Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/285

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
273
EDITOR'S TABLE.

upon which the public pedagogue is not only left free, but required, to operate. The mere fact that this obvious measure of individual scrutiny, from the health point of view, is omitted, puts the case for the department out of court.

Dr. Crichton Browne insists that, "in a great number of cases of dullness of intellect, a medical man could at once recognize the physical defects (which are often distinctive enough, although imperceptible except to the medical eye) which accompany mental weakness, and would support the judgment of the teachers; and in many cases of bodily disease and debility he could interefere to protect the children, even against the teachers, by preventing scholars who, although quick-witted and eager to learn, are certain to suffer in the process from being unduly pushed forward." The profession will indorse this statement as one of fact, and with that indorsement the dispute ought to end. Dr. Crichton Browne has undoubtedly proved his ease. It is not to the point whether the victims are many or few; the system extant is radically bad; and, that being so, the magnitude of the mischief wrought is of secondary importance. The blunder of striving to enforce a uniform code ought to be repaired without more ado. It may be strictly true, as Lord Shaftesbury has remarked, that "there does not live on the face of the earth a man who is more opposed to tyranny and oppression than Mr. Mundella, or any one more earnestly desirous of putting down all over-pressure as regards women and children." Then why, in the name of common sense, does not the vice-president adopt the suggestion made to him, instead of fighting what must needs be a losing battle against his own moral and states-manly consciousness of right?

Headaches, short-sightedness, neuralgia, and sleeplessness are not normal contingencies of youth, either for pupil-teachers or children, yet it is a fact which Dr. Crichton Browne has demonstrated, and which men "engaged in the ordinary practice" among the humbler classes, and who, according to Mr. Fitch, are "able to know something of the children of the poor, their pursuits and their ailments," can substantiate, that these troubles—the direct fruits of over-pressure of work—largely prevail. Nothing can be gained by denying this fact, and certainly a lay inspector is not the person to contradict an able and experienced practitioner on the subject. Dr. Crichton Browne modestly says: "I can not doubt that many of the facts which 1 have brought before you in this letter will be disputed, and that many of the principles which I have incidentally laid down will be challenged; but the former admit of verification, and in the latter I shall, I believe, have the support of the medical profession." We accept the facts and support the principles. If Mr. Mundella is not satisfied with one of the best professional opinions obtainable, let him appoint a small commission of physicians and surgeons, men of mark, in whom he and the public will have confidence, but who are in no sort of way connected with the public service or the department, and let the issue be left in their hands. It is not for Mr. Mundella and his lay inspector to impugn the judgment of a qualified physician. The presumption of so doing does not beseem these gentlemen: it goes better with the crass heartlessness—to use no stronger epithet—of the school manager who, when a wearied mistress ventured to sit while teaching her class, ordered all chairs to be removed from the building! While the administration of our educational system rests in hands like these, there is little hope of success or safety in its operation. For the sake of children and teachers alike, the schools ought at once to be placed under medical supervision. In an able and interesting paper on "The Brain of the School-Child," read before the Social Science Congress at Birmingham, Dr. Francis Warner has insisted on the urgency of the need which exists for medical inspection. We cordially indorse and support his argument. It is the cry of common sense. If the reasonable demand be not met fairly and fully, there can not fail to be disappointment and regret when the inevitable issue of a mistaken and futile policy is fully worked out.
 

 

THE ABUSE OF POLITICAL POWER.

While Rome was burning, it is said, Nero fiddled. The merry crackle of the flames, the glaring and tossing of the fiery sea, stirred the irresponsible tyrant to mirth as he heard and surveyed it all from his lofty tower. The story may or may not be mythical, but in either case it has its value as helping to complete in our minds the true type of the tyrant. The tyrant is he who uses public power as a private possession—uses it for his own gratification and not as a trust—and who can, therefore, stand apart in the hour of public