Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/715

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SCIENCE AND OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM.

of the parts; it demonstrates that each element in the organism lives of itself, and finds in the blood the conditions required for its action.—Revue des Deux Mondes.

 
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SCIENCE AND OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM.[1]
By F. A. P. BARNARD, LL. D.,
PRESIDENT OF COLUMBIA COLLEGE.

MR. PRESIDENT: I am expected to deal, this evening, with a theme which, under the actual circumstances, it is somewhat difficult to handle. The degree to which our systems of education tend to foster or discourage original investigation into the truths of Nature is a topic which might better befit an assembly more gravely disposed than the present. Dulce est desipere in loco—it is pleasant to put on the cap and bells when circumstances favor, says Horace, and he says quite truly; but he does not say, difficile est sapere inter pocida—it is hard to imitate the solemnity of Minerva's bird, when champagne is on the board, as I think he ought to have said, and as he would, perhaps, have said if prosody had allowed, and which would have been equally true. I shall not aim at such an imitation. I do not mean to be didactic if I can help it. If I am so, I trust you will be indulgent.

I say, then, that our long-established and time-honored system of liberal education—and when I speak of the system I mean the whole system, embracing not only the colleges, but the tributary schools of the lower grade as well—does not tend to form original investigators of Nature's truths; and the reason that it does not is, that it inverts the natural order of proceeding in the business of mental culture, and fails to stimulate in season the powers of observation. And when I say this, I must not be charged with treason to my craft—at least, not with treason spoken for the first time here—for I have uttered the same sentiment more than once before in the solemn assemblies of the craft itself.

I suppose, Mr. President, that at a very early period of your life you may have devoted, like so many other juvenile citizens, a portion of your otherwise unemployed time to experiments in horticulture. In planting leguminous seeds you could not have failed to observe that the young plants come up with their cotyledons on their heads. If, in pondering this phenomenon, you arrived at the same conclusion that I did, you must have believed that Nature had made a mistake, and so have pulled up your plants and replanted them upside down. Men and women are but children of a larger growth. They see the

  1. Address at the Tyndall Banquet.