Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/101

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91
THE UTILITY OF SCHOOL-RECESSES.

account of freedom from recess-troubles"; "more time for teachers," etc.; "less tardiness and absenteeism"; and less frequent opportunities for vicious pupils to come in contact with and corrupt other pupils." Believing that these reasons are unsatisfactory, and that the tendency is a bad one, I propose to offer some general considerations that weigh strongly against it.

The schools are utilitarian in their aim; to fit the child for living successfully is the object of their existence. As animal strength is the foundation of all moral and physical welfare, and is the chief condition of success in all the pursuits of life, the future welfare of the child in every way depends upon the normal development of his body.

An effeminate man is half sick; and when it comes to any of the severer trials of life, either physical or moral, where great endurance or courage is required, the weakest must inevitably be the first to succumb. This is as true of moral trials as of physical, for moral cowardice often results from physical feebleness. It is to be doubted if anything that is taught in the schools is of so much value to a child that it would not better be foregone than to be obtained by the loss of any physical vigor whatever. Taken in the truest sense, that city has the best schools where the school restraints have least effect upon the physical growth and normal development of the pupils, and not the one where the pupils show the greatest proficiency in acquiring in a memoriter way a few fragments of conventional facts which happen irrationally to pass current for an education. But because in so many schools the test to be applied at the end of the term, or at the end of the course, is the memoriter one, and because no teacher expects her pupils to be examined as to their health, or as to whether they are forming habits of life that will be conducive to healthfulness, it is not to be wondered at that all the plans of the teacher look more to the development of conventional proficiency than to the infinitely more important matter of health.

Under our present standard for successful teaching, it is a necessity that the teacher bend all her energies to the attainment of those things which are to be measured by a technical school examination, and that the matter of health be entirely ignored; in fact, it is a thing rather to be shunned, for, as a rule, the nervous, sallow-cheeked, flat-chested boy or girl, with the attenuated skeleton, will vanquish his more robust and healthful brother in one of these examination-jousts; and that teacher whose school contains the largest per cent of the former class may reasonably expect to obtain the greatest per cent from the examination by the superintendent. Hence it is that the "no-recess" plan will frequently meet with great favor among teachers who are most zealous and honest in doing their duty as they understand it.

There is already too strong a tendency, under our mode of civilization, to form troglodytic habits. This is shown by the number of