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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/461

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NATIONAL NECESSITIES AND EDUCATION

show that the present school system does more than simply permit the mischief that is progressing, it actually fosters it and promotes it. Asked "to what the effects are chiefly ascribable," she replies: "A part is ascribable to home neglects; but the greater part of it is due to excessive and prolonged constraints under the common-school conditions: too long sitting on badly constructed seats; but, with good seats, they are kept in bad positions in long writing exercises. The common bad position is, indeed, prescribed by the Government School Inspectors. I have found that, to obtain the school grants, the children are so constrained as to exclude the exercises that are needed for their bodily development."

The present system is not only a violation of physiological but of psychological law. The powers of receptivity of the minds of children of different ages have been tested experimentally, with as much care as physicists take when they are treating in their experiments on the relationships of ordinary matter to force. Certain brains can take in so much, and no more, according to age. The capacity grows with cultivation and skillful teaching, no doubt, but it must be permitted to grow. In the very young a lesson of a minute may be all-sufficient. Later, of three minutes, five, ten, fifteen, and so on, to one hour, two, or three. But to this there is a limit, and it is probable that, with the best scholar of primary-school age, the powers of receptivity rarely extend beyond a period of two hours and a half of direct teaching. Teachers of various districts, and of different countries, have testified in respect to this point, and while they have explained, from direct observation, that the receptivity varies in different children according to difference of temperament, physical health and build, as might very well be expected, the receptivity at one time, in all children, ceases at the end of three hours.

Proposed Reforms.—From these considerations let me now turn to the reforms which we, who are urgent as to reform in the present educational system, have in view. We reason that the existing system is not a basis for the national necessities. We are of opinion that in the future the education of a mental kind now being supplied will be imperfect and doubtful, nay, it may be of dangerous use, unless it be so laid out with physical culture that a perfect or comparatively perfect health of body shall go with it and sustain it. We urge that, as we must either educate health or disease, it is best to educate hearth.

The design we have in view, then, includes several heads, which I may arrange in the following order:

Physical Culture of the Body.—We urge that education should be so distinctly physical, that the body should be in no respect less improved than the mind at the close of the educational career. We follow, in this regard, the teaching of the Platonic philosophy, in which the master insists that the symmetry of mind and body be cul-