The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Questions Proposed by the Royal Commission on Physical Education (Scotland) *

Volume 14, 1903, pgs. 353-360

Part 2 (continued from page 276.)

13.--What is a just proportion of time to be devoted to physical training in relation to study?

13.--This again is a hard question to answer. Many side issues are involved. I believe, e.g., that the hours of sleep should be regulated both by age and by the season of the year. Boys, roughly speaking, up to 10 or 11, should have ten hours at least in bed; and during the chief growing age (i.e., up to 17 or 17 1/2;), at least nine in winter, and perhaps half-an-hour less in summer. These hours have often, I believe, been encroached upon to permit of sufficient time out of doors, and also for the numerous subjects required by a modern school curriculum.

Again, football or hockey requires only one hour, while to get sufficient exercise out of cricket, quite two, and out of golf even more, especially on crowded links. But there ought to be a great deal of what I may call breathing time in the open air, besides what is spent in hard games.

Generally speaking, I would say that six hours spent in actual study or preparation, one in drawing and singing, ten in the bedroom, one-and-a-half at meals; one in unoccupied time after meals, half-an-hour at prayers or school assemblies, half-an-hour in the gymnasium, leaving two-and-a-half for games and fresh air, and one for entirely leisure time.

This estimate is, of course, subject to the variations indicated above, but, I think, it gives the minimum allowance consistent with due attention to robustness and vitality.

On Saturdays there is, of course, more open air, and I think that all schoolboys should learn to take a good walk on Sundays, if only to keep up the habit of walking as an exercise.

[14. Is physical training most advantageous if carried out daily in connection with school work?]

14.--I think physical training and schoolwork should go together. Nothing can be a worse habit for life than taking no exercise one day, and too much another. Exercise should be, like meals and sleep, part of the daily business of life, till the desire for it becomes an irrepressible instinct.

[15. What are the respective merits of outdoor and indoor training?]

15.--They seem to be to be like food and drink, both equally necessary to well-being. Indoor life is less injurious the more it is associated with absolutely pure air, and a temperature never artificially raised above 55 degrees or 56 degrees.

I regret to say that these conditions are often frequently violated, not only by the world in general, but by schoolmasters, chiefly because they work in overheated studies; and even by scientific professors, lecturing perhaps on the sciences which are supposed to have to do with health to students who are suffering from gross violations of the principles of ventilation and of heat economy. If science were applied to the well-being of man himself, as rigorously as it is to the improvement of his material surroundings, such anomalies would not occur.

[16. Should some form of military drill or training form part of the ordinary curriculum of every school?]

16.--As I have said before, I think that drill should form part of the regular business of the school, and that as many boys as possible should be trained to be good rifle shots. I further believe in boys camping out when the time can be spared, either during term or holidays, under something like military discipline, and learning to do everything for themselves which has to do with tent life.

But I am much opposed to anything which shall further interfere either with the studies, or the games, or the manual work and other occupations, or the already brief leisure time of school life, and still more so, to notions of military smartness bringing about any obstruction to the free play of the lungs or the free movements of the limbs; in fact, boys have clothes enough already; and for rich and poor alike, I object to any special clothes for their "playing at soldiers," just as I have effectually objected to all distinct athletic millinery not absolutely necessary for the purposes of games. General Sir Hector Macdonald reviewed the cadet corps of Wanganui School, New Zealand, in grey flannel shirts, bare necks, and short trousers. He said it was the best uniform he had seen, with some sort of loose jacket to put on when required by the weather. I particularly approve of this, because it is also the best wardrobe for a cyclist. But, generally speaking, I have apprehensions as to the results of encouraging the military spirit in schools. We wish to teach our boys to think for themselves, to appeal to reason rather than to custom and prejudice in all they do. And I fear that the military spirit has been, hitherto at least, productive of cast-iron regulations, and opposed to what is rational, individual, and unconventional. If I could have a school cadet corps, equipped and accoutred without any interference from the War Office, and trained to exercise initiative and common sense, my present views might be modified, but I believe in development after the model of a rifle club (vide Spectator, August 23) rather than that of a cadet corps.

[17. What system of physical training is, in your opinion, the best?
Answer: I think that this question is answered in the course of the others.

[18. As distinct from physical training, what physical education is given in your school?]

18.--It is not alien to the present enquiry, if I say that, in all classes of schools, one of the most, if not the most, important subject of instruction is what I may call the science of life; the importance of pure air, and how it is to be secured; the laws of heat economy, and how they are to be observed; the physiology of exercise, and the evils both of excess and defect; the way in which common maladies, like colds and chills, can be avoided by its means; the reason why any hard exercise should be taken in flannel, and not in any cotton fabrics; something of the chemistry of food, and of the secretions which help digestion, and the practical rules deductible from such knowledge. All these things are more important for boys (and girls) to know than the dates of the kings or the nature of adverbial clauses. If such an education as this were given in all schools as a necessary and prominent part of education, we would no longer hear of children in the Highlands and other country parts being fed on tea and white bread and tinned meats; of the consequent want of freshness and rosiness and hardiness of the present generation; nor would children be kept at school in towns during winter months with little more open air exercise than what they get by climbing up and driving on a tram car.

I suppose, for my own part, that there is scarcely a day on which I do not speak to my boys on some point which has to do with the rationale of their physical training, or insist, from the standpoint of practical Christianity, on the duty of avoiding "physical sins," when known to be such. And further, I believe that laying such a foundation of physical morality, presents the best chance of resistance to the formation of drinking habits in after life. Teach a boy why his stomach should have periods of repose, and, therefore, why he should not eat or "grub" between meals, and he is less likely to be subject to a craving for "something," which afterwards will only be appeased by stimulants, and he will not only have formed the habit of controlling his appetites, but he will have learned why he should control them, and also have experienced the effect of such self-mastery on his bodily vigour. It would be easy to multiply illustrations, but I think I have said enough in support of the thesis, that theoretical education is the proper and essential supplement of physical training.

[19. What are the results of your experience regarding physical training, games, etc.?]

(1) It is a common-place that "games injure work." I object to the antithesis. Games are only one of a number of means towards a physical training, which again implies and involves physical work. If the chief end were amusement, the present prominence given to games would be indefensible. Amusement, and its resulting high spirits, are certainly excellent things. But the energy, time, and money spent on this particular sort of amusement would be wickedly excessive, if cricket and football were in the same category as balls and picnics.

Runs in the rain are certainly not amusements, though the recompense of the after-glow is soon discovered; football is rarely an amusement to a boy fresh from home. He would usually rather be in school than in a scrummage. But the resulting joyousness, akin to that of war, is usually a plant of quicker growth than the deep delight of great literature, which is slowly but surely imbibed by those who have become saturated, as it were, with Sophocles or Homer, by the arduous process of translation. And as the delight of active exercise comes sooner, and is more visibly displayed than mere intellectual pleasure, the idea of amusement has become connected with the former, and that recreation is one main purpose of the latter has been forgotten.

(2) It is said, "Does this not result in too much talk about games?" Archdeacon Wilson replied to this, "What do French boys talk about?" I doubt whether, when boys are gathered in halls, or men in a smoking room, much more edifying subjects are, or even were, the staple of conversation. Anyone who really gets to know boys becomes aware of the enormous variety of topics in which they take interest, and about which they will talk freely when alone or with one or two congenial friends. But such subjects of individual interest would not be suitable for general social talk and badinage [banter] in the school world or in any other.

(3) A result of the present position of the great games is that they really do give an education in observation and reasoning of no mean order.

In a discussion, to take one point as to when it is advisable to take first choice of innings at cricket, or the choice of ground and wind at football, the number of logical or fallacious processes, both inductive or deductive, which occur in such arguments, are as numerous and as educative as if the discussion concerned politics or casuistry. School politics, indeed, have often proved to be a good training for those of the bigger world.

(4) The tendency of some of our great games to become spectatorial, which is deplored by every man of sense, and which really constitutes a national evil and danger, is not fostered by a sound system of physical training and education, but the very reverse. The man who, as a boy, has been taught the duty and experienced the advantage and pleasure of taking exercise for himself, of a kind suitable of his age and circumstance, is not likely to sit or stand during a Saturday afternoon as spectator of a gladiatorial show, unless he can otherwise secure his own personal exercise. For my own part, I have not witnessed a cricket or football match for many years. I require the time for my own exercise.

[20. Are they at present sufficiently organised and supervised?
Answer: Generally speaking, not at all . . .

[21. Are the teachers themselves duly qualified and instructed?
My experience as to this is very limited. So far as drill, etc. is concerned, I engage one sergeant-major instructor permanently, and another partially for 140 boys . . .

21.--The vulgar and ridiculous reproach that schoolmasters are chosen for their "athletics" is founded on the truths that in order to bring out the educative element in games, there must be some experienced and rational instruction, and that many reasons make it desirable that some masters should take part in great games, and not be conspicuously inferior in them to the leaders of the boys.

But how far masters at Scotch Elementary Schools take an interest in the physical education of the children I cannot say. The number of closed windows in too many cases is an indirect evidence to me that things are not always quite as they should be, for open windows are an unfailing index of a man who cares for physical education. For the great work which is being done in many English Primary Schools I have already referred to Mr. Sharples' paper.

[22. Are the pupils examined by a medical man?]

22.--All our boys are examined by our school medical officer on first entry, and his report comes to me in the doctor's book. He there enters any intimation which appears to him desirable as to boys being exempted from particular games, runs, or other exercise. His word is final.

He also, or his partner, makes daily visits to the school, and sees every boy who is suffering from any ailment, or accident, or who wishes for advise as to his exercise. These reports come to me in his book.

Such reports reappear in "The Medical Ledger," in which each boy has his own page, so that I can see the medical history of a boy at a glance.

[23. What kind of medical examination is made, and how often?]

[24. Is a school register kept, showing the height, weight, chest girth, spirometry, biceps' girth, and general physical development of the pupils?]

[25. If so, how often are these measurements taken, and by whom?]

24, 25.--Measurements are made three times annually of weight, chest girth, height, girth of upper and lower left arms. The reason for registering the left arm, is because it is apt to be neglected, and it is as well to register the united effects of gymnastics, Rugby football, and fives.

Every new boy is also measured similarly on his arrival. New measurements are entered in a book, from which typical extracts are sent, the boys of each age at last birthday being on a separate page.

Spirometry does not appear in the register. It probably ought to be attended to, but I am unwilling to increase the time taken up in measuring, and chest girth answers nearly every purpose.

There is also a Physical Ledger, in which the measurements of each boy are re-entered on a separate page.

This is of the greatest possible service. I frequently inspect it, and whenever a boy's chest girth is standing still, especially at too low a point for his age and height, I have his lungs sounded by our medical officer. In many cases, unsuspected delicacy has been thus detected and the right measures to set things right adopted in time. Our medical officer or myself could give details of one such case, which is, certainly one of the first cases on record of the cure of incipient tubercular disease by the open air treatment in which, I need scarcely say, all my experience makes me cordially believe.

[There doesn't appear to be a 26.]

[27. What remedies or suggestions have you to propose regarding the last part of the terms of reference, viz.--How the esisting opportunities for physical training may be increased by continuous classes and otherwise . . .]

27.--Before attempting to answer this question, I hope it may not be out of place to say a few words about the last clause.

The whole subject matter of this Commission seems to me of such overwhelmingly national importance, and the subordinate place which it has hitherto occupied so full of danger to the country, that I have rejoiced at its being brought into prominence by the appointment of the Commission.

My reason why it is of such importance is because at least three cases are in operation, all tending to lessen the amount both of bodily exercise and of open-air life.

These are--1st, The gathering of the population into towns, and the comparative desertion of the country; 2ndly, the growing substitution of artificial means of locomotion for the use of the legs; 3rdly, the continually increasing extent to which manual labour is supplanted by mechanical appliances both by land and sea. The only escape from the deterioration of our race, which is the natural result of these causes, and which is already evident at least in our cities, is that the exercise of the limbs and breathing organs, which used to be necessitated by the daily work of large masses of the population, shall be taken by them in the way of recreation, or from a sense of the necessity of such for the exercise, health and enjoyment of life.

And I am persuaded that, if the general principles, which I have attempted to lay down, were once cordially recognized and brought prominently forward in Parliament, press, pulpit, and on platform, that an innumerable number of ways by which they could be carried into practice and made the source of untold blessings to our people, would gradually open out.

And again, if such truths were inculcated and practised in all grades of schools, healthy habits of all kinds would become a second nature to the large mass of the pupils, and there would spring up the habit of regulating the actions of daily life by reason rather than by blind custom. In particular, I am persuaded that daily physical exercise usually engenders a craving for it, which will avail itself of all outlets and opportunities, and in strong-willed natures, will make opportunities, in spite of apparently overwhelming obstacles.

Such outlets and opportunities should be provided, in all large cities at least, in the shape of continuation classes, for gymnastics and drill, in suitable, well-ventilated, and never over-heated buildings. They would be abundantly taken advantage of if the spirit of the previous education was such as I have tried to sketch.

And no public money could possibly be better spent than in providing such facilities.

Regular attendance and proficiency at such classes should, I think, be allowed to reckon towards Volunteer and Militia drill, but I am too imperfectly acquainted with the subject to speak confidently here.

It is also incumbent upon us, so far as legislation and education can bring it about, to provide that not only every possible opportunity shall be given to young people of all classes towards forming the habit of regular exercise, but that its physiology and its advantage should be impressed upon them, in connection with corresponding and interdependent truths about food, air, seep, and clothing, which have generally been almost totally neglected in schemes of education, and consequently about which grievous errors have been prevalent, and in many cases enforced by custom, sometimes even by authority, in the daily life of the vast majority of our people.

And at the base of all such instruction and training I believe that the duty of conforming to know physical and physiological laws, and of avoiding physical sins, should form an integral part of all religious education which is given in schools, and be firmly rooted in the minds of the young on a religious basis. The sin of excess in drink would then, in their minds, rest on the same foundation as the sin of physical indolence, or of the compression of the breathing of other organs by tight clothing, or of indulgence in excessive or unwholesome food. And far more good would be effected by all these and other departures from truth and nature being seen to result from the neglect of the same general principles of theory and practice, than by some of them being attacked, in an isolated and sensational manner, and others either ignored, or treated as of no practical importance.

[The discussion goes on in the document online at Google Books, but this seems to be the end of the Parents' Review article.]

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, December 2008