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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Dr Clouston

Dr Clouston.

Dr Clouston, of Edinburgh, says:—

Unphysiological Education.—I cannot help here adverting to some absurd and unphysiological theories of education which are not yet given up, and which we as medical men should combat with all our might. The theory of any education worth the name should be to bring the whole organism to such perfection as it is capable of, and to train the brain power in accordance with its capacity most carefully avoiding any over-straning of weak points—and an apparently strong point in the brain capacity of a young child may in reality be its weakest point in after life. I have known a child with an extraordinary memory as eight who at fifteen could scarcely remember anything at all. Then, as the age of puberty approaches, one would imagine, to hear some scholastic [unclear: dec] trinaires talk, that it was the right thing to set ourselves by every means to assimilate the mental faculties and [unclear: a] quirements of the two sexes, to fight against Nature's laws as hard as possible, and to turn out physically hermaphrodite specimens of humanity by making our young men and women a like in all respects—to make our girls pundit and our young men mere examination passers. If there is anything which a careful study of the higher laws of physiology in regard to brain development and heredity is fitted to teach us. It is this: that the forcing-house treatment of the intellectual and receptive parts of the brain, if it is carried to such an extent as to stunt the trophic (nutritive) centres and the centres of organic appetite and muscular movements, is unmixed evil to the individual, and still more so to the race. There is time nor place of organic repentance provided by Nature for some of the sins of the schoolmaster. . . .

Beyond all doubt, school and college education has not as yet been always conducted on physiological principles, and is responsible for much nervous and mental derangement, as well as for difficult maternity. . . .

American physicians used to tell us that there were some schools in Boston that turned out young ladies so highly educated that every particle of their spare fat was consumed by the brain-cells that sub-serve the functions of cognition and memory. If these young woman did marry, they seldom had more than one or two children, and only pure creatures at that, whom they could not nurse, and who either died in youth or grew up to be feeble-minded folk. Their mothers had not only used up for another purpose their own re-productive energy, but also most page 45 of that which they should have transmitted to their children, Nature, no doubt, making provision for the transmission of the unused-up energy of one generation on to the next, on the principle of the conservation of force. But modern Americans have now learned better educational ideas. As physicians—the priests of the body and the guardians of the physical and "mental qualities of the race—we are, beyond all doubt, bound to oppose strenuously any and every kind and mode of education that in any way lessons the capability of women for healthy maternity and the reproduction of future generations strong mentally and physically. Why should we spoil a good wither by making an ordinary grammarian?

Dr Clouston is too optimistic in regard to the degree of reform in the education of American women which has taken place of late years. Improvements have been made, but that the evils which he deplored are still rampant is clearly shown by the frequent association of the terms '"Higher Education of Women" and Race Suicide" in American writings of the present day. (See extracts bearing on this matter in last section of pamphlet.)