Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/49

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sights, conversations, examples, or other incidents occurring in youth, as from descent.

In instruction much depends on exciting curiosity or keeping it active. If, within the family or the school, we put questions to a child, or place it in such conditions that it will ask questions, its curi- osity is excited. If, on the other hand, we discourage and repress the inquisitive disposition, the impulses of curiosity are arrested, and the mind gradually bends toward indifference or timidity. "From the primary school to the university, the teaching may favor, contradict, or direct in one manner or another the inquisitive spirit of young people. Appropriate questioning, the repulsion of frivolous or inappropriate questions, approval of those which are serious, and the solution of which is possible to the pupil, speaking about things which are not yet discovered or comprehended, but the discovery of which by means of research and reflection is hopeful, a rare use of the principle of author- ity, which is opposed to scientific methods, are means which may be indicated to teachers as adapted to direct the minds of their pupils toward the higher region of the sciences. Those are not the most elo- quent or the most lucid professors who excite inquisitive minds, but those rather whose teachings leave doubts and suggest questions. If they can tell the whole and still excite curiosity, it is well ; but to pro- voke the efforts of the pupils by badly directed teaching is not as re- grettable as it is thought to be. Especially in the mathematical sci- ences, in which it is so important for the student to fix his attention, a merely ordinary teacher often succeeds better than a very skillful one.* The worst teacher, in the author's opinion, is the one who represents science as finished. A point on which many of Mr. Galton's corre- spondents, in the course of his inquiries respecting the education of English scientific men have insisted, "is that of giving freedom and leisure to pupils who show strong tastes in their studies. As they are original, curious, and independent in disposition, they are not very fond of having tasks imposed upon them. They are often poor scholars, but they are scholars who have a future, and provision ought to be made for giving them special treatment. Unfortunately, the system of education in common is opposed to that ; and this is one of the rea- sons why so many schools form mediocrities, without favoring indi- viduals who are superior to the average."

In reading the biographies of the several foreign associates of the French Academy, it is often a matter of surprise to observe how medi- ocre were some of the instructors of illustrious men, and how many

  • " They say," said the author to Regnault, professor in the Ecole polytechnique of

Paris, " that when you were young the school produced many more celebrated mathema- ticians and physicists than it does now. Is it true ? " " Perhaps so," he answered. " Why ? " " Because, you see, our principal professor of mathematics was so obscure, that the pupils had to meet after each lesson to go over it again. For some time I had to revise the exercise-books of my comrades. You can not imagine how it made me work."

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