Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/742

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It has been claimed that the strongest blood can not endure continuous city life for more than three generations, but must be kept alive by the infusion of country blood or by the return in some degree to country life. Thus our large cities are a kind of biological furnace, which in the end consumes the lives supplied to it, in order to obtain the product in trade, science, and art which we so much admire. If, in the course of this fiery ordeal, the individual receives a keener temper or a finer polish, he may not become stronger physically or better balanced mentally, and thousands, unable to endure the strain, are cast off or incapacitated, while hundreds of thousands are not able to transmit to their children the physical endowment which they themselves originally possessed. It is the purpose of this paper to study the physiological tendency of the forces to which many American children are subjected, especially in our largest cities, where the logical effects of characteristic habits or traits are most strikingly evident. Physicians know that city children get too little light and air, do not take enough of the right kind of exercise, are often overfed or underfed, are pushed or pampered too much in their studies, and especially in their emotions, and frequently shorten their childhood to become little men and women before emerging from pinafores and knickerbockers. Such criticisms have been frequently passed, and that they are not unfounded we can all testify.

We instinctively recognize more truth than jest in Henry James's description of the little girl who rushed into the hotel parlor on roller skates, shouting: "Get out of the way!" and we have at once a clear mental picture of her pale, eager face, slim figure, shallow chest, attenuated limbs, and weak ankles; so inevitably does the simple exclamation suggest a correlated and too familiar physique. Healthy immigrants, or country people coming to the city to live, usually lose their fresh, ruddy color in a few months, and their firm flesh becomes flabby, though city people are, as a rule, better walkers and can stand more of certain kinds of exertion. We may take the physique of the little girl on roller skates as a type of frequent occurrence. In children of the corresponding class the feelings may be intense or sluggish, but in either case betray the lack of proper balance and correct discipline. There is a precocity in knowledge of people and social relations, darkest ignorance with regard to most natural objects and processes. The mind and body may be restlessly active or listless and indolent; in either case the fundamental qualities of docility and poise are lacking; there may be much development on the aesthetic side, or much in comparison with the neglect of the practical. The city child is handicapped from the start. He is usually produced with difficulty from overtaxed and under-