Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/867

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Editor's Table.


WE were not a little surprised to read in Nature some time ago an article from which it appeared that Bishop Temple, of London, had, in an address delivered before the Diocesan Conference, expressed his entire opposition to the teaching of science in elementary schools. So far as these schools were concerned he would be glad, he said, "if all these scientific subjects were got rid of entirely." Now Dr. Temple, as Nature observes, is an experienced educator. He was Head Master of Rugby at the time when he wrote his celebrated paper on The Education of the World in Essays and Reviews; and he has also been an inspector of schools and principal of a training college. He may therefore be supposed to know a good deal about education; and we can only regret that we are not in possession of a fuller statement of his views than we find in the columns of our contemporary, as it is difficult to believe that he could have expressed such opinions as those quoted without qualification. Nature, replying to the bishop, proceeds to show how important technical knowledge is to the commercial prosperity of nations. This does not fully meet the case, however: technical knowledge may be, and is doubtless, of the highest importance to a nation's commercial prosperity; and yet from an educational point of view it might (conceivably) not be advisable to introduce science into elementary schools. The question is not as to teaching science, but as to when to begin to teach it and how to teach it in the earliest stages.

If Bishop Temple, who has always been regarded as a very enlightened man, means no more than that science should not be so taught to young children as to tyrannize over their thoughts and cramp their imaginations, we could agree with him. If, on the other hand, he means that there is no way of introducing the teaching of science with advantage into the education of the young, we can only consider him seriously mistaken, and regret that he should have given the weight of his authority to a very hurtful idea. Many of our readers are doubtless aware that some eminent scientific authorities have been profoundly dissatisfied with the methods and results of science teaching in the elementary schools both of this country and of England. In spite of their predilection for scientific studies they have been forced to acknowledge that, somehow or other, science as actually taught seemed in a great many cases to possess little or no educative value. The late Prof. Huxley was very strong on this point, maintaining that the fault lay in the excessive use made of text-books and the overloading of the mind with facts which it could not properly assimilate. Bishop Temple may have witnessed a similar phenomenon; but, if so, the inference to draw is not that there is no place for science in elementary education, but that its true place has not always been understood, or that those who have assumed to teach it have not possessed the skill and insight necessary to bring it into vital relation with the minds under their charge.

As we take it, the business of science in early education is not to go