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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/170

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164
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

human race. While speaking in hysterical tones of a possible shortage of the wheat crop, or expressing gloomy forebodings of the failure of the coal supply, we are blind to the fact that some day there may be a shortage of brain-power, a deficiency made evident by our failure to cope successfully with the emergencies created by an advancing and more complex civilization. Universities, and so-called higher institutions of learning, do but little to encourage any effort made in the direction of finding out the laws which condition the activities of the brain. In relative importance all other questions become mere trivial academic discussions. If the public does occasionally discuss these topics it is "as if it had been struck by sentimentality."

Each new crisis in civilization calls for the exercise of more intelligence. Instead of having our wits about us and discussing the ways and means of developing greater cerebral capacity, we talk glibly enough about the man behind the gun, but make no effort to increase his mental efficiency. Although the success of representative government depends upon the fact that the majority of voters should have sound minds in sound bodies, we are more interested in the framing of new statutes than in any attempt to promote the mental growth of the citizens. Over the entrance to the New York Public Library the following words are inscribed: "On the diffusion of education among the people rests the preservation of our free institutions." This affirmation is true only if we include in "education" those agencies which aim to protect the brains of the people from injury. The nineteenth century supplied indiscriminately countless opportunities for squandering brain energy, and it now becomes the duty of the twentieth to determine the speed limits and endurance tests to which the most delicately balanced organ in the human body may be subjected without imperiling individual or racial existence.

In order to increase the brain power of a nation steps should be taken to conserve that which exists. Any reform which has this end in view should begin by taking cognizance of all the facts directly related to the problems under discussion, and then efforts should be made to provide the means and opportunities for extending our knowledge of this subject. In the movement to conserve the national forests the schools of forestry are not only repositories for knowledge, but are centers for investigations; the sources for information that vitalize the whole movement. An organization based on similar principles must form the basis of successful attempts to conserve all of our national resources, rivers, harbors, coal, forests and brains. First, there is the immediate attack in which the present store of knowledge is catalogued and presented to the public in an assimilable form. The popularization of the scientific knowledge of the brain will be one of the duties of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene. Equally important is the