The Neglect of Biological Subjects in Education


THE two recent letters in NATURE (January 23 and February 6) under the above title expose a defect in our science teaching which has been plain to me for some years. Hitherto I have refrained from referring to this publicly owing to my lack of authority in educational matters, but I now feel emboldened not only to acknowledge my hearty agreement with the views expressed in these two letters, but also to venture upon a few remarks of a critical nature on a concrete case of science teaching, viz. that of the University of Cambridge. When I took the Natural Sciences Tripos the student: had a free choice of subjects (and I fancy the same still holds), selecting usually three or four; none were compulsory. Thus a candidate could graduate in high honours in natural science and yet be totally ignorant of biology. The converse could also occur—for example, by taking zoology, botany, and physiology, the physical sciences could be shirked altogether. The latter course was, perhaps, rarely pursued, but the former, I imagine, must have been commonly followed. It is gratifying to find that at last natural science is to receive a much overdue recognition in the Cambridge Previous Examination, and, though the exact details are not yet to hand, one fervently hopes that both branches, the physico-chemical and the biological, will be included and made obligatory for all students.

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PARKIN, J. The Neglect of Biological Subjects in Education. Nature 102, 503–504 (1919).

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