Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/737

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occasionally troubled with sleeplessness and frequently took for it morphia, chloral, nepenthe, or bromide of potassium. It is lamentable, says the "Lancet," to see medical men drift into such uses of drugs, which engender the very evils for which they arc taken, and are so apt to issue in results quite uncontemplated. "Such evils are to be cured, and meantime borne with patience, not met by dangerous medicines in random doses."

 

Mechanical and Vital Education.—"Some dangers of education" are treated with much intelligence in a thoughtful essay in the "Saturday Review." One of the dangers relates to the difference between what may be called mechanical and vital education. By mechanical education is meant "the imbuing the mind with those elements which can be taught by pure rule; in which no demand is made on the child or youth beyond attention and industry; into which the clement of choice on his part does not enter. Such elements there are in every subject." Among them are the teaching of the alphabet, of the pronunciation of written words or syllables, of spelling, of writing, of the multiplication-table, of rules for the addition or subtraction of fractions, of many other arithmetical processes, and, in the higher subjects, the inculcation of the Greek and Latin grammar and vocabulary, of the propositions of Euclid, of historical dates and facts, and of many elements in the most difficult branches of learning, the processes of which are mechanical and nothing more. "But in all sound education these mechanical rules are never treated as an end in themselves, nor again as a mere stepping-stone to other mechanical rules of a more difficult kind. They are, each and all of them, keys to unlock the several successive chambers of the world in which we live; and, whether the treasures stored up in those chambers are of a material or spiritual kind, . . . the unfolding of these several treasures is not in any way a mechanical, it is a vital process. And here a totally new element comes in on the part of the student. It is no longer with him a matter of attention only; he will begin to exercise choice. It is found by experience that boys and girls are not incapable of taking interest in the world in which they live; but no prescribed plan for creating such an interest in them is possible. Thousands of interesting topics may be unfolded before the eyes of a boy, and he will have none of them: at last something occurs which touches him; curiosity or sympathy is awakened; and from that moment he takes an initiative, his vital education is on the move. And from that moment the mechanical inculcation of rules ought to be somewhat relaxed; not that it may not still be necessary sometimes, but it ought not to be suffered to interfere with the more important element the spontaneous pursuit of knowledge, the spontaneous feeling of sympathy with men. Now, here is the delicate, the critical point in education, the point at which the teacher or the educational authority has such serious difficulties to contend with in making a decision. . . . There is a proper medium in the enforcement of the mechanical part of education: if it is enforced too little, there is the mischief attendant upon idleness on the child's part, besides the loss of the use of a valuable instrument; if it is enforced too much, vital energies will be quenched, and the whole result will be dry and formal." The tendency in the primary schools, and of all formal competition in the higher schools and universities, is to produce mechanical rather than vital excellence.

 


NOTES.

Dr. Charles M. Culver, of West Troy, a graduate of Union College and of the Albany Medical College, has been making the study of the eye a specialty under the guidance of eminent professional men in London, Berlin, and Paris, and is now an assistant of the celebrated oculist, Professor Landolt, at the French capital. Dr. Culver is at present engaged in translating from the French into English the treatise on "The Refraction of Light," by Professor Landolt, which forms the second volume of the comprehensive work on "Ophthalmology" by Wecker and Landolt. It will be an interesting contribution to our scientific literature.

Dr. George M. Beard, a physician well known for his investigations in nervous disorders, and the contributor of several articles to "The Popular Science Monthly," died in this city, January 23d, at the age of forty-three years.