Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/33

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23
NATURAL OR SCIENTIFIC METHOD IN EDUCATION.

Why not get the points of the compass fixed in the natural way by reference to those great guides which alone are of any service to a mariner or explorer? Why not draw a map of the yard, and thus beget some real, tangible notion of the purpose of a map?

As all sciences involve the same methods and employ the same faculties, the choice of one to be studied in any particular case should be determined by such consideration largely as the location of the school, the qualification of the teacher, the extent of the equipment, and perhaps the tastes of the pupils. That branch will produce the best results which is most pleasurably and thoroughly pursued.

All pupils should at some period learn something of physics, though not necessarily mathematical physics. All require some knowledge of the properties of matter as such, and some idea of the forces and mechanism by which the results of industrial life, as well as those of Nature, are accomplished. Practical physics, as illustrated by what is going on around us, and by simple apparatus devised by scholars and teachers, will often serve every purpose. The cost of a chemical equipment depends on the size of the class and the extent of the work. Chemistry is more suitable for more advanced pupils and the better endowed schools.

But of far more importance than all other questions is How? We may have a teaching of so-called science that is a mockery of the reality.

It is surely now clear that any mere book teaching is worse than useless. It leads to no real knowledge, can give no healthy training of the faculties, and can lead to no sound development. He who can teach only by the book had better not begin. For pupils just commencing science it is doubtful whether it is not better for a while to avoid the use of text-books altogether. From first to last the student should be an investigator. This implies a great deal. It means that he shall desire to know and aim to learn the facts by one method and one only, viz., by seeking for them, as all that have ever found did, by the use of his natural faculties—i. e., by the use of his senses. All that any one can ever really know of any branch of science, let me repeat, is what he acquires by his senses—by feeling, seeing, etc. Whatever subject is pursued, this must ever be kept in mind. The teacher's guidance is invaluable in saving the pupil's time, economizing his energy, assisting in the comparison of results, and aiding in all the higher mental processes that lead to those generalizations which constitute the essence of science. But no teacher can be eyes and hands for any pupil, and to deprive the student of these organs, as all book teaching pure and simple does, is to cut at the very root of all true progress in development.

Nor should the investigating spirit be confined to the school