Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/470

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mitting a greater display of muscular force, exacting more complicated motions and a longer apprenticeship. It is sometimes hard to draw a clear line between sport and play. Fencing, equitation, and canoeing are varieties of sport. Cricket is as much a play for children as an exercise of sport; in short, in the hygienic view, sports are half-way between gymnastics and play, and are therefore more suitable to youth than to children.

Plays give the form of gymnastics most congenial to the conditions of social life, for they are at the same time hygienic and recreative, and are as well adapted to the physical requirements of the child as to his moral needs. Physically regarded, they demand neither very intense efforts nor localized muscular contractions. Even the most complicated of them call out nothing more than combinations of simple movements and natural attitudes; while gymnastics necessitates abnormal combinations in the association of the muscles, with movements which the child, having never practiced, has to learn laboriously. Play presents no difficulties comparable to those offered by gymnastics. If the child has not yet become adept in the game, he will play badly and lose his part; but he will play, and will at least gain the physical advantages of exercise. But when he is dealing with the abnormal motions or "turns" of gymnastics, if he has not yet learned the way of executing them, or acquired the knack, which it often takes a long time to gain, he only makes a pretense of exercising, and his effort is limited to a fruitless tentative, without any effective activity.

Besides the support of reason and observation, the method of exercise by playing has the sanction of acquired facts. It was the only children's gymnastics at the beginning of this century, and even now some nations have no other settled method of physical exercise. The English have never taken to gymnastics with apparatus; and the Belgians, after having tried it, are abandoning it and returning to play. No one can question the excellence of the results of the English method; the vigor and endurance of English youth are universally recognized, and their school-games constitute their whole gymnastics.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue Scientifique.


The subject of mental overwork was discussed in the Anthropological Society some time ago, in the light of the recorded observations of school-teachers. Weariness of mind, it was said, is marked by irritability, as manifested in sleeplessness and in nervous laughter; and by fatigue, exhibiting itself in sleepiness and incapacity for task-work. Headache suggests overstrain in study, defective ventilation, or, perhaps, a too sparing diet. Sometimes the perception of particular colors is obliterated for a time, and this may suggest an explanation of some forms of color-blindness. In some cases a form of somnambulism was originated.