Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

ing in teaching any subject. Not only is this true of laboratory work, but we in this country have come to realize strongly that there is much more to education than training the mind by mere book knowledge. In order to develop the mental and physical powers symmetrically, the powers of observation, the hand, the eye, should equally receive attention. The student should be taught how to observe natural phenomena, to carry on experiments and to reason from them, and should be encouraged in devising new methods of investigation. If the writer is not mistaken, the introduction of laboratory methods of instruction in the teaching of elementary chemistry and physics—methods which have revolutionized the teaching of those subjectsfirst occurred in this country, and the same is true regarding the laboratory teaching of engineering. Several of our schools are now equipped with extensive laboratories for testing the strength of materials, for experiments in steam engineering, and for carrying on hydraulic experiments; besides which, field measurements in hydraulics are carried on by a few schools, all of this work being done by the students as a part of their regular course. To the best of the writer's knowledge, such work is done scarcely at all on the continent. Some of the schools have testing laboratories, but they appear to be principally for private research and for commercial tests by the professors and their assistants, and not primarily for the use of students. It is not long since the same was said to be true, to a considerable extent, of the laboratories of physics and chemistry, in which specially favored students could

obtain good facilities for work, but which were at least not used for the regular and systematic instruction of the classes, to the same extent as they were with us.

The writer's information as to the extent to which laboratory instruction in engineering is made use of abroad is very incomplete. At Berlin and at Zurich there are testing laboratories, but they are used almost entirely for commercial or scientific work. No use is made of them for regular instruction, though exhibition tests are made before the students at times. At Hanover, Dresden, and Munich, there are hydraulic laboratories of some kind, but how extensive they are, or how much used by the students, the writer is unable to state. The only steam engineering laboratory that he heard of on the continent is at Munich.

In laboratory instruction, therefore, if not in laboratory equipment, we are far in advance of our continental brethren; and this, if too much time is not devoted to the work, should and does result in a corresponding gain in training. It should be said, however, that among the tendencies in our schools, one which seems to be distinctly unfavorable is the tendency to use laboratories too largely for purposes of extended original research carried on by students. In the writer's opinion the primary purpose of a laboratory should be to afford the student opportunity to see clearly and understand thoroughly how the various engineering tests are carried on and worked up. To do this, certain tests must, of course, be carried out completely. But any original laboratory research, to be of value, generally requires a large number of tests of the same kind, to carry on which the student is obliged to do the same thing over and over again, perhaps a hundred times if the research is to be of value, thus absolutely wasting his time with little commensurate gain.

In other words, the primary purpose of a laboratory in a school, like every other part of its equipment, is instruction and training, not research in itself; and any investigation-like one, for instance, which requires a student to make and break one or two thousand cement briquettes—is, it seems, a loss of time.

Third. STUDIES, EXAMINATIONS, AND THESIS.—The third point of difference to which your attention is called relates to the arrangement and choice of studies and the matters of examinations and theses.

In Germany, as in some of our own schools, each student is free to choose his own course; certain courses of study extending through the four years, as in civil engineering, etc., are, however, laid out, and the students are advised to follow them. As these courses are generally followed, this method need not be compared with our own, in which certain fixed four-year courses are open to the students.

In Germany, moreover, there are in most schools no compulsory examinations whatever. In fact, no oversight whatever is exercised over the students' progress, and after entering the school he is allowed to do as he pleases, learning as much or as little as he wishes. In the Ecole des ponts et chaussees, however, a very strict oversight is exercised over the students, both as to regularity of attendance and as to their work.

The writer cannot regard the German method in this respect with favor. In this country, where our students are younger and where many go to schoolnot to learn, but because they are sent-it would not do at all. It works in Germany, like the lecture system, because the students are better trained and more mature, and also because the Germans are naturally more earnest and more inclined to study and investigation than we are. In our schools we have to weed out students who are incompetent to go on, students who on account of laziness or bad habits are prejudicial to the interests of the rest of the class, and students who will not work, but come to school because their parents send them. The writer has never heard of a student being dropped from a German school. He has no doubt that they have students whose habits are bad, and who are incompetent to go on, and some who are lazy and will not work. Such men, however, are left to follow their own devices, without any supervision, and they soon drop out and seek more congenial associations.

In most of the German schools examinations are held for those who desire a diploma. These, as well as the examinations for government service, are generally held in two parts, one at about the end of the second year, and covering preparatory subjects, and one at the end of the course, covering technical subjects. These examinations are long and severe, and often involve the detailed working out of some project.

Without discussing this practice at length it may be said that according to American experience it does not seem wise to concentrate at one time a severe and trying examination covering a number of subjects, some of which the student has studied several years before. Neither does it appear wise to require a student to pass a severe and trying examination on all branches of civil engineering. It tends to superficiality rather than breadth, in many cases. The judicious introduction of options would be especially appropriate.

Theses are not required at German technical schools excepting the project which has to be worked out as part of the examination. The whole time of the course is given entirely to instruction. Probably all of our schools require theses for graduation, which are prepared during the school year as a part of the regular work. Something may be said in favor of abandoning the requirement of theses, especially if, as appears to be sometimes the case, the student in preparing his thesis is thrown entirely upon his own resources, without aid from the instructor, and if considerable time is devoted to the work; or if the subjects of theses are so selected as to involve doing something, perhaps many times, that the student is already perfectly qualified to do. If, however, the thesis is made primarily a means of training and instruction; if the subject and the mode of carrying it out are under constant supervision of an instructor,

« ÖncekiDevam »