Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/559

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541
ON THE STUDY OF BIOLOGY.

That is a very favorite method of teaching, so that I sometimes fancy the spirit of the old classical system has entered into the new scientific system, in which case I would much rather that any pretense at scientific teaching were abolished altogether. What really has to be done is to get into the young mind some notion of what animal and vegetable life is. You have to consider in this matter practical convenience as well as other things. There are difficulties in the way of a lot of boys making messes with slugs and snails; it might not work in practice. But there is a very convenient and handy animal which everybody has at hand, and that is himself; and it is a very easy and simple matter to obtain common plants. Hence, the broader facts of anatomy and physiology can be taught to young people in a very real fashion by dealing with the broad facts of human structure, such as hearts, lungs, and livers. Such viscera as they cannot very well examine in themselves may be obtained from the nearest butcher's shop. In respect to teaching them something about the biology of plants, there is no practical difficulty, because almost any of the common plants will do, and plants do not make a mess—at least they do not make an unpleasant mess; so that, in my judgment, the best form of biology for teaching to very young people is elementary human physiology on the one hand, and the elements of botany on the other; beyond that I do not think it will be feasible to advance for some time to come. But then I see no reason why in secondary schools, and in the science classes, which are under the control of the Science and Art Department—and which, I may say, in passing, have, in my judgment, done so very much for the diffusion of a knowledge over the country—I think that, in those cases, we may go further, and we may hope to see instruction in the elements of biology carried out, not, perhaps, to the same extent, but still upon somewhat the same principle, as we do here. There is no difficulty, when you have to deal with students of the ages of fifteen or sixteen, in practising a little dissection and getting a notion, at any rate, of the four or five great modifications of the animal form, and the like is true in regard to plants.

While, lastly, to all those who are studying biological science with a view to their own edification, or with the intention of becoming zoölogists or botanists; to all those who intend to pursue physiology—and especially to those who propose to employ the working years of their lives in the practice of medicine—I say that there is no training so fitted, or which may be of such important service to them, as the thorough discipline in practical biological work which I have sketched out as being pursued in the laboratory hard by.

I may add that, beyond all these different classes of persons who may profit by the study of biology, there is yet one other. I remember, a number of years ago, that a gentleman who was a vehement opponent of Mr. Darwin's views, and had written some terrible articles against them, applied to me to know what was the best way in which