Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Thomas H. Huxley Speaks to Us

Frederick W. Westaway, in 1929, spoke clearly to us today about science education in his book, Science Teaching. He quotes Thomas H. Huxley, also known as "Darwin's bulldog," at length about science education. Huxley foreshadows Piaget's constructivism in 1869!
Huxley said: "It appeared to me to be plainly dictated by common sense that the teacher who wishes to lead his pupils to form a clear mental picture of the order which pervades the multiform and endlessly shifting phenomena of nature, should commence with the familiar facts of the scholar's daily experience; and that, from the firm ground of such experience, he should lead the beginner, step by step, to remoter objects and to the less readily comprehensible relations of things. I conceived that a vast amount of knowledge respecting natural phenomena and their interdependence, and even some practical experience of scientific method, could be conveyed, with all the precision of statement, which is what distinguishes science from common information. And I thought that my plan would not only yield results of value in themselves, but would facilitate the subsequent entrance of the learners into the portals of the special science."
You have to wonder why education has the continual rediscovery associated with it. If Huxley clearly enunciated this principle of founding learning on the experience of students, why did Piaget have to rediscover it?

This concept of beginning with what students already know from their experience has become the bedrock of many teachers today. Yet, it's treated with the attitude that it's something new when it was truly explained 140 years ago!

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