Friday, June 26, 2009

Science and History

F. W. Westaway wrote the book on Science Teaching (of that title). He concerned himself in this treatise of nearly 500 pages with every aspect of teaching science (in 1929). With respect to history, he makes a very interesting comment.

If the science teacher is lucky enough to have a history colleague whose sympathies are primarily on the side of the creative genius, whether of science or art or literature or music, his task will be comparatively easy. But there are still history teachers and history books that give prominence to such stories as those of a ruffianly baronage, of court intrigues, and of military and political adventurers. The stupendous events that have really made the world what it is are almost unknown to many of our children. The names of the great pioneers and discoverers, me things they have done, of what races they were, and how though separated by nationality each has built on the work of the rest: these are the things that history should teach. The year 1848 is mentioned in the history books as memorable for political "revolutions": how few of them mention that that was the year when Pasteur discovered the properties of asymmetrical crystals, a discovery which led to the birth of bacteriology, and thus to modern surgery, modern medicine, and other discoveries unrolling in almost endless series? Our historical perspective has been all wrong. There are still people who would place Maryborough and Napoleon, Richelieu and Palmerston, in the same rank as such mighty creative geniuses as Newton and Shakespeare, Rembrandt and Beethoven.
It's a very different view of history than what I was told during my schooling.

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