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Education Through The Senses
by [?]

Now, not greater is the change we made from that low, small, stifling, gloomy, mephitic room, into the glorious open air, the loch lying asleep in the sun, and telling over again on its placid face, as in a dream, every hill and cloud, and birch and pine, and passing bird and cradled boat; the Black Wood of Rannoch standing “in the midst of its own darkness,” frowning out upon us like the Past disturbed, and far off in the clear ether, as in another and a better world, the dim Shepherds of Etive pointing, like ghosts at noonday, to the weird shadows of Glencoe;–not greater was this change, than is that from the dingy, oppressive, weary “cemetery” of mere word-knowledge to the open air, the light and liberty, the divine infinity and richness of nature and her teaching.

We cannot change our time, nor would we if we could. It is God’s time as well as ours. And our time is emphatically that for achieving and recording and teaching man’s dominion over and insight into matter and its forces–his subduing the earth; but let us turn now and then from our necessary and honest toil in this neo-Platonic cavern where we win gold and renown, and where we often are obliged to stand in our own light, and watch our own shadows as they glide, huge and misshapen, across the inner gloom; let us come out betimes with our gold, that we may spend it and get “goods” for it, and when we can look forth on that ample world of daylight which we can never hope to overrun, and into that overarching heaven where, amid clouds and storms, lightning and sudden tempest, there is revealed to those who look for them, lucid openings into the pure, deep empyrean, “as it were the very body of heaven in its clearness;” and when, best of all, we may remember Who it is who stretched out these heavens as a tent to dwell in, and on whose footstool we may kneel, and out of the depths of our heart cry aloud,–

Te Deum veneramur,
Te Sancte Pater!

we shall return into our cave, and to our work, all the better of such a lesson, and of such a reasonable service, and dig none the worse.

Science which ends in itself, or still worse, returns upon its maker, and gets him to worship himself, is worse than none; it is only when it makes it more clear than before who is the Maker and Governor, not only of the objects, but of the subjects of itself, that knowledge is the mother of virtue. But this is an endless theme. My only aim in these desultory hints is to impress parents and teachers with the benefits of the study, the personal engagement–with their own hands and eyes, and legs and ears–in some form or another of natural history, by their children and pupils and themselves, as counteracting evil, and doing immediate and actual good. Even the immense activity in the Post-Office-stamp line of business among our youngsters has been of immense use in many ways, besides being a diversion and an interest. I myself came to the knowledge of Queensland, and a great deal more, through its blue twopenny.

If any one wishes to know how far wise and clever and patriotic men may occasionally go in the way of giving “your son” a stone for bread, and a serpent for a fish,–may get the nation’s money for that which is not bread, and give their own labor for that which satisfies no one; industriously making sawdust into the shapes of bread, and chaff into the appearance of meal, and contriving, at wonderful expense of money and brains, to show what can be done in the way of feeding upon wind,–let him take a turn through certain galleries of the Kensington Museum.

“Yesterday forenoon,” writes a friend, “I went to South Kensington Museum. It is really an absurd collection. A great deal of valuable material and a great deal of perfect rubbish. The analyses are even worse than I was led to suppose. There is an ANALYSIS OF A MAN. First, a man contains so much water, and there you have the amount of water in a bottle; so much albumen, and there is the albumen; so much phosphate of lime, fat, haematin, fibrine, salt, etc., etc. Then in the next case so much carbon; so much phosphorus–a bottle with sticks of phosphorus; so much potassium, and there is a bottle with potassium; calcium, etc. They have not bottles of oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine, etc., but they have cubical pieces of wood on which is written ‘the quantity of oxygen in the human body would occupy the space of 170 (e. g.) cubes of the size of this,’ etc., etc.” What earthly good can this do any one?

No wonder that the bewildered beings whom I have seen wandering through these rooms, yawned more frequently and more desperately than I ever observed even in church.

So then, cultivate observation, energy, handicraft, ingenuity, outness in boys, so as to give them a pursuit as well as a study. Look after the blade, and don’t coax or crush the ear out too soon, and remember that the full corn in the ear is not due till the harvest, when the great School breaks up, and we must all dismiss and go our several ways.