Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/864

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

will he found most instructive reading by all who care to know in what terms official science is pleased to express itself when its ire is roused, and also what extensive means a widely ramifying body like our national Geological Survey possesses for attacking and discrediting the work of individual scientific laborers that happens to have been conducted on lines which the ruling spirits of that body do not approve.

The question arises, How much does the country really want of this kind of thing? In granting an appropriation for the Survey did it mean to endow a Holy Inquisition or a Sacred Congregation of the Index? We think not. The methods of such institutions make neither for the moral dignity nor for the advancement of science.


The articles which Dr. J. M. Rice is contributing to The Forum on the public-school system of this country tend to bear out our contention in these columns, a couple of months ago, that but a small part of the special teaching ability existing in the community finds its way into the public schools. Speaking of the schools of this city, Dr. Rice says: "The typical New York city primary school, although less barbarous and absurd than the one just described, is nevertheless a hard, unsympathetic, mechanical drudgery school, a school into which the light of science has not yet entered. Its characteristic feature lies in the severity of its discipline—a discipline of enforced silence, immobility, and intellectual passivity." After describing how certain lessons are given, the writer goes on to say: "By the use of this method the child is actually prevented from exercising his reasoning faculties, and reading is converted into a pure and simple process of memorizing word-forms." Think of it: taxes being taken, and an elaborate system maintained, with the ultimate result of actually impairing the intellectual powers of the children! But that, we fear, is not the only damage. What must be the effect on the moral nature of "hard, unsympathetic, mechanical" methods? What must be the reaction from the remorseless discipline which Dr. Rice declares to be the "characteristic feature" of these schools? There can be little doubt that such a discipline hardens the nature, and that it must actually incline many to criminality there is too much reason to fear.

"It is not difficult," says Dr. Rice, "to account for the low standard of the New York schools; indeed, under existing conditions, it would be surprising if the instruction were of a higher order." He then proceeds to describe those conditions. In the first place, there is no incentive to teach well. Upon this point we feel like remarking that to say that a teacher has "no incentive to teach well" presents to our mind nearly the same incongruity as to say that a preacher has no incentive to preach well. We are far from maintaining that a teacher is not the better for incentives, but if there is any profession which might supply its own incentives, it seems to us to be that of teaching. It is certainly not too much to say that the true teaching spirit must be sadly lacking when teachers do not take sufficient interest in their work to do it at least to the best of their ability. The fact, of course, is that the position of teacher under our public-school system is sought after just as any other public office would be. The man who goes to Washington, to Albany, or to the City Hall, in search of an office, does not, in general, canvass very narrowly his fitness for the office; what he canvasses is the fitness of the office for him from a pecuniary point of view; and so precisely with the offices which our school boards have to bestow. To return, however, to the lack of incentive. This lack consists chiefly in the fact that no penalty or disadvantage at-