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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/335

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hereditary in the family of a third, that one has been nervous, another had convulsions when a baby, another has been threatened with water in the head, etc. His own education and training have not taught him to notice or know the meaning of narrow chests, or great thinness, or stooping shoulders, or very big heads, or quick, jerky movements, or dilated pupils, or want of appetite, or headaches, or irritability, or back-aches, or disinclination to bodily exertion. But all these things exist in abundance in every big school, and the girls handicapped in that way are set into competition with those who are strong and free from risks. It is the most nervous, excitable, and highly strung girls who throw themselves into the school competition most keenly. And they, of course, are just the most liable to be injured by it. All good observers say the intensity of feeling displayed in girls' competitions is greater than among lads, and that there is far more apt to arise a personal animus. Girls don't take a beating so quietly as boys. Their moral constitution, while in some ways stronger than that of boys, especially at that age, suffers more from any disturbing cause. The whole thing takes greater hold of them—is more real. It is more boys' nature to fight and forget, and take defeat calmly. Girls, I believe, suffer, when the competition in schools is too keen, in their tenderness of feeling and in their charity. They tend to attribute unfairness of motive to their teachers far more than boys, just because their affective nature is and should be stronger than their reasoning power. A man's idea of the perfection of feminine nature is, that it always has some self-denial and much generosity in it. Now, these keen school competitions admit in theory of no such notions of self-denial or generosity, though both are common enough in individual cases. An ideal woman should rejoice as much in sympathy with the winner of the first place as if she had won it herself. Men certainly don't, in their hearts, like to see girls competing keenly with each other for anything.

Young women at adolescence are apt to have in large degree the feminine power of taking it out of themselves for a time, more than they are able to bear for long. It is this power which enables a mother to watch a sick child for weeks without almost any sleep, and without feeling much sense of fatigue at the time. Now, when this power is called up for months for such a purpose as school competition—the feelings being stimulated by rivalry with others, and by the enthusiasm of that age, during a period of life when the body is undeveloped, and should be rapidly growing, and all these functions and faculties maturing it is perverted from the real use that Nature meant it for, and the results can not fail to be bad. At that age girls are not only enthusiastic in perception and reception, but they are often very conscientious, and apply their ideas of right and wrong to things that have no ethical relationship. They are, in fact, hyper-conscientious, and make themselves unhappy about school deficiencies, for which