Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/634

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

was turned out of three schools before he was seven years old, in consequence of his irrepressible passion for collecting the curious natural objects which fell in his boyish way. But the feeling which led to the treatment of little Tom Edward is far enough from being confined to his brutal and besotted teachers. We have seen cultivated, high-school instructors, and parents claiming to be liberal and intelligent, who would cry out with horror to see their children touch such repulsive things as worms and frogs, and threaten them with a thrashing if they brought them in or around the house. It is this vulgar and absurd prejudice that stands in the way of anything like rational biological study in our schools. Undoubtedly, it is very nice and pleasant to learn natural history out of textbooks full of pictures, and abounding in pretty anecdotes about animals; but we can only get the study, in place of this, of actual living creatures by battling with and conquering the foolish infatuation of people in regard to the repulsiveness of the inferior forms of life. Unperverted children are fond of them, and this feeling should be cherished and encouraged, and made available as an impulse in early study. Prof. Huxley knows how to deal telling blows at the various pestilent bigotries of society that stand in the way of its intellectual progress; and we should have been better pleased if he had denounced this prejudice as it deserves, rather than make tacit terms with it, as a "difficulty," because progress is only made as difficulties are overcome and got out of the way.

As to human physiology, we doubt if it is the proper door to biology, either for young or old—it is putting the complex before the simple; and, although viscera may be had at the butcher-shops, we fail to see what is gained on the score of "messiness" by substituting them for "slugs or snails," or the simpler forms of life that can be procured anywhere. Prof. Huxley says that "plants do not make a mess—at least, they do not make an unpleasant mess," but the quality of the mess is not the important thing. The study of plants is resisted in schools, and, when attempted, is often abandoned, simply because of this circumstance; and, when the principle has been once conceded, as in the case of plants, the difficulty practically disappears in regard to animate things. If there is the slightest interest in the subject, there need be no trouble. Classes of children a dozen years old can go through Prof. Morse's admirable "First Book of Zoology," collecting numerous specimens of insects, shells, and creatures found in ponds and puddles, and, if his directions are followed, which may be easily done, there will actually be less litter and inconvenience than is usual with the study of plants. The "difficulty," in fact, is not real or intrinsic in the conditions of the case, but, as we have had occasion to notice again and again, it comes from the stupid ignorance and fussy meddlesomeness of parents, who bully the teachers at every deviation from the "horrid demnition grind" of book-lessons and recitations in the schools. The fact is, if we ever get the study of Nature into the schools, it can only be by breaking down the superstitions by which they are dominated; the deadly order, by which Nature is kept out; and by a larger recognition of individual aptitudes, and much freer opportunity for the observation and study of natural objects.

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS ANSWERED.

A public appeal was made, through the Tribune, by Rev. Dr. Deems, to the editor of The Popular Science Monthly, to make good certain statements contained in the criticism of Dr. Taylor's letter. Dr. Deems avows that his "questions are submitted for information," but we suspect he is not half