Vision and Education - Better Eyesight, September 1919, Editor: W. H.Bates, M.D.

Discussion in 'Optometry Archives' started by Zetsu, Apr 18, 2009.

  1. Zetsu

    Zetsu Guest


    Poor sight is admitted to be one of the most fruitful causes of
    retardation in the schools. It is estimated [1] that it may reasonably
    be held responsible for a quarter of the habitually "left-backs," and
    it is commonly assumed that all this might be prevented by suitable

    There is much more involved in defective vision, however, than mere
    inability to see the blackboard, or to use the eyes without pain or
    discomfort. Defective vision is the result of an abnormal condition of
    the mind, and when the mind is in an abnormal condition it is obvious
    that none of the processes of education can be conducted with
    advantage. By putting glasses upon a child we may, in some cases,
    neutralize the effect of this condition upon the eyes and by making
    the patient more comfortable may improve his mental faculties to some
    extent, but we do not alter fundamentally the condition of the mind
    and by confirming it in a bad habit we may make it worse.

    It can easily be demonstrated that among the faculties of the mind
    which are impaired when the vision is impaired is the memory; and as a
    large part of the educational process consists of storing the mind
    with facts, and all the other mental process depend upon one's
    knowledge of facts, it is easy to see how little is accomplished by
    merely putting glasses on a child that has "trouble with its eyes."
    The extraordinary memory of primitive people has been attributed to
    the fact that owing to the absence of any convenient means of making
    written records they had to depend upon their memories, which were
    strengthened accordingly; but in view of the known facts about the
    relation of memory to eyesight it is more reasonable to suppose that
    the retentive memory of primitive man was due to the same cause as his
    keen vision, namely, a mind at rest.

    The primitive memory as well as primitive keenness of vision have been
    found among civilized people, and if the necessary tests had been made
    it would doubtless have been found that they always occur together, as
    they did in a case which recently came under my observation. The
    subject was a child of ten with such marvelous eyesight that she could
    see the moons of Jupiter with the naked eye, a fact which was
    demonstrated by her drawing a diagram of these satellites which
    exactly corresponded to the diagram made by persons who had used a
    telescope. Her memory was equally remarkable. She could recite the
    whole content of a book after reading, as Lord Macauley is said to
    have done, and she learned more Latin in a few days without a teacher
    than her sister who had six diopters of myopia had been able to do in
    several years. She remembered five years afterward what she ate at a
    restaurant, she recalled the name of the waiter, the number of the
    building and the street in which it stood. She also remembered what
    she wore on this occasion and what every one else in the party wore.
    The same was true of every other event which had awakened her interest
    in any way, and it was a favorite amusement in her family to ask her
    what the menu had been and what people had worn on particular

    When the sight of two persons is different it has been found that
    their memories differ in exactly the same degree. Two sisters, one of
    whom had only ordinary good vision, indicated by the formula 20/20,
    while the other had 20/10, found that the time it took them to learn
    eight verses of a poem varied in almost exactly the same ratio as
    their sight. The one whose vision was 20/10 learned eight verses of
    the poem in fifteen minutes, while the one whose vision was only 20/20
    required thirty-one minutes to do the same thing. After palming the
    one with ordinary vision learned eight more verses in twenty-one
    minutes, while the other with 20/10 was only able to reduce her time
    by two minutes, a variation clearly within the limits of error. In
    other words, the mind of the latter being already in a normal or
    nearly normal condition, she could not improve it appreciably by
    palming, while the former whose mind was under a strain was able to
    gain relaxation, and hence improve her memory, by this means.

    When the two eyes of the same person are different a corresponding
    difference in the memory has been noted according to whether both eyes
    were open, or the better eye closed. A patient with normal vision in
    the right eye and half-normal vision in the left when looking at the
    Snellen test card with both eyes open could remember a period for
    twenty seconds continuously, but could remember it only ten seconds
    when the better eye was closed. A patient with half-normal vision in
    the right eye and one-quarter normal in the left could remember a
    period for twelve seconds with both eyes open and only two seconds
    when the better eye was closed. In other words if the right eye is
    better than the left the memory is better when the right eye is open
    than when the left eye is open.

    Under the present educational system there is a constant effort to
    compel the children to remember. These efforts always fail. They spoil
    both the memory and the sight. The memory cannot be forced any more
    than the vision can be forced. We remember without effort, just as we
    see without effort, and the harder we try to remember or see the less
    we are able to do so.

    The sort of things we remember are the things that interest us, and
    the reason children have difficulty in learning their lessons is
    because they are bored by them. For the same reason, among others,
    their eyesight becomes impaired, boredom being a condition of mental
    strain in which it is impossible for the eye to function normally.

    Some of the various kinds of compulsion now employed in the
    educational process may have the effect of awakening interest. Betty
    Smith's interest in winning a prize, for instance, or in merely
    getting ahead of Johnny Jones, may have the effect of rousing her
    interest in lessons that have hitherto bored her, and this interest
    may develop into a genuine interest in the acquisition of knowledge;
    but this cannot be said of the various fear incentives still so
    largely employed by teachers. These, on the contrary, have the effect,
    usually, of completely paralyzing minds already benumbed by lack of
    interest, and the effect upon the vision is equally disastrous.

    The fundamental reason, both for poor memory and poor eyesight in
    school children, in short, is our irrational and unnatural educational
    system. Montessori has taught us that it is only when children are
    interested that they can learn. It is equally true that it is only
    when they are interested that they can see. This fact was strikingly
    illustrated in the case of one of the two pairs of sisters mentioned
    above. Phebe, of the keen eyes, who could recite whole books if she
    happened to be interested in them, disliked mathematics and anatomy
    extremely, and not only could not learn them, but became myopic when
    they were presented to her mind. She could read letters a quarter of
    an inch high at twenty feet in a poor light, but when asked to read
    figures one to two inches high in a good light at ten feet she
    miscalled half of them. When asked to tell how much 2 and 3 made, she
    said "4," before finally deciding on "5"; and all the time she was
    occupied with this disagreeable subject the retinoscope showed that
    she was myopic. When I asked her to look into my eye with the
    ophthalmoscope she could see nothing, although a much lower degree of
    visual acuity is required to note the details of the interior of the
    eye than to see the moons of Jupiter.

    Short-sighted Isabel, on the contrary, had a passion for mathematics
    and anatomy, and excelled in those subjects. She learned to use the
    ophthalmoscope as easily as Phebe had learned Latin. Almost
    immediately she saw the optic nerve, and noted that the center was
    whiter than the periphery. She saw the light-colored lines, the
    arteries; and the dark ones, the veins; and she saw the light streaks
    on the blood-vessels. Some specialists never become able to do this,
    and no one could do it without normal vision. Isabel's vision,
    therefore, must have been temporarily normal when she did it. Her
    vision for figures, although not normal, was better than for letters.

    In both of these cases the ability to learn and the ability to see
    went hand in hand with interest. Phebe could read a photographic
    reduction of the Bible and recite what she had read verbatim, she
    could see the moons of Jupiter and draw a diagram of them afterwards,
    because she was interested in these things; but she could not see the
    interior of the eye, nor see figures even half as well as she saw
    letters, because these things bored her. When, however, it was
    suggested to her that it would be a good joke to surprise her
    teachers, who were always reproaching her for her backwardness in
    mathematics, by taking a high mark in a coming examination, her
    interest in the subject awakened and she contrived to learn enough to
    get seventy-eight per cent. In Isabel's case letters were
    antagonistic. She was not interested in most of the subjects with
    which they dealt and, therefore, she was backward in those subjects
    and had become habitually myopic. But when asked to look at objects
    which aroused an intense interest her vision became normal.

    When one is not interested, in short, one's mind is not under control,
    and without mental control one can neither learn nor see. Not only the
    memory but all other mental faculties are improved when the eyesight
    becomes normal. It is a common experience with patients cured of
    defective sight to find that their ability to do their work has

    The teacher whose letter was quoted in the first issue of Better
    Eyesight testified that after gaining perfect eyesight she "knew
    better how to get at the minds of the pupils," was "more direct, more
    definite, less diffused, less vague," possessed, in fact, "central
    fixation of the mind." In another letter she said, "The better my
    eyesight becomes the greater is my ambition. The the days when my
    sight is best I have the greatest anxiety to do things."

    Another teacher reports that one of the her pupils used to sit doing
    nothing all day long and apparently was not interested in anything.
    After the test card was introduced into the classroom and his sight
    improved, he became anxious to learn, and speedily developed into one
    of the best students in the class. In other words his eyes and his
    mind became normal together.

    A bookkeeper nearly seventy years of age who had worn glasses for
    forty years found after he had gained perfect sight without glasses
    that he could work more rapidly and accurately and with less fatigue
    than ever in his life before. During busy seasons, or when short of
    help, he has worked for some weeks at a time from 7 a.m. until 11
    p.m., and he reports that he felt less tired at night after he was
    through than he did in the morning when he started. Previously,
    although he had done more work than any other man in the office, it
    always tired him very much. He also noticed an improvement in his
    temper. Having been so long in the office and knowing so much more
    about the business than his fellow employees, he was frequently
    appealed to for advice. These interruptions, before his sight became
    normal, were very annoying to him and often caused him to lose his
    temper. Afterward, however, they caused him no irritation whatever. In
    the case of another patient whose story is given elsewhere symptoms of
    insanity were relieved when the vision became normal.

    From all these facts it will be seen that the problems of vision are
    far more intimately associated with the problems of education than we
    had supposed, and that they can by no means be solved by putting
    concave, or convex, or astigmatic lenses before the eyes of the

    [1] School Health News, published by the Department of Health of New
    York City, February, 1919.

    Zetsu, Apr 18, 2009
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  2. Zetsu

    Don W Guest

    Zetsu, or who ever you are....

    I think the designers of the World Wide Web should study you as the World
    Wide Screwup to their noble efforts.

    Bev... anything we can do about this guy??
    Besides having him stare into the sun?

    Don W.
    Don W, Apr 18, 2009
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