Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/103

This page has been validated.

the spirit of the in-door game, the children would still prefer to manage it in their own way.

But if the exercise in the house, so far as muscular action is concerned, answered every purpose, it would still be unwise, because it begets the habit of in-door life, and this is destructive of all educational development except in a few very narrow lines, and it is questionable if these lines are educational in any true sense. A child with the in-door habit may be an adept at parsing, he may be skillful in translating Latin and Greek, and be able to follow in the beaten track of mathematics; but when it comes to any of the sciences, when he attempts any of the studies which relate to the phenomena of the living world, or of the objective world about him, because he has never observed these phenomena himself, he will fail. He will fail because in what he has seen and experienced there is nothing by which he will be able to translate to himself the words or the pictures of the text-book. In all the branches of natural history he can learn nothing but the words of the book. What the science of chromatics would be to a blind child, or acoustics to a deaf one, is the greater part of our science-teaching, in cities especially, to the boys and girls—Kaspar Hausers—whose life is spent in the house. Knowing so little of the phenomena of the world, they are, of course, unable to comprehend any of the grand generalizations which follow a knowledge of their causes and sequences; and, being deprived of this, they are without both the powers of observation and of the deeper reasoning which can come only as a result of facts obtained by observations of their own and kindred ones of others. To teach such children text-book science is not only a waste of the time of the child, but it is a very great damage to him, both because it will have a stultifying effect upon his mental powers, and because it will make him believe—if he learns the words and secures a fair per cent from his teacher—that he has an understanding of the subject, when, as a matter of fact, he knows nothing of it but the words in which the thoughts are expressed, while the very existence of the true thoughts is all unknown to him.

To speak of the advantages of an out-of-door life seems almost like stating truisms universally accepted; and yet the great mortality among the dwellers in-doors, their precarious tenure of life, the prevalence of nervous diseases among them, and the tendency to crime, all show that it is still necessary to refer to the ruddy health of the farmer, to his greatly prolonged life, to his freedom from insomnia, to his immunity from pulmonary complaints, and to his absence both from the prison and the almshouse, as a proof that out-door life is necessary to health and to happiness. The tendency of book-learning, under the most favorable conditions, is to too much in-door life, and, when this tendency receives the additional influence of the no-recess plan, it certainly has a powerful hold upon the young person just emerging from the school-room. Is Solomon's injunction, to "train up a child in the way he