Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/37

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27
SPECIALIZATION IN SCIENCE.

ed upon. It is not necessary to have always at hand, at every moment of life, all the details of knowledge which one has once made his own, any more than it is to put what one learns to immediate practical use; if it were so, we should be at a loss to determine the value of the gymnasial training which demands the best of the time and the best of the strength of our youth. This principle, and the danger of promoting a one-sided practical training, in specialties, as opposed to general culture and more ideal views of life, were entirely lost sight of when the Imperial Government a few years ago made the far-reaching step in the direction—which was itself opposed from the practical side—of curtailing the required preparatory scientific instruction of physicians.

From this point of view the words receive a new prominence, which State Minister Von Gossler recently spoke in welcoming the fifty-ninth meeting of the German Naturalists and Physicians to Berlin. "The number of those," he said, "who have accurately mastered most of the branches of science seems to be growing less, and the question whether another mind will ever appear who will be able to write a 'Cosmos' for his time is becoming harder to answer. And yet the conviction remains inextinguishable that there is a 'Cosmos' and there must be a 'Cosmos.' It is certainly necessary that an incessant accumulation of scientifically ascertained facts shall continue to go on, whether by the way of logical comparison or by the aid of the imagination, and lead to the acquisition of new theories and new conceptions. But the other principle is just as valid, that the essential nature and the law of what is can not be apprehended without a harmonious intimate association of the individual sciences; and the perception is perhaps constantly becoming more clear that the separation among the branches of knowledge has its ultimate reason in the limitations and finitude of human power. Where we formerly thought we were in the presence of a number of forces and unknown causes, "we now try to discern one force in different forms of manifestation; and we can not exclude the thought that the great progress that can be shown in single branches of science, is in many respects a kind of induction effect of that which is made in other branches."

These are golden words, which might well be applied by the state in the training of its citizens—particularly in the circle of the higher schools. Is it not by specializing carried to an extreme that our gymnasial teachers have devoted themselves to the ancient languages, till they are hardly competent to do any better work than to carry youth through these, their specialties during nine years, without their pupils giving a glance at the all-forming spirit of Nature around them? Let me be permitted to add to Minister Von Gossler's expressions a word of protest against this most untimely and damaging of all specializing, in favor of the sciences, which are treated by the schools in so step-motherly a way. There is an impression still current that scientific training is mischievous to the "peaceful citizen"; that it fits him to