Page images


EXPERIMENTAL PHYSICS.) Relative Value of Chemistry, Geology, and Physiology. The next training subject is unquestionably Experimental Physics. This term is used commonly to denote the sciences which can be studied experimentally, without an extensive knowledge of mathematics, and excludes Chemistry. Mechanics and Mechanism, Heat and Light, Electricity and Magnetism, Hydrostatics, Hydronamics, Pneumatics, and Acoustics, are the principal branches of the subject. In selecting from them the subjects most fit for use in schools, and in choosing the order in which they should be taught, we must be guided by the principles already enunciated. We must proceed from the concrete to the abstract, from the familiar to the strange, from the science of masses to the science of mole. cules. Hence Mechanics and Mechanism must come first. In a year most boys are able to learn the great principles of Statics and Dynamics, and the elements of Mechanism, such as the ordinary methods of converting one kind of motion into another. They become tolerably familiar with the ideas of motion and space, and time, and form, in their exact numerical relations. Ignorance of arithmetic and the want of ideas in practical geometry are the main hindrances in their way; but even they are improved by the many illustrations of arithmetic and geometry that are afforded by Mechanics, and by the growth of exact. ness in all ideas of quantity and form as expressed by numbers. Arithmetic is too often the science of pounds, shillings, and pence alone; and by being so limited it loses in dignity and in interest, and in clearness. In Mechanics, also, the notion of force is constantly present in its commonest and simplest forms; and in this respect also this branch of science serves as the best introduction to the later branches.

Hydrostaties and Pneumatics, I do not doubt, are the best subjects to take next: the range of these subjects that could be taught at school is not great; and they may be learnt very thoroughly and exactly, and provide very good illustrations of the principles of the subjects that precede them. Hydrodynamics, Acoustics, and Geometrical Optics will be only studied profitably beyond the bare elements by those who have special talent for mathematical or experimental investigation, and should, I think, be in general reserved for University teaching. Physical Optics unquestionably should be excluded from school teaching.

The next year's course should be Heat and the elements of Electricity. By the time boys have reached this stage they are far more able to acquire new subjects than in the previous stages, and are fit to enter on these branches of physics, if they have studied the earlier subjects intelligently. And of all subjects of experimental investigation, Heat seems to me the best for work at schools. Three times I have taken classes in Heat, and with more satisfactory results than in any other subject. The phenomena of Heat are so universal and so familiar; it has so central a position among the physical sciences; its experimental methods are so perfect; it affords such a variety of illustrations of logical processes ; that it seems unrivaled as a subject for training in science. And allowing for seventy lectures in the year, it is clear that this year's course will allow of some time being given to Electricity. This may be made an enormous subject, but I apprehend that it will not be worth while to attempt its more difficult branches, but to reserve them for the University and for private study.


I will repeat

that a boy can learn, when he knows how to learn, far more than a master can teach; and it is at increasing the boy's power that the master must aim unweariedly. And by combining a voluntary and a compulsory system, giving opportunities for learning something of the higher branches, and insisting on a sound knowledge of the more elementary parts of Physics in which the teaching can be most stimulative and suggestive, all requirements will be met.

The methods of teaching Physics will be different in different hands; they will vary with the knowledge, the enthusiasm, the good sense, the good temper, the practical skill, and the object of the teacher. If the thing to be aimed at is to make them pass a good examination as soon as the subject is read, the best means will be to put a text-book into the hands of every one, and require certain parts of it to be learnt, and to illustrate them in an experimental lecture with explanations. The lecture may be made very clear and good; and this will be an attractive and not difficult method of teaching, and will meet most of the requirements. It fails, however, in one. The boy is helped over all the difficulties; he is never brought face to face with nature and her problems; what cost the world centuries of thought is told him in a minute; his attention, clear. ness of understanding, and memory are all exercised; but the one power which the study of physical science ought pre-eminently to exercise, and almost to create, the power of bringing the mind into contact with facts, of seizing their relations, of eliminating the irrelevant by experiment and comparison, of groping after ideas and testing them by their adequacy—in a word, of exercising all the active faculties which are required for an investigation in any matter-these may lie dormant in the class while the most learned lecturer experiments with facility and explains with clearness.

Theory and experience alike convince me that the master who is teaching a class quite unfamiliar with scientific method, ought to make his class teach themselves, by thinking out the subject of the lecture with them, taking up their suggestions and illustrations, criticizing them, hunting them down, and proving a suggestion barren or an illustration inapt; starting them on a fresh scent when they are at fault, reminding them of some familiar fact they had overlooked, and so eliciting out of the chaos of vague notions that are afloat on the matter in hand, be it the laws of motion, the evaporation of water, or the origin of the drift, something of order, and concatenation, and interest, before the key to the mystery is given, even if after all it has to be given. Training to think, not to be a mechanic or surveyor, must be first and foremost as his object.

For all classes, except those which are beginning, the union of the two methods is best. If they have once thoroughly learnt that the truths of science are to be got from what they see, and not from the assertions of a master or a textbook, they can never quite forget it, and allow their science to exist in a cloudworld apart from the earth. And undoubtedly the rigid and exact teaching from a book, insuring a complete and formularised and producible knowledge, is very valuable, especially with older classes.

The work out of school for a natural science lecture consists chiefly at first in writing notes on the previous lecture. When the lecture has been discursive, and the method hard to follow, some help may be given by a recapitulation; but in general it may be left to the boys. It is an admirable exercise in composition. To reduce to order the preliminary facts, to bring out the unity in them, to illustrate, to describe, to argue, and that about things in which they are interested, and for which they feel a match, are the very best exercises that can be put before boys. They begin with a helplessness and inanity almost incredible, improve constantly, and end generally by writing these notes very well. And in the higher classes the working of examples and problems may well be thrown in part on the out-of-school hours.

I am fully convinced, and could support my conviction by that of others, that Chemistry is not a good subject for lecture instruction to beginners in science. Laboratory work must precede, in order that a certain degree of familiarity with facts may be acquired before they are analyzed and methodized scientifically. It can be taught, even to young boys, and so can anything else; and it has the advantage of being rather amusing; but as an exercise in reasoning it is very deficient. The notions of force, cause, composition of causes, are too abstruse in this subject for boys to get any hold of. Hence it is, as a matter of fact, accepted as a mass of authoritative dogmas. It is not the conclusiveness but the ingenuity of the proofs that is appreciated. It is of all subjects the most liable to cram, and the most useless, as a branch of training, when crammed. Most of it requires memory, and memory alone. As laboratory work is not likely to form an integral part of school education, Chemistry ought not, I think, to take an early place in the scientific course. It is most desirable, however, that schools should possess laboratories, into which boys of some talent may be drafted, and there prepared for the profitable attendance on good chemical lectures in the higher part of the school.

Geology is a popular and attractive subject with boys, but it lies outside the subjects which best illustrate scientific method. The largeness of the ideas in it; the great inferences from little facts, as they seem to boys; the wide experience of scenery, and rocks, and fossils, and natural history, which it seems to require; the very unfinished condition of it; are all reasons which make its advocates enthusiastic, but unfit it for the staple of school teaching. Nevertheless, the value of it on other grounds, such as its interest, its bearing on all kinds of thought, its position as typical of Palætiological sciences, and the opportunities it offers for original investigations in most places, seems to me so high, that I think it ought to be introduced parenthetically into the course of instruction in whatever way or place may seem most convenient.

Physiology cannot be taught to classes at school. Nor ought it to be learnt before Physics and Chemistry. A most enthusiastic advocate of Physiology at school talked over the ject with me at Rugby. Practical work, he admitted, was necessary; and that it was impossible. I cannot give my class forty rats on Tuesday, at 9.15, to dissect for an hour, and then put them away till Satur. day at the same hour. And the other subjects, if well taught, will have given boys a method and a knowledge which will fit them for acquiring, by reading alone, even if they cannot have practical work, some intelligent acquaintance with the doctrines and facts of Physiology.


The truth is, there is no place like school for having notions of equality driven, by dire experience, out of one's head. There are scores and scores of boys, whom you may educate how you will, and they will know very little when you have done, and know that little ill. There are boys of slipshod, un retentive, inactive minds, whom neither Greek grammar nor natural science, neither school. masters nor angels, could convert into active and cultivated men.





John Stuart Mill was born in London, May 1805, and received his entire education at home, under the direction of his father, James Mill, the author of the History of the British Empire in India. He obtained a clerkship in the East India House in 1823, and succeeded his father as examiner of Indian Correspondence in 1856, from which post he retired in 1858, when the affairs of the East India Company were transferred to Her Majesty's government. He was first known as a writer by his contributions to the Westminster Review, of which he became joint and afterwards sole proprietor. His ‘System of Logic,' published in 1843; • Essays on Unsettled Questions in Political Economy,' 1844, and ‘System of Political Economy, with some of their Applications to Social Science,' •Essay on Liberty,' • Parliamentary . Reform,' • Representative Government,' Utilitarianism,' 'Comté and Positivism,'. Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy,' "The Subjection of Woman,'place him among the profoundest thinkers and ablest writers of the age. He was elected to parliament in 1865, but was defeated in the general election of 1869. Mr. Carlyle in an invitation to the writer of this note to meet Mr. Mill at his house to tea in 1835, remarked_“You will meet the best educated man in this town, and no thanks to our Universities for this production."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


EDUCATION, in its largest sense, is one of the most inexhaustible of all topics ; and of all many-sided subjects, it is the one which has the greatest number of sides. Not only does it include whatever we do for ourselves, and whatever is done for us by others, for the express purpose of bringing us somewhat nearer to the perfection of our nature; it does more: in its largest acceptation, it comprehends even the indirect effects produced on character and on the human faculties, by things of which the direct purposes are quite different; by laws, by forms of government, by the industrial arts, by modes of



social life; nay, even by physical facts not dependent on human will; by climate, soil, and local position. Whatever helps to shape the human being; to make the individual what he is, or binder him from being what he is not—is part of his education. And a very bad education it often is; requiring all that can be done by cultivated intelligence and will, to counteract its tendencies.

I shall confine myself, however, to education in the narrower sense; the culsture which each generation purposely gives to those who are to be its suc.Lessors, in order to qualify them for at least keeping up, and if possible for raising, the level of improvement which has been attained. Nearly all here present are daily occupied either in receiving or in giving this sort of educa- ' tion: and the part of it which most concerns you at present is that in which you are yourselyes engaged—the stage of education which is the appointed business of a national University.


Universities are not intended to teach the knowledge required to fit men for some special mode of gaining their livelihood. Their object is not to make skillful lawyers, cor physicians, or engineers, but capable and cultivated human beings. It is very right that there should be public facilities for the study of professions. It is well that there should be Schools of Law, and of Medicine, and it would be well if there were schools of engineering, and the industrial arts. The countries which have such institutions are greatly the better for them; and there is something to be said for having them in the same localities, and under the same general superintendence, as the establishments devoted to education properly so called. But these things are no part of what every generation owes to the next, as that on which its civilization and worth will principally depend. They are needed only by a comparatively few, who are under the strongest private inducements to acquire them by their own efforts; and even those few do not require them until after their education, in the ordinary sense, has been completed. What professional men should carry away with them from an University, is not professional knowledge, but that which should direct the use of their professional knowledge, and bring the light of general culture to illuminate the technicalities of a special pursuit. Men may be competent lawyers without general education, but it depends on general education to make them philosophic lawyers—who demand, and are capable of apprehending, principles, instead of merely cramming their memory with details. And so of all other useful pursuits, mechanical included. Education makes a man a more intelligent shoemaker, if that be his occupation, but not by teaching him how to make shoes; it does so by the mental exercise it gives, and the Liabits it impresses.

This, then, is what a mathematician would call the higher limit of Univer: sity education: its province ends where education, ceasing to be general, branches off into departments adapted to the individual's destination in life. The lower limit is more difficult to define. An University is not concerned with elementary instruction: the pụpil is supposed to have acquired that before coming here. But where does elementary instruction end, and the higher studies begin? Some have given a very wide extension to the idea of elementary instruction, According to them, it is not the office of an University to give instruction in single branches of knowledge from the commencement.

« EelmineJätka »