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APPLICATION OF THE STEREOSCOPE TO EDUCATIONAL
The observations contained in the preceding chapters prepare us for appreciating the value of the stereoscope as an indispensable auxiliary in elementary as well as in professional education. When the scholar has learned to read, to write, and to count, he has obtained only the tools of instruction. To acquire a general knowledge of the works of God and of man—of things common and uncommon— of the miracles of nature and of art, is the first step in the education of the people. Without such knowledge, the humblest of our race is unfit for any place in the social scale. He may have learned to read his Bible, and he may have read it after he had learned to read;—he may have committed to memory every sentence in the Decalogue ;— he may have packed into the storehouse of his brain all the wisdom of Solomon, and all the divine precepts of a greater than Solomon, while he is utterly ignorant of everything above him, around him, and within him,—ignorant, too, of the form, the magnitude, and the motions of his terrestrial home,—ignorant of the gigantic structures which constitute the material universe,—ignorant of the fabrics which industry prepares for his use, and of the luxuries which com
merce brings from the ends of the earth and places at his door,—ignorant even of the wonderful operations of that beneficent commissariat, which is every moment, while he sleeps and dreams, elaborating the materials by which he is fed and clothed.
Were we to say, though we do not say it, that in our own country the teachers, so penuriously endowed by the State, are not much in advance of their pupils, we should err only in stating what is not universally true; and yet there are men of influence and character insisting upon the imposition of sectarian tests, and thus barricading our schools against the admission of the wisest and the fittest masters! And while every civilized community in the world is eagerly teaching their people, irrespective of religious creeds, the same bigots, civil and ecclesiastical, in our own country, have combined to resist the only system of education which can stem the tide of vice and crime which is desolating the land.
Missionary labour and reformatory institutions, valuable as they are, presuppose an educated community. To instruct and reform a race that can neither read their Bible nor derive knowledge from books, is a task beyond human achievement. The dearest interests of society, therefore, call loudly for Secular Education,—the greatest boon which philanthropy ever demanded from the State. The minister who, in the face of sectarian factions, dares not identify himself with a large legislative measure for the education of the people, and resigns office when he fails to carry it, prefers power to duty, and, if he ever possessed it, divests himself of the character of a statesman and a patriot. He may be justified in punishing the law-breaker who cannot read his statutes, but he is himself the breaker of laws of a higher order, and sanctioned by a higher tribunal.
If the education of the people is to be attempted either by partial or comprehensive legislation, the existing system is utterly inefficient. The teacher, however wisely chosen and well qualified, has not at his command the means of imparting knowledge. He may pour it in by the ear, or extract it from the printed page, or exhibit it in caricature in the miserable embellishments of the school-book, but unless he teaches through the eye, the great instrument of knowledge, by means of truthful pictures, or instruments, or models, or by the direct exhibition of the products of nature and of art, which can be submitted to the scrutiny of the senses, no satisfactory instruction can be conveyed.1 Every school, indeed, should have a museum, however limited and humble. Even from within its narrow sphere objects of natural history and antiquities might be collected, and duplicates exchanged; and we are sure that many a chimney-piece in the district would surrender a tithe of its curiosities for the public use. Were the British Museum, and other overflowing collections, to distribute among provincial museums the numerous duplicates which they possess, they would gradually pass into the schools, and before a quarter of a century elapsed, museums would be found in every proper locality.
As we cannot indulge in the hope that any such boon 'will be conferred on our educational institutions, it becomes an important question how far it is possible to supply the defect by the means within our reach. The photographic process may be advantageously employed in producing accurate representations of those objects, both of nature and of art, which it would be desirable to describe and explain in the instruction of youth; but as experience has not yet taught us that such pictures will be permanent, and capable of resisting the action of time and the elements, it would be hazardous to employ them in the illustration of popular works. It is fortunate, however, that the new art of galvanography enables us, by a cheap process, to give to photographs the permanence of engravings, and to employ them in the illustration of educational works.1
1 " The importance of establishing a, permanent Museum 0/Education in this country, with the Yiew of introducing improvements in the existing methods of instruction, and specially directing public attention in a practical manner to the question of National Education, has been of late generally recognised."—Third Report of the Corrtmissionersfor the Exhibition of 1851, presented to both Houses of Parliament, p. 37. Lond., 1856.
But however much we may value such an auxiliary, representations or drawings, on a plane, of solids or combinations of solids at different distances from the eye, are in many cases unintelligible even to persons well informed; so that, on this ground alone, we cannot but appreciate the advantages to be derived from binocular pictures and their stereoscopic relievo, not only in the instruction of youth, but in the diffusion of knowledge among all ranks of society.
One of the most palpable advantages to be derived from the illustration of school-books by pictures in relief, is the communication of correct knowledge of the various objects of natural history. If, as we have already shewn, the naturalist derives important assistance in his studies from correct representations of animated nature, how much more valuable must they be to the scholar who never saw, and may never see the objects themselves. In the department of zoology, the picture might frequently be taken from the living animal, standing before the camera in vigorous life and transcendent beauty; or when this cannot be done, from the fine specimens of zoological forms which adorn our metropolitan and provincial museums. The trees and plants, too, of distant zones, whether naked in their osteology, or luxurious in their foliage, would shew themselves in full relief;—the banyan, clinging with its hundred roots to the ground,—the bread-fruit tree, with its beneficent burden,—the cow tree, with its wholesome beverage,—the caoutchouc tree, yielding its valuable juice,—or the deadly upas, preparing its poison for the arrow of the savage or the poniard of the assassin.
1 This fine invention we owe to Mr. Paul Pretsch, late director of the Imperial Printing Office at Vienna. It is secured by patent, and is now in practical operation in Holloway Place, Islington.
With no less interest will the schoolboy gaze on the forms of insect life, which will almost flutter before him, and on the tenants of the air and of the ocean, defective only in the colours which adorn them. The structures of the inorganic world will equally command his admiration. The minerals which have grown in the earth beneath his feet, and the crystals which chemistry has conjured into being, will display to him their geometric forms, infinite in variety, and interesting from their rarity and value. Painted by the very light which streamed from them, he will see, in their retiring and advancing facets, the Kohinoor and other diamonds, and the huge rubies, and sapphires, and emeralds, which have adorned the chaplet of beauty, or sparkled in the diadem of kings. The gigantic productions of the earth will appeal to him with equal power,—the