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mission to the public schools of children at the tender age of five years are, upon the whole, far greater than the benefits, that the efficiency of the schools is compromised, and the little ones in question are exposed to serious dangers, mentally, morally, and physically.” The Board of Education in Chicago have joined in this recommendation. They say that the desired law would afford immediate relief to their crowded schools; and " would be no less beneficial to those who would be excluded thereby than to those who would remain." While our law remains as it is, we can refuse no children who are five years
age. We must hope that regard for their real welfare, comfort, and usefulness in after years will induce their parents, if possible, to keep them away from school until they are at least six
The subject of Physical Education was brought to the notice of the School Committee by the Superintendent, in his first semi-annual report, in September, 1860. He proposed “the introduction of a thorough system of physical training as a part of the school culture.” His suggestion was referred to a special committee, who reported in December, recommending the appointment of a teacher of gymnastics, and of a committee on physical training; and the passage of an order that “the teachers in all the public schools be required to devote a part of each school session to physical exercises, not exceeding half an hour, and not less than a quarter of an hour.” This recommendation has been made the subject of discussion, but has not yet been adopted by the Board, and no order has been passed on the subject. While the importance of caring for bodily health, as well as intellectual culture, appears to be universally felt by the School Committee, objections have been made to the proposed plan, because it created a new committee and another teacher ; and it was feared that it would add to the pupils' tasks instead of relieving them. It is thought by some that the end in view might be gained by the general observance of the present rule, which provides that
every scholar shall have daily, in the forenoon and afternoon, some kind of physical or gymnastic exercise; this exercise to take place as nearly as practicable midway between the commencement of the session and recess, and between recess and the end of the session.” The plan of the Committee is ably defended and supported in their report, which is subjoined ; and the whole matter is fully discussed in the excellent reports of Mr. Philbrick. In the mean time increased attention has been given to this branch of culture. In the High School for Boys, “ one of the ushers, by the help of a simple ladder, Indian clubs, and dumb-bells, has made considerable progress in giving flexibility to the limbs, and development to the muscles of the members of his class. He speaks favorably of its effects on the discipline of his room, and of its influence on the intellectual and moral powers." In the Eliot School physical training is in successful operation, and the chairman of the committee on that school reports that “ the present corps of teachers is abundantly qualified to meet the wants of the pupils in this respect.” In the Mayhew School “ it is carefully attended to daily in every room of the building.” It has been introduced into the Grammar and some of the Primary Schools in the Hancock District, with beneficial results. In the Dwight, and in several other schools, the present regulation is complied with faithfully. In some of our schools, however, there is reported “ a want of a regular system of physical training.
That in some cases the health of our children has been impaired by too long confinement in ill-ventilated rooms, and too close attention to their studies, is a fact that cannot be denied. There have been instances in which the strain upon the mind has been continued until the muscular strength was lost, the spirits became depressed, and the constitution was undermined. We hope that some system of physical training may be introduced into all our schools. We welcome every plan that will give the pupils occasional relief. The brief interruption of mental labor, the introduction of the pure air through the open windows, the change of position, and the exercise of the muscles, refresh body and mind, quicken the faculties, and enable the student to pay closer attention to his lessons. It is no loss of time; for he can accomplish more in the hour allotted to study. Would it not be well for the teachers to allow more liberty to the eyes and muscles of the pupils, at all times? It would be painful to a grown person to sit, for any length of time, in one position, and that a constrained, awkward, and uncomfortable posture, moving neither hand nor foot, silent, with eyes
upon a book. It is doubly so to children, whose quicker circulation requires almost constant motion of some part of the body
The health of the youth of this city would be much better than it is, if they were not required to learn so many, and such long lessons at
home. If the evening is devoted to study, the eyes are weakened by using them when the body is weary and demands repose; the nervous system is unduly excited by anxiety about the lessons, by the difficulty of learning them, and by the fear of failure; and this unnatural tension of the nerves interferes with digestion, and with sleep. . With aching head and sorrowing heart the boy rises, the next morning, to resume the dreaded labors of school. Set his mind free from all thought of lessons out of school, and he will find physical training in athletic games, and health in the open air. His sleep will be refreshing, and he will go to school in the morning happy, and ready for work.
Our rules prohibit assigning out of school lessons to girls ; and forbid the instructors to assign to boys longer home lessons each day than a boy of good capacity can acquire by an hour's study. They expressly provide, that the lessons to be learned in school shall not be so long as to require the pupils to study out of school. There will be no inducement for the teacher to violate these rules, if parents and the public will be contented with less striking and splendid results. A brilliant display of learning and accomplishments acquired in a wonderfully short time is by no means a proof of a wise, judicious, healthy cultivation of the mind. Vivacity and enthusiasm accomplish a great deal, but at the expense of health. The comparison of one school with another excites the spirit of rivalry, and each master vies with all the rest in the effort to prepare a class which, on leaving the school, shall display the greatest amount of knowledge. There is on the part of parents too great anxiety that their children should obtain medals, and be first in scholarship. Too much praise is bestowed upon great talents and extensive attainments. Too much contempt is shown for those who are left behind in the race. The laws of health were given to us by the Ruler of the Universe. The violation of them brings its own punishment. “ Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. It is for us to learn those laws by careful observation, and to be guided by them in the education of our children. The evil for which those interested in physical culture are seeking a remedy, is deeply seated. Its removal requires the co-operation of parents and the public, with the teachers, and the Board to whose care the schools are committed. At home and at school, in methods of warming and ventilating, both our dwellings and our public buildings, in dress, diet, and exercise, we have a great deal to learn. Our school-rooms are generally too warm; and so imperfect is our system of ventilation, that fresh air can be introduced only by opening the windows, and exposing the health of the scholars to another danger. But in certain states of the atmosphere, and when the wind is in particular directions, the rooms are too cold
are too cold - the registers contributing no heat. Whoever will discover a method of heating sufficiently, and thoroughly ventilating the buildings in which our children pass the best hours of the day, will confer a lasting benefit upon the community. This great subject of physical education receives, at the present time, a large share of public attention. It fills school and medical reports. Books are written about it. Periodicals are devoted to it. There are sects and parties of professional gymnasts. Let us