My schoolmaster had been a little too crude in his instructions. He had not been a scientific man, but only a teacher of science.
|T H Huxley, British Museum of|
My friend Tom Smith and I made it a rule - and in this we were encouraged by his father - that, so far as was possible, we ourselves should actually make the acids and other substances used in our experiments. We were not to buy them ready made, as this would have taken the zest out of our enjoyment. We should have lost the pleasure and instruction of producing them by aid of our own wits and energies. To encounter and overcome a difficulty is the most interesting of all things. Hence, though often baffled, we eventually produced perfect specimens of nitrous, nitric, and muriatic acids. We distilled alcohol from duly fermented sugar and water, and rectified the resultant spirit from fusel oil by passing the alcoholic vapour through animal charcoal before it entered the worm of the still. We converted part of the alcohol into sulphuric ether. We produced phosphorus from bones, and elaborated many of the mysteries of chemistry.
The amount of practical information which we obtained by this system of making our own chemical agents was such as to reward us, in many respects, for the labour we underwent. To outsiders it might appear a very troublesome and roundabout way of getting at the finally desired result. But I feel certain that there is no better method of rooting chemical or any other instruction, deeply in our minds. Indeed, I regret that the same system is not pursued by young men of the present day. They are seldom, if ever, called upon to exert their own wits and industry to obtain the requisites for their instruction. A great deal is now said about "technical education"; but how little there is of technical handiness or head work! Everything is bought ready made to their hands; and hence there is no call for individual ingenuity.
— James Nasmyth, James Nasmyth: Engineer, An Autobiography, 1883.
The true aim of the teacher must be to impart an appreciation of method and not a knowledge of facts. This is far more readily achieved by concentrating the student's attention on a small range of phenomena, than by leading him in a rapid and superficial survey over wide fields of knowledge. Personally, I have no recollection of at least 90 per cent of the facts that were taught to me at school, but the notions of method which I derived from my instructor in Greek grammar (the contents of which I have long since forgotten) remain in my mind as the really valuable part of my school equipment for life.
— Karl Pearson, The Grammar of Science.
Mrs. Sanger's pamphlet on birth control, which is addressed to working women, was declared obscene on the ground that working women could understand it. Dr. Marie Stopes' books, on the other hand, are not illegal, because their language can only be understood by persons with a certain amount of education. The consequence is that, while it is permissible to teach birth control to the well-to do, it is criminate to teach it to wage-earners and their wives. I commend this fact to the notice of the Eugenic Society, which is perpetually bewailing the fact that wage-earners breed faster than middle-class people, while carefully abstaining from any attempt to change the state of the law which is the cause of this fact.
— Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals.