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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/774

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

estimated. It is reckoned, however, in a general way that for every idiot sequestrated the energies of two if not four normal persons are returned to society.

Imbecility, mental or moral, congenital or accidental, is either an inherent defect or an irrecoverable loss, an incurable disease for which hospitals can do nothing, nor can reformatories form again that which never has been formed. Could language be made clear enough to enable the public mind to grasp this fact, the work of training schools, the only hope of the imbecile, would then be simplified, and people might be willing to accept what they can give, in the only way in which it can be given, to be of any permanent value. As it is, the few charlatans who profess to train and in a few years send out an imbecile ready to take a high-school or college course not only deceive those from whom they may gather a few thousands, but their representations, coupled with that of a sensational press, effectually impede the progress of a work which must eventually find its true place in the system of public education.

Influenced by these misrepresentations, parents come with profound idiots and high hopes of a course of training (here is one of the misfortunes of an idiot asylum within a training school), and simply refuse to accept a negative to their expectations. Again—to waifs and strays, high-grade imbeciles, developing after years of labored training proficiency in music, drawing, or some one of the industrial arts, friends will suddenly crop up and, dazzled by what seems phenomenal genius, seek to withdraw them just as they become useful to the community. Little do they know of the weak will, indolent nature, and utter lack of "go," that forbid competition with normal labor and must forever be subject to the will of another; still less of the weak physical build that is kept intact only by watchful care, and which would succumb to any undue hardship. So much for the difficulties that beset the work. Now as to the work itself.

As this must vary according to the status of the individual, a careful study and a correct diagnosis are of primary importance in order that the work may be fitted to the child, not the child to the work. The plan pursued is as follows: A thorough examination—physical, mental, and moral—is first made by the chief physician in connection with papers properly filled out giving personal and family history. He is then sent to the hospital for a fortnight to insure immunity from disease. There, while perfectly free and unrestrained among his fellows, he is under constant observation of the nurses; these observations, carefully noted, are returned to the chief physician, who turns both over to the principal of schools, designating the grade in which he is to enter for probation. Here under different environment he is again tested for some weeks and finally placed.