Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/342

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338
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

DIFFICULT BOYS
By J. MADISON TAYLOR, A.B., M.D.

PHILADELPHIA

A LONG and somewhat intimate acquaintance with boys and teachers of boys, many of whom are my close personal friends, has given me opportunity to formulate certain conclusions which may help others. I have always been fond of the society of boys, being endowed with youthful tastes and aptitudes, and find it profitable to study boyhood hopes, pleasures and ambitions. I have also taught boys and traveled with them in various capacities, and have a grown son whose friends I have tried, and with some success, to make my own. My personal work has brought me in intimate contact with many phases of the human mind other than normal and particularly with problems of psychologic imperfections. This attention to abnormalities of the mind and character has not had the effect of making me over-suspicious of finding defects of the mental processes, because it is obvious to the student that few brains are free from obliquities and regrettable limitations. The tendency is for me rather to view with tolerance inevitable vagaries which surprise and shock those who assume that the mind of most folk is sound and dependable. Teachers and parents are overready to become amazed at sudden variations and deviations in the thoughts and actions of those entrusted to their keeping. Kindergarteners seem to assume as a fundamental principle that any child subjected to what they define as suitable conditions of environment and education can develop into a perfect being. Lawyers divide people into two sharp-cut classes; those who are altogether sane and responsible, in season and out of season, and those who are insane, fit only to be held in check by restraint. Clergymen are over-tolerant of peculiar action and speech, often to a degree that they are not so helpful as they should be in enforcing authority where capability for responsibility is questionable. They frequently urge the objection that a stigma falls upon those who are at any period admitted to be in need of special training or restraint. Among medical men there is too little knowledge and much unwarranted fear of mental problems. They know something, but not enough, as a rule, and occasionally err on the side of condemnation.

Physicians and teachers should clearly appreciate that the mind of man in his earlier years varies widely in degrees and qualities of development, even more than in differences of bodily growth. Again, varying conditions of home influence, early schooling or accidental train-