Letter on Agriculture

Yorkshire Herald: (April 1891)

I am afraid that my opinion upon the subject of your enquiry is worth very little–my ignorance of practical agriculture being profound. However, there are some general principles which apply to all technical training; the first of these, I think, is that practice is to be learned only by practice. The farmer must be made by and through farm work. I believe I might be able to give you a fair account of a bean plant and of the manner and condition of its growth, but if I were to try to raise a crop of beans, your club would probably laugh consumedly at the result. Nevertheless, I believe that you practical people would be all the better for the scientific knowledge which does not enable me to grow beans. It would keep you from attempting hopeless experiments, and would enable you to take advantage of the innumerable hints which Dame Nature gives to people who live in direct contact with things. And this leads me to the second general principle which I think applies to all technical teaching for school-boys and school-girls, and that is, that they should be led from the observation of the commonest facts to general scientific truths. If I were called upon to frame a course of elementary instruction preparatory to agriculture, I am not sure that I should attempt chemistry, or botany, or physiology or geology, as such. It is a method fraught with the danger of spending too much time and attention on abstraction and theories, on words and notions instead of things. The history of a bean, of a grain of wheat, of a turnip, of a sheep, of a pig, or of a cow properly treated–with the introduction of the elements of chemistry, physiology, and so on as they come in– would give all the elementary science which is needed for the comprehension of the processes of agriculture in a form easily assimilated by the youthful mind, which loathes everything in the shape of long words and abstract notions, and small blame to it. I am afraid I shall not have helped you very much, but I believe that my suggestions, rough as they are, are in the right direction.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University