Introduction to the Home Reading Book Series by the Editor
The new education takes two important directions—one of these is toward original observation, requiring the pupil to test and verify what is taught him at school by his own experiments. The information that he learns from books or hears from his teacher's lips must be assimilated by incorporating it with his own experience.
The other direction pointed out by the new education is systematic home reading. It forms a part of school extension of all kinds. The so-called "University Extension" that originated at Cambridge and Oxford has as its chief feature the aid of home reading by lectures and round-table discussions, led or conducted by experts who also lay out the course of reading. The Chautauquan movement in this country prescribes a series of excellent books and furnishes for a goodly number of its readers annual courses of lectures. The teachers' reading circles that exist in many States prescribe the books to be read, and publish some analysis, commentary, or catechism to aid the members.
Home reading, it seems, furnishes the essential basis of this great movement to extend education beyond the school and to make self-culture a habit of life.
Looking more carefully at the difference between the two directions of the new education we can see what each accomplishes. There is first an effort to train the original powers of the individual and make him self-active, quick at observation, and free in his thinking. Next, the new education endeavors, by the reading of books and the study of the wisdom of the race, to make the child or youth a participator in the results of experience of all mankind.
These two movements may be made antagonistic by poor teaching. The book knowledge, containing as it does the precious lesson of human experience, may be so taught as to bring with it only dead rules of conduct, only dead scraps of information, and no stimulant to original thinking. Its contents may be memorized without being understood. On the other hand, the self-activity of the child may be stimulated at the expense of his social well-being—his originality may be cultivated at the expense of his rationality. If he is taught persistently to have his own way, to trust only his own senses, to cling to his own opinions heedless of the experience of his fellows, he is preparing for an unsuccessful, misanthropic career, and is likely enough to end his life in a madhouse.
It is admitted that a too exclusive study of the knowledge found in books, the knowledge which is aggregated from the experience and thought of other people, may result in loading the mind of the pupil with material which he can not use to advantage. Some minds are so full of lumber that there is no space left to set up a workshop. The necessity of uniting both of these directions of intellectual activity in the schools is therefore obvious, but we must not, in this place, fall into the error of supposing that it is the oral instruction in school and the personal influence of the teacher alone that excites the pupil to activity. Book instruction is not always dry and theoretical. The very persons who declaim against the book, and praise in such strong terms the self-activity of the pupil and original research, are mostly persons who have received their practical impulse from reading the writings of educational reformers. Very few persons have received an impulse from personal contact with inspiring teachers compared with the number that have been aroused by reading such books as Herbert Spencer's Treatise on Education, Rousseau's Rmile, Pestalozzi's Leonard and Gertrude, Francis W. Parker's Talks about Teaching, G. Stanley Hall's Pedagogical Seminary. Think in this connection, too, of the impulse to observation in natural science produced by such books as those of Hugh Miller, Faraday, Tyndall, Huxley, Agassiz, and Darwin.
The new scientific book is different from the old. The old style book of science gave dead results where the new one gives not only the results, but a minute account of the method employed in reaching those results. An insight into the method employed in discovery trains the reader into a naturalist, an historian, a sociologist. The books of the writers above named have done more to stimulate original research on the part of their readers than all other influences combined.
It is therefore much more a matter of importance to get the right kind of book than to get a living teacher. The book which teaches results, and at the same time gives in an intelligible manner the steps of discovery and the methods employed, is a book which will stimulate the student to repeat the experiments described and get beyond them into fields of original research himself. Every one remembers the published lectures of Faraday on chemistry, which exercised a wide influence in changing the style of books on natural science, causing them to deal with method more than results, and thus train the reader's power of conducting original research. Robinson Crusoe for nearly two hundred years has aroused the spirit of adventure and prompted young men to resort to the border lands of civilization. A library of home reading should contain books that incite to self-activity and arouse the spirit of inquiry. The books should treat of methods of discovery and evolution. All nature is unified by the discovery of the law of evolution. Each and every being in the world is now explained by the process of development to which it belongs. Every fact now throws light on all the others by illustrating the process of growth in which each has its end and aim.
The Home Reading Books are to be classed as follows:
First Division. Natural history, including popular scientific treatises on plants and animals, and also descriptions of geographical localities. The branch of study in the district school course which corresponds to this is geography. Travels and sojourns in distant lands; special writings which treat of this or that animal or plant, or family of animals or plants; anything that relates to organic nature or to meteorology, or descriptive astronomy may be placed in this class.
Second Division. Whatever relates to physics or natural philosophy, to the statics or dynamics of air or water or light or electricity, or to the properties of matter; whatever relates to chemistry, either organic or inorganic—books on these subjects belong to the class that relates to what is inorganic. Even the so-called organic chemistry relates to the analysis of organic bodies into their inorganic compounds.
Third Division. History, biography, and ethnology. Books relating to the lives of individuals; to the social life of the nation; to the collisions of nations in war, as well as to the aid that one nation gives to another through commerce in times of peace; books on ethnology relating to the modes of life of savage or civilized peoples; on primitive manners and customs—books on these subjects belong to the third class, relating particularly to the human will, not merely the individual will but the social will, the will of the tribe or nation; and to this third class belong also books on ethics and morals, and on forms of government and laws, and what is included under the term civics, or the duties of citizenship.
Fourth Division. The fourth class of books includes more especially literature and works that make known the beautiful in such departments as sculpture, painting, architecture and music. Literature and art show human nature in the form of feelings, emotions, and aspirations, and they show how these feelings lead over to deeds and to clear thoughts. This department of books is perhaps more important than any other in our home reading, inasmuch as it teaches a knowledge of human nature and enables us to understand the motives that lead our fellow-men to action.
Plan for Use as Supplementary Reading.
The first work of the child in the school is to learn to recognize in a printed form the words that are familiar to him by ear. These words constitute what is called the colloquial vocabulary. They are words that he has come to know from having heard them used by the members of his family and by his playmates. He uses these words himself with considerable skill, but what he knows by ear he does not yet know by sight. It will require many weeks, many months even, of constant effort at reading the printed page to bring him to the point where the sight of the written word brings up as much to his mind as the sound of the spoken word. But patience and practice will by and by make the printed word far more suggestive than the spoken word, as every scholar may testify.
In order to bring about this familiarity with the printed word it has been found necessary to re-enforce the reading in the school by supplementary reading at home. Books of the same grade of difficulty with the reader used in school are to be provided for the pupil. They must be so interesting to him that he will read them at home, using his time before and after school, and even his holidays, for this purpose.
But this matter of familiarizing the child with the printed word is only one half of the object aimed at by the supplementary home reading. He should read that which interests him. He should read that which will increase his power in making deeper studies, and what he reads should tend to correct his habits of observation. Step by step he should be initiated into the scientific method. Too many elementary books fail to teach the scientific method because they point out in an unsystematic way only those features of the object which the untutored senses of the pupil would discover at first glance. It is not useful to tell the child to observe a piece of chalk and see that it is white, more or less friable, and that it makes a mark on a fence or a wall. Scientific observation goes immediately behind the facts which lie obvious to a superficial investigation. Above all, it directs attention to such features of the object as relate it to its environment. It directs attention to the features that have a causal influence in making the object what it is and in extending its effects to other objects. Science discovers the reciprocal action of objects one upon another.
After the child has learned bow to observe what is essential in one class of objects he is in a measure fitted to observe for himself all objects that resemble this class. After he has learned how to observe the seeds of the milkweed, he is partially prepared to observe the seeds of the dandelion, the burdock, and the thistle. After he has learned how to study the history of his native country, he has acquired some ability to study the history of England and Scotland or France or Germany. In the same way the daily preparation of his reading lesson at school aids him to read a story of Dickens or Walter Scott.
The teacher of a school will know how to obtain a small sum to invest in supplementary reading. In a graded school of four hundred pupils ten books of each number are sufficient, one set of ten books to be loaned the first week to the best pupils in one of the rooms, the next week to the ten pupils next in ability. On Monday afternoon a discussion should be held over the topics of interest to the pupils who have read the book. The pupils who have not yet read the book will become interested, and await anxiously their turn for the loan of the desired volume. Another set of ten books of a higher grade may be used in the same way in a room containing more advanced pupils. The older pupils who have left school, and also the parents, should avail themselves of the opportunity to read the books brought home from school. Thus is begun that continuous education by means of the public library which is not limited to the school period, but lasts through life.
In the introduction to a former volume of this series, viz., Earth and Sky, the whole course of instruction of a student in astronomy was outlined, and teachers should consult that introduction. The present book is a continuation of its predecessor. The former volume related chiefly to the earth, to the moon, and to the space which includes the universe. The present volume deals descriptively with the planets that form the Family of the Sun—with their appearances in the telescope, and with the main deductions that can be drawn from these appearances.
The idea of space is more critically and fully examined, and the relation of the solar system to distant stellar systems is considered.
All the planets are described in turn, their resemblances and differences are brought out, and their family relationship is explained. The unity as well as the variety of the solar system is exhibited. The work is mainly descriptive of results, but some notion of methods is also given, so far as this can be done in simple terms.
Above all, the child is encouraged to observe phenomena for himself, and to reason on data so acquired. It has been possible to suggest simple lines of inquiry that will serve as introductions to serious study. The illustrations of the work have been taken from many sources, in particular from the celestial photographs made at the Lick Observatory. It is believed that a child who has read this volume with attention will find a new and vivid interest in the phenomena presented by the heavens.
The work is divided into nine chapters, each referring to a separate topic. The subjects treated in one chapter often receive a fuller treatment, from a somewhat different point of view, in subsequent chapters. By insistence of this kind the mind of the child is progressively opened, so that ideas at first novel gradually become familiar, and are finally grasped completely. The illustrations of the book are utilized according to the same plan.
Chapter I deals with the Family of the Sun in general—with the planets.
Chaper II explains the idea of the space in which the planets move, and shows that Space which includes other suns and other systems than our own.
Chapter III establishes the scale of distances in the solar system, and Chapter IV shows how a model of the system may be constructed by the child. If this work is actually done an entirely new realization of certain fundamental astronomical ideas will be attained.
Chapter V deals with the question of life upon the planets. The argument on this great matter is simply presented, and difficulties are not evaded. The child has a right to sound ideas upon a question of such far-reaching importance. Chapter VI treats of the moon, Chapter VII of the smaller planets, Chapter VIII of the larger planets.
The last chapter treats of the Sun. The planets are, more or less, similar one to another. The sun is a body in a totally different condition. It is desirable not to speak of its physical circumstances—so difficult to realize—until the child has absorbed as many astronomical notions as possible.
The brief Appendix gives certain numerical data with exactness that have been cited previously in round numbers. The child who has once read the book will often refer to it for a number or for a fact. The Appendix will be found convenient in this respect.
It has been sought, throughout the volume, to give very full titles to the cuts, so that each illustration with its legend may convey a complete picture to the mind. The illustrations themselves have been chosen so as to convey accurate notions of what is seen in the telescope.