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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Signs of Breakdown

Signs of Breakdown

Education as at present conducted places on very heavy stress on the pupils, and the community has a right to expect that the teacher shall be qualified to detect at once any clear sign that the burden which he, or the system imposes, is over-straining the young organism. He should learn to recognise intuitively the difference, between the aspects of normal health and those indicating the onset of failing energy or dis-case. Such facts as the following could be taken in at a glance, or would obtrude themselves in the course of school work :—Marked loss of condition; pallor; dull weary, heavy-eyed, or depressed aspect; vacancy and lack of expression in face, associated, perhaps, with habitually open mouth, muffled voice, etc.; abnormal positions or movements—such as twist or curvature of trunk, slouching or drooping attitude or gait; motor defects or explosions—such as sluggishness, fidgets, jerkings, twitchings, coughing, "laughing and crying"; defects of sight—shown by position of eyes in relation to books, or expressing itself in headache, etc.; defects of hearing or lack of alertness of attention, as shown by frequent failure to respond to ordinary questions; sleepiness; lessened interest in work or play; excessive absorption in studies, to the exclusion of all other considerations; growing defect of memory, of power of application, of power of control, etc.; growing slovenliness and increase of errors in school work; marked tendency to be dull and spiritless in the playground, or to be solitary and abstracted. Attention to such indications as these, conjoined with the precise information furnished by periodical weighing, measuring, and testing strength, would help to safeguard pupils at school from any serious harm, provided that the indications were interpreted with reasonable intelligence, in accordance with the simple explanations furnished by the authorities on such matters. The first thing to do in most instances would be to "slow down" or cut off mental work. In all doubtful cases the school doctor would naturally be referred to.