Nearly forty years ago a lady asked me to lend her some good introduction to the study of nature. I lent her a work which had been the delight of my own childhood; but she promptly returned it with a note to the effect that she could not allow her children to read it, for it was antiquated and not up to modern requirements; it stated that herring schools approach Europe from the North, whereas it had lately been discovered that they come from the South (or vice versa- I do not at this moment remember which theory was held thirty-five years ago and which twenty years before that); and, she added, there is so much that children must learn nowadays that they must not waste their time learning theories already exploded. A scientific man to whom I showed the letter remarked impatiently that the writer evidently had no idea what she was about; for, he said, what is most necessary for the children to learn is not what is the last new theory about where herrings are hatched, but how to extract the truth from a series of impressions and statements, each of which is only partially true. In this utterance we have, I think, the key to the most essential element in a truly scientific method of study; and the case is worth analyzing, for it illustrates the grave error, the cunningly hidden pitfall into which the advanced section of the educational profession fell in passing from the ancient ideal of an education based on classics to the modern ideal of an education based on science.
Mary Everest Boole. The Parents' Review Volume 9, 1898, p 597
Do you agree? Should we search for the latest books containing the most recent scientific facts and knowledge, or is there value in using old and outdated texts containing 'theories already exploded'? Or do we need both? What say you?