Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/293

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NO one acquainted with the problems of professional education can read Mr. Abraham Flexner's expose of the status of medical education in the United States and Canada without a feeling of profound gratitude. His description of conditions is so masterly and variegated as to give the impression of utter completeness. It would seem that nothing had been forgotten. On further consideration, however, this appears far from being the case. Mr. Flexner has confined himself to an exposition of the shortcomings of medical education with exclusive reference to the ideals, purposes and standards of the best present-day medical schools. The social sufficiency of these ideals and purposes he seems to take for granted. For him, as for the practising physician, the main business of medical education is to train men in the scientific diagnosis and therapy of existent disease. The yet more important duty of the medical school to train men for scientific work in the several prophylactic fields of child hygiene is not even suggested. Let us glance briefly at this neglected aspect of preventive medicine.

Civilization has necessitated a tremendous readjustment of life habits. The factors which controlled and directed the evolution of the human organism have in large part become inoperative. Our modes of sedentary life tend less and less to bring into play the physical traits which were of most teleological value in the primitive struggle for existence. Instead, excessive burdens are laid upon functions and organs never intended by nature to endure them. If only the intentions of nature were respected during the period of growth and development the problem would by no means be so serious. The youth who had been brought into possession of his full psycho-physical inheritance would be in a position to conserve this inheritance in the face of great odds. This we do not permit. The introduction of universal education has changed the whole life of the child from one of active to one of sedentary occupation. As stated by Gulick, "so extensive a readjustment of the life habits of the young of a species has never before been attempted." Nor is it reasonable to suppose that man presents any exception to the biological law that the ultimate survival of an organism is threatened whenever it is subjected to conditions of environment widely different from those which directed its evolution. We have taken the child out of its natural habitat, of open air, freedom and sunshine and for half his waking hours we are subjecting him to an