PHILISTINE AND GENIUS. By Boris Sidis, A. M., Ph.D., M.D., Medical Director, Sidis Institute, Portsmouth, N. H. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1917. Pp. 122. $1.00 net.
This is "a revised third edition with an additional preface on current events and an essay on Precocity in Children."
In the preface Sidis calls attention to the horrors of the great war and some of the errors in the modern social organization. He deprecates the training of children by fear, submission and blind obedience to so-called superiors with the exploitation and development of undesirable, handicapping traits, especially too much cultivation of the herd tendency, with suggestion and imitation to the fore, while expansion of the personality and self-knowledge and freedom of expression of hidden abilities and powers are stifled into nothingness. "The progress of humanity is from brute to man, from Philistine to genius."
He calls attention to some of the glaring vices and incongruities and superficialities of modern civilization and industrial life, with its consciously purposive application of Darwinian principles to human life-activities in all their brutality. "The true education of life is the recognition of evil wherever it is met," for, after all, "The principle of recognition of evil under all its guises is at the basis of the true education of man."
He indicates some of the patent faults of our modern educational system.
"There is no place for genius in our schools. Originality is suppressed. Individuality is crushed. Mediocrity is at a premium."
"Awaken in early childhood the critical spirit of man; awaken early in the child's life, love of knowledge, love of truth, of art and literature for their own sake, and you arouse man’s genius."
"The cultivation of the power of habit-disintegration is what constitutes the proper education of man's genius." He insists that we should cultivate variability, for this permits one to have recourse to the potential, hidden, stored-up, dormant, unused, subconscious, reserve energies latent in all of us.
His suggestion is as follows: Excepting the children backward in development because of congenital or some overlooked pathological condition perhaps easily remedied by proper treatment, Sidis insists that in the large majority of children the beginning of education should be between the second and third years of life, and from the very beginning the child's energies and interests should be directed to intellectual activity and love of knowledge rather than the usual nursery games and physical exercises. Our schools and colleges are training their students in the art of moneygetting and the like rather than stirring up in them a real love for knowledge.
"We do not appreciate the genius harbored in the average child, and let it lie fallow."
That we have up to date only scratched the surface of man's possibilities, and scratched it too often in the wrong place, no one who has seriously reflected upon this can deny. Hence we must whole-heartedly agree with Sidis when he asserts: "We can develop into a great race by the proper education of man's genius."
Every psychopathologist, psychiatrist and educator must agree when the author warns us to guard the child against all evil fears, superstitions, prejudices, and credulity, in order to prevent nervous and mental diseases and their allies.
So convinced is Sidis that the control of mental and moral life should be in the hands of the medical psychopathologist that he ventures to predict that the medical man will in the future assume the supervision of the education of the nation.
In the appendix, he calls attention, among other points, to the groundlessness of the fear of the results of the application of the method he advocates, for it shows that we arc but afraid of genius, "especially when it is manifested as 'precocity in childhood.'"
Throughout the volume Sidis writes with terrific force and power, and his intensity, his sincerity, and his whole-souled devotion to the cause to which he has given himself in this book shines through on every page.
Here, too, as elsewhere, he shows a clarity of thinking, a directness and unerring aim in expression, and a keen understanding of that which he has undertaken to discuss.
I heartily and earnestly recommend the work to the readers of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.