why teach chemistry? - American Chemical Society


tests, the best substitute for entrance examinations, in determining ... Many of these reasons appear to have been forgotten so that a restatement of ...
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W H Y TEACH CHEMISTRY?* C. A. BRAUTLECHT. UNIVERSITY OP MAINE,ORONO, MAIN$ The teaching of general chemistry is now very often conducted without sufficient thought as to objectives. This is made evident in placement tests, the best substitute for entrance examinations, in determining what a student has learned concerning subject matter, procedure and reasoning ability in a specialized field of study. Herbert Spencer, in arguing for science study in educational programs, was forced to think of fundamental and convincing reasons. Many of these reasons appear to have been forgotten so that a restatement of some of them, interpreted in present-day terms, deserves occasional consideration. Regarding education as an opportunity, nothing more, a general educational program must be based upon the three fundamental features, (1) what is necessary, (2) what is useful, and (3) what is ornamental. Science study, in general, helps one to live a more healthy, happy, and successful life. When properly taught, it furnishes a mental discipline equal to that of the grammar of the classics. The study of things is more interesting to the average student than is a study of words, especially to our modern young people of secondary-school age. Scientific chemical facts are unchangeable and are based upon simple, direct, and exact experimental evidence. In contrast, personal opinion is changing ever faster, and the number of personal opinions on any topic, at the present time, defies the making of reasonable laws for the government of the conduct of individual citizens in any one country. Science study, despite its high cost, is increasing, and is of greater value in our every-day life than ever before. Development in science has been so great that facilities for science study seem wonderful when compared to those of a few decades ago. Science training in induction, deduction, and comparison is also necessary for the continuance of our complex civilization with its growing material and energy factors. Considering the reasons why young men and women undertake the study of chemistry and other subjects, it appears that a very large percentage of them apparently believe that advantages will accrue to them in form of riches, happiness, or success, even if their efforts in such studies are of very low degree. Analyzing the benefits the study of chemistry can confer upon those who apply themselves, we have: (a) facts largely illustrated by student experimentation, (b) use of the hands and the mind, (G) acquisition of knowledge of increasing value in this chemical-electrical age, ( d ) development of inductive and deductive reasoning, (e) knowledge permitting efficient utilization of material property, (f) knowledge not readily obtained from books alone or in later l i e when laboratory facilities are not available, (g) knowledge concerning human activities in many * Presented before the Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society at the Atlanta meeting, April 7-11, 1930. 1876

VOL. 7, No. 8

WHY TEACH CHEMISTRY?

1877

lines such as industry, agriculture, health and disease, enrichment of life, warfare, and in the modem home, (h) influence of heredity on future generations, and (i) the supplying of better qualified teachers to continue and develop the teaching of chemistry. Imagination is a human asset and it is generally admitted that science study stimulates the imagination. A brief review of the subjects appearing in popular scientific journals shows the use of the imagination in a very large number of fields, with opportunities for its increasing use as the field of activities expands. The imagination of Jules Veme as to submarine activities is an example of a vivid imagination reasonably controlled by previous science study. Science study in general and chemistry study in particular, when taught in a way which approaches its possibilities, can be regarded as furnishing training in observation, knowledge making, imagination, judgment, and in self-elimination. The dogmas of Aristotle regarding matter will not be regarded highly by the modern boy or girl who has worked diligently and completed a course in general chemistry. The teaching of chemistry to the average class of young people is a large-sized task. This is admitted by all chemistry teachers who conscientiously examine enough of their pupils' note-writing to know what it is like, and who have some regard for order and technic. Yet the writer doubts the value of student notes very much, when inspecting a large number of secondary-school chemistry notebooks and not findmg a single mark made by instructors in a large number of schools. Notebook grading appears to be a rare sort of teaching activity. It is a fact that many teachers feel that receiving credit for but one hour's teaching for two hours' laboratory work is a severe penalty for their having entered the profession. Naturally, they will not increase such a penalty by examining or grading (not correcting) laboratory notes unless forced to. Then, with the additional duties of laboratory maintenance, care of many supplies, maintaining and arranging equipment, etc., I feel that, relatively, we teachers as a group, are doing a better piece of educational work than we receive credit for. We should, therefore, he doing the teaching of chemistry the greatest good, if we obtain universal credit for teaching on a clock-hour basis. Despite the admitted trivial natnre of much chemistry instruction, the writer feels that the student who applies h~mself and utilizes the opportunities available in an average secondary school or college chemistry course will obtain those benefits which the study of chemistry can confer.

Amount of 1930 Nobel Prizes. The 1930 Nobel Prizes will each amount to f9608, according to a report drawn up by the auditors of the Foundation.-Chem. Age