Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/538

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
520
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SCIENCE TEACHING.[1]
By Prof. FREDERICK GUTHRIE, F. R. S.

AT the outset of our inquiry into science teaching, we are, of course, met by the old question as to the purpose of education. There are those who regard education as an intellectual arming and equipment for the battle of life. Others look upon it rather as an end than as a means. The first would supply to the individual only those weapons which he is likely to require in making his way in the world. The second advise a wider, and therefore more dilute, education (the time given to education being the same), and would relegate the acquirement of specialties to the exigencies of the career. I suppose that it need scarcely be insisted on, nowadays, that both of these views are fallacious on account of their partiality. The most favorable product of the first is the "successful" specialist, who is for the most part a burden to himself. The second gives us the shallow "prig," who is for the most part a burden to his fellow-creatures.

A good citizen—and by citizen I mean, of course, a citizen of the world—must be a man of large sympathies. Though color-blind, he must have common feeling with painters, and, if tone-deaf, the works of musical composers must not be without interest to him. And through all it must not be forgotten that distinction is a noun of limited number. The time may come when they who know as much mathematics as Newton shall be counted by scores. The time has come when they who know as much geometry as "Euclid" are to be counted by thousands; and they who know as much chemistry as Dalton, by tens of thousands. But we are as badly in want of Newtons, Euclids, and Daltons as ever.

Here, as elsewhere, it appears that an apparently insuperable difficulty is half surmounted when fairly confronted. It is, without doubt, the conviction of those whose opinions of to-day will count as truisms to-morrow, that, up to a certain stage, and as far as the presenting of opportunities is concerned, the education of one should be the education of all. Liberal variations should be recognized in accordance with the tastes, and especially with the distastes, of the individual; yet there is a certain nucleus of somewhat indefinite boundary which should be offered habitually to each. When I say "somewhat indefinite," do not, I pray, imagine that I want to shirk a difficulty; on the contrary, my purpose is to accentuate and try to deal with it.

It is perhaps in matters of taste which, in their developments,


  1. Abridged from the Journal of the Society of Arts.