Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/747

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CHILDHOOD FROM A MEDICAL STANDPOINT.

between himself and the outer world, beyond the tread-mill round of special or formal pursuits which necessarily occupy much of his attention. Many fail to appreciate the importance of this indispensable natural culture, and endeavor to supplant the spontaneous by the formal. I know of a little girl whose interest in flowers was destroyed by an attempt to teach her technical botany at too early an age, forgetting that it means more to love flowers than to know botany. In another case the attempt was made to substitute history for a boy's ordinary reading, with the result of spoiling the boy. On reaching manhood his favorite author was E. P. Roe.

Correct mental reactions must be based upon correct physical reactions, which are naturally evoked by a free open-air life. As Lowell puts it: "The driving-wheels of all-powerful Nature are in the back of the head. . . . But it is ill with a nation when the cerebrum sucks the cerebellum dry, for it can not live by intellect alone. The broad foreheads always carry the day at last, but only when they are based on or buttressed with massive hindheads. . . . Moreover, brain is always to be bought, but passion never comes to market."

The city boy's supplemental training at school is far from perfect, but his fundamental, unstudied training by contact with Nature in the free use of his proper activities is wofully deficient. If restricted to the city, he can hardly become familiar with any natural objects but a few animals, building materials, and foodstuffs; his notion of such fundamental objects as the sky or horizon must be extremely hazy. His relations with people, or at least with certain individuals, are likely to be too close; he can not escape from them, and is over-stimulated or overpowered. This leads me to speak of family life as we observe it, perhaps the most important factor of all in the child's development, physical as well as mental and moral.

It is sometimes claimed that women are not as good housekeepers and home-makers as formerly, and if this be true it is not altogether their fault. It is not to be denied that the number of families in New York, for instance, is far in excess of the number of homes. The tendency with us is for the mistress of the house to participate less and less in the details of household management, and much of the work is left to hirelings inside and outside of the premises. The desire to diminish some of the difficulties of city housekeeping has caused the wholesale introduction of flats, which are, as a rule, cramped and poorly lighted, and, to say the least, ill adapted for the rearing of children. Rooms in suites have made it possible to dispense with the kitchen and its autocrat, and the disintegration of the home is complete in boardinghouses and hotels. The promiscuity of the tenement is equally