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This wish was gratified in the summer of 1882. An article drifted through American newspapers which detailed the ensnaring of a living mouse by a Kentucky spider. I was fortunately able to trace the story to its origin in the Lebanon (Ky.) Standard and Times. Correspondence with its intelligent editor, Mr. J. W. Hop
per, brought me entire confirmation of the report from a number of trustworthy sources. I think the incident of sufficient importance to justify a somewhat detailed presentation. The original account, as published by Mr. Hopper, is as follows:
“A very curious and interesting spectacle was to be seen Monday afternoon in the office of Mr. P. C. Cleaver's livery-stable in this city. Against the wall of the room stands a tolerably tall desk, and under this a small spider, not larger than a common pea, had constructed an extensive web reaching to the floor (Fig. 5). About half past eleven o'clock Monday forenoon, it was observed that the spider had ensnared a young mouse by passing filaments of her web around its tail. When first seen, the mouse had its fore-feet on the floor, and could barely touch the floor with its hind-feet. The spider was full of business, running up and down the line and occasionally biting the mouse's tail, making it struggle desperately. Its efforts to escape were all unavailing, as the slender filaments about its tail were too strong
for it to break. In a short time it was seen that the spider was slowly hoisting its victim into the air. By two o'clock in the afternoon the mouse could barely touch the floor with its forefeet; by dark the point of its nose was an inch above the floor. At nine o'clock at night the mouse was still alive, but made no sign except when the spider descended and bit its tail. At this time it was an inch and a half from the floor. Yesterday morning the mouse was dead, and hung three inches from the floor. The news of the novel sight soon became circulated, and hundreds of people visited the stable to witness it. The mouse was a small one, measuring about an inch and a half from the point of its nose to the root of the tail.”
The space given the above facts may seem to some to be in undue proportion to their importance. But, apart from the value of positively determining any point in natural history, the dis
FIG. 5.-A MOUSE FANGING IN A SPIDER'S SNARE. cussion has this conclusion: The capture of small vertebrate ani. mals by both sedentary and wandering spiders is possible; the one by the mechanical strength of their snares, the other by their physical strength. There is thus laid the foundation, at least, for the presumption that such animals may be or become natural food for the larger species of araneads. This is certainly a most important fact in the life-history of spiders, and would greatly enlarge the range of their habits.
Me. F. J. Moss, of the New Zealand Legislature, and an extensive traveler in Polynesia, suggests that the deterioration of the natives of those regions may be partly due to faulty instruction. It is neither desirable nor expedient to thwart Nature too much. What is most needed, this anthor thinks, is to allow the islanders in their work and their amusements free scope for the imaginative powers with which they are endowed, and the exercise of which is too often foolishly discouraged.
SECONDARY SCHOOL PROGRAMMES-FRENCH AND
BY GEORGE W. BEAMAN. THE general subject of American secondary school programmes
1 has been of late years a most prolific one. What with the relative or particular importance of the mother-tongue, classical studies, history, modern languages, and, more recently, manual training, the educational essayist has been rather embarrassed by the multitude of the topics presented him. As the result of much discussion, contention, and wordy warfare, we have, however, today, certain secondary school programmes, generally speaking quite similar in their character, marking in a more or less defined manner the routes along which our boys are traveling on their respective journeys to college, to scientific school, or to practical business life. While there is to be noted a decided advance and improvement in pedagogical methods in our secondary schools within the last few decades, it yet remains true that no intelligent reader of the programmes, as exhibited in the catalogues of our leading endowed fitting schools, and public grammar and high schools, can fail to be struck by a certain lack of co-ordination, system, and, in most instances, by an apparent want of a genuine appreciation of the real demands that the present age makes upon modern secondary schools. Once outside the old fixed limits of the classics, there is to be observed much disagreement among the schools themselves, both as to the proper subjects to be included in the programme and the relative time to be devoted to the studies that are placed in the school curriculum. When comparison of these programmes with those of other countries is made, we have at once afforded us a most striking exemplification of how far we still are in this country from any well-defined consensus as to what the modern secondary school programme really should be. In view of the revolutionary period through which the schools have been passing during the past thirty years, this is perhaps hardly to be wondered at. The broadening of the college requirements for entrance, largely brought about by the demands of a public sentiment, no longer fully satisfied with purely mediæval curricula, has in itself served to call for many modifications of the secondary schools' programme. With Harvard and Johns Hopkins opening their doors to students unequipped with the traditional Greek, there has of course arisen a demand for preparation in other prerequisites which have necessarily been substituted for Greek. In response to the general outcry for them, the courses in modern languages, in the mother-tongue, history, and
particularly in science studies, have had to be greatly extended or recast. The many admirable scientific schools and colleges throughout the country have made demands for special preparation that have had to be met. Furthermore, it has come to pass that the college prerequisites in the old classical studies even have been very considerably increased. Altogether it may be stated that the demands made upon the preparatory schools to-day are probably at least twenty-five or thirty per cent in excess of the demands of twenty-five or thirty years ago. Coincident with this multiplication and extension of preparatory studies, there has arisen in our country a sentiment which to no inconsiderable extent has reduced the hours devoted to study. A few decades since a boy fitting for college with its limited requirements in Latin, Greek, and mathematics, spent six hours per diem in school, and, as a matter of course, expected to give two, three, or possibly more hours to study at home. Now, he spends four or five hours in the school-room; and the sight of a text-book under his arm as he idly saunters homeward excites comment in the community as to the severe mental strain to which school-children are nowadays subjected by rigorous masters.
The result of all this is a state of affairs to which President Eliot, of Harvard University, has recently invoked the serious attention of the American public.* He states that the average age of admission to Harvard University has been gradually rising for many years, and has now reached the extravagant age of eighteen years and ten months. He also notes that in view of the increased time required for the completion of his professional education, after leaving college, it follows that a man, thoroughly preparing himself for life, finds himself unprepared for self-support much before he is twenty-seven years old. This result is by no means peculiar to Harvard or to Harvard graduates, but holds true as to all colleges in the United States. Its remedy, in the opinion of President Eliot, is in both shortening and enriching our secondary school courses of study. As illustrating what other countries have succeeded in doing in this direction, he cites the school courses of France. The hours of recitation of these courses, less elaborate and difficult than those of Germany, are, he claims, so far as hours of recitation are concerned, substantially the same as those of this country; yet, under them, the French boy is better prepared for matriculation at seventeen years of age than ours are at nineteen. He therefore calls for a serious examination of the programmes of l'enseignement secondaire classique of France in comparison with the programmes of American preparatory
* A paper read before the Department of Superintendence of the National Educational Association at Washington, February 16, 1888, published in the Atlantic Monthly, August, 1888. Remarks before the Commercial Club, Providence, R. I., March, 1889.
schools, as likely to yield results which can not but be conducive to educational progress in this country.
As might be expected from the eminence of its author, the paper of President Eliot has excited much interest in regard to the French secondary school programmes. Much comment has resulted both as to the facts and the conclusions arrived at. The facts represented in the address as to the age of matriculates in American colleges are only too patent. The defects of the programmes of the preparatory schools of this country are unfortunately equally patent. The great need of some readjustment of existing methods of our fitting schools and schools of grammar and even primary grades, for the benefit of boys preparing for modern collegiate, scientific, and university training, is so imperative that no friend of educational advance in this country can fail to welcome this valuable contribution to the literature of the subject given by the President of Harvard University. But, notwithstanding his admirable paper, and the comment which has followed, so far as one can judge from the literature of the controversy, no one has apparently made haste to follow President Eliot's advice and make any serious comparative examination of the French and American school programmes. On the contrary, there are indications that, with true American inconsequence, many persons are already either clamoring for the adoption of the French curricula forthwith, as a panacea for all our secondary school deficiencies, or, with great lack of knowledge and accurate information, are condemning them outright as a foreign growth quite unsuited to American soil. This is to be regretted; for assuredly the comparative study of the programmes of the two countries would give American school boards and American parents much information that should be known and accurately known. This examination is additionally desirable from the fact that, in his felicitous presentation of some characteristics of the lycée curriculum, Dr. Eliot seems to have omitted to note some of the more important features of the programmes that give them their strength, and has quite failed to point out how it happens that the French boy is really enabled to pass his examinations for the baccalauréat és lettres at the early age of seventeen years. It may also be said that the examination is likewise desirable for the reason that President Eliot has inadvertently made some statements as to the French courses of study that the official programmes hardly seem to warrant.
In the present paper the attempt will be made to present, in a somewhat more precise manner than has been undertaken by President Eliot, certain details of the curricula of not only the classical lycées, but also of the secondary special schools of France. In connection with this, the attempt will also be made to