A Philosophy of Education Volume 6 Book 1 Chapter 10 Section 3a



(a) SCIENCE[1]

HUXLEY’S axiom that science teaching in the schools should be of the nature of ‘common information’ is of use in defining our limitations in regard to the teaching of science. We find another limitation in the fact that children’s minds are not in need of the mental gymnastics that such teaching is supposed to afford. They are entirely alert and eager to know. Books dealing with science as with history, say, should be of a literary character, and we should probably be more scientific as a people if we scrapped all the text-books which swell publishers’ lists and nearly all the chalk expended so freely on our blackboards. The French mind has appreciated the fact that the approach to science as to other subjects should be more or less literary, that the principles which underlie science are at the same time so
simple, so profound and so far-reaching that the due setting forth of these provokes what is almost an emotional response; these principles are therefore meet subjects for literary treatment, while the details of their application are so technical and so minute as,—except by way of illustration,—to be unnecessary for school work or for general knowledge. We have not a copious scientific literature in English but we have quite enough to go on with in our schools. We find an American publication called The Sciences (whose author would seem to be an able man of literary power) of very great value in linking universal principles with common incidents of every day life in such a way that interest never palls and any child may learn on what principles an electric bell works, what sound means, how a steam engine works, and many other matters, explained here with great lucidity. Capital diagrams and descriptions make experiments easy and children arrive at their first notions of science without the verbiage that darkens counsel. Form IIA read Life and Her Children by Arabella Buckley and get a surprising knowledge of the earlier and lower forms of life. IIB take pleasure in Kingsley’s Madam How and Lady Why. They are expected to do a great deal of out-of-door work in which they are assisted by The Changing Year, admirable month by month studies of what is to be seen out-of-doors. They keep records and drawings in a Nature Note Book and make special studies of their own for the particular season with drawings and notes.
          The studies of Form III for one term enable children to—“Make a rough sketch of a section of ditch or hedge or sea-shore and put in the names of the plants you would expect to find.” “Write notes with drawings of the special study you have made this term.” “What do you understand by calyx, corolla, stamen, pistil? In what ways are flowers fertilised?” “How would
you find the Pole Star? Mention six other stars and say in what constellations they occur.” “How would you distinguish between Early, Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic? Give drawings.” Questions like these, it will be seen, cover a good deal of field work, and the study of some half dozen carefully selected books on natural history, botany, architecture and astronomy, the principle being that children shall observe and chronicle, but shall not depend upon their own unassisted observation.
          The study of natural history and botany with bird lists and plant lists continues throughout school life, while other branches of science are taken term by term. The questions for Form IV for one term illustrate the various studies of the scholars in natural history, general science, hygiene and physiology; in fact, their studies are so various that it is difficult to give each a separate title in the programme:—

1. Write a short sketch of Central Asia, with map.
2. Compare Palestine with the Yorkshire moors. Describe the valley of the Jordan.
3. “There is but one Nelson.” Illustrate by half-a-dozen instances.
4. What is said in Eöthen of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

1. What do you know of (a), the manatee, (b), the whale- bone whale (sketch of skeleton), (c), porpoises and dolphins?
1. Describe (a), quartz crystals, (6), felspar, (c), mica, (d), hornblende. In what rock do these occur?
2. What do you know of insectivorous plants? Name those you know. 3. What circumstances strike you in a walk in summer?

1. What do you understand by,-(a), electrical attraction, (6), repulsion, (c), conductors, (d), insulators, (e), methods of obtaining electricity?
2. Prove that “you never see matter itself,” and show how sight gives us knowledge.

1. Describe the structure of the human ear.

          Perhaps Some Wonders of Matter by Bishop Mercer is the most inspiring of the half-dozen volumes in current use in Form IV for this section of their work. The questions indicate the varied nature of the work and the answers shew that in every case the knowledge is fairly wide and thorough. All the children in the school are usually ready to answer each question on the work of the term. Forms V and VI again cover a wide field as the following questions on a term’s work sufficiently indicate,—

VI. 1. Show how the discovery of the New World affected England in commerce and war.
2. According to what general law is life distributed on the earth?
3. Describe the Siege of Mexico by Cortes, and its surrender.
VI. & V. 4. How has the war affected (a), Luxembourg, (b), the Eastern frontier of Belgium, (c), Antwerp and the Scheldt?
V. 1. Show how the Restoration affected our American possessions.
2. Show accurately how longitude is determined.
3. Sketch the history and character of Montezuma.

VI. 1. Discuss fully (a), the cause of radio-activity, (6), gravitation.
2. What have you to say of the scenic aspects of the English Trias ? Name a dozen of the fossils. Sketch half-a-dozen. V. 1. Give as full an explanation as you can of colour. 2. Describe the composition of the igneous rocks. Where do they appear ? BIOLOGY, BOTANY, ETC. VI. 1. What are the characters of the backboneless animals ? Describe half-a-dozen examples.
2. Describe and account for the vegetation of (a), wood- lands, (b), heath, (c), moorland, (d), meadow.
V. 1. How would you classify the industries of animals? Give examples.
2. Describe the flora of the seashore.
VI. & V. 3. Describe, with drawings, the special study you have made this term.

VI. 1. What do you understand by precession? Describe the precession and mutation of the earth’s axis.
V. 1. Write an essay on the planet Mercury.

          If we wanted an excuse for affording children a wide syllabus introducing them at any rate to those branches of science of which every normal person should have some knowledge, we find it in the deprecatory words of Sir Richard Gregory in his Presidential Address in the Education Science Section of the British Association. He said that,-—
          “Education might be defined as a deliberate adjustment of a growing human being to its environment, and the scope and character of the subjects of instruction should be determined by this biological principle. What was best for one race or epoch need not be best for another. The essential mission of school science was to prepare pupils for civilised citizenship by revealing to them something of the beauty and the power of the world in which they lived, as well as introducing them to the methods by which the boundaries of natural knowledge had been extended. School science, therefore, was not intended to prepare for vocations, but to equip pupils for life. It should be part of a general education, unspecialised, but in no direct connexion with possible university courses to follow. Less than three per cent. of the pupils from State-aided secondary schools proceeded to universities, and yet most of the science courses in these schools were based on syllabuses of the type of university entrance examinations. The needs of the many were sacrificed to the few.
          “Too much importance was attached to what could be covered by personal experiment and observation. Every science examination qualifying for the first school certificate, which now represented subjects normally studied up to about sixteen years of age, was mainly a test of practical acquaintance with facts and principles encountered in particular limited fields, but not a single
one afforded recognition of a broad and ample course of instruction in science such as was a necessary complement to laboratory work.
          “The numbers (of examination candidates) suggested that general scientific teaching was almost non-existent. The range of instruction in the portions of subjects taken, moreover, was almost confined to what could be taught in a laboratory. Reading or teaching for interest or to learn how physical science was daily extending the power of man received little attention because no credit for knowledge thus gained was given in examinations. There was very special need for the reminder that science was not all measurement, nor all measurement science.”
          It is reassuring to see methods that we have pursued for over thirty years with admirable results recommended thus authoritatively. The only sound method of teaching science is to afford a due combination of field or laboratory work, with such literary comments and amplifications as the subject affords. For example, from Ethics of the Dust children derive a certain enthusiasm for crystals as such that their own unaided observation would be slow to afford. As a matter of fact the teaching of science in our schools has lost much of its educative value through a fatal and quite unnecessary divorce between science and the ‘humanities.’
          The nature note books which originated in the P.U.S. have recommended themselves pretty widely as travelling companions and life records wherein the ‘finds’ of every season, bird or flower, fungus or moss, is sketched, and described somewhat in the manner of Gilbert White. The nature note book is very catholic and finds room for the stars in their courses and for, say, the fossil anemone found on the beach at Whitby. Certainly these note books do a good deal to bring science within the range of common thought and experience; we are anxious not to make science a utilitarian subject.


          The teaching of Geography suffers especially from the utilitarian spirit. The whole tendency of modern Geography, as taught in our schools, is to strip the unfortunate planet which has been assigned to us as our abode and environment of every trace of mystery and beauty. There is no longer anything to admire or to wonder at in this sweet world of ours. We can no longer say with Jasper Petulengro,—“Sun, moon and stars are sweet things, brother; there is likewise the wind on the heath.” No, the questions which Geography has to solve henceforth are confined to how and under what conditions is the earth’s surface profitable to man and desirable for his habitation. No more may children conceive themselves climbing Mont Blanc or Mount Everest, skating on the Fiords of Norway or swimming in a gondola at Venice. These are not the things that matter, but only how and where and why is money to be made under local conditions on the earth’s surface. It is doubtful whether this kind of teaching is even lucrative because the mind works on great ideas, and, upon these, works to great ends. Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value.
          Perhaps no knowledge is more delightful than such an intimacy with the earth’s surface, region by region, as should enable the map of any region to unfold a panorama of delight, disclosing not only mountains, rivers, frontiers, the great features we know as ‘Geography,’ but associations, occupations, some parts of the past and much of the present, of every part of this beautiful earth. Great attention is paid to map work; that is, before reading a lesson children have found the places mentioned in that lesson on a map and know where they are, relatively to other places, to given parallels, meridians. Then, bearing in mind that children do not generalise but must
learn by particulars, they read and picture to themselves the Yorkshire Dales, the Sussex Downs, the mysteries of a coal-mine; they see ‘pigs’ of iron flowing forth from the furnace, the slow accretions which have made up the chalk, the stirring life of the great towns and the occupations of the villages. Form II (A and B) are engaged with the counties of England, county by county, for so diverse are the counties in aspect, history and occupations, that only so can children acquire such a knowledge of England as will prove a key to the geography of every part of the world, whether in the way of comparison or contrast. For instance, while I write, the children in IIA are studying the counties which contain the Thames basin and “Write verses on ‘The Thames’” is part of their term’s work. Our Sea Power, by H. W. Household, is of extraordinary value in linking England with the world by means of a spirited account of the glorious history of our navy, while the late Sir George Parkin, than whom there is no better qualified authority, carries children round the Empire. They are thrown on their own resources or those of their teachers for what may be called current Geography. For instance, “Learn what you can about The Political Map of Europe after the Great War. (Evans, 4d.).”
          In Form III the Geography is still regional, that is, children are led to form an intimate acquaintance with the countries of Europe so that the map of any country calls up in a child’s imagination a wonderful panorama of the diversities of the country, of the people, their history and occupations. It is evident that this kind of geographical image cannot be secured in any other way than by considering Europe country by country. They begin with a general survey of the seas and shores of the continent, of the countries and peoples, of the diversities of tongues and their historical origin, of the plains and mountains, of the rivers and their basins; a survey after
which they should be able to answer such questions as,—“Name three rivers which flow into the Baltic.” “What lands form the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean?” “What countries are washed by the Baltic? ” “Between what parallels does Europe extend? What other continents lie partly within the same parallels?” The young scholars are at home with the map of Europe before they consider the countries separately.
          The picture we present of the several countries is meant to be before all things interesting and at the same time to provide an intelligent and fairly exhaustive account of the given country. Whatever further knowledge a child acquires will fit in to this original scheme. For example, “The Rhône Valley and the Border lands.”![2]

          “The warm and fertile Rhône valley belongs in climate to the southern region, where, although the vine is grown, large plantations of olive and mulberry occupy much of the land. We are apt to think of the South of France as the sunny south, the sweet south, ‘but,’ says a writer whom we have already quoted, ‘it is austere, grim, sombre’ …. but the mulberry feeds the silkworm and so furnishes material for the great manufacture of France. Lyons, the second city of France, is the seat of the silk manufacture including those of velvets and satins. It is seated upon a tongue of land at the confluence of the rapid Rhône and the sluggish Saône, and along the banks of both rivers are fine quays.

This extract indicates how geographical facts are introduced incidentally, pretty much as a traveller comes across them. The work for one term includes Belgium, Holland, Spain and Portugal, and the interests connected with each of these countries are manifold. For example,—

          “On the seashore near Leyden is Katwyck where the expiring Rhine is helped to discharge itself into the sea by means of a wide artificial channel provided with no less than thirteen pairs of enormous floodgates. These are shut to keep out the sea when
the tide is coming in, and open to let the streams pass out during ebb tide. Notwithstanding these great works the once glorious Rhine makes but an ignoble exit. The delta of this river may be said to include the whole breadth of Holland.”[3]

It will be noticed that an attempt is made to shew the romance of the natural features, the history, the industries, so that a country is no more a mere matter of names on a map, or of sections shewn by contour lines. Such generalisations are not Geography but are slow conclusions which the mind should come to of itself when it acquires intimacy with a region. Something of a literary character is preserved in the Geography lessons. The new feature in these is the study of maps which should be very thorough. For the rest the single reading and narration as described in connection with other work is sufficient in this subject also. Children cannot tell what they have not seen with the mind’s eye, which we know as imagination, and they cannot see what is not told in their books with some vividness and some grasp of the subject. The thoroughness of the map study is shewn by such a question to be answered from memory as,—“What part of Belgium does the Scheldt drain? Name any of its feeders. Name ten famous places in its basin. What port stands at the head of its estuary?” We find great light thrown upon the geography of the Empire in a little book of literary quality, Fighting for Sea Power in the Days of Sail.
          There are two rational ways of teaching Geography. The first is the inferential method, a good deal in vogue at the present time; by it the pupil learns certain geographical principles which he is expected to apply universally. This method seems to me defective for two reasons. It is apt to be misleading as in every particular case the general principle is open to modifications; also, local colour and personal and historical interests are
wanting and the scholar does not form an intellectual and imaginative conception of the region he is learning about. The second which might be called the panoramic method unrolls the landscape of the world, region by region, before the eyes of the scholar with in every region its own conditions of climate, its productions, its people, their industries and their history. This way of teaching the most delightful of all subjects has the effect of giving to a map of a country or region the brilliancy of colour and the wealth of detail which a panorama might afford, together with a sense of proportion and a knowledge of general principles. I believe that pictures are not of very great use in this study. We all know that the pictures which abide with us are those which the imagination constructs from written descriptions.

          The Geography for Form IV[4] includes Asia, Africa, America and Australasia. But the same principle is followed: vivid descriptions, geographical principles, historical associations and industrial details, are afforded which should make, as we say, an impression, should secure that the region traversed becomes an imaginative possession as well as affording data for reasonable judgments. The pupil begins with a survey of Asia followed by a separate treatment of the great countries and divisions and of the great physical features. Thus of Siberia we read,—
          “All travellers unite in praise of the free Siberian peasant. As soon as one crosses the Urals one is surprised by the extreme friendliness and good nature of the inhabitants as much as by the rich vegetation of the well-cultivated fields and the excellent state of the roads in the southern part of the government of Tobolsk.”
          “The glossy jet black soft thick fur of the sea-otter is the most valuable of all the Russian skins. Next ranks the skin of the black fox. But though a thousand of its skins are worth
no more than one skin of the sea-otter, the little grey squirrel whose skins are imported by the million really plays the most important part in the Siberian fur trade.”

Of Further India,—

          “Pigou, the middle division, is really the vast delta of the Irrawaddy, a low-lying country which yields enormous quantities of rice while on the higher grounds which wall in the great river are the finest teak forests in the world.”

          Africa follows Asia with the discoveries of Livingstone, Speke, Burton, Grant, etc. We get an account of African village life and among the chapter headings are Abyssinia, Egypt, Up the Nile, The Soudan, The Sahara, The Barbary States, South Africa, Cape Colony, The Islands. America follows with an account of the progress of discovery, a geographical sketch of South America, the Andes and the Mountain States, Chili, Peru, Bolivia, etc., the Great Plains of South America, Central America, North America, Canada, a historical sketch of the United States, the Eastern States, States of the Mississippi valley, the prairies, the Western States and territories, California. In the section on the Eastern States we read,—
          “Stretching from this chain (the Alleghanies) is the great Appalachian coalfield which extends through Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, with a length of 720 miles containing, it is said, coal enough to supply the world for four thousand years! Iron occurs with the coal in great abundance. Most of this coal is of the kind called Anthracite. It is extremely slow in burning, emits no smoke, but has a painfully drying effect upon the air of a room. Sir Charles Lyall speaking of Pottsville on this coalfield says,–‘Here I was agreeably surprised to see a flourishing manufacturing town with the tall chimneys of a hundred furnaces burning night and day, yet quite free from smoke. Leaving this clear atmosphere and going down into one of the mines it was a no less pleasing novelty to find that we could handle the coal without soiling our fingers.’”

          But enough has been said to indicate the sort of intimacy that scholars in Form IV get with all quarters
of the world, their geography, landscape, histories and industries, together with the study of the causes which affect climate and industries. Geikie’s Physical Geography affords an admirable introduction to the principles of physical geography.
          Forms V and VI are expected to keep up with the newspapers and know something about places and regions coming most into note in the current term. Also, in connection with the history studied, Seeley’s Expansion of England, The Peoples and Problems of India, Geikie’s Elementary Lessons in Physical Geography, Mort’s Practical Geography, and Kipling’s Letters of Travel are included in the reading of one term. In these Forms the young students are expected to apply their knowledge to Geography, both practical and theoretical, and to make much use of a good Atlas without the map questions which have guided the map work of the lower Forms.

[1] Specimens of the children’s Examination work can be seen at the P.N.E.U. Office.

[2] The Ambleside Geography: Book I’V, by the Writer.

[3] Ambleside Geography: Book IV

[4] The Ambleside Geography: Book V, by the Writer.

“Pigou, the middle division, is really the vast delta of the Irrawaddy, a low-lying country which y

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