Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/35

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25
PHYSICAL SCIENCE IN ENGLISH SCHOOLS.

by the school against "atheistic tendencies," keep down his numbers and wear out his energies, till his enterprise becomes a warning instead of an example to his admirers at other schools. In a neighborhood of rural squires and clergy, untempered by a large town's neighborhood, and unchecked by any man of education and intelligence holding sovereignty by virtue of superior rank and wealth, a school which treads doggedly in the ancient paths, and is flavored with gentle "High-Church tendencies," will certainly succeed even in second-rate hands, while a school which under superior chieftainship asserts the claims of science, and whose theology is therefore suspect, will as certainly long struggle for existence, if it does not finally succumb.

The head-masters, with no inveterate intention, but by the force of circumstance's, are potent allies upon the side of nescience. Their position is peculiar. Enlightened, able, high-minded, and most laborious, to speak of them with disrespect would be to forfeit claim to a hearing. But of their whole number not more than two or three know anything at all of science; they have gained honors and supremacy by proficiency in other subjects; to teach well these subjects which they know, forms their happiness and satisfies their sense of duty; and they feel natural dismay at the proposal to force upon them new and untried work which they have not knowledge to supervise, and which must displace whole departments of classical study. Bifurcation they do not mind, for they hope that the dunces will be drafted into the modern school, and the clever boys retained upon the classical side; but the momentous recommendation of the Royal Commission that six hours a week of science-teaching should be given to every boy in every school has taken away their breath; it was only once alluded to at the last head-masters' meeting, and then with something between a protest and a sneer. They are too clear-sighted not to see that the demand for science-teaching is real, and too liberal not readily to accede to it, if some central authority, which they respect, at once puts pressure on them, and tenders such assistance and advice as they can trust. But, until these two things are done, they will pursue a policy of inaction.

Nor is there any hope that this reluctance of head-masters will be stimulated by exuberant energy on the part of governing bodies. The instances in which these pet creations of the Endowed Schools Commission have appeared before the public hitherto make it evident that absolute inactivity is the service they are best calculated to render to the cause of education; but their probable devotion to science may be guessed from an incident reported in our columns some months ago, where a body of trustees, composed of country gentlemen of local mark, having to arrange a competitive examination under a scheme of the Charity Commission, adopted the machinery of the University Leaving Examination, but inserted a distinct proviso that no scientific subject recognized by the university regula-