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RAPY OF THE
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by
D. APPLETON & CO., in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.
The system of Popular Education in this country has become an established fact, and the extensive provisions for it in all the States show, how generally and thoroughly it is appreciated. But the movement which led to it proceeded from the feeling of a want to be supplied, rather than from any clear perception of the character of the thing wanted. While the struggle was to get it accepted, any thing passing under the name of Education—any thing learned from books at stated times and in set places-was sufficient.
But the first step being taken and the System secured, the question inevitably arises as to its character, defects, and the means of its improvement; and this is now the supreme consideration.
Deeper than all questions of Reconstruction, Suffrage, and Finance, is the question, What kind of culture shall the growing mind of the nation have? The recent and extensive organization of Normal Schools for the more thorough and systematic preparation of Teachers, is proof of a general desire to improve the methods and raise the standard of popular instruction ; and there are many other indications of a growing disposition to carry educational inquiries down to first principles, and to bring the system into better harmony with the needs of the times.
Among other imperfections of the prevailing education, in all its grades, one of the most serious is a lack of the study of Nature. The importance of giving a larger space to scientific subjects, in our educational courses, is being every year more and more felt and acknowledged. In place of the excess of verbal acquisition and mechanical recitation, we need more thinking about things ; in place of the passive acceptance of mere book and tutorial authority, more cultivation of independent judgment; in place of the arbitrary presentation of unrelated subjects, the branches of knowledge require to be dealt with in a more rational and connected order; and in place of much that is irrelevant, antiquated, and unpractical in our systems of study, there is needed a larger infusion of the living and available truth which belongs to the present time.
. A conviction of the extent of its defects and needs has led many of the most eminent thinkers to criticise the existing Educational Systems, and to urge the claims of the various sciences to increasing consideration. These opinions have generally been expressed in the form of lectures and incidental arguments, which are not convenient of access; and a belief that it would be a useful service at the present time to collect some of the most important of them, has led to the present compilation.
Most of the lectures in this volume have not been before published in this country, and the authors of several have kindly revised their productions for the present work. It may be added that several of the discussions are important not only as presenting the claims and educational value of their subjects, but also as suggesting the best methods of their study. Professor Liebig's late lecture on the “ Development of Ideas in Physical Science” has so direct a bearing upon the position and claims of science, especially in this country, as to deserve a place in the present collection; and an excellent translation of it has been expressly made for this volume.
Nearly all the discussions it contains have been made within the last dozen years, and several of them quite recently; so that they may be regarded as outgrowths and exponents of the present state of thought. Those of Tyndall, Paget, Faraday, Whewell, and Hodgson, were parts of a course delivered before the Royal Institution of Great Britain, on the claims of the various sciences as means of the education of all classes. Although the reader may miss in this volume the connection and coherency of a systematic treatise on the subject by a single writer, and even note some minor points of disagreement, yet he will find that each statement is a section of a comprehensive and essentially harmonious argument which presents an attractive variety of treatment; while the stamp of various and powerful minds, each speaking upon the subject with which he is best acquainted, must give the general discussion far greater authority than the work of any one man, no matter how able, could possibly pos
The lecture on “The Scientific Study of Human Nature," and the introductory essay on “Mental Discipline in Education” have been contributed by the editor, not because he thought himself at all competent to do justice to these interesting topics, but because, holding them to be of the first importance, he was unable to find any discussion of them in a form appropriate to the volume. In the Introduction he has attempted to show that a course of study, mainly scientific, not only meets the full requirements of mental training, but also affords the kind of culture or mental discipline which is especially needed in this country at the present time. He has there presented the phases of discipline as successive, and the course of subjects should undoubtedly conform to the order stated; yet, as President Hill, of Harvard, has pointed out in his admirable pamphlet on “The True Order of Studies," the pupil's mind requires to be variously exercised from the outset ;—several different lines of acquisition being carried along together. The organization of a scheme of study adapted to American wants is the educational problem immediately before us, and the present volume, it is hoped, will contribute valuable suggestions toward its solution.
New York, May 1, 1867.