Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/442

This page has been validated.

instruction in the elements of Physiology and Hygiene, either by the use of some short and plain text-book, or, what is still better, by lectures from some competent resident physician. I confess that I greatly prefer the latter method. Not only theory, but experience, leads me to prefer it. Were it not that we have made a very great mistake in our systems of public instruction, by severing our common-school instruction from advanced instruction, we should by this time have a body of teachers in our common schools abundantly able to lecture to the pupils without a text-book. I trust the time will come when provision will be made just as thoroughly for advanced instruction as for primary and common-school instruction, when all will be connected together; when the present illogical separation that exists, under which primary and common-school education is provided for by the State, and advanced education is left very inadequately provided by various religious denominations, will be done away with. But at present we have comparatively few teachers in our public schools who are competent, without text-books, to teach a subject of this kind; therefore it is that I would have provision made, in our larger schools especially, for lectures by resident physicians. That the interest of pupils can be roused in this way I know, for I have seen it fully tried. It is one of those subjects in which, with a little care, the great body of school-children can be greatly interested, and this without the slighest detriment to other subjects. The very change of method will make them come back to other subjects of study with renewed vigor.

Next, as to instruction in our Colleges and Universities. I would have instruction in physiology and hygiene more advanced, systematic, and thorough. Those who have read Herbert Spencer's work on "Education," no matter what they may think of some minor ideas, must have been greatly struck by that part in which he gives his estimate of the comparative value of different branches of knowledge. Among those which should be placed first he names Human Physiology. The reason is very simple. Human Physiology is simply the study of a machine which we are to run, nay, which is to run us for threescore years and ten. Certainly it is a study which falls very directly to us. The study of hygiene naturally comes in connection with it, and it was in obedience to this idea that, in framing the general course of instruction for the Cornell University, careful provision for physiology and hygiene was made. An extensive series of models was purchased, diagrams from Paris and London were obtained, and what was far better, a young professor, who had already begun to obtain a reputation not only as a close investigator, but as an impressive lecturer, was set at the work. The result has been most satisfactory. I am persuaded that study of this kind forms an admirable relief from other studies, pursued in a different way, and for a different purpose. In this case, the study of Physiology and Hygiene has been made very thorough. Frequent and close examinations have been demanded,