THAT the Government of this country is anxious to advance Science education is plainly manifest from what it has already done, in making large annual grants to institutions which it established, and which it maintains as its own. That it does not consider the present arrangements for this purpose as final or sufficient, is clear from the recent appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole question of Government aid to Science. The movement which resulted in the appointment of this Commission arose, as we have already explained, from a recommendation of the Council of the British Association for a formal inquiry into the existing state of Science education in this country; and the resolution stated: “That no such inquiry will be complete which does not include the action of the State in reation to scientific education, and the effects of that action upon independent educational institutions.” Before the Commission meets, it seems desirable that those interested in advancing Science and Education generally, should seriously consider the different position in which Science now stands, as a means of education, to that which it formerly occupied. The time was, and not long ago, when Science was regarded as a thing by itself, having no connection with other branches of education, and useful mainly as a means for rendering men better machinists, better artisans, or discoverers of processes for the advancement of arts and manufactures. Many doubtless hold these opinions at present, and one concludes this to be the case from the very limited view which is expressed by the term “technical education” which is so generally used. Now, if it be desired to promote this view only, and to teach, Science alone, and not as a part of general education Government has established perhaps such schools as might meet the wants of the case, if it can be shown that they fulfil the expectations with which they were founded. But if the higher view, that Science is in its way as important a means of mental training as any other of the branches taught in our schools and universities, then some other method of extending Government assistance for its promotion must be adopted; and it is to this consideration we earnestly hope that inquiries will be directed. Since the first Report of the Science and Art Department, in 1854, sufficient time has been given to show whether the system then originated has answered its purpose. At page 2 of the Report, it is stated that its system will be “in the main self-supporting; while the advantages will be distributed over every part of the United Kingdom; and the assistance received from Parliament be applied for the general good of all.” It is generally believed that the system is not self-supporting, but that every associate of the School of Mines costs the Government a considerable sum of money. There can be no question that the advantages of the system are very great, directed as it is, in the several branches, by men of the highest possible eminence; but it is urged that they are not to any great extent distributed over the whole country, but mainly collected for the benefit of the technical schools founded by Government, and this tendency to force the official plan of education upon the country is regarded by many connected with other educational establishments as unfair. In fact, there is a threatened crusade against the Government professors.
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Scientific Education. Nature 2, 41–42 (1870). https://doi.org/10.1038/002041a0