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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

"Evening Star."

"Evening Star."

Dr Truby King's masterly lecture on

The Curse of Cram.

'Youthful Overstudy' should be conscientiously studied by every parent and student in the Colony: nay, by everyone who is concerned with the furtherance of the national welfare. Moreover, as the spoken word is specially potent in quickening public sentiment, the lecture should be redelivered as soon as possible in a larger hall than that in which the doctor spoke last night. It would be well, too, if arrangements could be made for the striking story to be told in other centres, seeing that it has a direct—we might almost say a terrible—interest for every parish in which there is a school, every home in which there is a child. Some of the things said by Dr King last night are the talk of the town today: and well they may be. We refer particularly to the statements made in regard to the dire effect of the competitive system of education upon the mental condition of a number of promising pupils. These illustrations are calculated to arrest the public mind, and we shall do our utmost to aid Dr King in promoting the end which he wishes them to serve. This is not the first time we have written in an emphatic strain about the Curs of Cram. We tackled the subject some years ago, and were laughed at for our pains by inspectors and university professors. We contended that wrong ideals were being held up before the rising generation—ideals which were essentially trivial and often mischievous: we were told that our misgivings were fantastic, and that all was for the best in the best of competitive systems. All for th best! There is at Seacliff Mental Hospital one who, some years ago was dux of a country School. He got up to work at four in the morning, ignoring games and companionship for the sake of the great ideal which had been set before him—a scholarship at a high school. While working for that scholarship he contracted rheumatic fever and concealed his condition, enduring pain of the worst kind—all for the sake of the glorious ideal—until he fainted and the truth came out against his will. This Spartan youth then went to a Boys' High School, having won an Education Board senior scholarship. He went from this High School to the University with another scholarship; from the University he went—where? "A very painful story," someone will say, "but quite exceptional, "if not unique : one of those inexplicable" tragedies which cannot be foreseen cr "prevented." Not a bit of it: neither unique nor inexplicable. Case after case of a cognate character can be cited. What about the dux of a Girls' High School who used to work till 3 a.m. and rose again at 6 a.m. in order to get back to her books—all for the sake of that same pestilent page 8 fetish of an insidious and delusive ideal? Where is she now? These are not new cases; the breakdown of this boy and girl took place some years ago; but there is no lack of new cases that might be mentioned, and there is not likely to be a lack so long as the Juggernaut of over-ness are and over-examination continues to e worshipped. Dr King speaks as a trained and experienced specialist, as well as a shrewd general observer, and he has no doubt whatever as to the seriousness of the evil. He does not hesitate to denounce certain features of the national education system as a national curse, and he warns his fellow-colonists in no equivocal terms that if they continue to sow the dragon's teeth of irrationalism and cruelty (for cruelty it is) they will assuredly reap the armed host of frequent insanity and national degeneracy. Dr King's knowledge of the subject is special, but do not the majority of our readers know of some instance in which over-pressure—devotion to a false ideal, the Curse of Cram—has been responsible for tragic or at least painful and perilous conditions? We could adduce recent instances quite as startling as the older records cited by Dr King. The evil is rampant, and the smug optimum preached at every school gathering or prize-giving is simply grotesque in view of the sinister facts. School prizes will yet be regarded as a Satanic invention, while the whole system of scholarships and examinations will be radically reformed one of these days when the conscience of the nation takes on a finer quality. Mat-thew Arnold, who was a school inspector for thirty five years (and none the worse as an inspector because he happened to be a great poet and man of letters), used to urge that children should not be subjected to examinations of any kind until they were fifteen. Most of our own teachers and inspectors would be horrified at the idea, but it is an idea whose day is coming. And even after fifteen the pressure must be eased Rational methods must be given a chance. Prevalent ideals must be changed. Childhood's claim for fair play must be heeded. A new "cry of the children" is heard in the land—a pathetic cry which is miserably echoed by demented voices from Seacliff. We shall have a good deal more to say on this all -important subject : meanwhile we wish Dr King's disclosures and arguments to sink into the public mind and produce their natural effect. It should be matter of conecience with all good citizens to study the report of the lecture and ponder its imperative significance.

—'Eyening Star.'