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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/414

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

from the work which. it has primarily to perform, and where there is in consequence a failure of strength to meet the sequelæ of scarlet fever or other serious illness. Even in the great number of cases where no strongly marked ill-effect discloses itself during the years of youth, there are sufficient grounds for believing that what is unsparingly taken at this period of life is taken at the expense of future vigor and capability. It has, moreover, to be borne in mind that mental overpressure and brain irritation, on the one side, are likely, just as idleness and want of occupation the other, to increase among boys peculiar physical (and moral) dangers of a most serious character—dangers which are but little regarded by the public, but which always exist where boys are massed together.

We consider that, together with a general failure to keep steadily in view the true ends of education, great examinations and the valuable prizes attached to them are responsible for a large part of this overstrain placed on young bodies and young minds. Let these great prizes once exist in the education market, and we must expect that boys and young men will train for them, regardless of higher and more important considerations; that parents and teachers will allow themselves to join in the emulation—a few, perhaps, of their number mentally protesting, while looking on with "somber acquiescence."

By the side of the physical evils, at which we have glanced, stand equally serious evils of an intellectual and moral kind:

1. It should be noted that under the prize-system all education tends to be of the same type, since boys from all schools of the same grade meet in the same competition, and all teaching tends to be directed toward the winning of the same prizes. No more unfortunate tendency could be imagined. The health and progress of every great science, such as education, depend upon continual difference, upon new ideas, and experiments carried out to give effect to such ideas; upon the never-ending struggle between many different forms and methods, each to excel the other. It can not be too often repeated that uniformity means arrest of growth and consequent decay; diversity means life, growth, and adaptation without limit.

2. We hold that the preponderating influence of examinations destroys the best teaching. Under it the teacher loses his own intelligent self-direction. He can not devote his powers to such parts of a subject as are most real to himself, and most deeply felt by himself (though on this depend the impressiveness of all teaching and the awakening of permanent interest in those taught), as he is constantly controlled by the sense of the coming examination, in which of course he wishes his pupils to succeed. The pupil, on the other hand, allows himself to be mechanically guided