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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/236

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

better of a generation of healthy, ignorant, and happy mothers, who can produce stalwart, forceful sons and daughters (not that I wish this lecture to be an apology for health and ignorance), but the world must be worse for a system of stopping full and harmonious development in the mothers of the next generation. My plea is, that as Nature is harmonious in mental and bodily development, we should follow on her lines, and not set up an educational standard for ourselves that is one-sided, because it takes no proper account of the constitution of the body and brain at all, only considering one brain-function—the mental.

Along with these developments of mind and emotion during adolescence there are, unfortunately, too apt to develop hereditary weaknesses, especially of the nervous kind. Physicians then meet with hysteria, neuralgia, nervous exhaustion, insanity, etc., for the first time. As normal individualities of bodily form and mental character then arise, so abnormal developments arise too where they are inherited or brought on by unfavorable treatment. This law is found to prevail in human constitutions: if you give Nature a good chance by specially favorable conditions, and by counteractive measures early in life, she tends to eradicate evil hereditary tendencies, and to return to a healthy type, if the evil has not gone too far in the ancestry or in the individual. Unfortunately, there are very few families indeed, nowadays, free from tendencies to some hereditary disease or other. Our modern life tends to develop the brain and nervous system, and undue development means risk of disease always. What the profession of medicine specially desires to guard our population now against, is our becoming a nervous race. We want to have body as well as mind; otherwise we think that degeneration of the race is inevitable. And, therefore, we rather would err on the safe side, and keep the mental part of the human machine back a little, while we would encourage bulk, and fat, and bone, and muscular strength. We think this gives a greater chance of health and happiness to the individual, and infinitely more chance of permanence and improvement to the race. This applies to the female sex, we think, more than to the male. Man's chief work is more related to the present (from a physiological point of view), woman's chief work to the future of the world. Why should we spoil a good mother by making an ordinary grammarian?

It will be said, as an hereditary fact, that most great men have had mothers of strong minds. I believe this to be true, but it is not a fact that many great men have had what would now be called "highly-educated" mothers. On the contrary, very few such men have had such mothers. There were usually an innate force and a good development of mind and body in the mothers of such men, who usually had led quiet, uneventful, unexciting lives. I am inclined to believe that if the mothers of such men had been in adolescence worked in learning book-knowledge for eight or ten hours a day in a sitting pos-