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Education: The Next Phase
BY CHARLTON ANDREWS, VALLEY CITY, NORTH Dakota.
HE wave of enthusiasm for vocational training, which has recently swept over the educational
T world, seems to have subsided to a less turbulent,
more rational level. The movement, thus launched,
can now proceed at leisure to work out its most beneficial results in the most permanent form. Meanwhile the field of discussion has been cleared for the next subject of special attention, and the choice seems narrowing down to two general topics, namely, physical and moral education.
The first of these topics has been especially prominent in recent teachers' conventions. It has been conceded that, whatever may have been done heretofore for the mind of the school child, beyond question his body has been neglected. Where he has not been left entirely to his own fruitful but fitful resources in this respect, at best he has been subjected, in the mass, to certain perfunctory calisthenics, or on the other hand, to frenzied athletics. But now it is beginning to be broadly acknowledged that children must be systematically educated in their bodies, as well as in their minds.
Also, it is becoming insistent in the educational mind that the best physical training shall be based only upon an accurate knowledge of physiology. This subject needs to be taught earlier in the grades than at present. It needs to be presented with fewer and less exaggerated disquisitions on the evil effects of alcohol and tobacco-intemperate arguments against intemperance, which school children readily recognize as false and regard with contempt. Moreover, at least in the higher grades, the elements of physiology must be taught in their entirety, without the conspicuous omission of those phases of the subject most important to adolescents.
We have gone to Germany for much profitable instruction in the science and art of education. It is high time we were going to her for this important lesson. The physiology of sex is now taught in many German schools, and will shortly be taught in them all. This innovation has resulted from an earnest and persistent warfare of the pen, in which Wedekind's terrible drama, "Fruehlings Erwachen," is one of the most impressive of recent documents. Nothing now stands in the way of the teaching of social hygiene in our schools but a divided public opinion. There still remain those who confuse innocence with ignorance and who cherish the Podsnappian fallacy that an evil may be palliated by simply ignoring its existence. But these constitute an ever diminishing minority. It is rapidly becoming the general conviction among parents and educators alike that there can be no sane choice between leaving the child's knowledge of sex to chance, and giving it to him first hand from one competent to impart it healthfully and reverently. It were doubtless preferable if the home could be safely depended upon for this instruction, as, indeed, an ideal state of affairs would make every home its own school; but even the parents who feel the need of such instruction are prone to avoid it until too late. Meanwhile, the child, left to itself, acquires its information from the vilest sources and in the vilest ways. This is a solemn problem, more vital, more fundamental, instinct with more far-reaching consequence than even the problem of wage-earning. For a man to know thoroughly all the parts and functions of the machine he inhabits is even as important as that he be conversant with the gasoline engine of his automobile. Indeed, self-knowledge really comes first in the trilogy, leading directly through self-reverence to self-control.
Teachers are perceiving signs of a general awakening to the fact that the laws of health are the laws of God and as binding as if they had been chiselled in the tables of commandment on Sinai. Economic rationalism alone should be sufficient to bring about the thorough teaching of these laws, for there is now universal realization of Spencer's maxim that "to be a nation of healthy animals is the first condition of national prosperity." Our public school curriculum, crowded as it already is, must make a place for direct physical instruction and training to be administered by teachers expert in diagnosing bodily defects and in pre
scribing their remedies. The local health officers must be called in for examination of pupils and consultation with teachers. Sanitation and elementary bacteriology must be made as an open book to the rising generation in order that the sin of allowing plainly preventable disease to persist may be blotted off the record of the
In Chicago, examination has shown three school children out of five to be physically defective. In New York sixty-six per cent, are in need of medical treatment. These figures indicate only too plainly the first reform. But there must be even more than the mere remedying of present physical defects; the child must be taught such bodily prophylaxis and methods of development as will avoid the recurrence of disease, counteract evil hereditary tendencies, and build up a constitution upon which he may place intelligent dependence in the work of his life.
A noted educator has recently advocated boxing-gloves for school girls, and in a number of cities swimming is now taught, at least to pupils of high school grade. And swimming is surely an ideal physical exercise. The ability to swim is the only insurance against fatal water accidents such as are recorded so numerously every year. This exercise promotes the harmonious activity of practically all the muscles of the body, and is most effective in correcting the weak back and the curved spine, afflictions so frequent among students. And swimming is the cleanliest of exercises. England long since included swimming in the regular school curriculum, teaching the children not only to swim, but also to save life. In London there is a public school lifesaving championship, and prizes are given each year, for which teams of boys and girls ten years of age and older, compete.
Proper physical education in our schools will do away with the inexcusable self-ignorance which makes so many citizens the helpless prey of charlatan and quack and patent medicine manufacturer. It will do much toward finally terminating the ignorant or the careless propagation of diseases which, by all the achievements of modern research, have no right to exist. It will reduce the alarming percentage of the physically defective and insure the rising generation an opportunity to know its own imperfections and the remedies therefor. It will send out into the world of affairs young men and women equipped not only with knowl
edge and thought-power, but also with the essential fundamental bodily health. Best of all, physical education of the truest type will promote the morality of the future, as will no other phase of school activity, unless we except direct moral training. The physical basis of character is becoming better understood from year to year, and the intimate relations and reactions between the physical and the moral in both child and adult are too well established to be longer ignored as they so largely are in our present scheme of public school education.
When the child's body has been developed and his mind has been stored with knowledge and disciplined, there yet remains something of the gravest importance before his complete evolution is fairly begun: there is the necessity for direct moral culture. After all, the moral problems are the great problems of the race, and preparation to cope with them is second in importance to no other phase of training.
The question of moral education, being an unusually difficult one, has been left generally unanswered. Our intensely democratic attitude toward religion in the public schools has had much to do with this. The subject has given rise to earnest discussion from time to time, but the discussion has been for the most part unfruitful. Indeed, whatever civic righteousness has emerged from the public schools, has come as a by-product, the quality of which has been the object of slight solicitude.
As there is a physical, there is likewise a mental basis of character. This obvious fact has been too largely ignored during the recent vocational agitation. Good citizenship, always requires more than the mere ability to earn a living. An idle brain is the devil's workshop; and an education which, through specialization, merely prepares the hand and the mechanical memory for the definite set of habits which constitutes a trade, inevitably leaves a vacant and unutilized atelier to the tender mercies of His Satanic Majesty. The mind of the young man, working with his hands, in shop or factory, is almost wholly at liberty the long day through to rove at will. And, of course, his choice of
fields for these unrestricted excursions will most largely determine the young man's character. As he thinks in his mind-while his hands work-so is he. Herein lies the vast importance of an education which shall have broadened his horizon and opened to him multifarious avenues of higher pleasure and contemplation. No man can be restricted save by the limitations of his own mental vision: the day laborer to whom have been opened, though in ever so slight a degree, the doors of philosophy and art, of knowledge and religion, is likely to be freer to range the realms of thought and fancy than the man of unlimited wealth whose whole attention is concentrated on the manipulation of his fortune, except on those rare occasions when he takes a few weeks' vacation. It is in the unoccupied minds of her manual laborers that the destiny of our country is brewing.
Now, range of vision and catholic appreciation are rarely acquired in large measure after the school age. A trade can be learned anywhere, at any time, with vastly less expenditure of effort. The school which largely neglects the former object and devotes itself to the latter is a school of indifferent, if not of bad citizenship. Specialization has, indeed, become too specialized, and a reaction is inevitable. The old-fashioned generalizing education is not so inappropriate to modern conditions as has been feared. Specialization is a powerful weapon of progress, but we must guard against its recoil, which is narrowness. The world is so full of a number of things that general acquaintance with many of them and a trained faculty of discrimination are essential to a healthy mind and a wise conscience. The function of the college is distinct from that of the professional school; and, similarly, the function of the high school-"the people's college"-in no manner coincides with that of the trade school. The time is coming when those same educators that so ruthlessly cast out that great ally of general education, classical training, are going to welcome it back into the curriculum with equal ardor and a due humility. In our wild scramble for material progress, we have sadly undervalued the salubrity of contact with Greek and Roman civilization. The poet Phokylides desired first to gain a competence and then to practice virtue, and we have very largely set ourselves up as his followers today. But the time is coming when we shall all swing back eagerly again to Plato.