« PreviousContinue »
I am converted to the microscpoe first. In this school to which I refer we have biology two years-zoology the first year, botany the second; both on the laboratory plan. Every pupil this year has made as many as 150 slides himself, to be used in the work. That is a great step in the right direction. I find, that, under the influence of the master mind that is teaching this subject, they have not only been able to make useful apparatus, but they have, by reversing the microscope, been able to cast upon a screen a large picture of the subject that they were examining. Professor Harvey has had a special lens made which they used in the reversed microscope, and by means of a large screen what is visible to the eye of one student is made visible to all. Within the last four years we have put biology on a purely scientific basis, using pure laboratory method. Our pupils have a greater interest in high school work than they have ever had before. We have scientific work in every year in the course, the first year zoology, in the second botany, the third year chemistry, and the fourth year physics; and we find that the preparation given in the first years of the course makes easy sailing over what used to be rough seas in the later years. The pupils in the school are more easily controlled, and I attribute this very largely to the interest gained through the study of subjects in the natural way.
MR. WOOD, Cleveland, Ohio.I should like to answer the objection to introducing physical geography early in the course. I heartily agree with those who urge the value of laboratory work in biology, chemistry, and physics. For that very reason I believe in beginning physical geography in the second year. The student will be expected to do quantitative work in physics, and at least qualitative, if not quantitative, work in chemistry in the high school. If he is expected to do quantitative work in physics, he should certainly have had some previous training in physical principles, and should know what an experiment means; otherwise he will lose himself in the difficulties of manipulation. I also wish to answer the objections of the gentleman to the use of the text-book. I think Principal Harris' remarks in regard to text-books were misinterpreted. We do not illustrate the text-book. Experimental work and the careful preparation of note-books, containing drawing, descriptions, and explanations, precede the assignment of any work in the text-book; but it is not wise to get away from the text-book entirely. The pupil must have something that he can tie to. The text thus serves as a review, and the physical principles are applied directly to physical geography. It is likewise a valuable, and almost necessary, aid to those unavoidably absent from the class and in the work of recapitulation at the close of the year. I cannot urge too strongly the devoting of a full year's time in the second year to physical geoggraphy when taught in accordance with this method.
ETHICAL INSTRUCTION THROUGH SOCIOLOGY.
BY B. C. MATHEWS, PRINCIPAL OF HIGH SCHOOL, NEWARK, V. J.
The fact that there is great social discontent throughout the entire Western world requires no demonstration. The forms in which it manifests itself are numerous. In the various forms of socialism, and in the form of nihilism, it permeates every department of European life. In the rural portions of our own country the same spirit of discontent, though in a much milder form, manifests itself in the Farmers' Alliance and in the Populist movement. In our cities and towns it appears in labor organizations and in socialistic societies.
The adjustment of the parts of our social organism is certainly not harmonious. Collisions between classes whose interests are opposed have at times paralyzed domestic commerce, have involved the comforts of the nation, and have reminded thoughtful men and women of conditions preceding revolution. Not infrequently state militia, and even the United States troops, have been called out to protect life and property and to quell riots.
It is important that educators should inquire whether the schools are in any degree responsible for this unfortunate condition of affairs. We are compelled to acknowledge that we think they are, though other agencies are responsible in a higher degree. The responsibility of the schools is not a blameworthy responsibility, for the forces of no other agency have been guided with purer motives. Hence, there is no place for condemnation. The relation of the schools to society, however, is so intimate, and their influences are so potent in their formative effects, that it would be folly to claim that they are entirely free from responsibility in this grave matter; since, even if they have not contributed directly and purposely to it, they have not studied to prevent it. They have cultivated-unintentionally, of course—those characteristics of the race which have produced it, and have failed to cultivate, except incidentally, those better characteristics which must correct it.
Throughout the whole course of the development of our public schools, their relation to the child as an individual, with personal ends in life to be attained, has always been a prominent feature and a determining factor, while their relation to the child as a member of society has never been sufficiently emphasized. The effort, there. fore, on the part of the schools has uniformly been to enable the child, when grown to manhood, to successfully guard his personal interests and secure his personal ends. There is no general or continued effort to so train and so develop him that he will contribute to the welfare of society. The result has been to center and to fasten his attention upon his personal interests, and to cultivate in him selfishness instead of an altruistic spirit, which alone is the truly social spirit, and which alone will produce harmony among the classes now in collision. Why has the child been taught to read, to write, to cipher? Primarily, because a knowledge of these has seemed to be absolutely essential in securing his so-called rights among his fellows. Only recently has his relation to society been seriously considered. His echical side is now demanding cultivation more loudly than ever. So far as education is purely intellectual, it only trains him for a fiercer part in the great human struggle for personal ends, and tends to diminish the severity of that struggle in such degree only as purely intellectual culture indirectly contributes to the ethical, through attention to subjects related to the ethical.
Back of all social discontent, and back of all forms in which it appears, we find the primary cause of social disorders in the presence of erroneous ideas among men, particularly the presence of erroneous notions concerning the relations which exist among men. There are certain fundamental ideas upon which the social edifice is built; pivotal ideas about which the social world turns. In each of these, ten thousand others germinate; and the ten thousand are wrong if the one is wrong. The following are samples of these fundamental, pivotal ideas which have become stock notions of the people: Cæsars and Napoleons are civilizers; royalty is related to the gods; the Creator made some to be served, others to serve; legality is justice; standard belief is more important than standard character; morality divorced from religion is dangerous. Any social structure founded upon such ideas alone is a monstrosity. Today we stand face to face with the fact that these ideas, and others like them, form a large part — entirely too large a part — of the foundation of modern society.
All existing government, and all other institutions, have been at some time simply abstract ideas in the brain of their originators, and afterwards have become concrete realities; right ideas giving birth to right institutions, wrong ones to wrong institutions. This same relation of cause and effect which exists between ideas and institutions exists also between ideas and the character of individuals and between ideas and the character of the relations which exist among individuals. So far as individual character and existing relations among men are right, they are the product of right ideas; so far as they are wrong, they are the product of wrong ideas.
If, as we think, the presence among men of erroneous ideas is the cause of social disorders, the cure will be their displacement, through educational processes, with such as will produce right character in men and inspire right relations among men. We be. lieve this is entirely possible, and we think that both the agencies and the methods are in sight. Both must be educational. All political and legislative schemes, the single tax theory, the nationalization of land and industries, all socialistic projects, all co-operative remedies, will prove of little avail they aim at curing social disorders by improving the environment only of the man. The man himself is wrong. He is the thing that needs improvement and correction; not the world in which he lives, or the form of government under which he lives. The only possible way of correcting him, and through him of curing social disorders, is through the processes of education,-education of the child with the potential man in him.
The church, the press, and the schools are the agencies which, supplemented by other forces, have determined the existing fundamental ideas of society. If these agencies have been able to formulate and fix these, they certainly can modify them, or even displace them with others. Their functions, and their methods in the execution of these functions, however, must be modified, some even revolutionized. Although the church and the press (the discussion of whose functions and methods the limits of our paper forbid) are powerful agencies whose influence is beyond all computation, or even conjecture,-agencies which must be employed in the improve. ment of social conditions,—yet they are not the agency upon which greatest reliance can be placed. This agency is found in the schools —the great free public school system. There is greatest hope in this agency for many reasons; particularly, because its organization is fully adapted to the requirements of the situation; because it deals with the child which is a moldable, and not a crystallized, thing; and because the schools are the agency which, in large de. gree, determines the character of all other agencies.
Our hope, then, is in the schools; but their function and methods must be modified, because they are not giving to the world the best they can give. They are not giving what the world most needs: the best possible character, which results very largely from a careful, rational study of our relations to others, from a right understanding of all those relations which are interwoven everywhere among men in all phases and departments of life. Nothing is more important for our children and youth to understand than the nature and character of human relations; but these are ignored as if there were no such relations. Here, in our judgment, is the most serious defect of our schools, and not in the lack of proper correlation of studies.
Whether this is the province of the schools we cannot stop to discuss; but I pass it with the remark that the schools belong to the people, and the people have the right to do what they please with their own. They can make the function of the schools whatsoever they choose to make it, whatsoever will serve themselves best.
How, then, can this most serious defect be remedied? By introducing instruction in pure human ethics divorced from religion, which then becomes a study of the relations which exist among men in this real world. One great difficulty in the way of providing instruction in ethics heretofore has been the lack of a clear distinction in the minds of the people between ethics and religion. The Christian world has been in the habit of thinking, and of claiming, that there can be no valid system of ethics except that which is based upon the existence of God, and upon the relations which we suppose exist between him and This claim has never been substantiated in a manner satisfactory to scientific thought. Religion is a system of beliefs and worship, and points to an after-life for which we all hope; while ethics is a system of principles of conduct for man as a social being in this life which we are all living. Ethics deals with realities; with a real life in a real world. realm is entirely a realm of actualities; while the realm of religion, defined in a scientific manner, is one of beliefs and hopes. So far as these beliefs and hopes are determining factors in the conduct of man to man, the realm of religion affects the realm of ethics. But, apart from this, if, by some magic power, the realm of beliefs and hopes were annihilated, the realm of ethics would remain absolutely undisturbed. Does ethics, then, find its basis in religion? Does that which is real depend for its existence upon that which we suppose to be real? It may, providing that which we suppose to be real is actually real; but when, as in this case, it is beyond human powers to determine whether it is real or not, it is about as unphilosophical to declare that something which is known to be real depends for its existence upon another something which we suppose to be real as to declare that the Himalayas hang upon the sky. The only possibility of substantiating the claim that ethics and religion cannot be divorced is found in so formulating a definition of one of them as to embrace in it the realm of the other. But such an attempt would be futile in this scientific age of discrimination and definition. Ethics and religion are both right, and have their separate and appropriate missions and fields, which, as we have indicated above, overlap; but their bases are two distinct things in reality, and ought to be made so in definition. The sooner this distinction is recognized, the more rapid will be the moral development of our race.
Upon what, then, can we base a system of ethics? Upon the fact of human relations. If there were only one human being in the