Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/190

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176
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE PLAYGROUNDS OF RURAL AND SUBURBAN SCHOOLS.
By ISABELLA G. OAKLEY.

WHILE the officers and friends of education in large cities are * » exerting themselves to provide open-air playgrounds for the schools, the villages and smaller towns all over the East are reversing the case. Except in the small district schools, the children's playground has almost ceased to exist.

This is an evil which has crept in with the tendency to centralize the schools. When in any place the schools begin to overflow, a movement to put up a larger building takes place, accompanied by an effort to create a high-school department; not so much the need of the community as the ambitious dream of some principal who would be superintendent, or some sort of central sun to a group of satellites. This dream is too easily realized, because it flatters the people. Then there rises a preposterous structure of stone and brick; a house of many gables, out of keeping with everything, either public or private, in the place; a temple of vanity. Now is rung the knell of the school playground, for the new "high school," although it will house all the children from five to fifteen, must needs be surrounded by a fine lawn, studded with shrubbery, and threaded by bluestone roads. The janitor has to employ an assistant to keep the grounds in order. A shut-in, penitentiary like place has been evolved by the architect and school committee, gratifying to their pride and a deep wrong to the children. There are many wrongs about it; the one insisted upon here is the abolishing of the recess, that time-honored joy of the American schoolboy and schoolgirl.

The cheerful sounds of play no more re-echo; the little ones march in "lock step" from the doors to the very curb of this immaculate ornate inclosure. If, on this beautiful lawn, any impulsive youngster is caught running, or performing an instinctive hopscotch or leapfrog, he is sure to be seen by a watching and powerful janitor and reported. Leapfrog and profanity, in the true Draconian spirit, are alike visited with the extreme penalty of a visit to the principal's office. However, in default of a playground, the new schoolhouse provides a gymnasium for physical culture. I speak now of a particular school, the pride of a simple village, and a type of many. This gymnasium is a costly room filled with elaborate apparatus, most of which is suited only to the high-school pupils, and never touched by the majority, who leave school at twelve or thirteen; their physical exercises have been chiefly provided for by a box of dumb-bells and wands. In many schools the "gym-