Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

From this it will be seen that the largest number of courses offered is in zoology, botany standing next, with biology third. The tendency to place botany in the sophomore year is very pronounced, since over 50 per cent. of the courses are there placed. It will also be noticed that 47 per cent. of the courses in zoology and 52 per cent. of those in biology are in the junior year. The general tendency of classical courses, where there is a prescribed curriculum, is well indicated in the above table, which shows that out of a total number of one hundred and seventeen courses about 16 per cent. is in the freshman year, 30 in the sophomore, 37 in the junior, and 16 in the senior. In thirty-four out of forty-five colleges biology is the first scientific subject taken up. In four cases it is preceded by chemistry, in three by physics and chemistry, in two by physics, in one by physical geography, and in one by geology.

Turning to consider the place which biology occupies in the science courses offered by forty-two colleges, in which most of the studies are prescribed, we find that some branch of biology is taught in the freshman year by twenty-six colleges, in the sophomore by thirty-seven, in the junior by twenty-eight, and in the senior by thirteen. The favorite subjects are the same as before, although there is somewhat less uniformity, as shown in the accompanying table:

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Here botany is the subject in which the largest number of courses is given, with biology second and zoology third, although the distribution of subjects by classes is about as before. With regard to the number of courses placed in the different years we find that out of a total of one hundred and sixty-two courses, 22 per cent. are in the freshman year, 38 in the sophomore, 32 in the junior, and 8 in the senior, thus showing a tendency to place biology earlier in scientific than in classical courses.

The average amount of time, too, is greater than in classical courses, for we find that in only four colleges is biological work limited to 1 year, in seventeen it runs through 2 years, in fifteen it is a 3-year course, while in six it is completed in 4 years. In thirty-six out of forty-two colleges biology is the first scientific subject presented. In four cases it is preceded by chemistry, and in one each by mineralogy and geology.

THE EVOLUTION OF BIOLOGICAL INSTRUCTION.

The character of the biological work at present done by our colleges can scarcely be fully appreciated without first considering something of its historical development, for the present conditions are possible only because they have largely supplanted preëxisting ones. The evolution of our present courses has resulted from the action of many forces. Some of these are internal, depending upon the conditions peculiar to each institution concerned, its available funds, the size of its faculty, the character of its students, the extent of their preparation, etc., while we also find such outside influences operating as the stimulus of competition with other colleges and the example of those prominent teachers who have now and then appeared devoting their lives to the advancement of biological teaching, raising high standards and showing by their own example how these can be put into practice.

A certain appreciation of the value of biological studies seems to have existed from an early period. At Harvard, as early as 1643, botany formed a part of the regular curriculum required of all students in the arts course. Nothing is on record, so far as known to the writer, except the fact that this course occupied 1 hour weekly during one half-year, receiving less attention than any other study except history. The name of the professor is not recorded, and it is only stated that the summer season was assigned to the “nature of plants,” thus indicating that there may have been actual study of the plants themselves.*

The first series of lectures on comparative anatomy in this country was given by William Hunter at Newport, in 1751, while the first regularly appointed professor of botany is usually said to have been Adam Kuhn, a pupil of Linnæus, who was appointed in Philadelphia in 1768. Only a few names deserve special mention in connection with this early period, but among those specially prominent were Jacob Green, 1790– 1841, professor at Princeton; Benjamin Smith Barton, 1766-1855, professor of natural history and botany in the University of Pennsylvania; William Dandridge Peck, who was appointed professor at Harvard in 1800; Samuel Latham Mitchill, appointed professor of natural history in Columbia College in 1792, and David Hosack, appointed professor of botany in Columbia College in 1795.

It is to these men that the country is most heavily indebted for having forced upon it some idea of the educational value of botanical and zoological work. To Barton especially must credit be given for arousing popular enthusiasm. It was his custom to deliver lectures of a popular character in the University of Pennsylvania, and the effect of these can hardly be overestimated. Philadelphia being the center of the early scientific research of the country, the place of resort of its

* The writer is indebted to Dr. H. B. Adams, of Johns Hopkins University, for access to a work published in 1663, entitled “New England's First Fruits," from which these statements are taken,

learned men and the birthplace of its first scientific associations, was preëminently the place from which enlarged ideas of science teaching would naturally radiate, and, coming from such a source and supported by the influences which were there effective, would attract the attention of a larger number than would have been reached in any other way.

During the early years of this century, from 1800 to about 1840, we find that most of the colleges were making some provision for at least brief courses in botany, while a smaller number made provision for work in zoölogy. But as this movement gained in extent it seemed to lose force. Few of the teachers of this early period were themselves investigators. In too many cases the medium-sized colleges seem to have blindly followed the example of those more favorably situated, but intrusted the botanical and zoological teaching to incompetent hands. Courses of a very incomplete nature were given which did not commend themselves, and in consequence the teaching of biology did not grow, if, indeed, it remained up to its early standard. The educational value of real work in biology seems not to have been generally recognized, for there is little evidence that the idea that biology is the actual study of living animal and vegetable forms had taken any firm hold upon teachers generally. What little the student saw of nature was in the class room, and the opportunities for making any further inquiry, if a student should so desire, were at best but meager, and in many cases totally wanting.

INFLUENCE OF AGASSIZ ON BIOLOGICAL TEACHING.

[ocr errors]

The year 1846 was an eventful one for the teaching of biology in this country, for in that year Louis Agassiz left the home of his youth in Switzerland and came to America. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the advent of this distinguished man, and no words are too strong to do justice to what he did for biology. Of his greatness as an investigator we shall have occasion to speak later. His work as a teacher, in which he was perhaps even more illustrious, is what now concerns us.

His coming marked the beginning of a new epoch, and the seed which he sowed are still bearing a rich harvest.

In a personal letter to the writer, Prof. A. S. Packard, referring to the work of Agassiz to advance biological teaching, writes as follows:

He did an immense work in his public lectures to popularize zoölogy and geology, to dignify the subject, to show people its great importance as a means of culture and training. His reputation, eloquence, noble presence, and pleasant voice, unselfishness and devotion were at once apparent. He carried his audience with him, and awakened attention to the value of the study of science for its own sake and for the truth's sake with a success which was phenomenal.

Owing more to his influence, example, and methods than to that of any other one man, he caused the subject to be introduced not only into schools common and high, normal schools and colleges, but also into lecture courses. He also lectured to teachers, and always insisted on the value of the study. Moreover, he attracted a good

*

many students, who afterward became teachers and professors, all endued with his enthusiasm and methods.

His methods were to study the specimens themselves, and not simply to read about them. When I went to study with him, after graduating from college, he gave me a specimon of a dried moth, and I kept at it for a fortnight. I learned more rapidly in that time than any period since. It put me on my own feet; it taught me to use my own eyes, to depend on myself, and not depend on what others had said about it. One by this method at once becomes an original investigator, and soon able to work alone and become a critic. This was the secret of his success as a teacher; he made one at once become an investigator, and this is the secret of success in all teaching. It is now pursued in our college work in history, psychology, chemistry, etc.

The leaven worked, and Agassiz more than anyone else should be credited with the revolution in teaching: i. e., laboratory work vs. book work, or learning lessons by rote from memory. He was thus a reformer, infusing an independent spirit in his pupils. From being a study of stuffed birds and dried insects, zoology became a disciplinary, broadening, and philosophical study.

Also, Agassiz had great generalizing powers. His views were broad and comprehensive, and he led his puplis to take broad views. This is a very important quality of his work as a teacher.

From an address by Dr. G. B. Emerson, delivered before the Boston Society of Natural History shortly after Agassiz's death, the following passages are taken :*

In 1855, with the aid of Mrs. Agassiz, who, from the beginning, did a great deal of the work, Mr. Agassiz opened a school for young ladies. For this he was in all respects admirably well qualified. The charm of his manner, his perfect simplicity, sincerity, and warm-heartedness, attracted every pupil and won her respect, love, and admiration. He knew, almost instinctively, what we teachers have to learn by degrees, that we can not really attract, control, and lead a child, and help to form his habits and character, without first loving him; that nothing in the world is so powerful as real, disinterested affection. He gave himself, by lectures most carefully prepared, an hour's instruction, real instruction, every day. All his pupils retain their respect and love for him, and some keep the notes they made of his talks, and read them with delight. The school was continued for 7 years with great success, attracting pupils. from distant parts of the country.

One of the secrets of his success as a teacher was that he brought in nature to teach for him. The young ladies of a large school were amused at his simplicity in putting a grasshopper into the hand of each as he came into the hall; but they were filled with surprise and delight as he explained the structure of the insect before them, and a sigh of disappointment escaped from most of them when the lesson of more than an hour closed. He had opened their eyes to see the beauty of the wonderful make of one of the least of God's creatures. What a lesson was this to young women preparing to be teachers in the public schools of the Commonwealth, showing that in every field might be found objects to excite, and, well explained, to answer the questions, what, and how, and why, which children will always be asking.

He had all the elements necessary to an eloquent teacher-voice, look, and manner, that instantly attracted attention; an inexhaustible flow of language always ex.pressive of rich thought, strong common sense, a thorough knowledge of all the subjects on which he desired to speak, a sympathy with others so strong that it became magnetic, and a feeling of the value of what he had to say, which became and created enthusiasm. He thus held the attention of his audience, not only instructing and persuading them, but converting them into interested and admiring fellow students.

* Louis Agassiz as a teacher. Barnard's Journal of Education, vol. 28, p. 881.

a

His mode of teaching, especially in his ready use of the chalk and the blackboard, was a precious lesson to teachers. He appealed at once to the eye and to the ear, thus naturally forming the habit of attention, which it is so difficult to form by the study of books. Whoever learns this lesson will soon find that it is the teacher's part to do the study, to get complete possession of what is to be taught, in any subject, and how it is to be presented, while it is the part of the pupils to listen attentively and to remember. This they will easily do, and to show that they do remember, they may be easily led to give an account in writing of what they have heard. Every lesson will thus be not only an exercise of attention and memory, but a lesson in the English language, proper instruction in which is very much needed and very much neglected. Whenever a pupil does not fully understand, the teacher wil, have the opportunity, while he is at the blackboard, of enlarging and making intelligible.

The work of Agassiz was done largely for the future. In his work at Harvard he came but little in contact with the great mass of students. but his mission was rather to create a sentiment, to arouse enthusiasm, and to send out a body of teachers saturated with his own methods, fully imbued with his high ideals, and thoroughly trained to put his theories and methods into practice over the country.

The influence of Prof. Asa Gray upon the teaching of botany is second only to that of Professor Agassiz. Differing from him in the fact that he came more into immediate contact with the college students than did Agassiz, his methods were the same as those of Agassiz in requiring his pupils to study nature itself, for he insisted always that botany learned from books was of little or no value. From almost the beginning of his work at Harvard in 1837 he required practical work of all students, at first limiting it to work of such a character that it could be done in the class room, but later expanding it and providing special rooms and equipment.

PRESENT STATUS OF BIOLOGICAL INSTRUCTION.

The question which has now to be solved by the colleges is, What course of study is most logical, and what will give the student the most symmetrical idea of biology as a whole, and the greatest training in independent reasoning and acquirement of truth. Many of our colleges find the answer to this in such courses as those above indicated, and continue to give courses in botany, zoology, etc., of varying degrees of thoroughness and completeness.

In 1876 Prof. H. Newell Martin entered upon the duties of the chair of biology in the Johns Hopkins University, and one of the first innovations which he introduced was the establishment of a “general biology"

The work of this course was planned by Professor Huxley and contained in the “Practical Biology,” in the preparation of which Professor Martin had a large share. The general design of the course, as Professor Huxley states in the preface, sprung from the conviction that “the study of living bodies is really one discipline, which is divided into zoology and botany simply as a matter of convenience.” He further states it as his belief that “the road to a sound and thorough knowledge of zoology and botany lay through morphology and physiology, and

course.

a

« ПредишнаНапред »