Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/483

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THE high aim of science should be, definitely, the physical and moral perfectioning of man. The exercise of the cerebral functions of all ought undoubtedly to be directed from infancy by educators. It is generally agreed that physical education is a necessity of hygiene, but it is not clear to every one that physical education should be subjected to rules and to a precise directing. It is a mistake, in our opinion, to think of getting the best results while neglecting to make scientifically a comparative study of the different methods employed, and while abandoning, as is often the case, the exercises of the body to the caprice of the imagination. There result from this vague condition various currents of opinion contradictory of one another and detrimental to the final result proposed, of ameliorating the physical condition of our population, especially of the population at school, of every degree. Fortunately, the elements of physical education are tangible, its effects are measurable, and we can conduct the discussions on a positive ground on which they fall of themselves. This condition is very different from that of mental education. It is a certain motive for improvement; and we purpose to review the precise means which have contributed to the result. We shall first try to show that it is possible to form a scientific conception of physical education at the present time. We shall then see that the new processes of physiology already permit a satisfactory control of its results.

For a method of education to be established, it is necessary that the end sought be well defined, and the means employed be perfectly adapted to the proposed end and compatible with the human organization. The indisputable object of education should be the perfecting of the individual in view of the general progress; it is an economical object, having as its consequence a much greater conversion of human activity into useful work. In physical education it is necessary to apply all the general knowledge we possess concerning the relations between the function and the organ, or rather concerning the modifications endured by the organs, of which we modify the function.

All the ideas acquired by trainers are to be carefully collected; and among modifiers of species, selection must be placed in the first line. Unfortunately, we are still far from the thought of applying to ourselves* this powerful agent for improvement, although we impose it on our domestic animals; our own unions are not often made in view of the inheritance of vigor and health which we shall leave to our descendants.