Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/117

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107
SCHOOL LIFE, GROWTH, AND HEALTH.
SCHOOL LIFE IN RELATION TO GROWTH AND HEALTH.[1]

By Prof. AXEL KEY (of Stockholm).

ONE of our highest, and at the same time one of the pleasantest, objects in life is the instruction of our children. It is our duty to promote their physical and mental health by all the means in our power; and the success of our efforts to that end is one of our greatest joys. The doubt has gradually grown strong whether modern instruction at home and in school, as a whole, is so arranged and guided that the aim of a sound mind in a sound body, which should never be left out of sight, is reached. More and more sharply is the question of the influence of the present school system on the growing youth debated in every enlightened country of Europe. More and more distinctly is it declared, especially from the side of the doctors, that the school imposes too great demands upon the young organism in the critical period of its growth; that it, as well as all our education, seeks too one-sidedly to stimulate mental growth, and that the physical development is thereby so neglected that great dangers arise, perhaps fatal for the whole life, to the body as well as to the closely related mental health. Much as has been thought and written on the subject, and much as school hygiene has been advanced recently, thorough investigations of the condition of children's health in schools have not hitherto been made in other countries than Denmark and Sweden, and a practical basis for conclusions on the matter is therefore wanting. The first fundamental research was instituted by Dr. Hertel in Copenhagen in 1881, and its result was so significant that a special hygienic commission was appointed to examine the conditions of health in all the schools of the kingdom. At the same time a grand school commission was named by the Government of Sweden to inquire into the organization of the whole higher school life. This commission, of which I am a member, has examined nearly fifteen thousand boys from the middle schools or the preparatory schools for the university, and three thousand girls in the private girls' schools, in reference to their health, and has measured and weighed them. The results of these researches show that boys pass through three distinct periods of growth: a moderate increase in their seventh and eighth years; a weaker growth from their ninth to their thirteenth years, and a much more rapid increase in height and weight from their fourteenth to their sixteenth years, or during the period of puberty.

  1. Address before the International Medical Congress in Berlin. Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Internationale klinische Rundschau.