Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/586

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

work of life. But this principle is far from being yet recognized in current education. The lower schools seize upon the higher ethics of university study and pervert them into a defense of their own bad practices. They teach worthless things, on the pretense that the kind of knowledge is of but little account, as education is only concerned with mental training. The crudeness and inefficiency of teaching are excused upon the plea that mental discipline is the thing aimed at in study. Our whole school system is imbued with this vicious fallacy, which is the great obstacle to rationalizing school methods. The knowledge that is of most worth is either not taught or is taught so loosely and carelessly that it is of but little practical use; and the consequence is, that our boys are turned out into the world so ignorant and incompetent that they are defenseless in the exposures of everyday experience.

What shall we say of a system of education which throws its students into society unable to protect themselves from the grossest impostures? To what end is a community filled with colleges, high-schools, and common schools, upon which millions of dollars are spent, when its graduates go out to become the ready prey of charlatans and sharpers, who can enrich themselves by pushing the most absurd and preposterous projects?

"We are led to these reflections by the last curious report of lightning-rod swindles. The proud State that gives us our President and Chief Justice, and makes a great ado about its education, has also the honor of originating and harboring "Chambers's National Lightning Protection Company" of Cincinnati. The Americans are a progressive people, great on improvements, and the Westerners are specially wide-awake in this respect. So the new lightning-rod is a great step forward in inventive science. It is laid flat upon the ridge of the building, and turned up at the two ends, and has no connection with the ground. Its rationale seems to be that the lightning-discharge is caught upon one of the points, and, there being no rod to convey it to the earth, it is obliged to "diffuse back into the air where it belongs and whence it came." Of course, such an arrangement is worthless for protection, and is, moreover, absolutely dangerous, as every intelligent schoolboy ought to know; and yet such is the grossness of public stupidity that the company drove a thriving business with their contrivance, mounting it upon a great number of private dwellings, and even upon school-buildings. Professor Macomber, of the Agricultural College at Ames, Iowa, seeing the extent to which people were humbugged by this so-called "Protector," publicly denounced it as a fraud, whereupon he was prosecuted by the company, which laid its damages at $50,000. As the thing was getting serious, the Professor concluded to make thorough work with the exposure, and accordingly appealed to a large number of scientific men of the highest reputation, to give their opinion of the "Chambers rod." He has published the replies of Morton, Anthony, Rood, Mayer, Clarke, Baird, Newcomb, Todd, Le Conte, Silliman, Kedzie, Davies, Edison, Trowbridge, Rowland, Young, Hinrichs, Harvey, Pickering, Loomis, and Tyndall, who all agree that it is a worthless humbug, of no use for protection, and an actual danger to any house upon which it is placed. Yet the company will probably suffer but little interruption in its business, as its main stock in trade is public ignorance and credulity. The lightning-rod fiend may be expected to ply his profitable vocation until the common schools do better work than they have accomplished hitherto.

 

 

The abridgment of Judge Daly's recent address before the Geographical Society, on the early history of carto-