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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/120

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110
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

important change is completed. Immediately after this point is reached, when the yearly increase in weight and height "begins to diminish rapidly, the sickness-curve again rises very fast. The most healthy of all the years of youth is with boys the seventeenth, which is also one of the two years of most active growth. The eighteenth, on the contrary, which follows immediately upon the attainment of puberty, appears to be a very unhealthy year.

All this indicates undoubtedly that during the period of weak growth which precedes the coming on of puberty, and during which our pupils are passing through the preparatory or lowest classes of the middle schools, the power of resistance of the youthful organism against external influences is diminished. During the period of development of puberty, on the other hand, when the youthful life is approaching maturity with all its swelling force, the capacity for resistance rises from year to year, and the liability to illness falls, reaching its minimum in the last year of that period. Immediately afterward sets in another period of diminished capacity for resistance, which usually includes the last years of school life.

Among the school girls, the future mothers of generations to come, investigations instituted in thirty-five schools with three thousand and seventy-two pupils brought out a fearful amount of illness. Sixty-one per cent of the whole, all belonging to the well-to-do classes, were ill or afflicted with serious chronic disorders; thirty-six per cent were suffering from chlorosis, and as many from habitual headache; at least ten per cent had spinal disorder, etc. Such a condition of health in Swedish girls, growing worse in the years preceding puberty and during its beginning, while it is not notably improved in the last, years of the period, certainly deserves careful attention. The explanation of it is easily found in the method of instruction for girls as a whole, and in the organization of girls' schools after the pattern of boys' schools. The amount of work, sitting still, etc., exacted of the girl is not consistent with her health during her growing time. Without going into particulars as to the influences injurious to the health of growing children which proceed from their homes or may be brought out in connection with the school and schoolwork, it is still manifest that the burden of work which children have to bear under present school regulations far exceeds what is permissible, and is to a large extent responsible for the liability of school children to illness.

The average time daily demanded by the school for work in class and at home is, according to the gymnasial schedules, seven hours in the lowest classes; and it rises rapidly and constantly, till in the upper classes eleven or twelve hours are required. As