Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/95

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

by the state, and in turn looks to the state to take care of him, the state may have to pay for the bearing of children as well as for raising them. And when states no longer want citizens for defense or aggression and have no peculiar institutions to support, it is not likely that the cosmopolitan world will be more ready than the individual to sacrifice present pleasures in order that there may be posterity.

In addition to the psychological and economic effects of the school subversive of the family, the physiological effects are serious. The health of our children is in large measure conserved by the inefficiency of our teachers. If children really did what our scheme of education asks, the results would be much worse than they are. It is also true that conditions at home, especially in cities, are such that the school may be an improvement. But the ordinary defective eyesight and lateral curvature of the spine are signs of deep-seated injury to the nervous system and bodily organs. Schools are centers for the spread of contagious diseases. The sedentary habits are not only injurious at the time, but are likely to persist, and the result is that but few educated people have normal circulations, digestions and reproductive systems. Alcoholic drinks, tobacco, coffee and medical drugs are used to replace the stimulation that should be obtained through normal work and out-of-door exercise. Some must do too much physical work and are never rested, while others shirk it altogether and are permanently tired.

It is generally assumed that the small family and diminishing birth rate are due to psychological and economic causes, but it is probable that physiological and pathological conditions are equally potent. When there is no child or but one, until recently at least, physiological infertility may be assumed; and this class represents one third of all families of college alumni. Among these alumni, a considerable percentage of whom are clergymen, large families such as were formerly common simply do not occur, and it is difficult to believe that voluntary restriction is absolutely universal. Among women of the American upper classes there are probably about as many miscarriages as births, and probably less than one fourth of all mothers can nurse adequately their infants. The small family is often due to voluntary restriction in deference to the health of the wife.

It is quite impossible to determine the extent to which the failing birth rate is due to physiological infertility or the extent to which this is chargeable to the schools. It has been held that intellectual development inhibits the reproductive function; in Malthusian days this was even urged as a beneficent plan of nature. Girls are injured more than boys by school life; they take it more seriously, and at certain times and at a certain age are far more subject to harm. It is prob-