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Differen- Nor do I think it at all desirable in selecting a subject tiation of studies for of experimental science for school purposes to be strongly boys and influenced by considering whether your pupils are boys girls.
or girls, or what particular uses they may happen to make of the knowledge hereafter in the business of life. At first sight it seems obvious that mechanics for example is a specially masculine study, that it connects itself with many of the occupations which boys are likely to follow. But, after all, the number of men who require in their business or profession to be skilled in practical mechanics is very small; and the true reason for teaching such a subject at all is that the learner may know something of the properties of matter, the nature of statical and dynamic forces, and the way in which knowledge about the facts of the visible world ought to be acquired. And all these things have just as close a relation to the needs of a woman's life as to those of a man. Again, to a superficial observer, botany seems as if it were specially a feminine pursuit. There is a very obvious and natural association between girls and flowers. It is pleasant to think of young maidens in trim gardens culling posies :
“The rose had been washed, just washed in a shower,
Which Mary to Añna conveyed.” But such associations do not at all prove that botany is a specially appropriate study for young ladies; botany considered as a science, the investigation of the parts, the structure and functions of plants. There is nothing exclusively feminine in it. The truth is that mechanics and botany are both equally fitted in the case of either boys or girls to serve the purposes which experimental science is meant to serve. All depends upon the way in
which the subject is taught. Scientific
One very effective crux, or test, by which the differterminology. ence between a good and a bad teacher of such subjects
is to be detected, is to be found in the use he makes of scientific terminology. To hear some teachers of Botany or Chemistry you would suppose that to give a thing a hard name was to explain a fact, and that the learning how to label things with technical words was the learning of science. The note-books of students are sometimes found to contain little else but nomenclature and lists of terms. Such terms are of course indispensable, but their true value is to fix and crystallize facts and distinctions already perceived and explained in the first instance without their help. A technical term is a sign of distinction and classification, and presupposes that you have already something to distinguish and to classify.
A good teacher first explains the principle of his How and classification or distinction in untechnical phraseology;
employ it. then shews the need of some word or phrase to describe what has been thus seen, and then introduces and explains his scientific term. It is only when in this way the learner comes to see the need of technical phraseology before he is invited to make use of it, that you can hope to make the terminology of science serve its proper and subordinate purpose, and to be a means rather than an end. Thus, as Mr Henry Sidgwick says, “The student is taught not only how to apply a classification ready made, but also to some extent how to make a classification; he is taught to deal with a system where the classes merge by fine gradations into one another, and where the boundaries are often hard to mark; a system that is progressive, and therefore in some points rudimentary, shifting, liable to continual modification; and along with the immense value of a carefully framed technical phraseology he is also taught the inevitable inadequacy of such a phraseology to represent the variety of nature.”
1 Essays on a Liberal Education, p. 195.
Practice as Having chosen your subject you will do well in this well as book-work. department to rely not wholly on book-work, nor too
largely on oral exposition and demonstration, but on the actual work of the pupils. They must be brought into close contact with the facts and phænomena of nature, and must be shewn how to handle objects and investigate their properties, to make mistakes, and to correct them for themselves. It is becoming more generally accepted every day by good teachers, not only of Chemistry but of Physics, that the best teaching is given in the laboratory rather than in the lecture-room. It is not merely by seeing experiments tried, but by trying them, that the properties of objects, their structure and organization, are best to be learned. But here it must be borne in mind that the discipline you want to give must be definite and exact; it is not seeing and handling only, but careful measurement if it be mechanics, careful observation if it be Botany or Physiology, and whatever it be, careful notes and recordation of the results of each
experiment as soon as it is made. Scholars As far as you can, enlist the services of the scholars to bring
in the manufacture, collection and invention of the objects and make their own used in illustration of experimental lessons. Boxes of illustra
classified models and specimens which are prepared by tions.
manufacturers, and which are often very costly, are far less effective than collections of objects which the scholars themselves have helped to form, illustrations of the flora and fauna of the district, its geological formation, or manufacturing processes. In two of the best grammar schools which I have visited, and in which the greatest attention is paid to Natural Science, I found there was a carpenter's shop in which the boys themselves made their own apparatus for the illustration of mechanical powers and for other departments of science. Within Lessons on Common Things.
certain limits, of course, you want all the help which Prof. Huxley or Balfour Stewart or Mr Lockyer can give you in the form of books, or which the ingenious producer of diagrams, and cabinets of selected models and objects, can invent for you. But these things are all supplements to true teaching and investigation, not substitutes for them.
After all, no teaching deserves the name of science which is a teaching of facts and operations only. In science you must have facts, but you must also have ideas. Unless the facts are presented in such a way as to group themselves together, throw light on one another, and reveal some general law of correlation or of sequence in nature, they are not science at all. It is perhaps a misfortune that the word 'science' has become popularly appropriated to a particular kind of information, and that astronomy, physics and a group of like subjects should have usurped the name of science. But as I have already reminded you the word 'science' does not refer to a particular class of facts, but to the method of investigating them. It does not mean knowledge, but knowledge obtained on right principles, and in a particular way. You may give a lesson on the future tense which shall be in the highest degree scientific, and you may give a lesson on the thermometer or on the satellites of Jupiter which shall not be science at all.
We cannot attach much educational value to lessons Lessons on on familiar objects and occurrences, unless they are things" not given with a distinctly scientific aim, and in a scientific necessarily
It is a frequent subject of complaint that scientific. children though learning a great many recondite things in school are very ignorant of things out of doors, that they do not know, e.g., the difference between wheat and barley, or what are the names of common birds and
flowers. Even in a book otherwise so valuable and so pregnant with important suggestions as Mr Herbert Spencer's book on Education you will find a formidable indictment, running indeed throughout all his pages, against schools, because they give book-learning and grammar and other pedantries, and do not shew the scholar how to get a living, nor to preserve their health, or what will be their future duties as parents and as citizens.
Such complaints often originate in a certain confusion of mind, as to what is the proper business of a school. Many things are very well worth knowing, which it is not the business of a school to teach. The world is a great school in which we are to be learning all our life, and he who brings into it quickened faculties will learn its lessons well by actual experience. But a child does not come to school to be told that a cow has four legs, that fishes swim, or that bread is eatable, nutritious, soft, white and opaque. Nor does he come there to learn the special business of a farmer, or of an engineer, or of a shoemaker. He is there to learn precisely those things which could not be so well learned out of doors, and to gain that sort of capacity and awakening which will enable him to acquire readily the lessons of common life and to turn them to the best account.
If you want to know what is the proper province of the school, consider a little what sort of lives your scholars lead, and the sort of homes they come from. In the houses of the very poor, there is probably little talk going on such as would draw the attention of children to the most interesting facts of nature and of daily life. So in schools for the poor, conversational lessons on common things, on birds and beasts, and on everyday events, are very useful and even necessary. If children live in towns and seldom see green fields, occasional