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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Fallacy I

Fallacy I.

That because, towards the close of a long address on education, mainly historical and broadly scientific, 1 quoted from a public report of my own made nine years previously, therefore 1 based my arguments against cramming on two cases mentioned in that report.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The passage from the report was read to point out what had happened in the cases of two young people who had been allowed to cram their memories day and night and had not been made to take proper outdoor physical exercise. Between such and the healthy, normal, human being there are all degrees of phvsical, mental, and moral impairment induced by the system which in these two cases had led to complete mental overthrow. Many instances of nervous debility (short of actual insanity), due to cramming for examinations, have come under my own personal observation, and are common in the experience of my professional brethren. Dr Lindo Ferguson's exhaustive and valuable evidence regarding the frequency of nervous breakdown in our schools, manifesting itself specially in connection with the eyes, leaves no room for doubt as to the fact that the pressure of school work is actually breaking down the nervous system and physique of many of our boys and girls—especially the girls. The two cases of insanity referred to above were not solitary instances of such effects of over-study. They were used in illustration simply because they were the patients actually mentioned in the report I was quoting, which dealt specifically with the evils of over-pressure; other-wise I might just as well have taken our most recent cases, which will be alluded to later on. The cases were mentioned in some detail to show how far we had departed from the ancient ideal of the "mens sana in corpore sano."

I regret having made the technical error of saying that the boy was dux, but everyone will recognise that this mistake into which I was inadvertently led does not in the slightest degree affect the scientific value or bearing of the case, nor does it reflect on the bona fides of my informants or myself. It suffices that the victim was a youth of the highest promise, who, when fourteen years of age, had concealed the fact that he was suffering from rheumatic fever until he fainted with the pain rather than face the loss of a scholarship.

It is true he was not placed dux of his year at the High School, but in the contest for an Education Board senior scholarship he topped the list against forty-eight competitors including three who subsequently became duxes—two duxes of the Girls' High School and a dux of the Boys' High School, In this year he was also ahead of a boy who took a higher position in the University junior scholarship examination than the actual dux of the High School when all three gained University scholarships. . . . He took no part in games.

Had he or the girl who succumbed been at a school where every pupil is compelled to spend a reasonable time in the open air and take a air share in games, there is no reason whatever for supposing that either tragedy would have happened.