Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/59

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
55
UNIVERSITY REFORMS

stocks in the educational shop, still more food is prescribed. The bad mental habits become worse and the only redeeming feature is that, in the attempt to get a general culture, so many different kind of pills are prescribed that the fatal dose of any one is never administered.

When the mental balance of an individual becomes so distorted that the currents of thought always run in certain grooves, from which they never emerge and there seems to be no hope of readjustment, such a person is said to be the subject of "fixed ideas" and then the educator is only too anxious to disclaim all responsibility in the patient and shift it to the alienist. In view of the fact that more and more emphasis is being placed by prominent authorities on educational subjects upon the necessity of insisting upon the importance of the formation of good mental habits, we may ask whether any well-organized effort is being made by the universities to determine the conditions upon which the greatest efficiency of brain activity depends; and then to use this knowledge to arouse and train the potential mental capacity of the students, so as to produce men with sound minds and sound bodies.

When we approach the discussion of our subject from this standpoint, it is quite obvious that the first and most important questions to be asked relate to the methods to be adopted in training the brain; and second, and quite incidental, to the character of the information to be imparted. It is the first of these two subjects that we shall concern ourselves at present. No matter how much we may differ as to the value of educational ideals, all are pretty well agreed that there are certain definite readily recognized qualities of mind possessed by the educated person. First, there is general intelligence with a marked degree of associative memory, a certain poise or balance commonly designated as good judgment and a tentative rather than a fixed attitude towards knowledge, a capacity for concentrating the attention, a quota of emotional activity well under control and a dominant will. Science has taught us that these mental traits are an expression of the functions of the nervous system, and in order to understand them properly, they should be studied as the quantitative and qualitative measure of the individual capacity of the brain. No intelligent person to-day questions the fact that the more marked anomalies of cerebral function, as seen in idiocy, imbecility and the various forms of psychoses, can be analyzed and correctly interpreted only by those who have had the requisite special training and experience in connection with the study of the brain. With a singular disregard for logic and common sense, many intelligent persons assume that special skill and experience is not necessary in order to analyze the subtler and less defined anomalies of conduct as revealed in the daily life of normal individuals; nor is any intimate knowledge of the structure and func-