The Place of Science in Education


In this age of science it seems so redundant to speak of the place of science in education! For many people education means the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Indeed. we may say the problem now is. how to keep science in its proper place in a system of education.

Since the nineteenth century science has been making rapid progress, and scientific inventions have altered men’s mode of life. It is but natural; therefore, that science should be the most important factor in the scheme of things. Civilization consists now in the ability to possess and use the mechanical aids that science provides, and civilized life requires a knowledge of the things that science has produced. This being so, science has come to have an increasingly important place in modern education. No education is complete if it has not been at least partially scientific.
In the old days education was chiefly liberal; young men were taught the humanities, and history. and philosophy. Then the sciences came and have gradually become all-important •. Technical education has progressed, and there are people who think’ that education means or ought to mean technical education. Philosophy and the ‘arts bake no bread, and are, therefore, useless. But such a view is obviously an extreme one and will hardly be held by really thoughtful people. A purely technical education is incomplete education, as it leaves the artistic and imaginative side of the human mind inadequately developed.

But no education can be complete to-day if it is entirely a “liberal” education, that is, if the study of some science has not been a part of it. The world. is so dominated’ by the achievements of science that a man who has not had some training in scientific matters will be hardly fitted for modern civilized life. At every turn, in almost every walk of life, an acquaintance with scientific things is necessary. If a man’s education has consisted of only the arts it will be a one-sided education, not suited to the conditions of modern life.

But the value of science as part of one’s education is not merely that it enables one to be at home in this scientific age. The study of science in itself is a discipline. It makes one less prone to take things on the evidence of hearsay; one is more inclined to experiment and to test.
Nothing is worth believing that has not been actually proved. A scientific education enables one to be more observant, and to be more cautious in coming to conclusions, It teaches one to analyse and examine things and not to be’ satisfied with appearances. Far more important than the mere knowledge that science brings is the scientific attitude of mind which a scientific study helps us to acquire. There is need for sentiment, imagination, passion, poetry, but there is equally, the need for looking at things with a scientific spirit. Many of the ills of man are due to the fact that he has refused to face them scientifically; but has allowed sentiment and passion to cloud the issues. Science must, therefore, form a part of all education.
The universe we live in is a wonderful and mysterious one. A philosophy of life which Is not based upon a knowledge of the nature of the physical world will be an inadequate one A proper appreciation of values requires an understanding ,of the position of man in the universe. Metaphysics must grow upon the physical sciences. Science primarily deals with the relation between cause and effect in the physical world; and an intelligent understanding of all aspects of life needs the ability to see the connection between cause and effect. A scientific education helps us in this direction.
All education must help in the development of character; and one of the chief elements in a well-developed personality must be discipline. True discipline is ultimately a thing of the spirit, and it comes only by slow training. The carefulness, willingness to take pains, observation, and concentration that the pursuit of science requires can be of the greatest value in the formation of a disciplined and balanced character.
These and many others are the uses of science as a part of education, but only as a part. A form of education in which science usurps all the ‘student’s time and attention, giving no room to the study of history, and literature, religion and arts, must be a very inadequate one. Life is greater, than this or that item of knowledge, and the end of all education must be to enrich the life of the individual. For this purpose education must be, in the truest sense, liberal. Science must have a place in it. worthy of the importance of science. But the things of the spirit must not be choked out of existence by too much importance being given to the study of science and the phenomena of the physical world.


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