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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/344

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

coincident with adolescence, and is undoubtedly caused in many instances by subtile disturbances of the health, due to prolonged school-hours. This is a most troublesome disease, and most varied in its manifestations. In nothing is the connection between mind and body, between function and feeling, better seen than in certain hysterical conditions. You have a splendidly educated girl according to the modern standard, with a physique that seems very fairly developed, just showing by certain subtile indications that the mental portion of the brain has been made too dominant. You have this girl prostrated in what seems the most mysterious way by hysteria, in one of its hundred forms. You can't actually say what is wrong, but you know that, if she had been brought up in the country, with moderate schooling, and four or five hours a day in the open air, there would not have occurred anything of the kind. It may result from idleness just as it does from over-brain-work, the one being as much contrary to the laws of nature as the other. It is an illustration of the fact that you may have effects produced by wrong methods of education that are not to be detected till they break out in actual disease. If the seeds of disease or the conditions that tend to it are laid by any system of training, it is nearly as bad as actual visible disease. Sometimes it is said about the girls in a school, "Just look at them, are they not fairly healthy for town girls who are working hard?" But one of the dangers is that we may not be able to see the beginnings of evil, and only by sad experience afterward find that they were there.

The last kinds of disease to which I shall refer as being a direct or indirect result, in some cases, of over-study under bad conditions, are inflammation of the brain and its membranes, and insanity—the former of which all physicians have often enough seen to be the direct result of over-study; while the latter may be regarded, in its essential nature, as the acme of all nervous diseases. In it, that highest portion of the brain that ministers directly to mind is disordered, that very portion that in over-education has been forced and crammed with book-knowledge. Mental disease is not common till toward the end of the period of adolescence, but the conditions that lead up to it are common enough before then. The mere acquiring knowledge seldom causes insanity. Its causes in youth are all the conditions of life that accompany over-education, as well as the brain-forcing itself, the want of fresh air, the poor bodily development, the poverty of blood, the deranged undeveloped bodily functions. Insanity in early youth always arises out of some nervous weakness in ancestry. It may not be mental disease itself—for a tendency to neuralgia or drunkenness, or mere nervousness in ancestors, may become insanity in the offspring, if wrong conditions of life are in operation. But it is often just the children of highly nervous parents—perhaps subject to "nervous depression"—who are quick, precocious, and educable in book--