Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/676

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646
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

1. The principal statistics in regard to the causes of insanity are derived from asylums for the uneducated classes.

2. An attack of excitement caused by mental strain in the young is often temporary, and is treated privately.

3. When suicide is successful before the patient reaches an asylum, the case is not to be found in lunacy statistics.

4. Cases of epilepsy often remain at home; and the same remark applies, of course, to brain-fag and general nervous exhaustion.

In regard to one of these points I would observe that, when I have been able to examine into the causes of cases of insanity admitted into non-pauper asylums, I have found a considerable number traceable to excessive mental work either as a predisposing or an exciting cause. No doubt this is often associated, as I have just said, with anxiety and other emotional states. It is sufficient, however, for our present purpose if it be admitted that a considerable number of attacks occur in connection with overwork, although complicated with emotional excitement. It must be remembered that the mischief thus done is only one part of the evil wrought by the intemperate pursuit of knowledge. The lungs and other organs also suffer. Dr. Andrew Clark writes to me: "I am a witness to the grave and sometimes irreparable mischief done at schools and in working for competitive examinations. As an illustration," he adds, "of the evil effects of overwork for competitive examinations, I can say that, of the young men passing the Civil Service Examination for Indian Service, and afterward sent to me by the Civil Service Commissioner for health certificates, ten per cent, during the last three years have had temporary albuminuria."

I have before me tabular statements of the school hours and the subjects taught in some of the principal English public schools, as well as in private seminaries. It is utterly impossible to present them to you in the brief period allotted me; I can therefore only offer a few general remarks upon them, and refer to two or three by way of illustration.

The number of hours actually spent in school does not (as a general rule) appear to be excessive in our large public schools. There are exceptions, but this evil and the multiplicity of subjects taught apply rather to the private schools. Where the chief danger seems to lie in most schools is in the encroachment made on the play-hours. In some day schools the lessons set to learn at home are absurdly long and tedious. I find that in other schools, public and private, a great deal of work is done during the period nominally allotted to recreation only. This is a very important part of the actual school-system, and one which requires great care on the part of masters. I will now take the school hours of the sixth form in one very excellent school for the middle and higher classes. There is an hour's work before breakfast, three hours in the morning, four hours in the afternoon, and two hours in the evening, making a total of ten hours for study. Between breakfast