Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/365

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353
THE STUDY OF THE RELATIONS OF THINGS.
THE STUDY OF THE RELATIONS OF THINGS.

By ELIZA A. YOUMANS.

EVERY reader of the preceding article will recognize that it is one which I can not let pass as a final statement of the subject. Mrs. Jacobi's very first sentence is so misleading as to put me in a wrong relation to this discussion. She says, "The comments made by Miss Youman's upon a single remark in my article on primary education," etc.; the implication of which is that I had a very slender basis for getting up a controversy. But her "single remark" was in point of fact a complete paragraph of nearly a page in length containing a series of affirmations, condemning the principles adopted as fundamental in my First Book of Botany. Her criticisms, besides, acquired special force from the circumstances in which they were made. Mrs. Jacobi is a trained scientific scholar, an independent inquirer untrammeled by traditions, and she had taken up the critical study of primary education in connection with the practical management of her own child, and published two articles on her method and its results. All this gave such strength to the case, that her incidental comment upon my method, if allowed to pass without notice, would have been more injurious than would have been a separate and formal attack. That I did not mistake the import of her first critical passage is now sufficiently apparent, as her present elaborate article is but an amplification and a justification of positions taken at the outset.

As will have been seen by the reader, Mrs. Jacobi sums up my views in five propositions upon which she comments in their order. With the first proposition she agrees, and with the second she is in partial agreement. But, while admitting that ideas of evolution are unsuitable to childhood, she insists that the idea of life and its changes is proper for their very early contemplation. I have only to say, as I said in my former article, that I have gone as far as she has done in this direction of objective study, having provided a series of experiments in the sprouting and growth of various seeds in my "First Book." But while I should be content to furnish the child with materials for simple observation, and leave him very much to himself to find out what his experiments disclose, Mrs. Jacobi would use the occasion to make "as profound an impression as possible upon the imagination" of the child in regard to "the facts of life and growth and death." With all she says of the importance of these conceptions, and the immense part they have played in the history of mankind, I entirely agree; but I should be very cautious about undertaking to introduce them into the mind of a child, while, with its lack of experience, it is still so dominated by imagination as not to know the difference between the true and the false among ideas. Mrs. Jacobi says, "The great fact of growth and incessant change in living organ-