Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/333

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319
FEMALE EDUCATION.

FEMALE EDUCATION FROM A MEDICAL POINT OF VIEW.[1]
By T. S. CLOUSTON, M. D.

AS the result of my inquiries among pupils and teachers in the advanced schools for young ladies, I find that about five or six hours of actual school-work, and from two to four hours of preparation at home, may be taken as the time that is each day occupied in education. Many of the ambitious, clever girls, in order to take high places and prizes, work far longer than the time I have mentioned in preparing at home, especially if the musical practicing is taken into account. At certain times of the year, before examination, some of these girls will work twelve and fourteen hours a day, and take no exercise to speak of, and but little fresh air. For those who attend the day-schools a somewhat solemn walk to and from school is the chief means the body has of keeping healthy at all. To satisfy the requirements of the brain, and the blood, and the muscles, and the digestion, and the nutrition, and the general growth, we have a girl getting up at seven o'clock in the dark winter morning, dressing, eating a hasty breakfast (as if that was a secondary matter that was too unimportant to waste much time over), having a revise of some special subject learned the night before, walking to school in perhaps thin-soled boots, and doing the most physiologically profitable thing of the day in the chat and gossip on the way. School and lessons from nine o'clock till two or three, or four often, in questionably aired, overheated, and dull class-rooms, with not a bright bit of paint or color in them to counteract the sunless gloom of our Scotch winter weather. Who ever saw a class-room in a school where taste had been exercised in the decoration and painting? In my opinion our school-rooms should be made at least as nice as our drawing-rooms. Then the walk home, a hurried dinner, a little rest, and to work till nine or ten o'clock at night in gas-light. That is the sort of life, and these are the conditions, under which we expect not only prodigies of learning in all the sciences, but sweet tempers and sweetly healthful bodies to be developed. That is the actual treatment to which thousands of our girls are subjected during the most momentous period of their lives, physiologically; when the growth of the body is being completed, its symmetry and perfection are being reached, when the latent energies for a life's work are being or should be accumulating, and when a certain amount of joy and fun and play is Nature's best aid to health of body and mind.

There is another class of young women who have even a harder lot in many cases, and these are the pupil-teachers in the board-schools.

  1. The second of two lectures delivered at the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, November, 1882.