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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Jottings from the International Congress of Hygiene.

(*From a Mother's Note-book.)
Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 518


To-day (Aug. 15th) the "Times," in its leading article says, "The work of the Hygiene Congress is now practically at an end. . . . Papers have been read, and discussions have been started on the many and multifarious subjects about which the different sections have been engaged. It is no easy task, out of such a mass of matter, to separate the corn from the chaff, and less easy still to determine which among the grains of corn are destined to germinate and grow."

A few of these thought-kernels collected from the addresses which it was the writer's privilege to hear, may, we hope, be acceptable to the students of the Parent's Review.

Dr. SHUTTLEWORTH (Medical Superintendent, Royal Albert Asylum, Lancaster) remarked that "Teachers should be persons who are capable of individualising children;" and advocated that they should have medical training.

This view frequently emphasised by other speakers, and particularly by Dr. Arbuthnot Lane (of Guy's), who included in a resolution, of which we unfortunately failed to obtain a copy, a strong recommendation that children's nurses should be medially trained; whilst Dr. Priestley urged that "every woman ought to be conversant with the mode of using antiseptics, and should understand the importance of isolation and of the disinfection of the minutest things."

The object of Dr. Shuttleworth's paper was to direct the attention of school teachers to "nervous disorder in children," and especially in girls, due to circumstances of school life, such as over work, punishment, the excitement of examinations, harsh treatment, and so forth. He found by experience that exceptional children, if gathered into small classes (say, of ten) and not pushed, can go on into every-day school life in two or three years' time, and that children who are "not understood" by teachers are worth noticing; the nervous, sensitive, over mobile child can be trained successfully. Weak-brained children are often so teased and worried that they are seriously injured.

Dr. FRANCIS WARNER (in a most valuable paper on "the Scientific Observation of Children") stated that girls present fewer defects and less mental dulness than boys, and that eye cases, i.e., defective sight, squints (not ophthalmia), preponderate among so-called dull children--e.g., out of 3,679 "dull" children examined, 1,473 were eye cases.

Out of 3,000 abnormal nerve cases a large number were of defective development--there were 400 "dull," 800 whose nutrition was low, and of the eye-cases a large number were squints.

One great cause of nerve cases is low nutrition and defective development. The principal signs of what is called nervousness are the "nervous hand balance, or weak hand," with finger-twitching and "lordosis,: i.e., when the hands are held out an altered balance of the spine may be seen with arching forward in the lumbar region, while the upper part between the shoulders is thrown back. It is interesting to know the kind of child-material teachers have to work upon, and allowance should be made for this in assessing the results of the labours. The need for special training and the results thereof are indicatd by particular nerve-signs. The effects of physical training, or its absence, are always observable, and the personal influence of the teacher may be traced. In nervous children the condition of brain is accompanied by finger-twitching and over mobility of eye. Mental dulness is often due to low physical development. Many children with small heads, especially girls, appear to be sharp and intelligent, but are delicate. One class presenting certain nerve-signs are ill-balanced and over mobile, but usually mentally bright, while other nerve-signs are usually associated with low mental status.

Mr. NOBLE SMITH added that children do not "grow out of" either mental or physical mal-developments, and that the popular idea that they do so does infinite mischief. Large numbers are, through this notion, rendered unfit for the army and navy, and many are heavily handicapped for life. Crooked legs among artisans are nearly as numerous as straight ones. This is the general result of low nutrition and over mental pressure. It is the mothers who require to be taught about nutrition.

Dr. FLETCHER BEACH (Darenth Asylum) indicated shortly the kind of training which is given in institutions for idiots and imbeciles: 1. Strengthen the body and alleviate its defects. 2. Undertake the special teaching of the mind. The first and most important part of the training concerns the physical condition. The wasted muscles must be nourished, their functions called into activity, and the want of precision and harmony must be corrected by properly applied exercises. Thus, the muscular system strengthened, the hands have less difficulty in performing any single act, locomotion is improved, dribbling disappears, eyes wander less, the listlessnesss and inertness to a great extent disappear.

The moral treatment goes on side by side with the physical and mental training. Obedience must be taught and efforts made to impart good temper and affection. The child has to earn these good qualities through the agency of teachers and attendants, who have to use every effort to improve the moral qualities of those confided to their care.

Intellectual training, in the lowest class, begins with the cultivation of the senses, and, the tactile function being the most important, commences by the education of the sense of touch--e.g., by use of nail-boards, by fitting square, circular, and oblong pieces of wood into corresponding holes, by threading beads, building with bricks, &c., &c. The sense of sight is educated in colour by aid of various coloured papers which the child should match, and by coloured cups and balls which he should pair; in form, by the use of the aforementioned squares, circles, &c.; in dimension, by using pieces of wood of different lengths; and in the notion of distance by making him separate objects from one another, and then take measurements from point to point. The sense of hearing is trained by teaching the child to discriminate between certain sounds, or by music, of which imbeciles are fond. The senses of taste and smell are awakened by a series of experiments. In every case the method is to proceed from the simple to the complex, teaching ideas by the use of concrete forms and not abstract notions.

Having educated the senses, proceed to higher branches, giving instruction in the alphabet, reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, drawing, the idea of eight, and the value of money. Some progress attained, instruct in tailoring, shoe making, carpentry, mat and brush making, and gardening for the boys; and in domestic work and sewing for girls, alternating the industrial with the purely intellectual training.

Dr. OCTAVIUS STURGES (of the Hospital for Sick Children) stated that "restlessness," especially in girls, is often misunderstood. Their restless movements at school, supposed to be due to "inattention" are punished by giving them longer hours. Then follow disturbing dreams, broken sleep, limb movements, and then the doctor is called in. In six months, out of forty cases of chorea (St. Vitus's dance) in the hospital, all but one were girls. The exciting cause of "St. Vitus's dance" is school worry; puzzling over sums is a fruitful cause.

If school worry be continued after chorea has commenced the speech becomes affected.

From the beginning of the disorder it is evident that the limbs and tongue have passed out of the child's control, and school work becomes extra difficult, especially reading and writing. Punishment increases the nervousness and makes the work worse done. At length it dawns upon the teacher that the child is not "preverse", but ill.

The premonitory symptoms of St. Vitus's dance are:--1. Temper deteriorates, child becomes fretful, capricious, has headaches, and restless nights. 2. Restless limbs; especially is one part or one limb affected, commonly the hand. This gives rise to faults of writing, badly done sums, which the teacher attributes to "wilful disobedience." Remember, punishment only aggravates the case. As a rule, the "St. Vitus" child is cheerful, amiable, intelligent.

(a) Observe the higher muscles--i.e., of the face, eyes, &c. (b) Especially note girls from eight to twelve years. Do they alter? Is their work less well done? Do they become untidy? Is temper changed? Sleep affected? Do head or limbs ache? And note particularly if their food be sufficient and nutritious. (c) Movement into a higher class often produces it. For example: more difficult sums are given, which are frequently not explained to the child. (d) The best index of muscular mobility. The face and tongue movements may have another cause; but the hand is an infallible test. Let the child extend her palms steadily; if there be no quivering, and nothing to choose between the two hands, there is no fear of chorea.

Then place palm to palm. Observe specially if the thumb reposes naturally without trembling; if the tendency of the hand is to droop; if one hand be straight, the other down, &c. If the fingers are in repose you may know that the child's restlessness comes from naughtiness.

Dr. CHEADLE asserted that "excitement rather than hard work induces chorea. The excitement of quarelling has brought on a severe attack. Sometimes St. Vitus's dance is very dangerous; connected with it very serious mischief may be going on, especially with the heart. Relieve the overpressure at once."

Professor KOTELMANN (of Hamburg) exhibited very striking photographs of children writing an upright and a slanting hand, specimens of upright writing by children in the different standards (which were certainly exquisite models of evenness and clearness), narrow copybooks for upright writing with lines for the shortened upper and lower strokes of the letters and gave the opinions of teachers and of German writers on the subject.

He said that "not one teacher hardly would be found to admit that there is any connection between Hygiene and Handwriting. But slant writing is the cause of all the mal-positions, no matter what desks be used, or what quarter the light comes from."

If anyone was not convinced after seeing the remarkable photograph, the able speech of Mr. J. JACKSON (Norwood) must have carried conviction. He spoke of "the postures induced, required, and taught in sloping writing--(a) the sideway position of the body in sloping writing is unavoidable; (b) twisiting of the neck inevitably follows; (c) distortion of the spine must accompany the position; (d) the right shoulder is pushed up out of its natural position; (e) the wrist is twisted out of its natural direction; (f) sprawling on the desk, and consequent constriction of the chest, are thus induced; (g) the oblique view of the writing in sloping style causes wrong focussing and consequent injury of the eyes."

The injurious effects upon the system of the postures required in sloping writing:--(a) Generally, health deterioration; (b) particularly, (1) spinal curvature, crooked growth; (2) pulmonary weakness; (3) short sight, interference with the eyesight and other functions; (4) writers' cramp.

For "steep writing,' the natural, normal position is required: all unnatural positions are banished by vertical writing.

Mr. NOBLE SMITH added: "Write with a pencil, as then you naturally write vertically; only allow a child to use a pen and ink when it requires to learn the use of ink; but for all the long school exercises insist on pencil being used."

Professor GLADSTONE said that the position is very injurious to the eyes, and probably accounts for much of the defective vision in schools, and he proposed the following resolution:

"That , as the hygienic advantages of vertical writing have been clearly demonstrated and established, both by medical investigation and practical experiment, and that, as by its adoption the injurious postures so productive of spinal curvature and short-sight are entirely avoided, it is hereby recommended that upright penmanship be introduced and generally taught in our elementary schools."

This resolution was also proposed in French and German, and carried unanimously, with an amedment that "to a very great extent" should be substituted for the word "entirely."

(Messrs. Sampson Low publish twelve "New Style Vertical Copybooks" and twenty "New Code Copybooks.")

The presidential address to Section IV. was given on the second day by Mr. JOSEPH DIGGLE, Chairman of the London School Board. In it he remarked that "the care for all children, as children, is the outcome of Christian civilisation. In the weakest and the frailest child we discern the latent capacity for a higher life; and precisely becaue in that case the physical organism hides rather than exhibits the true child, the duty is more clearly laid upon us of assisting the child to break through the barrier of hostile physical defects.

"The broadest measure of the (State) estimation of child-life is the care which it bestows upon the education of children. Involved in the very idea of education is the perception of the innate capacity of the child for larger development. And this capacity varies with each child. Children are as alike and as diverse from each other as the leaves of the forest trees. Whilst we think of children and care for them collectively, we must beware lest we lose our grip of the individual characteristics of each child.

"It is at this point that the danger of confounding education with teaching comes in. Our habit is to speak of the one as though it were the equivalent of the other. They are rather the complement of each other. Acting in unison they are allied forces carrying into effect a common plan; acting apart they are like foes encamping upon a common ground. Let us, therefore, at the outset firmly grasp this principle, that teaching may often in no way mean education, and that the teacher may sometimes be educating in a manner directly opposed to his teaching. An educator, as apart from a teacher only, is one who has large sympathies with the children, and understands the higher possibilities of their nature. His function is to help the child to feel his way about the world, to understand something of the things he meets with, and to throw the light of a riper experience upon the path which opens before him.

"The ideal is a lofty one; but it is not incapable of general attainment, and the pressing need of the time is to raise teachers to the height of educators and teaching to the level of education.

"No successful work, therefore, can be performed with children unless there be, first of all, a thorough appreciation of the value of the material with which we work. It is an obvious truth, but, like many other things equally obvious, it is frequently overlooked. There are thousands amongst us who are keenly alive to the importance of training for dogs, horses, or even cattle, who would practically allow the children to grow up anyhow. And the parents are not few who would throw upon the State the responsibility which Nature has imposed upon them of caring for their own offspring.

"I believe in the untold value of every child-life to the State.

"Again, the entire range of teaching which is intended for the development of the whole child concerns the community still more than the general suitability of schoolrooms as the places where teaching is given. Not a part only, but the whole, of a child's nature demands separate care. Unless the community makes this, too, a matter of the deepest concern, it is destroying a part of its national wealth.

"At times there has been a tendency to make the range of teaching coincide too much with the knowledge of books, and too little with the experience of natural things. The culture of physical powers has been neglected, with a consequent loss of physical strength and graceful bearing.

Too much learning from books apart from the things themselves has led to a weakening of the faculty of observation, and to a loss of the aptitude for independent reasoning from observation and experience combined. Too little care for the spiritual capacity of the child has blunted the moral perception, and retarded perfect intellectual development. Stinted or obtund ideas upon theses cardinal principles can only be administered at the loss of the community.

From our deliberations here, where the widest freedom of utterance prevails, it is no small consolation to think that many will strike the one note which may harmonise many discords when insisting that the importance of developing the entire physical, intellectual, and spiritual capacities of children far transcends all minor matters." In conclusion, Mr. Diggle quoted "the inspiring words of Ruskin," that "in some far away and yet undreamt-of hour he could even imagine that England may . . . . as a Christian mother, at last attain to the virtues and treasures of a heathen one, and be able to lead forth her sons, saying, 'These are my jewels!'"

Professor BURGERSTEIN (Vienna) mentioned in his paper, entitles "The Working Curve of an Hour," that he had set sums to 162 children, whose ages ranged from eleven to thirteen years. During the whole experiment they worked out 135,010 figures, making 6,504 mistakes. The errors became more numerous as time wore on, till in the third quarter of an hour the power of work diminished to its lowest, from which he argued that continuous work should not be given them for a longer period, and insisted that "no lesson should last longer than three-quarters of an hour, interspersed with rest, movement, and the change of the air in the room, for the children of these ages become fatigued in three-quarters of an hour, even though the sums be changed every ten minutes; the organic material of the brain is gradually exhausted. It follows, then, that in the third ten minutes' work (a pause of five minutes occurring each quarter hour) at this stage of a child's development the faculty of occupying himself more seriously with a subject, already treated for half an hour before, is remarkably diminished, the organic materials being in a high degree exhausted; it seems as if in a certain moment of the third ten minutes' time a relaxation of the mental intensity takes place, as if the children unconsciously must repose." The experiment demonstrated that continuous work for children, even if the tasks are not difficult should not exceed three-quarters of an hour.

Mr. ARBUTHNOT LANE'S paper on "Some of the Laws which Regulate the Growth of a Child" deserves a longer notice than we can give. He pointed out that obviously absurd explanations have been put forward of the causation of most of the acquired deformities of young life, as, for instance, lateral curvature, the effect being usually regarded as the cause, a common error with surgeons and pathologists.

Carrying weights in a growing child stultifies its growth. Such deformities are specially exaggerated if the child's nutrition be so imperfect that the density and firmness of the bones becomes sub-normal. Rickets, e.g., may come on with a diet of bread and milk alone.

Dr. GLADSTONE observed: If we consider the effect of work upon the mind of the child, we find that it can be expressed in a curve so as to go right home to the mind of the educationalist. It is significant that the proposal to limit study to three-fourths of an hour comes from Dr. Burgerstein's own country, where lessons always last an hour, the term "Stünde" being synonymous for "lesson" and "hour". When he was a student in Germany he found that most of the German students could study more hours a day than he could, or than any of his countrymen could. He quite agreed the lessons should not be longer than three-fourths of an hour. Dr. Kuborn, of Liege, had given another instance of the length of time the brain takes to develop, and also the great conclusion that we should not allow this development to go on too fast, but should prolong the time during which it is allowed to go on; and Mr. Arbuthnot Lane had demonstrated the effect of external causes on the bones, and if there were so many causes which affected the osseous system, it is to be expected that the brain would be very much affected by the amount and nature of the studies.

A paper was then read by the Chairman of the Physical Sub-Committee London School Board (Mr. GEORGE WHITE) on "Physical Education," capitally illustrated in the Swedish exercises by a class of Board School children.* He observed that the increased attention given to physical education is one, among many other phenomena, indicative of the change which in the last decade the meaning of the word "Education" has undergone. At last educationalists are beginning to realise the natural interdependence of bodily and mental functions, and the consequent necessity of creating perfect physiological and psychological conditions in order to conduce to the harmonious working of the various parts of the human system and its functions, and to produce the maximum of result with the minimum of effort; or, in other words, that the educational efforts of the individual should be attended with the maximum of pleasure and the minimum of pain.

The Education Department has lately given an impetus to this greater attention by introducing into its code an article which recognises the utility of apportioning some part of the school time to some form of physical education by allowing such instruction to be included in the ordinary timetable of the school.

One of the greatest difficulties a teacher has to contend with in the management of young pupils is the desire for change and the natural disposition to physical activity which always accompany infancy and early youth. The skilful teacher is he who knows how to utilise these most advantageously to make school-life happy and interesting to his pupil, and to secure the best conditions for mental effort by promoting the best physical conditions.

It is best to arrange this practice in some part of the time-table preceded and followed by lessons which require sitting, otherwise weariness, lassitude, and undue strain and effort will result.

Apart from its more general hygienic results, the advantages are manifold. As a great mechanical help to school discipline it is invaluable, partly on account of the habits of ready obedience and attention to the commands and wishes of the teachers which it engenders, and partly as affording the means of securing a variety of posture and attitude to satisfy the demands of that vitality and activity which the young, under natural conditions, always exhibit.

The indirect effects are equally inestimable. Its aim and result too (if properly taught) being to make children healthy and well-developed, exercising in turn each separate part and function of the human body, it powerfully counteracts an hereditary predisposition to disease, and minimises their injurious tendencies.

Swimming brings into action more of the muscles than any other exercise. Its value, therefore, estimated as a subject of school instruction, and as a part of physical education, apart from the skill and bodily dexterity which it involves and the material advantage resulting therefrom, seems to me to be immeasurable. It affords a kind of counterpart to physical education on land; and no child can be said to have a complete physical education until it has been taught how properly to use its limbs, and how to exercise all its muscles, both in the water and out of it.

Mr. White further pointed out that physiology should be taught to children side by side with the physical exercise--e.g., where the physiology, anatomy, and functions of the leg are being studied, particular exercises designed to develop the leg and make the performance of its functions easy and natural should be practised.

* Mothers may be glad to know that most valuable classes for "Physical Culture" and remedial training for delicate growing girls are held by Miss Chreimann for the children of the higher classes at Portman Rooms, London, and elsewhere. Miss Chreimann also gives lectures to mothers and nurses on the subject.

(To be continued.)


Typed by Barbara McNiff, Mar 2013