Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
THE FIELD OF EDUCATION IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
THE IMPORTANCE OF A PERSPECTIVE OF PARK EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS
By Ansel F. Hall
“Perspective” is the key-note of this conference. Each one of you, as an administrative officer, handles such a complicated program of service to the public and of scientific service to the park that the multitudinous details — were it not for the fact that you maintain a comprehensive grasp of the entire situation — might very easily surround you and exclude the distant view of the enormous potentialities that lie near the horizon. You may personally have had excellent scientific training; you may know educational methods; you may be a brilliant success in your public contacts — but without a broad perspective not one of you can be a successful Park Naturalist.
It has many times before been written into our Park Service records that a Park Naturalist must have three necessary qualifications: First, he must be well grounded in sciences; secondly, he must have administrative ability; and, thirdly, he must be specially qualified to interpret the natural features of his park to the public. The degree to which each officer’s personality and training meet these requirements will determine to a large degree his perspective of the work which it falls his lot to administer, and, it follows, his success in this work.
In discussing this matter, “perspective”, I want to specifically show how it plays a very important part in each field of a Park Naturalist’s park program.
First of all, let us consider a man’s scientific perspective. The trend of scientific training during the past several decades has been towards greater and greater specialization. The “old fashioned naturalist” who had a comprehensive scientific knowledge of trees, flowers, mammals, birds, insects, geology, and many other phases of natural history has practically ceased to exist. The reason is, of course, evident to all of us. The vast and fast accumulating mass of scientific knowledge now makes it practically impossible for any one man to be a master of all subjects, and therefore most scientists have in recent years adopted the policy of extreme specialization. I believe, however, that the world’s greatest scientists, although they have penetrated deeply in their own specific subject, are oftentimes great because of their broad conceptions which entail not only a knowledge of their specific field but also an understanding of science as a whole. It is this understanding of the field as a whole which gives one the scientific perspective which is so absolutely necessary for logical thinking whether it be turned in the direction of depth or breadth.
A broad scientific perspective is vitally necessary to each Park Naturalist. Without a well rounded knowledge, it is impossible to maintain a well planned program of service to the public or of scientific investigation. I would urge you, therefore, that without neglecting your own specialized field of science you make every attempt to broaden your scientific knowledge to cover all fields so as to develop the point of view so essential in the work you are administering. I believe that this is important not only in the administration of the work under your direction, but that it is also important to you personally; regardless of what your future work may be, it will have a definite value in your future whether this future is directed toward broader fields or in detailed technical activities.
Secondly, there is a necessity for each Park Naturalist to develop a broad perspective of the field of administration. A study of methods of business management or of the administration of various public activities such as schools, museums, etc., will be of great value in helping us individually to grasp the principles of administration of our own educational department. During the past two or three years the headquarters staff of the Educational Division has attempted to provide assistance to each Park Naturalist in developing the administration plan for the educational activities of his individual park. A still broader plan of administration has been prepared for the Educational Division as a whole. The main purpose of these administration plans has been to help individual Park Naturalists and other administrative officers of the Park Service to develop and maintain a perspective of the administration of the educational activities as a homogeneous unit, and therein lies their chief value. As documents they are not final but change from year to year; their vital importance lies in the principles which they codify.