Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/567

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551
EDITOR'S TABLE.
EDITOR'S TABLE.


SCIENCE IN EDUCATION.

MUCH as has been written on this subject there seems still to be room for further insistence on the truth that the one living element in every system or scheme of education is science. By this we do not mean — indeed, are very far from meaning}} that what is called physical science is the one useful subject of instruction; we mean that except in so far as education is animated by the spirit of science it is dead, and, for all purposes of mental development, useless. An excellent address on Scientific Method in Board Schools was lately delivered in London, England, by Prof. H. E. Armstrong, F. R. S. We shall take an early opportunity of transferring it to our columns, trusting that it may be widely read, as it presents the gist of the matter in comparatively few words. Prof. Armstrong bears testimony to the extreme slowness with which the educational world in England has moved in regard to giving science teaching the place to which it is entitled in school curriculums; but, on the other hand, he is able to speak encouragingly as to the results that have flowed from the intelligent and zealous efforts of a single teacher of scientific method, and he is evidently of the opinion that a better day is dawning for science teaching generally in the secondary schools of the United Kingdom. He refers in terms of high praise to Herbert Spencer's classic work on education. His words are worth repeating here: "It is a book which every parent of intelligence desiring to educate his children properly should read; certainly every teacher should have studied it thoroughly, and no one should be allowed to become a member of a school board who, on examination, was found not to have mastered its contents."

The point, however, which we wish to make to day is not that a certain amount of natural science should form an element in all education, for that is becoming more widely recognized and more fully accepted from year to year; but that all instruction should be pervaded by the scientific spirit, and that the teaching of what is called "science" is of value not only for the knowledge conveyed, but still more as furnishing, in proper hands, a type of what all teaching should be. If science itself is not taught scientifically, it is like salt that has lost its savor, utterly worthless; it becomes in such a case a mere burden on the educational system instead of its prime motor. In the address to which we have above referred. Prof. Armstrong deplores the bookish and unfruitful methods still widely in use in England, and unless we are mistaken the evil is quite as rife in this country. The fact is that even among teachers of science the true scientific spirit is by no means common. To have learned a certain range of scientific facts, and gained some comprehension of the methods by which those facts have been ascertained and by which further advances in scientific discovery must be made is not sufficient; it is necessary that the teacher's mind should be liberalized and quickened by the conception that in every branch of knowledge, in every pursuit, in every industry, in every line of thought and effort, the fundamental distinction of scientific and unscientific holds just as firmly as in the case of the best-explored departments of natural science. Are merely conventional views to be discarded in chemistry and physics? Certainly, the teacher of science will reply. How, then, about history, literature, and politics? It would seem as if a "certainly" would be in place