THE LANCET

1882 The Lancet  
Now is the time of preaching. At this season of the year parents, guardians, relatives, friends, teachers, and writers in the lay and medical press claim the privilege to lecture, caution, monish, and advise the medical tyro. Within a week the students assembled at the various medical schools scattered throughout England will have had sounded in their ears alternate notes of solemn warning and lively welcome; they will have been congratulated on the choice they have made both of a profession
more » ... of a profession and school, harangued on the loftiness and nobility of their vocation, and flattered with the prospect of material and intellectual triumphs. They will have been told what scope their powers will find in the study and practice of medicine, and they will have received many a useful hint and suggestion as to how those powers may best be trained for their ultimate employment. The virtues of honesty, sincerity, diligence, perseverance, sobriety, truthfulness, and respect for those in authority will have been justly and becomingly magnified. In short, the novice will have been plainly told that if he should ultimately fail to reach the goal the fault will be his own. It is an excellent practice thus to offer words of warning and of counsel to those who are about to enter the medical profession. It has been continued so long, and has received the sanction and approval of so many masters, that it must be salutary. At any rate, few have had the courage to declare its vanity. We at least have no disposition to question its utility; we would rather extend ija application. It may be well to turn the tables for once, and take ourselves to task, and ponder some of the wise utterances prepared for students in our hearts. Quis custodiet custodes? ? Who shall admonish the teachers ? The very thought savours of presumption. , The strictures upon students, on the one hand, and upon examiners on the other, during the last twenty years, have been neither few nor slight. The idleness, indifference, ignorance, and stupidity of students, have formed the staple of most of the official utterances of examiners, and have been echoed by teachers, while examiners in their turn have been freely charged with incapacity, incompetence, selfishness, and cupidity. Meanwhile the teacher has usually escaped. Few have ever ventured to carry criticism into the teachers' camp. It seems to have been tacitly assumed that the office of teacher is inviolable. Interference with his function has always been sharply resented and quickly checked. And yet it would be hard to maintain that the attainments of teachers have kept pace with the increasing requirements of examinations. On the contrary, the relations of medical education and examinations have been reversed. Students are now the slaves of the examinations ; everywhere they are overexamined and under-taught. Anyone whose business or inclination may lead him to visit the examinations conducted by the various examining bodies -say the Royal College of Surgeons of England-will soon be convinced that the majority of candidates exhibit a " plentiful lack" of education and training. They are not devoid of knowledge, their memo: ies have been fairly exercised, their answers often rise readily to the lips, and still it is obvious that with most of them the reasoning faculty is almost in abeyance. If memory should play them fal-e, reason, so long neglected, finally refuses her aid. This implies defective training and preparation, the responsibility of which rests chiefly upon teachers. Candidates are not, as a rule, ignorant, but they are uneducated ; they show no signs of having been taught the philosophy of things. Of empirical knowledge they have enough, and to spare. They are familiar with quite a host of isolated facts, but are unacquainted with the relation and connexion of these facts. They have been instructed, but not trained. Information has been mechanically imparted, and is given out again in like manner. This is the fallacy under. lying most educational schemes now-a-days. Many conscientious teachers fall into the error of mistaking instruction and the imparting of information for education whereas the evil is that the student is taught too many things—MM<x instead of multum. The late Dr. LATHAM saw the danger in his time. " In our day," he said nearly fifty years ago, "there is little fear that students will be spoiled by the recommendation of their instructors to be content with a scanty knowledge, and trust to their own sagacity for the rest." A life-time will not suffice for the acquirement of every accomplishment which might be mentioned as subservient to the medical profession. Dr. ROTHE at the end of the last century published a select catalogue of medical works, every one of which he considered as good and useful for the medical student and practitioners. Of this formidable list THOMAS YOUNG said that a person "beginning with languages might spend the first ten years of his studies without getting much further than the Chinese,' and twenty more before he came to those of the ' bohemians ' and gipsies'; to say nothing of the logical,
doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(02)12391-9 fatcat:flgki4t5cvbyrbdxe5vdkudpf4