Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/January 1896/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.


In three consecutive volumes of the International Education Series an abundant supply of material is furnished to the kindergartner or the mother who would use kindergarten methods.[1] The first consists of fifteen of Froebel's essays which, in the original tongue, were collected into a volume by Dr. Wichard Lange. From these essays may be learned Froebel's own ideas of the significance of the first five "gifts" of the kindergarten. The ball, he says, gives the child a welcome opportunity to contemplate, to grasp, and to possess a whole; it develops the muscular sense and the control of the muscles of the hand and arm: and the various plays with the ball in which the mother may lead the child tend to awakening and fostering the powers of its mind to compare, to conclude, to judge, and to think. The contrast between the sphere and the cube is highly instructive: the one having each part of its surface of the same form as every other part, standing on a point, and easily movable, the other with sharp edges and corners, resting on a broad base, and requiring some force to move it. From the cube, variously divided, the child learns the ideas of parts making up a whole, of one form appearing in different sizes, of a form bounded by unequal faces, etc. The various modes of using the gifts, which are depicted in illustrations, suggest many movement plays, and these Froebel describes, giving also the words of songs to accompany them. He also describes a pleasant way of learning to write and read. Froebel was a pioneer in child study, and in his description of kindergarten plays he is constantly calling attention to the development of the child's faculties which the attentive kindergartner may observe.

In the other two volumes we have Froebel's Mutterspiel and Koselieder reproduced in English. Froebel indicated how each of the mother-plays should be played by means of a group of pictures surmounted by a "motto" consisting of eight or ten lines of verse. These quaint pictures and the mottoes in the original language are reproduced in each volume. The first, which may be called the mother's volume, contains also free renderings of the mottoes in English verse, by Mrs. H. R. Eliot, together with prose translations, by Miss Blow, of the commentaries that accompanied the plays. Miss Blow has also furnished an introductory essay on the philosophy of Froebel, and, that nothing of the master's thought may be lost through rendering his homely lines into English verse, she has given prose translations of the mottoes in an appendix. The companion or children's book contains the same pictures with short pieces of verse on their subjects by Emily H. Miller, Emilie Poulsson, Laura E. Richards, and other writers. Following these is music for them and for some others to the number of eighty-three in all. In this volume many of the pictures in the groups are repeated on a larger scale, so as to bring out their details more clearly. Many of the melodies originally used in the mother-play having been pronounced unsuitable by competent judges, other music is here supplied from sources of recognized merit. In every part of these two volumes the directing hand of that able kindergartner. Miss Susan E. Blow, is apparent. Kindergarten teaching can be conducted by those who have a genius for it without such helps as these books afford, but it is hard to imagine that a teacher who had once used them would be willing to give them up.

In his work on Money and Banking[2] the editor of the New York Evening Post gives connected form to the principles of finance which he has studied and discussed for many years past. His method is that of the historian who accounts for an event by circumstance, pressure, ignorance—occasionally by knowledge fortunately joined to courage. His book is a mine of sifted fact, with clear and convincing deductions wherever these are warranted, with a judicial presentation of both sides of a case where a decision is as yet to be found.

Stripped of its entanglements the money question is simple enough. Mankind has chosen precious metals among commodities as means of exchanging all the rest and as standards of value. Real money, then, is metallic coin, authenticated by the stamp of a mint as to quantity and fineness. For generations down to 1873, both gold and silver circulated together in civilized countries at a ratio of about one to fifteen, the fluctuations from that ratio being too inconsiderable to cause serious difficulty. With the discovery in 1873, and since, of new and rich deposits of silver, with constant improvement in processes for separating, the metal from its ores, silver in twenty years fell one half in value as compared with gold. The difficulty inherent in trying to keep two commodities at a fixed relation to each other—that is to say, the attempt to maintain an unchanged price for silver in terms of gold—plainly had passed beyond the utmost power of legislation. Nevertheless, at the instance of mine owners legislation in 1878 and 1890 was invoked against facts geological and chemical, with the result that the Federal Treasury bought a mass of silver to-day worth $234,000,000 less than it cost. The new plentifulness of silver has strengthened the preference for gold as the sole standard of value—a preference always felt by the richer among the nations from the great value which the yellow metal possesses in small bulk. And what if silver should become cheaper still? It is the fear that something short of 23·22 grains of gold will be paid by the borrower of a dollar that has tightened the purse-strings of capital just at the time when good faith toward creditors would have bred a confidence indispensable for an assured revival of business. Of equal moment with the agitation for the free coinage of silver as a source of financial misgiving, Mr. White stigmatizes the Legal-Tender Act. This Act has led the American people to believe that the Federal Government has only to set a printing press in motion to create money, as by Heavenly fiat. But the paper representatives of money inspire no confidence unless they stand for a commodity, gold, in the full measure to which at a time of panic that commodity will be demanded. What makes this matter of sound money of supreme importance is that on money as on a pivot turns so much more than itself—the whole fabric of manufacture, trade, and commerce. To tamper with the standard of value, to debase it, to lay undue burdens upon it, is as mad as the act of an engineer who skimps substance for his fly-wheel, scamps its workmanship, and who, defying the laws of poise and strain, brings a vast network of machinery to ruin.

Mr. White outlines the salient features of American banking, with its dreary record of overreaching, ignorance, and recklessness, relieved here and there by examples of sound principle and careful practice as in New York, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. He gives reasons for regarding Scotch banking as the best in the world, and points to Canada as successfully copying many of its methods. A great bank with many branches, on the Scotch plan, is a chain of lakes, each borrowing or lending with mutual benefit; the American method of isolation exposes every bank to alternate drought and flood. That it is no proper function of government to be a banker Mr. White abundantly proves. As the bonds upon which the existing national batik notes are based are disappearing, it is imperative that a new basis for this note issue be found. Mr. White presents the "Baltimore plan" and Secretary Carlisle's proposal, leaving the decision with those who must arrive at it.

Any one who wishes to know what can be said for the single-tax idea clearly and soberly, with the aid of statistics, and quite apart from any demagogic appeals to class prejudice, would do well to read Mr. Shearman's book in the Questions of the Day Series.[3] The author starts with the proposition, which many economists deny, that taxation can be based on scientific principles; in other words, that money for the needs of government can be so raised as to take advantage of the natural laws that operate in society instead of running counter to them. The principle of plucking the greatest quantity of feathers with the least squawking is certainly antiquated and unworthy of a mature and intelligent people. Our taxation should be scientific, and if the scheme advocated by Mr. Shearman really has that character, he has brought the right article to market. Many persons who are not prepared to accept the single tax as a remedy will admit most of what he says in regard to the evils of indirect taxation. He affirms that direct taxation is practicable, but of the three forms now in use—the income, succession, and general property tax—he deems the second useful only as an adjunct, while the other two, because of the premium they put on fraud and other objections, should never be used. A tax on land he calls the natural tax, because it can not be evaded, and because its proper distribution is automatically determined very much as ground rent is regulated by the market. In reply to the objection that such a tax would be shifted upon tenants, he cites "not only the entire school of Ricardo and Mill, but also nine tenths or more of other economic writers," as denying the possibility of such a transfer. In this respect he notes a difference between a tax on land and one on buildings. It is obvious that the landless class would be greatly benefited by exemption from all direct or indirect taxation. Mr. Shearman also maintains that the landowners, taken as an entire class, would also bear a smaller burden than now, because they would be exempt from taxes on personal property, indirect taxes, and the cost of collection and other burdens incidental to these modes of taxation. Some of the landowners would have a heavier burden than now. Mr. Shearman estimates that this would fall on fifty thousand of the six million families in the United States who own land. These fifty thousand own thirty per cent in value of all the land in the country, and also get almost all the benefits arising from the monopolies fostered by the present mode of taxation. He takes especial pains to show that the farmers need have no alarm at the land-tax proposition, and affirms that this plan, in addition to its other benefits, "would bring about a just distribution of wealth, would give a perpetual stimulus to industry and production, would greatly increase wages, would increase the profits of capital, would give a security to property now unknown, would encourage manufactures, commerce, and agriculture, and would incidentally solve many social problems which under present conditions seem almost insoluble." Mr. Shearman has not made his programme attractive enough, or, rather, he has not given it the right kind of attractions. The masses do not want a just division of wealth any more than the classes. Every mother's son of them is perfectly willing that a few shall have big prizes at the expense of the many, if only he can be one of the few; and in a democratic country, where it is possible for a poor boy to become president of a railroad, he is constantly hoping that next week or next year will bring him some undeserved advantage over his fellows. Even if a majority of the voters in the United States were convinced that any economic reform would benefit them all, they would need to have the lottery spirit educated out of them before they would adopt it.

  1. Friedrich Froebel's Pedagogics of the Kindergarten. Translated by Josephine Jarvis. Pp. 337, 12mo.
    The Mottoes and Commentaries of Friedrich Froebel's Mother Play. Translated by Henrietta R. Eliot and Susan E. Blow. With an Introduction. Pp. 316, 12mo.
    The Songs and Music of Friedrich Froebel's Mother Play. Prepared and arranged by Susan E. Blow. Pp. 272, 12mo. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, $1.50 each.
  2. Money and Banking illustrated by American History. By Horace White. Pp. 488, 12mo. Boston and London: Ginn & Co. Price, $1.50.
  3. Natural Taxation. By Thomas G. Shearman. Pp. 239, 12mo. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Price, $1.