Passage (Its a bit long)

The pioneers of the teaching of science imagined that its introduction into education would remove the conventionality, artificiality, and backward-lookingness which were characteristic; of classical studies, but they were gravely disappointed. So, too, in their time had the humanists thought that the study of the classical authors in the original would banish at once the dull pedantry and superstition of mediaeval scholasticism. The professional schoolmaster was a match for both of them, and has almost managed to make the understanding of chemical reactions as dull and as dogmatic an affair as the reading of Virgil's Aeneid.

The chief claim for the use of science in education is that it teaches a child something about the actual universe in which he is living, in making him acquainted with the results of scientific discovery, and at the same time teaches him how to think logically and inductively by studying scientific method. A certain limited success has been reached in the first of these aims, but practically none at all in the second. Those privileged members of the community who have been through a secondary or public school education may be expected to know something about the elementary physics and chemistry of a hundred years ago, but they probably know hardly more than any bright boy can pick up from an interest in wireless or scientific hobbies out of school hours. As to the learning of scientific method, the whole thing is palpably a farce. Actually, for the convenience of teachers and the requirements of the examination system, it is necessary that the pupils not only do not learn scientific method but learn precisely the reverse, that is, to believe exactly what they are told and to reproduce it when asked, whether it seems nonsense to them or not. The way in which educated people respond to such quackeries as spiritualism or astrology, not to say more dangerous ones such as racial theories or currency myths, shows that fifty years of education in the method of science in Britain or Germany has produced no visible effect whatever.

The only way of learning the method of science is the long and bitter way of personal experience, and, until the educational or social systems are altered to make this possible, the best we can expect is the production of a minority of people who are able to acquire some of the techniques of science and a still smaller minority who are able to use and develop them.


If the author were to study current education in science to see how things have changed since he wrote the piece, he would probably be most interested in the answer to which of the following questions?

A. Do students know more about the world about them?

B. Do students spend more time in laboratories?

C. Can students apply their knowledge logically?

D. Have textbooks improved?

E. Do they respect their teachers? 

The correct answer mentioned is C. The statements marked in bold in 2nd paragraph support that claim.

However, the first line of the 3rd paragraph says that learning can only come by practical experience(i.e. by spending more time in laboratory). He also uses the word alter, implying that if significant change has to be made in educational system people should spend more time in labs; making option B more preferable than C

closed as off-topic by StoneyB, Robusto, Tushar Raj, Edwin Ashworth, ScotM Jun 29 '15 at 0:17

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • The experience which the author calls for is not experience of the physical apparatus but experience of inductive reasoning: not performing experiments but designing experiments to address questions. – StoneyB Jun 27 '15 at 17:52
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not a question about understanding language but about drawing inferences from what one has read. – StoneyB Jun 27 '15 at 17:53
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    But our understanding of the language is related to what inferences we draw from a particular writing – Manish Jun 28 '15 at 4:50
  • This question takes it for granted that you understand the language; it asks about the inferences you draw not from the language but from the propositions which the language expresses. You could be called upon to make the same inferences if the passage and questions were in your native language. – StoneyB Jun 28 '15 at 13:55
  • @StoneyB: Good points, but I still disagree with ya'. (BTW, no offense taken on the close vote.) The barrier which has been erected between rhetoric, on the one hand, and English Language and Usage on the other hand, has existed for decades, if not centuries. The barrier is, at best, artificial. Bracketing rhetoric from English is like bracketing historiography from history. To this day, unfortunately, English departments in universities are hermetically sealed off from departments of rhetorical theory. On second thought, maybe it's fortunate; at least the separation prevents bloodshed! Don – rhetorician Jun 28 '15 at 16:59

Answer "C" is in fact the correct answer. The words you've highlighted give you your answer.

The writer's argument can be summarized as follows:

The teaching of science may have succeeded somewhat in familiarizing today's students with the universe in which they are living and acquainting them with great scientific discoveries, BUT the teaching of science has most definitely not taught them how to think logically and inductively by studying and applying the scientific method to both currents facts and facts which are perhaps yet undiscovered.

Accordingly, the teachers of science are tasked with two responsibilities:

1) to inform students about the physical aspects of the universe they inhabit (which includes a smattering of the history of science through the centuries and various "facts" regarding that universe which are currently accepted by the scientific community at large), and

2) to inform students about the scientific method, and then to inspire them to use the scientific method, which comprises a) logical observation, b) hypothesis formation, c) experimentation to prove whether or not the hypothesis can stand, and d) peer review of their logical observations, hypotheses, and experiments.

To accomplish both of the above tasks involves more than just rote memorization of facts (e.g., "Newton discovered the law of gravity"). More important, perhaps, is the ability to think scientifically, which involves logic, keen observation, the testing of those observations through theory formation, and the critical evaluation of those theories by other scientists.

  • Yes, but the 3rd paragraph gives more importance to personal experience.... – Manish Jun 28 '15 at 5:02
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    Look at the author's concluding statement. He feels the most important thing is whether students can apply ("use and develop") scientific methods outside the classroom. (and outside the lab). In other words, to use the scientific method not only in chemistry or physics experiments but in understanding/analyzing real-world problems such as, say, climate change, which is the subject of much ill-informed, unscientific polemic these days – Brian Hitchcock Jun 28 '15 at 13:37
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    Yes, you are right. I now realize why option C is more appropriate. – Manish Jun 30 '15 at 12:57

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