Review of The Nature of the World and of Man. by H.H. Newman and others.
The college curriculum is under fire. The report of the student committee at Dartmouth, which recommended drastic changes in the program, the new scheme at the University of Wisconsin under the leadership of Professor Meiklejohn, and the various orientation courses which have been inaugurated in different American institutions are efforts to improve the situation, which no one finds satisfactory. The difficulties in the making of an independent plan are perhaps insuperable, and no student can engage in the active pursuit of any calling until he has been pre-pared for it. But he cannot prepare for it until he has chosen the field in which he proposes to make himself fitted. The choice, however, cannot be intelligently made until one has had experience of some nature with the field. The Freshman, therefore, is confronted with this practical paradox.
In the autumn of 1924 there was inaugurated at the University of Chicago an ambitious attempt to make some attack on this problem. A selected group of Freshmen was organized into a course on science under the leadership of H. H. Newman, Professor of Zoölogy. The course ran for two quarters and consisted of three or four lectures in each of the sciences: astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, zoölogy, bacteriology, botany, paleontology, invertebrate zoölogy, anthropology, genetics, embryology, physiology, and psychology. Some of these sciences were rep-resented by more than one lecturer, each of whom took his week. Two men in the first year and three in the second attended every session of the course and met the students in sections for a quiz and conference hour.
At the end of two years of trial the lectures were reduced to writing, all of them being read before the group of lecturers and thoroughly discussed. They were then revised and printed, the result being the volume under review.
The book contains excellent and condensed statements of the present
( 646) position of scientists on all the leading problems in the various fields. It is a sort of encyclopedia, with all the advantages and drawbacks that any encyclopedic statement necessarily involves. It is far more convenient than the Encyclopedia Britannica, since it does not cover so much territory; the general method, however, is the same. The student is presented with the present position of his various instructors in the several fields, with a minimum of uncertainties and unsolved problems.
It is an ambitious and worthy attempt to meet a pressing problem. The advantage to the entering student that enables him to come into contact with the leaders of science in the various fields of research is obvious. The student who reads may be expected to know more about the subject matter of the sciences than would otherwise have been possible.
There were two diametrically opposed views concerning what can safely be presented to beginning students. This volume represents one extreme. The Freshman is an immature boy or girl and must not be confused by being presented with problems or hypotheses. He is expected to think, but this activity is to be postponed until his third year in college. In the meantime, he is to be informed. The conclusions of science are to be presented to him as relatively fixed and final, and these he is to learn, memorize, and assent to. Later on he may take the research attitude and become an independent investigator; but beefsteak should not be fed to babies, nor hypothetical problems to youth.
As the geneticist is convinced that heredity determines the destiny of men, it is held to be confusing and undesirable that the sociologist should set forth the accepted view that there is no racial character which is inherited, and that personality results from the give and take of social experiences. The student who has learned what is in this book will have a valuable background; but if he goes into sociology in the University of Chicago he will have to unlearn some of the dogmatic statements that were presented to him with such confidence. here. Nevertheless the reviewer is in entire sympathy with the experiment, and the book has already received a cordial welcome and will undoubtedly be widely used. The assumption that the student should first be acquainted with physical nature and later on learn about human nature is the foundation of the course. In other institutions the reverse order has been observed, but in the present state of our educational theory every sincere experiment should be encouraged, and the earnest and devoted effort of the authors of this book will receive the praise which it truly deserves.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO