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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/106

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

With lists of the names of these I have examined the registers of daily attendance kept by the teachers, and, upon making out lists of their absences from school on account of sickness, find their per cent is not one fifth as great as that of the whole school, and not one twelfth as great as that of an equal number of pupils of the same grade who are never seen upon the play-ground in either good or bad weather.

At first sight these figures seem inexplicable; but when any one looks about his own town and sees families of laboring-men with half a dozen children to each house, and sees their houses are poorly built, that they admit the wind and sometimes the rain, he sees the children running about in quite frosty weather barefoot, he sees them playing in the rain and storm with perfect freedom from colds, and he knows they are seldom sickā€”then if he looks up the avenue to some residence with its double windows, its base-burner, which keeps the house at a uniform temperature, and observes when the children come out how carefully they are protected from the weather, and how very delicate they are, he will, if he is thoughtful, soon conclude that the good health of the children of the laboring-man is because they encounter exposure, and not that they encounter exposure because of their good health.

Where school-rooms are warmed by an abundance of pure, warm air, and where pupils have perfect liberty to go at any time to the registers to warm and dry shoes and clothing, they will not suffer by any voluntary out-door exposure, however inclement the weather. There seem to be no other gymnastics for the involuntary muscles, those controlling the vital functions of respiration and circulation, but exposure and vigorous exercise. Who has ever heard a hale old man, who had long since passed his allotted halting-place of threescore-and-ten, tell of his youth, but could tell of exposure, constant and severe, in his youth? Hunters, wood-choppers, ranchers, and soldiers, are not afraid of the weather, nor are they subject to coughs and colds. During five years of army life as a trooper, our regiment was never in barracks, and much of the time was without tents. Often we were wet to the skin, and sat our horses till our clothes dried upon us by the heat from our bodies without feeling any other effect than an increased appetite. By exposure we were made water-proof; and I believe children can be made largely cold-proof, and sickness-proof, by allowing them their own free-wills as to exposure.

Children need the rough-and-tumble of an out-door recess to toughen the sinews of the body. Many at home are so tenderly cared for that, what with cushioned chairs, stuffed sofas, and spring-seats to the very carriages in which they ride to school, they are in danger of becoming too tender for even this usage; and, if they are ever to accomplish anything in this world, they must somewhere acquire the physical power to endure many hard knocks in the various ways and sta-