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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/510

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT
By JAMES BURT MINER, Ph.D.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

THE public recognition that questions of development are different from questions of health has caused a constantly increasing demand for another type of expert than the physician. We may call him an expert in child development. When a parent stops to consider the matter he knows that neither the short boy nor the short-minded boy is primarily a sick boy. Moreover, if a child is persistently poor in mathematics, it is not because of ill health. Mathematics makes him sick, but in a different sense. He may lack the native interest necessary for a mental flight into the fourth dimension. When a mother discovers that her daughter can not play the piano, she does not take her to a doctor. She recognizes that it is a question of the absence of a capacity for music or of improper training. Which fault it is, she often can not tell.

The expert in judging development must understand, not only how the child is influenced by disease, but also how it is influenced in other and more fundamental ways by hereditary tendencies, environment and education. The attempt to specifically prepare such experts began some fifteen years ago with the establishment of the first psychological clinic. This work has now been taken up by half a dozen of the leading universities. Graduates, trained by their psychologists, are giving special service of this character in connection with the public schools, juvenile courts, bureaus for vocational guidance, special schools for exceptional children, schools for feeble minded, correctional and penal institutions. Besides improving the methods for diagnosing the individual child, scientific study is now rapidly increasing the data for deciding how large groups of children should be handled in school and out. This study of groups has been called to general attention most prominently by various investigations of laggards in the public schools. The most extensive of these is an elaborate report by Professor George D. Strayer, published by the U. S. Bureau of Education, which covers hundreds of cities scattered throughout the country. To understand what the scientific study of development stands for, it is necessary to consider both the researches which are directed at the study of groups of children and those which emphasize the prolonged study of particular children.