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Not that more is taught at an early age, but less ;
“You study Nature in the house, and when you go out-of-
This little book has a twofold claim upon those concerned in the work of education.
In the first place, it introduces the beginner to the study of Botany in the only way it can be properly done-by the direct observation of vegetable forms. The pupil is told very little, and from the beginning, throughout, he is sent to the plant to get his knowledge of the plant. The book is designed to help him in this work, never to supersede it. Instead of memorizing the statements of others, he brings report of the living reality as he sees it; it is the things themselves that are to be examined, questioned, and understood. The true basis of a knowledge of Botany is that familiarity with the actual characters of plants, which can only be obtained by direct and habitual inspection of them. The beginner should therefore commence with the actual specimens, and learn to distinguish those external characters which lie open to observation; the knowledge of which leads naturally to that arrangement by related attributes which constitutes classification,
But the present book has a still stronger claim to attention ; it develops a new method of study which is designed to correct that which is confessedly the deepest defect of our current education. This defect is the almost total lack of any systematic cultivation of the observing powers. Although all real knowledge begins in attention to things, and consists in the discrimination and comparison of the likenesses and differences among objects; yet, strange to say, in our vaunted system of instruction there is no provision for the regular training of the perceptive faculties. That which should be first and fundamental is hardly attended to at all. We train in mathematics, and cram the contents of books, but do little to exercise the mind upon the realities of Nature, or to make it alert, sensitive, and intelligent, in respect to the order of the surrounding world.
Something, indeed, has been done in the way of object-teaching, although but little that is satisfactory. These exercises are notoriously loose, desultory, incoherent, and superficial, and hardly deserve the name of mental training. What is wanted is, that objectstudies shall become more close and methodic, and that the observations shall be wrought into connected and organized knowledge. It is the merit of Botany that, beyond all other studies, it is suited to the attainment of this end. Plants furnish abundant and ever-varying materials for observation. The elementary facts of Botany are so simple that their study can be commenced in early childhood, and so numerous as to sustain a prolonged course of observation. From the most rudimentary facts the pupil may proceed gradually to the more complex; from the concrete to the abstract; from observation to the truths resting upon observation, in a natural order of ascent, as required by the laws of mental growth. The means are thus furnished for organizing object-teaching into a systematic method, so that it may be pursued continuously through a course of successively higher and more comprehensive exercises. Carried out in this way, Botany is capable of doing for the observing powers of the mind what mathematics does for its reasoning powers.
Moreover, accuracy of observation requires accuracy of description; precision of thought implies precision in the use of language. Here, again, Botany has superior advantages. Its vocabulary is more copious, precise, and well settled, than that of any other of the natural sciences; it is thus unrivalled in the scope it offers for the cultivation of the descrip
On purely mental grounds, therefore, and as a means of attaining the most needed of educational reforms, Botany has a claim to be admitted as a fourth fundamental branch of common-school study; and the hope of contributing something to this end