Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/168

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



FOR the sciences as taught in the secondary schools in all parts of the country, there is generally claimed a "training" value in addition to the informational value. In common with the teachers of the so-called "humanities," many of the teachers of the natural sciences claim for their subjects the power to develop in the student certain intellectual and moral qualities. These highly desirable results are reputed to flow from the "mental discipline" involved in the effort to overcome difficulties, in the exact and orderly sequence of the intellectual material, and in the method of the laboratory.

Many psychologists deny outright the claim of any subject to have a disciplinary value. This denial is based deductively on certain modern generalizations as to the workings of the mind, or the break-down of the "faculty" hypothesis; it is based inductively on the results of certain experiments made in recent times, upon the effects of various learning processes. It is the purpose of these notes to base the denial of the general claim upon the results of observations on the mental processes of certain persons who may be presumed to have acquired the full benefits of whatever training the study of science is able to impart, namely, teachers of science. In addition, I wish to point out the direction in which I think it is worth while to look for "educational" results, as distinct from informational results.

Do teachers of science in general exhibit those special virtues which science learning is supposed to cultivate, in a degree above that shown by the average citizen? Or by the teachers of other subjects?

In the matter of observation, the teachers of science with whom I have come in contact are not more comprehensive than the teachers of history or of languages. The only criterion I have of this is "what kinds of phenomena are noted?" The science teachers are not more catholic in their interests or in their range of observations. On the contrary, I have found many teachers of history and of language who take an intelligent interest in the development of science, as well as in the phenomena that fall within their own specialties; but I know comparatively few teachers of science who take an intelligent interest in matters foreign to their specialties. And their observations, as gaged by their comments and conversation, are as restricted within their respective fields as are their interests beyond. If we consider the accuracy of the observations in their own fields, it remains an open