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JAMA Revisited
May 7, 2014

Physiology for Children

JAMA. 2014;311(17):1811. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279481

In the Century for April is an article on “English as She is Taught,” by that man of humor and good common sense, Mark Twain. It consists mainly of answers to questions put to pupils in public schools, and gives a very good idea of the mental training received by children in obtaining what is called “an education.” It shows, in other words, the folly of filling the minds of children with fragments of subjects which they cannot understand.

Amusing as is the article, it would be more so did it not have the sad side—did it not show how much growth-force, how much brain and nerve force, how much physical strength, are actually wasted to no purpose, and dwarfed. And while reading it we are constantly reminded that adults, “children of a larger growth,” are but too often carried on in the same stream, into which they are thrown in childhood, to a ripe age of miseducation. It clearly shows the truth of what has been so often said: the child, or the pupil, must first be made to see, and then to understand what he sees. Space will not permit us to notice more of the article than that containing the answers to the questions on physiology; and from these answers we can readily imagine how the subject was taught—very much as it seems that chemistry (and physiology) is taught in many academic and medical schools.

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