« AnteriorContinuar »
ascertain that on the part of certain endowed home fitting schools established on recent foundations, direct efforts are being made to counteract these deficiencies of earlier years by a systematic regulation of pupils' time—both as regards study and recreation. The result, as could be anticipated, is a marked broadening of the school course, as well as a decided decrease in the ages of the senior class pupils. It is because of the possibilities in this direction, as well as to respond to the rapidly increasing demand in the United States for them, that thoroughly good preparatory home schools, which shall fit boys for college and scientific school in a rational manner, are now especially in request. The average home school that fits for everything or anything, and that is a fraud from its glossy catalogue to its ornate diploma, is sufficiently well known to the average parent, and is not here alluded to. The home schools now needed to meet our modern requirements can have an existence only by virtue of some man or men willing to liberally endow them. It would seem, too, that the ideal preparatory home school should embrace at least six years of instruction. It should be fully equipped and prepared in all respects to respond thoroughly to the three distinct demands that are now made upon the modern fitting school, viz. : (1) preparation for college with all the maximum requirements in the classics; (2) preparation for college without Greek, but with adequate modern language and science-study substitutions ; (3) preparation for the scientific school without Latin or Greek, but with equivalent and honest substitutions of somewhat increased mathematical instruction (as compared with the classical branches), together with modern languages and science studies, so taught that in all respects of severity of course they shall equal in disciplinary results the drill given in the classical courses.
To the response that may be made, to the effect that we already have preparatory schools doing precisely this work, and doing it well, it is claimed that the few facts presented in connection with this paper are in themselves a sufficient refutation. There is another point. The writer would be among the last to impugn the ability, the conscientious devotion, the peculiar fitness, even, of the heads, and, generally speaking, of the staffs of these classical schools, for he has the highest appreciation of them. But the fact remains that, with hardly an exception, the faculties of the old classical preparatory schools that have been erected on the old endowments seem to be incapable of giving absolutely fair and honest treatment to their so-called preparatory scientific or English adjuncts. They are bound hand and foot in the old traditional bonds. By reason of their educational bias they are precluded from yielding a hearty, enthusiastic response to any demand that a classical curriculum does not meet. In point of fact, why should
they? They have personally no faith whatever in the real value of any training except that gained by the study of the classics. They appreciate that the scientific course is but a graft on the old trunk, made in great measure for the pecuniary advantage of their establishment, and in response to a popular demand, which they hope and pray may soon find a speedy death. They have no hesitation in proselytizing in the ranks of the brighter “scientific” pupils sent them, for the benefit and glory of the “full rounded course "-in embryo. Here again they are justified, for the preparatory scientific courses are in fact but indifferent patchwork compromises between the claims of the past and the demands of the present. These courses really do give no thorough secondary school work in any one subject, except possibly mathematics. With an apparently semi-superstitious feeling as to the mysterious results produced on the human mind by communion with a Latin grammar, for even a limited period, little dabs of Latin have been introduced into these courses. This study ex. tends in the scientific course of some preparatory schools through one year, sometimes two, rarely three years. With no desire whatever to depreciate the undoubted value, to certain pupils, of an honest, bona fide study of the classical languages, continued for years, it is submitted that these cursory courses of Latin can give no results in any way commensurate with the time expended on them. In Germany the classicists have ever stoutly maintained that any reduction of hours devoted to Latin in the gymnasium course would deprive it of all value; yet they there give to it nine hours per week for five years, and eight hours for four years more. In the Realschulen they devote to it eight hours a week for two years, six hours for three, and five hours for four years. The value that the German school authorities would place upon a course of Latin of three or four hours per week for one, two, or even three years, affords a pretty little arithmetical problem whose solution is respectfully relegated to the designers of these American courses. Beyond this Latin and the regulation four or five hours a week in mathematics, what else does one find in our preparatory "scientific" courses ? As but few of the more modern scientific schools or schools of technology have requirements in Latin–and as one and all of them are desirous of obtaining from their matriculates all, and more than they often get, in the way of modern languages—one could properly expect that the fitting schools would afford opportunities for solid preparation in French and German. As will be seen, this demand is by no means well responded to. In the scientific courses of one prominent fitting school consulted by the writer, no instruction whatever in modern languages is given. In the programme of another of these schools—which is also the most modern, therefore lending some encouragement to the hope of more enlightened procedure as time rolls on-we find that modern languages enter into but three of the four years' course. Leaving the modern languages, and looking at the time devoted to science studies, the same desultory treatment is found. There is encouragement to be had in the assurances of laboratories erected and in course of erection, and in the information that in some fitting schools Harvard's requirements in experimental physics and chemistry can be fully met; but, so far as the curriculum itself of the scientific course is concerned, we have but the hope of something better in the future. If one glances at the time allotted to the education of the hand by means of drawing, or if one is curious in the matter of history and mother-tongue instruction, almost equally unsatisfactory work is encountered. Very properly, any intelligent parent, studying such courses with a view of submitting to one of them a boy whom he has decided to educate on modern methods, hesi. tates. It is not strange that in his extremity he finally concludes that a serious, well-defined course in the ancient languages is of more value than the olla podrida preparation presented him on the “scientific ” side. As this is precisely what the makers of the programmes themselves believe, this conclusion is applauded-and there is rejoicing over the rescue of another boy from a “onesided education”!
A comparative examination of French and American preparatory school programmes, therefore, at least yields this much ; that our educational methods are in great need of thorough revision if we are to hope to stand well alongside the French in all that pertains to judicious preparation for college, for scientific school, or for the general demands of modern life. This examination further shows that we stand in pressing need not only of fitting schools that meet these demands as they exist to-day, but so untrammeled and free from all sort of sectarian or educational bias that they can freely expand and respond to the demands that will assuredly follow as years roll by, and colleges and universities still further yield to the influences that are slowly but surely liberating them from the traditions of the past. An honest home fitting school, firmly founded on the principle of responding to the demands as they exist to-day-not as they existed a century or two ago-sufficiently endowed to render it free to maintain firmly all the requirements of its different rational courses of instruction, seems to be the great educational need of the day. As the weakest link of our educational chain lies most undoubtedly in the earlier years of the preparatory course, this school should be prepared to take pupils at twelve years of age; it would be better if they could be taken at ten, and the course be made to embrace eight years instead of six. It should be a home school, for the reason that, with
the prevailing habits of American family life, it is becoming with us every day more and more impossible to obtain from pupils the proper amount of work, associated with the proper régime as to exercise and recreation-and diet even-so long as they remain under the parental roof. Such a school could not fail to soon stand as an exponent of the development of a higher, better, and truer secondary education. It would be a model for the encouragement of other schools of a similar character that would soon come into existence, and it would make its impress upon the programmes of public secondary schools. Any man of wealth who is animated by the ambition of sending his name down to a grateful posterity linked with a noble educational benefaction, could not to-day find a more deserving field for the investment of a spare million than in the founding of such a school. To the colleges, to the universities, to the schools of industrial science, would the money thus invested be of as great benefit as if donated directly to them. For, as the gentle rain sinking far down into the earth among the rootlets refreshes and revives the mature tree, so would a preparatory school of this character give to the higher institutions of learning strength at a vital point where it is peculiarly needed.
SCENES ON THE PLANET MERCURY.*
By G. V. SCHIAPARELLI,
OF THE OBSERVATORY OF MILAN, ITALY. N O one of the planets that were known in ancient times is so IV difficult to observe as Mercury, and none presents so many obstacles to the study of its orbit and physical constitution. As to its orbit, Mercury is the only planet the course of which seems even now to have partly cut loose from the laws of universal gravitation, and the theory of which, although well built up by the genius of Leverrier, is still in considerable disagreement with the observations. The little we know of its physical construction is derived from the observations made a hundred years ago by Schroeter at Lilienthal. A telescopic examination of this planet is really a difficult affair. Describing a small orbit around the sun, Mercury is never seen so far from it as to make it possible to observe it, in temperate latitudes, in the full darkness of night. It is rarely possible to observe it in the twilight before sunrise or after sunset; it being then so near the horizon and so affected by the agitations and unequal refractions of the lower strata of the atmosphere that it usually presents itself to the telescope with
* Address before the Royal Academy Dei Lincei, December 8, 1889.
an uncertain and flaring aspect which appears to the naked eye as a strong scintillation. For this reason the ancients called it Stißwv, or the scintillating star. No other resource is left than to essay observations in broad daylight, in the presence of the sun always near, and in an always illuminated atmosphere.
Some efforts I made in 1881 persuaded me that it was possible, both to see the spots of Mercury and to get sufficiently connected and continuous observations of them in broad daylight, and I decided in the beginning of 1882 to make a regular study of this planet. During the eight years since then, I have had Mercury in the field of my telescope several hundred times; often, it is true, with little profit and at the expense of great loss of time, either because of the agitation of the atmosphere, which is often strong during the day-especially in the summer months-or on account of the insufficient transparency of the air. But by patience I have succeeded in seeing the spots on the planet one hundred and fifty times with more or less precision, and in making also fairly satisfactory drawings of them, employing at first, for the purpose, our eight-inch Merz equatorial, but afterward our great eighteen-inch Munich instrument.
I found the rotation of the planet quite different from what it has hitherto been supposed to be, on the basis of insufficient observations made with imperfect telescopes a hundred years ago. I may describe it in a few words by saying that Mercury revolves around the sun in the same manner as the moon revolves around the earth. As the moon's journey around the earth is performed in such a way that it always shows nearly the same face and the same spots, so Mercury, in traversing its orbit around the sun, constantly presents nearly the same hemisphere to that source of light. I say nearly-not exactly—the same hemisphere. For Mercury is subject, like the moon, to the phenomenon of libration. In observing the full moon, even with a small telescope, we remark that the same spots generally occupy the central regions of its disk; but, if we study them and their distances from the eastern and western borders more minutely, we shall soon perceive, as Galileo first did about two hundred years ago, that they oscillate to a considerable degree, now toward the right and now toward the left-exemplifying the phenomenon called libration in longitude. This arises from the moon's directing one of its diameters perpetually and almost exactly, not toward the center of the earth, and not toward the center of the elliptical lunar orbit, but toward the one of the two foci of its orbit which the earth does not occupy. To the observer occupying this point, the moon would consequently always present the same appearance. But to us, who are at a mean distance of forty-two thousand kilometres from that point, the moon presents somewhat different aspects