are in every respect agreeable to the hygienic exigencies of children.
These conclusions, we know, will raise numerous protests, both from specialists whose convictions they may wound and whose interests they may conflict with, and among amateurs of gymnastics to whom those exercises are dear, because they are agreeable to their abilities and tastes. They are, on the other hand, in harmony with the opinion of the most eminent men who have occupied themselves with education, hygiene, and physiology. Herbert Spencer gives preference, among all the methods of physical exercise, to "free play"; and M. Marey, in his report on the work of the Commission of Gymnastics, of which he is president, points out to the Minister of Public Instruction the inconveniences of gymnastics, which is, in his opinion, "only a makeshift to be kept up till the time when we can find a practicable means of substituting exercises really adapted to the abilities and hygienic needs of the child—that is, open-air games."
It is, however, very far from our thought to suggest that methodical gymnastics should be wholly discontinued. That form of exercise, which is not adapted to children or to very young persons, is excellent for those who have completed their growth, and who have time and taste for developing their muscles to the extreme. Gymnastics is an excellent preparation for the military service, and may be of great aid to those who desire to harden themselves by training to the life of the regiment. But it is early enough to begin it in the eighteenth year—that is, after school studies are over.
In short, artificial and difficult exercises are to natural exercises what, in mental education, the higher instruction is to primary and secondary instruction. Physical education has its "grades" as well as mental education, and we commit an error when we reverse them.—Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from the Revue des Deux Mondes.