It is the natural tendency for those powers which are constitutionally the strongest to overrule and weaken the others. If woman is, from physiological causes, more emotional than is good for her, and the habits of civilized life have increased this tendency, if emotional excitement weakens the control which the will ought to exercise over the powers of attention and reflection that stand at the head of intellection, it is the first business of the teacher to employ a girl's faculties as equally as possible—to restrain those which unduly predominate, and exercise the weaker powers.
A girl should be made to understand, from the first, that the education she receives at school is to do for her mind what the scales and exercises do for her fingers in her musical studies; that she is not to study simply to acquire facts, but to get control of her mind. Moreover, she should be taught that it is her duty to look forward to a lifelong intellectual activity, so that, when she comes to take full charge of herself, she will direct her mature powers toward some pursuit or line of study which will promote her present or future welfare, and insure to her wholesome mental habits. Especially should her willpower, the force which will, more than any other, make or mar her, receive the most careful training; so that, become adult, she will be able to use it physiologically, and determinately turn from the enemies, wounds, and serious sorrows, that otherwise might induce nervous disease, or drive her into a mad-house, to some one of the many subjects of interest in which the world abounds.
The first mistake in the education of girls, and the one fraught with the saddest results, is made when they are allowed to leave childhood too soon. To keep them little girls as long as possible, and make them, first of all, what George MacDonald calls "blessed little animals," is the first step in the right direction.
The second mistake is, permitting growing girls to sit in the house and study when their transparent cheeks tell of anæmia and lowered vitality. So long as there are branches of knowledge which are admirable training for the mind and can be pursued best out of doors, this mistake is inexcusable. It remains to be seen whether the old methods of education in use in boys' schools are the best for girls: they are best only if they are most physiological. Girls should be treated as they are, not as they might be under improved habits and conditions.
The third mistake is, making the school-life of girls final, when it ought to be a simple preparation for the intellectual life of the adult woman.
A fourth mistake is, withholding a knowledge of the laws to which woman is subject, in her physical and her mental life, her place in nature, and the potential character of her mental states and habits.