Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/641

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of education. These able discussions, we are happy to say, have been increasingly appreciated; and it is gratifying to note that the view we have steadily urged for these many years begins to be widely accepted as the basis of a new departure in the progress of scientific education. A conspicuous illustration of this has recently been afforded by the course of the most influential journal in England. There has been a systematic movement in that country to get a larger share of scientific study in the lower schools; and, under the vigorous leadership of Sir John Lubbock, in the House of Commons, efforts have been made to modify school legislation so as to enforce this result. A majority has not yet been gained, but the opposition is giving way, and the end sought will undoubtedly soon be attained. Upon the last and recent defeat of Sir John Lubbock's measure, the London Times came out with a leading editorial on the right side, and which is chiefly remarkable for the advanced and unqualified position which it takes. We reprint this article of the Times in the present number of the Monthly, together with the comments of the editor of Nature upon it. How completely the writer sustains the views that we have long labored to inculcate, is well shown in the following instructive passage:

"As soon as physiologists had discovered that all the faculties of the intellect, however originating or upon whatever exercised, were functions of a material organism or brain, absolutely dependent upon its integrity for their manifestation, and upon its growth and development for their improvement, it became apparent that the true office of the teacher of the future would be to seek to learn the conditions by which the growth and the operations of the brain were controlled in order that he might be able to modify these conditions in a favorable manner. The abstraction of the 'mind' was so far set aside as to make it certain that this mind could only act through a nervous structure, and that the structure was subject to various influences for good or evil. It became known that a brain cannot arrive at healthy maturity excepting by the assistance of a sufficient supply of healthy blood; that is to say, of good food and pure air. It also became known that the power of a brain will ultimately depend very much upon the way in which it is habitually exercised, and that the practice of schools in this respect left a great deal to be desired. A large amount of costly and pretentious teaching fails dismally for no other reason than because it is not directed by any knowledge of the mode of action of the organ to which the teacher endeavors to appeal; and mental growth, in many instances, occurs in spite of teaching rather than on account of it. Education, which might once have been defined as an endeavor to expand the intellect by the introduction of mechanically compressed facts, should now be defined as an endeavor favorably to influence a vital process; and, when so regarded, its direction should manifestly fall somewhat into the hands of those by whom the nature of vital processes has been most completely studied. In other words, it becomes neither more nor less than a branch of applied physiology; and physiologists tell us with regard to it that the common processes of teaching are open to the grave objection that they constantly appeal to the lower centres of nervous function, which govern the memory of and the reaction upon sensations, rather than to those of higher ones which are the organs of ratiocination and of volition. Hence a great deal which passes for education is really a degradation of the human brain to efforts below its natural capacities. This applies especially to book-work, in which the memory of sounds in given sequences is often the sole demand of the teacher, and in which the pupil, instead of knowing the meaning of the sounds, often does not know what 'meaning' means. As soon as the sequence of the sounds is forgotten, nothing remains, and we are then confronted by a question which was once proposed in an inspectorial report: 'To what purpose in after-life is a boy taught, if the intervention of a school vacation is to be a sufficient excuse for entirely forgetting his instruction?' "


Those of our readers who have perused the previous portions of Prof. Du Bois-Reymond's article on "Civilization and Science" will hardly need that we should call their attention to