Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/69

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UNIVERSITY REFORMS

At present there is only a very vague realization even among those who call themselves teachers that the first duty in imparting instruction is to give pupils some idea of the proper methods of study. McMurry in the preface to his excellent book "How to Study and Teaching how to Study" confesses that for many years he has made this subject his hobby and adds that, after careful search, he has only been able to find two books in English and none in German on the "Art of Study." Few instructors ever give any serious attention to the development of a normal thought-mechanism in their students. Information is imparted together with a great many bad mental habits and the store of knowledge acquired is considered to be the test of the individual's mental capacity. So firmly rooted in our mind is the idea that the amount of information and not the acquisition of good mental habits is the chief end of an education, that we fail to recognize the dependence of our thoughts and actions upon the reactions of the nervous system. The tentative attitude of one person and the ready acceptance by another of articles of belief are conditions created by the responses of the nervous system to the needs of the individual. The mental traits, functional expressions of the capacity of the nervous system that make it easy for one person to believe, may in another tend to the development of an habit of mind which makes it difficult for the believer to realize that, even in matters of belief, no one is altogether right.

According to Professor William James old fogeyism begins at an earlier age than the majority of persons believe to be the case. The symptoms may appear at twenty-five. In spite of the general existence of this presenile form of deterioration, we still clamor about the necessity of a broader and more general culture, as if it were possible to correct one bad habit by substituting others. Much good would undoubtedly be accomplished by the application of the methods of modern clinical psychiatry to the study of the sources of the prejudices and various forms of intellectual intolerance which have resulted in the painfully slow progress of the human race. In the examination of patients in the clinic, a careful study of their powers of sense-perception is conducted before proceeding to an estimation of the capacity for originating and associating ideas, or for forming intellectual judgments. Our universities sanction the perversion of the normal mental activities of students by encouraging them to debate, to have a ready opinion upon many subjects, and to talk glibly in public, before they have shown any capacity to gather the data presented to consciousness by the medium of the sensory tracts (touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing) and to arrange and compare them so as to form independent judgments. Rosen in an interesting book[1] has shown us that the greatness of the old masters was due to the acuteness and accuracy of their

  1. "Die Natur in der Kunst," Leipzig, B. G. Teubner, 1903.