Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/721

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703
EDITOR'S TABLE.

of those who propose to obtain a so-called liberal education. The alleged concessions to the spirit of progress are therefore illusive. The concessions made to science after entrance into college are not allowed in the period of early study when they would be far more valuable. Nothing substantial is conceded to science when our colleges keep their classical standards of admission so high that all the time of pupils is consumed in Latin and Greek preparation. No concession is made to science when proficiency in scientific studies gained at school is not allowed to count in entering college. No such concession is made by a collegiate system that does not provide by imperative requirement for some thorough grounding in scientific branches in the preliminary schools, and which does not allow solid proficiency of scientific attainment to open the way to the highest college honors.

But the radical antagonism of our colleges to educational progress through their reactive influence upon the lower school system is only to be fully appreciated when we understand in what that progress consists. In its philosophy, traditional education is very much where it was a hundred years ago, but it is undeniable that many important principles have been reached which are of the greatest moment as guides to better educational practice. A century of science is not to go for nothing in the treatment of this subject. There are relations among the great divisions of modern knowledge which are fundamental in laying down courses of study. There is an order in the development of the human faculties which is fundamental to the art of rational and successful teaching. There is an ideal of the highest purpose in cultivating the intellect—the investigation of the truth of nature by various processes— which has been developed by the advance of science. Systematic and comprehensive efforts have been made to reduce this new ideal to practice in the lower sphere of education. Efforts have been made to teach first the things which belong first in the course of mental unfolding, to bring the young mind into closer relations with the facts of experience, to cultivate more thoroughly the all-important habit of observation, and to provide for the training of the active and inventive powers by simplified experiment and various manipulations, and finally to make the operations of study exercises in investigation and in original and independent thought upon subjects within the common sphere of intelligence, and adapted to educate the judgment. It is no longer a question that these supreme objects can be secured to very considerable degree by proper methods of dealing with the minds of youth, and great progress has been made in recent times in working out the practical methods by which they are attained. But the whole movement belongs to the lower schools, and the whole influence of our college system upon those schools is not to help but to hinder it. In illustration and confirmation of this view, we quote some remarks made by Dr. Barnard, President of Columbia College, at the dinner given in New York to Professor Tyndall in 1873:

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 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, 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 legumi-