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JAMA Revisited
March 1, 2016

The Examination of School Children’s Eyes and Ears

JAMA. 2016;315(9):946. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.17076

Since the publication of Beer’s treatise on “Healthy and Weak Eyes” in 1800, in which many useful and important hints are given to teachers regarding the preservation of the sight of their pupils, physicians have appealed to the public conscience for a regular examination of school children. It is not, therefore, due to a lack of knowledge that these defects in our otherwise admirable public-school system have received so little attention, but because, until quite recently, there has been no systematic and sustained effort to introduce some simple, effective and practical means of detecting ocular and aural diseases that is capable of ready application by the teachers themselves. Appeals for the proper care of children’s eyes and ears have borne better fruit in continental countries—especially in north Germany—than in the United States, chiefly because a paternal form of government seems more fit for the promulgation of widespread reforms of this character than does our own, where the work has to be carried on mostly by private enterprise or by agitations repeated in and for each state. However, the labors of such pioneers as Dr. Peter Callan (who in New York thirty years ago demonstrated the existence of eye defects in a large percentage of school children), of H. Derby, Mittendorf, Randall, Risley, Colin and others, have served as a basis for a ready method of examination which has already been adopted by many school boards.

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