Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/162

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148
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE SEQUENCE OF SCIENCES IN THE HIGH SCHOOL
By JOSIAH MAIN
HAYS, KANSAS

OF all the questions to which educational committees and journals have been devoted, the problem of what the high school sciences shall be, and the order in which they shall be given, shows least progress toward final agreement. The two phases, what they shall be, and where each shall go, are so related that they can not be considered separately, for while we are fixing the one, we find that we have forced the other out of place. The problem is complicated by the introduction of a third unknown factor of how the sciences shall be affected by the introduction into the high school of industrial subjects, such as agriculture, which includes many applications of science. And it should be stated that no debate of this subject can be very profitable that does not include in the premises an agreement as to what sciences should be undertaken below the high school.

High school mathematics has a logical sequence that admits of little variation. History has a chronological sequence which must be observed, at least within its larger units; and literature has a genetic sequence which finds its counterpart in the development of the child. The science group, on the contrary, is split into distinct sciences, each of which in the hands of its specialist and advocate contends for the place of vantage in the latter part of the course, where all the others may contribute to its dignity by preparing its way and making straight its paths. Thus, for example, botany and chemistry are each politely saying to the other, "after you." Meanwhile the result of this internal disagreement is to break the unity of science, thus greatly impairing the value of each division, while weakening the ability of the whole group to properly assert itself in the larger claims of the several groups.

The "unity of science" implies a dependence between different sciences which will usually be found to be mutual and argues equally well forward or backward. One method of compromising conflicting claims for precedence is to divide a science into two portions, the elementary to be given in the first year, or earlier, as an introductory science, and the advanced phase placed in the last year of the course. This method is specially suited to such a science as physics, whose rapid growth in recent years has accumulated more subject-matter than the average high school can properly treat in a year. Such a proposition is suggested