« PreviousContinue »
in many of our universities are particularly strong in biology. Illinois State University has already established a flourishing out-door summer school which is peculiarly well adapted for furnishing instruction in biology. So, too, is the school at Madison, conducted by the officers of the State University of Wisconsin, and many other similar schools have been or are to be established. There is no danger that the supply will fail to keep pace with the demand.
The lack of sympathy with the work on the part of parents and school officers is not especially strange. Their own school life presented no equivalent to our present biological work, and conservatism, until differently instructed, usually expects or wishes its offspring to be educated precisely in its father's and grandfather's way. I have a very distinct recollection of having been repeatedly told in my youth, that, if I could cast interest and could cipher and do sums in the rule of three in “Daboll's Arithmetic," my mathematical education was sufficient. We may as well admit that the science of education is not yet complete; that our children should have advantages denied to us, and be thankful rather than jealous that improvement in the schools is to some extent keeping pace with the improvement of the world in other directions.
But the chronic objectors say that it is impossible to obtain needed apparatus. This would be no objection with the principal of a high school not a thousand miles from mine, who, only two years ago, strenuously objected to the use of a microscope in school at all. He took the strange position that pupils would not use their eyesindeed, would lose their keenness of vision—if they were allowed to use a microscope. I have never experienced this difficulty, and do not anticipate any danger from an over-supply of microscopes or other desirable apparatus. But let us remember, that, in a lack of all modern laboratory facilities, much in the right direction may always be accomplished by the enthusiastic and enterprising teacher. The slothful saith: "A lion in the way.” A few tin pans and glass tumblers, with simple microscopes—hand-lenses—make an excellent beginning. Indeed, it is a serious question sometimes whether more is not accomplished by the poorly-equipped than by the richly-endowed. The boy who has been educated in a manual training school, where are all modern mechanical appliances, the best of tools, lathes driven by steam or electric power, etc., is not at first a brilliant success when deprived of these implements. But the boy whose backsaw and jack-plane are his treasures because to him an expense is fertile in expedients, and more often makes the skilled mechanic. There is, then, no reason to despair if some school authorities are as yet unwilling to invest in compound microscopes and other expensive apparatus. Their education is one of the things now to be
vigorously undertaken. Their sympathies and those of the parents will be secured so soon as they note the inevitable educatory effects upon the pupils.*
There is sometimes a certain amount of repugnance with fastidious and over-sensitive pupils with regard to the work. The judicious teacher will very easily and inoffensively deal with such cases. It is a curious but common experience that the most timid frequently become the most interested, the most inquisitive, the most bold. Sometimes a prejudiced parent gives the pupil no opportunity for change of mind. A lady in a Michigan city objected to her daughter's studying physiology on account of its inherent disagreeabilities. The comment of the instructress was blunt but perhaps not alto- ' gether inappropriate. She told the mother that she regretted that the daughter was to be so reared as, like the mother, to be ashamed of her own body.
The public press is always only too ready to circulate anything startling in character, so I was not surprised a few months ago to note in the alleged newspaper of a small city an item to the effect that vivisection was a thing constantly practiced in Chicago high schools. Indeed, I received a letter from an eminent surgeon of Cook county, Illinois, making inquiry as to our practices, and shortly afterward I noticed in print an indignant epistle from a lady, representing, I think, some anti-vivisection organization, in which she appeared to look with holy horror upon our barbarous practices. And justly, indeed, if such practices existed. There were none such in my bailiwick, and I have never been able to learn of any in our city.
I have recently received a circular issued by the American H1mane Association, the object of which is to induce people in official school positions to allow their views in the matter of vivisection to be published. Should it be abolished? ? Should it be legally restricted ? Should it be left unrestrained?
One would think that the second of these questions is the only one likely to obtain a general affirmative response. In the present
* The instructor in biology in the North Division High School of the City of Chicago during the last year is not a man to be baflled or even greatly hindered by such a tritle as lack of suitable apparatus. With nearly 300 pupils to deal with, and these placed in six different rooms, he was nevertheless up to the occasion. It was his common practice to keep tifty pupils at work, nearly one-half engaged with our limited supply of but nineteen microscopes, while the others were engaged in some grosser work, as, for example, investigating the external anatomy of cray-fish or star-fish. We bad living star-fish as well as living cray-fish. I had some hundreds of star-fish packed in rockwred (Fucus vesiculosus) thorougbly drenched with the salt water of Narragansett bay and shipped to me by express. They reached me in splendid condition, and, barring their possible discomfort in transitu, nothing was done with them wbich could possibly affront the honest convictions of our friends of the Humanitarian Society. Il a small way, the oyster men were glad to see even a few of their enemies made useful in death.
condition of unrestraint there is no doubt that liberty too often becomes an inexcusable license. On the other hand, utterly to abolish the practice is to deprive science of one of its most useful modes of discovery and instruction. Personally, I do not believe with the oftquoted poet that
The poor beetle that we tread upon
As when a giant dies. When an animal organism has the power of reproducing lost parts, and, indeed, after they have been voluntarily cast aside for good and sufficient reason, and, for aught we know, in actual anticipation of the exercise of this convenient function, it is hard for us to believe that its sensations are as acute as we know them to be with more highly organized creatures. That lobsters, crabs, and cray-fish are excellent articles of diet one would hardly question, yet it is true that unless they are prepared for the epicure's stomach while they are still alive they are exceedingly unwholesome comestibles. The lady who at once refused to continue her favorite repast of raw oysters when she learned that they were still alive upon her plate, was perhaps more sensitive than sensible. That the simply. organized common star-fish and the humble hydra are only multiplied rather than destroyed by repeated fission goes to indicate the extreme obtuseness of their sensations. That the numerous still more lowly creatures with which pupils become acquainted by reason of our modern school course in the zoological part of biology have, in many instances, the same power, exercised indeed without extraneous interference, indicates the same thing.
Let, then, the self-styled humane and anti-vivisection organizations make some distinction in the grades of animal life. Let vertebrate vivisection be confined to the surgical schools; let it occur only when its utility is beyond question; and let the subject always be anæsthetized that the operation be painless. Our public schools have enough to do without trenching unnecessarily upon the field of the scientific specialist. I have never discovered that the officers of humane societies decline to take their annual summer fishing excursion. The gasping, dying fish do not seem to appeal to their consciences so strongly as the cruel treatment of a domestic animal by its owner. Nor am I specially disposed to criticise them. We are not yet willing to follow the plan of the pious Buddhist, who, in his respect for life, declines to destroy even the vermin which may be to him a great annoyance. Our occidental consciences will have to be marvelously softened before the flies and the mosquitoes shall cease to be molested by the thrifty housewife, or the ownerless yellow curs of the city streets be freed from their fear of the noose of the dog-catcher.
No hard-heartedness is inculcated by practical lessons in biology. Certainly my own children would never needlessly set foot upon a spider or a caterpillar. By reason of the family interest in entomology, either one would much sooner be brought to me for coveted information. Even what seems to be a natural antipathy to snakes is greatly modified by a study of their habits and an examination of their personal adornments. Toads are petted and recognized as benefactors; non-venomous snakes are unmolested; spiders and caterpillars are left unharmed and are no longer slandered. Thus, nothing can better serve the interests of truth and morality. Surely the first year in the high school is not too early a stage at which to familiarize children with lessons so practical as these. Long before -even in the primary school-should they have been brought to their attention.
If chloroform or potassic cyanide, or some other anæsthetic, is brought into requisition, painlessly to terminate the life of an animal organism, it is often from a humane standpoint the most desirable thing that could have happened. The butterfly, that, having missed the end and aim of its existence, is fluttering about in constant anxiety as to the possibility of its escaping the maw of some pursuing, rapacious bird, is surely mercifully consigned through anesthetics to a painless death, when otherwise his almost certain destiny is to be pulled asunder and devoured piecemeal.
But, say some of our correspondents and reporters for the city press, the work is shockingly plain. Topics are introduced for discussion that are tabooed by all genteel society. If some of the reporters could be shocked into a little thoughtful attention, perhaps we might extend the benefits of our instruction beyond the walls of the schoolhouse. The reporter, or possibly the editor, of one of the great Chicago dailies last January referred to Dr. O. P. Hay, the wellknown herpetologist, as a great reptilian, and the same paper on the following day had occasion to speak of the diamond-back turtle as a crustacean. Such censurers must have been instructed by the lecturer on the rhizopody, the infusiory, and the gherrygonida. And their modesty is shocked! Think of it! People who write up, and evidently gloat over, all forms of crime and debasement; who dote on criminal courts, and who carefully select for publication all the prurient items from prominent divorce cases, are shocked at the merest intimation as to the origin of life! Pistillate and staminate flowers are to them the height of impropriety. They are shocked at the plainness of speech indulged in by the biologist. So far as I am able to judge, there is far less occasion for prudery to criticise this department of our schools than the literary department, where Shakespeare, and Burns, and Conan Doyle, and other plain-spoken
persons dispute for precedence, and where all such are reverenced, with no one daring to say nay. For my daughters I fear much rather the contamination of the daily press and of the alleged English classics that are furnished for our home reading than I do that of any of the treatises on biology I have had the fortune to see. Think of criticising the plainness of biological instruction in college, and then step into the next room and hear mixed classes read Plautus and Terence. Faugh!
The interest awakened in school by the study of life is equaled by the study of hardly anything else. In the first year of the high school it is peculiarly useful in insuring a prompt attendance. The winter months too often are marked by numerous defections from the ranks, especially in this grade. But our membership at the close of last March was exactly the same as it was at the close of February; and, indeed, one more than the attendance at the close of January. Some of this persistency of attendance I believe fairly at: tributable to the enterprise and enthusiasm, contagious as they were, of our teacher in biology. This interest extends even beyond the school contingent. The parents themselves seem to realize that, many times, powers hitherto dormant have been awakened in the children through the influence of this work, and their own attention is consequently awakened.
The line of work now marked out by most teachers in biology in secondary schools introduces the student to a new world. Even in the primary grades, the study of the common domestic animals does not prove to be a matter of absorbing interest. The child of tender years frequently knows more about a cat from actual observation than the teacher herself. Hence, the latter can hardly be expected to make the subject particularly attractive.
But protozoic organisms are, even to the high school pupil, marvelously attractive, if only for their novelty. The preparation for their study is an education. To manipulate successfully a compound microscope is possible only to the adept. Slides must be thoroughly cleaned; thin glass covers must be deftly handled to avoid breakage; facility in handling the mirror must be attained, that a clear field inay always be at command on which to project the object to be examined; the object itself, especially if living, must be handled as lzaak Walton handled the worm, as if he loved him; the fine adjustment of the microscope must be carefully studied, that objects for examination be brought promptly and accurately in focus; and, if study stopped right here, the effect on the pupil should and does result in a carefulness of manipulation, a delicacy of touch, itself of the greatest value.
But, when this preparation is supplemented by study which familiarizes the student with the several types and varieties of structure