

Our proneness to forget the pioneers by whose ideas and labors we profit was noted by Agassiz himself in his Humboldt Address (pp. 5, 6):

The fertilizing power of a great mind is truly wonderful; but as we travel farther from the source, it is hidden from us by the very abundance and productiveness it has caused.

Particularly should this day be remembered by that apparently diminishing number of collegiate teachers who hold that the kingdom of scholarship cometh not with observation nor with the assumption of millinery. In this country Agassiz wore no decorative ribbon of any kind, although he possessed that of the Red Eagle of Prussia and that of the French Legion of Honor. Although impressive in aspect and dignified in manner, he was extremely simple and unpretending in his ways, and did not like to make an appearance different from that of ordinary people in his neighborhood. He was of a joyous disposition

  1. American Naturalist, March, 1898.