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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/662

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Of late certain spasmodic efforts have been made to abolish recess, and hold but one long session per day from nine to one or half-past one; but this is a mistaken notion, founded on lack of knowledge of the effects of long-continued study and the physical needs of the young. It is true that in some of the largest cities this plan is followed in the high-schools, but the cause is local, for the pupils come from long distances—in New York city, for instance, as far as five miles. Besides, in many of these schools the pupils do much of their studying at their homes, and the majority are in the neighborhood of twenty years of age, so that they are in a better condition to stand the additional strain without injury.

Anything that distracts the pupil's attention from his studies retards his progress, by making less vivid the impressions received by the nerve-cells; for, by concentrating the mental vision upon one point, to the exclusion of others, we see that point more distinctly. All peripheral irritation, therefore, should be removed as far as possible. The distraction of discomfort, particularly of the cutaneous surface, is a serious drawback; comfortable seats—preferably single—high enough to support the lower limbs, and desks of the proper height to rest the arms, are in this way valuable indirect aids to study. But of all peripheral irritation, that produced by cold is perhaps the most distracting. When the temperature of the room falls below 50° Fahr., the next exercise should be dismissal. Between 50° and 70° the temperature may range; but from 60° to 65° is the safest and most comfortable; safest, because the cutaneous surface does not become overheated and congested—liable to be chilled by the lower temperature of the open air—and most comfortable, because neither heat nor cold is perceptible. It is needless to add that every school-room should have a thermometer, which the teacher should frequently consult, and govern himself according to its indications.

For the reasons noted above, children at home should not be allowed to prepare their lessons immediately after supper, or late into the night; for study congests the brain, and, as sleep is produced by the opposite condition, they lie awake and restless until the amount and pressure of blood within the cranium are greatly diminished.

Strange as the assertion may seem, a pupil's diet has much to do with his progress. A liberal supply of non-stimulating food—in other words, bread, milk, vegetables, fruits, and a farinaceous diet principally—is far superior for the healthy growth of bone and nerve and muscle than a regimen into which nitrogenized materials—flesh-meat, eggs, etc.—enter largely. These latter unduly stimulate the nervous system, cause a premature development of the body, and load the blood with impurities, that tax the liver and the excretory organs sorely. In a warm climate, such as ours, the liver, choked with albuminoids, will fail in its function periodically, through sheer fatigue; the bilious matters then circulate throughout the system and stain the complex-