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Idiocy, As The Effect Of Social Evils, And As The Creative Cause of Physiological Education

Creator: Edward Seguin (author)
Date: January 1870
Publication: The Journal of Psychological Medicine and Diseases of the Nervous System
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Let us mark that this touches only one of the problems of education so dear to humanity, vital to our race. The school for idiots has been equally ahead in those questions relating to the effectiveness of and harmony between the different systems, muscular, nervous, etc., by education in gymnastics, imitation, etc.


These institutions having taken the leading part in this movement, given the impulse, or the direct example, to the schools where objects are now the systematic theme of lessons, and the faculty of imitation is trained like the other manly capacities; having thrown already some light upon the phenomena of our half-civilized life which produces idiocy and cognate affections, it could be easily shown that, in giving prominence to the improvement of children upon that method, they have acted in accordance with the public's eagerness which claimed first the individual results of the new institutions, as condition sine qua non of their support; and that, in locating them through the country, in view of the comfort of the inmates, and of the convenience of their families, they have been put out of the reach of the concourse of scientific men and means which are concentrated in capital cities.


This position, excellent for their individual object, the treatment of idiots, may be maintained with advantage, but must be strengthened by the creation of a superior institution for the treatment of idiocy; where questions corollary to this affection, and those issuing from the principle of physiological training; the correction of the early anomalies of the mind, and the training of youth according to the methods most akin to human activity, will be the object -- a school, normal by its intellectual procedures, central by the position it will occupy between exceptional and common schools; in which the principles will be looked for as lovingly as individual pupils are in others; where questions, more than children, will be treated.


This necessity of the situation -- for, if these institutions do not progress, they will retrograde -- demands the selection of a suitable place among scientific surroundings; the direction of a man who understands the philosophy of that labor, the selection of microscopists, anatomists, psychologists, young medical men eager for study, devoted women ready to teach, nurse and to acquire the capacities so much wanted in other schools. With this force at command, there will be treated, besides the questions directly relating to idiocy and medicine, those which touch society through education. It is not a minute too soon.


From all the points of the compass, steam and electricity accumulate men and ideas on this continent that will soon be, for good or evil, the new world; new for evil if the comers invade us, not by the sword, but by their low spirit of submission to Eastern or Western bonzes; new for good, if we are ready, with a powerful physiological system of education, to assimilate them, women, men, children, of all races and colors, to our unity and independence. Science will have once more vindicated its social power.


Such, and many more, are the reflections that crowd around the idea of improving idiotic children. Truly, all ideas are sisters which tend to scientific unity.

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