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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/102

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

people who flock to the cities, by the number of boys who seek in-door employment, and by the prevalent sentiment that any person who is properly educated will secure something to do where he may stay in the shade and away from the weather. That the abandonment of the out-door recess in our schools will strengthen this tendency to an indoor life, and weaken the disposition, born with every child having a normal development, to get out-of-doors, can not be doubted. That this "no-recess" plan is in direct opposition to all the instincts of the child's nature, ought to insure its immediate condemnation.

Muscular action for the health of a growing child is a necessity, and the amount of exercise that a child will take, when permitted to roam out-of-doors with congenial company at his own sweet will, is a quantity of vast magnitude. Muscular action is and should be a thing for which the child has an appetite, a craving, as intense as any he ever feels for food or fruit, and no school discipline should be allowed to interfere with its necessary gratification. The play-ground is more of a necessity to a school of young children than any of the other school appliances.

Recognizing the violence that the no-recess plan is doing to the future well-being of their pupils, some superintendents have invented a series of in-door games, which are played for a few minutes, at short intervals, in the school-room, under the charge of the teacher, such as tossing little bags of beans, marching, exercises with the arms and legs, and the like. The best of such exercises fall very far short of the real, soul-stirring, cheek-glowing, muscle and brain making exercise of the play-ground; while the poorest of them—and all are poor when they take the place of the open-air recess—are the severest trial of the day, both to the nerves and the amiability of teacher and pupils. As a rule, there is no other school exercise in which there is so much friction between teacher and pupils, none other where so frequent appeals are made to higher authority, and none other from which the pupil so often tries to escape, as this gymnastics. The law of physics, that all bodies move in the direction of least resistance, ought to show teachers that this plan, in its present form, should be abandoned. Children do not like to be marched around under the direction of a teacher who needs the exercise more than they, and who sits or stands still while they are marching. During a five years' military service, the hardest campaign I went through was a three months' drill, and I never saw a regiment but would sooner undertake a week of severest marching than a week of camp-drilling. That gymnastics can be, and sometimes is, made of great benefit to the pupils, is true, but the teachers who have the skill, ability, and enthusiasm requisite for the work are very rare. Children have a desire to manage for themselves. How often do we observe their impatience at our opening some box or package of theirs that they wish to open for themselves! And, if the teacher were competent to enter thoroughly into