Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/640

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622

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tion in the sciences. Many of the teachers in our schools know something of these sciences, and do what they can to expound them. This, of course, is useful, but it is the lowest agency for the diffusion of science. Of the uses of science to themselves as professors of the art of teaching, or of its value in guiding the processes of education, it is not too much to say that the mass of teachers as yet know nothing. This, however, is the main and essential thing now to be imperatively demanded, and which, when attained, will do more toward the universal promotion of science than all other modes of influence combined. Scientific education is far less a question of the number of hours per week that are to be devoted to this kind of study than a question of bringing scientific knowledge to bear upon the operations of the school-room.

We took this ground decisively twenty years ago. When applied to by Mr. Greeley to write some articles for the Tribune on "Scientific Education," we devoted them to a statement of the ground that science requires all intelligent teachers to take in the pursuit of their profession. We illustrated and enforced the position that, to develop the mind and form the character, the starting-point of the teacher must be a knowledge of the brain and of nervous physiology, and that all teaching without this knowledge must be empirical, is certain to be faulty, and liable to be injurious. The discussion was premature. We sowed upon unprepared ground. It was objected that all beyond the bare introduction of more chemistry and physics in the schools was impracticable and fanciful; while to talk of "brain" instead of "mind" was dreaded as dangerous, and condemned as leading "straight down to materialism."

In a work published a dozen years ago, "On the Culture demanded by Modern Life," this view was reaffirmed and more fully illustrated. It was insisted that to gain definite ideas of the laws of mind so as to work the forces of education quantitatively, if we may so speak, for the production of permanent effects, we must recognize the law of mental limitations that is educible from cerebral physiology. In an essay treating of the philosophy of mental discipline we said:

"It no longer admits of denial or cavil that the Author of our being has seen fit to connect mind and intelligence with a nervous mechanism; in studying mental phenomena, therefore, in connection with this mechanism, we are studying them in the relation which God has established, and therefore in the only true relation. Nothing is more certain than that, in future, mind is to be considered in connection with the organism by which it is conditioned. When it is said that the brain is the organ of the mind, it is meant that in thinking, remembering, reasoning, the brain acts. The basis of educability, and hence of mental discipline, is to be sought in the properties of that nervous substance by which mind is manifested. When it is perceived that what we have to deal with in mental acquirement is organic processes which have a definite time-rate of activity, so that, however vigorously the cerebral currents are sustained by keeping at a thing, acquisition is not increased in the same degree; when we see that new attainments are easiest and most rapid during early life—the time of most vigorous growth of the body generally; that thinking exhausts the brain as really as working exhausts the muscles, while rest and nutrition are as much needed in one case as the other; when we see that rapidity of attainment and tenacity of memory involve the question of cerebral adhesions, and note how widely constitutions differ in these capabilities, how they depend upon blood, stock, and health, and vary with numberless conditions—we become aware how inexorably the problem of mental attainment is hedged round with limitations, and the vague notion that there are no bounds to acquisition except imperfect application disappears forever."

The general view (here illustrated in a special application) has been maintained in The Popular Science Monthly from the outset. We have published papers from the ablest scientific men of different countries, illustrating the control of physiological and psychological principles over the objects and methods