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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Overstrain in Schools

page 84

Overstrain in Schools.

One great aim of secondary schools is to obtain as many passes as possible is the matriculation examination, and the popular mind appears to back up the effort. The work of the ruck of the 6chool suffers from, the undue attention given to tire brighest boys or to the best swatters, who become the winners of what are erroneously supposed to be "school honors." Further, it is admitted by all practical educationists that at best a paper examination is a mere lottery, so far as it tests the real capabilities and future usefulness of the examinee. It is at last proposed to abolish the old-time plan of classifying wranglers at Cambridge—apparently for the reason that the men who showed themselves most capable in after-life had boon placed low in the list, or were altogether out of it. . . .

Thus, it appears the aim of the Continental University is to train and develop the intellectual faculties of early manhood, leaving the graduate with his natural energy in full power to work out his destiny; while the aim of the British University throughout the Empire is to tax or strain the best abilities of the student by working his brain at high pressure in subjects which are uncongenial to his tastes, useless to him in after life, and unsuited to his mental calibre, and by so doing to exhaust his life's energy in the process.

To summarise what has been said : Our education system is too oppressive with its overcrowded syllabus: and, in my opinion, if it is maintained, the physique of the race will suffer. Instead of so much complicated brain work, we should be satisfied with a more thorough and a more useful training in a very few subjects specially selected to suit the abilities and environment of each student. This should be done soon after leaving the primary school, and, in many cases, before doing so. Through, out an educational career there should be no strain, no working for pass examination, no long hours of study, no weary drudgery of work. Love of learning, cultivation of a taste for reading, aims at originality, guidance by technical teachers, and an earnest desire to do something well, are the principal factors in true education. The subjects of instruction are now so varied and 80 well ordered that any one of these afforts scope for intelligent thought, for the study of the latest and best processes, and for the adaptation of the subject to the needs or tastes of the learner. It remains only to give practical effect to our sincere convictions.