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THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION.
SELECTED FROM PUBLICATIONS BY HERBERT SPENCER,
I. PHYSICAL EDUCATION.*
IMPORTANCE OF PHYSICAL TRAINING.
1. To conform the regimen of the nursery and the school to the established truths of modern science this is the desideratum. It is time that the benefits which our sheep and oxen bave for years past derived from the investigations of the laboratory, should be participated in by our children. Without calling in question the great importance of horse-training and pig-feeding, we would suggest that, as the rearing of well-grown men and women is also of some moment, the conclusions indicated by theory, and indorsed by practice, ought to be acted on in the last casa as in the first. Probably not a few will be startled-—perhaps offended-by this collocation of ideas. But it is a fact not to be disputed, and to which we had best reconcile ourselves, that man is subject to the same organic laws as inferior creatures. No anatomist, no physiologist, no chemist, will for a moment hesitate to assert, that the general principles which rule over the vital processes in animals equally rule over the vital processes in man. And a candid admission of this fact is not without its reward: namely, that the truths established by observation and experiment on brutes, become more or less available for human guidance. Rudimentary as is the Science of Life, it has already attained to certain fundamental principles underlying the development of all organisms, the human included. That which has now to be done, and that which we shall endeavor in some measure to do, is to show the bearing of these fundamental principles upon the physical training of childhood and youth.
2. That over-feeding and under-feeding are both bad, is a truism. Of the two, however, the last is the worst. As writes a high authority, "the effects of casual repletion are less prejudicial, and more easily corrected, than those of inanition.”+ Add to which, that where there has been no injudicious interference, repletion will seldom occur. “Excess is the vice rather of adults than of the young, who are rarely either gourmands or epicures, unless through the fault of those who rear them."! This system of restriction which many parents think so necessary, is based upon very inadequate observation, and very erroneous reasoning. There is an over-legislation in the nursery, as well as an overlegislation in the state; and one of the most injurious forms of it is this limitation in the quantity of food.
* From an article in the British Quarterly Review-republished as Chapter IV., in "Educa lion--Intellectual, Moral and Physical.” Appleton. 1861.
1 " Cyclopedia of Practical Medicine." *Ib.
“But are children to be allowed to surfeit themselves ? Shall they be suffered to take their fill of dainties and make themselves ill, as they certainly will do ?" As thus put, the question admits of but one reply. But as thus put, it assumes the point at issue. We contend that, as appetite is a good guide to all the lower creation-as it is a good guide to the infant—as it is a good guide to the in. valid—as it is a good guide to the differently-placed races of men, and as it is a good guide for every adult who leads a healthful life; it may safely be inferred that it is a good guide for childhood. It would be strange indeed were it here alone untrustworthy.
SUGAR AND FRUIT IN CHILDREN'S DIET. 3. Consider the ordinary tastes and the ordinary treatment of children. The love of sweets is conspicuous and almost universal among them. Probably ninety-nine people in a hundred, presume that there is nothing more in this than gratification of the palate; and that, in common with other sensual desires, it should be discouraged. The physiologist, however, whose discoveries lead him to an ever-increasing reverence for the arrangements of things, will suspect that there is something more in this love of sweets than the current hypothesis supposes; and a little inquiry confirms the suspicion. Any work on organic chemistry shows that sugar plays an important part in the vital processes. Both saccharine and fatty matters are eventually oxidized in the body; and there is an accompanying evolution of heat. Sugar is the form to which sundry other compounds have to be reduced before they are available as heat-making food; and this formation of sugar is carried on in the body. Not only is starch changed into sugar in the course of digestion, but it has been proved by M. Claude Bernard that the liver is a factory in which other constituents of food are transformed into sugar. Now, when to the fact that children have a marked desire for this valuable heat-food, we join the fact that they have usually a marked dislike to that food which gives out the greatest amount of heat during its oxidation (namely, fat,) we shall see strong reason for thinking that excess of the one compensates for defect of the other—that the organism demands more sugar because it can not deal with much fat. Again, children are usually very fond of vegetable acids. Fruits of all kinds are their delight; and, in the absence of anything better, they will devour unripe gooseberries and the sourest of crabs. Now, not only are vegetable acids, in common with mineral ones, very good tonics, and beneficial as such when taken in moderation; but they have, when administered in their natural forms, other advantages. "Ripe fruit," says Dr. Andrew Combe, “is more freely given on the Continent than in this country; and, particularly when the bowels act imperfectly, it is often very useful.” See, then, the discord between the instinctive wants of children and their habitual treatment. Here are two dominant desires, which there is good reason to believe express certain needs of the juvenile constitution; and not only are they ignored in the nursery regimen, but there is a general tendency to forbid the gratification of them. Bread-and-milk in the morning, tea and breadand-butter at night, or some dietary equally insipid, is rigidly adhered to; and any ministration to the palate is thought not only needless but wrong. What is the necessary consequence? When, on fête-days there is an unlimited access to good things—when a gift of pocket-money brings the contents of the confectioner's window within reach, or when by some accident the free run of a fruitgarden is obtained; then the long-denied, and therefore intense, desires lead to great excesses. There is an impromptu carnival, caused not only by the release from past restraints, but also by the consciousness that a long Lent will begin on the morrow. And then, when the evils of repletion display themselves, it is argued that children must not be left to the guidance of their appetites! These disastrous results of artificial restrictions, are themselves cited as proving the need for further restrictions! We contend, therefore, that the reasoning commonly used to justify this system of interference is vicious. We contend that, were children allowed daily to partake of these more sapid edibles, for which there is a physiological requirement, they would rarely exceed, as they now mostly do when they have the opportunity: were fruit, as Dr. Combe recommends, "to constitute a part of the regular food" (given, as he advises, not between meals, but along with them,) there would be none of that craving which prompts the devouring of such fruits as crabs and sloes. And similarly in other cases.
QUALITY OF FOOD FOR CHILDREN. 4. We have put the question to two of our leading physicians, and to several of the most distinguished physiologists, and they uniformly agree in the conclusion, that children should have a diet not less nutritive, but, if anything, more nutritive than that of adults.
The grounds for this conclusion are obvious, and the reasoning simple. It needs but to compare the vital processes of a man with those of a boy, to see at once that the demand for sustenance is relatively greater in the boy than in the man. What are the ends for which a man requires food ? Each day his body undergoes more or less wear-wear through muscular exertion, wear of the nervous system through mental actions, wear of the viscera in carrying on the functions of life; and the tissue thus wasted has to be renewed. Each day, too, by perpetual radiation, his body loses a large amount of heat; and ag, for the continuance of the vital actions, the temperature of the body must be maintained, this loss has to be compensated by a constant production of heat: to which end certain constituents of the food are unceasingly undergoing oxidation. To make up for the day's waste, and to supply fuel for the day's expenditure of heat, are, then, the sole purposes for which the adult requires food. Consider, now, the case of the boy. He, too, wastes the substance of his body by action; and it needs but to note his restless activity to see that, in proportion to his bulk, he probably wastes as much as a man. He, too, loses heat by radiation; and, as his body exposes a greater surface in proportion to its mass than does that of a man, and therefore loses heat more rapidly, the quantity of heatfood he requires is, bulk for bulk, greater than that required by a man. So that even had the boy no other vital processes to carry on than the man has, he would need, relatively to his size, a somewhat larger supply of nutriment. But, besides repairing his body and maintaining its heat, the boy has to make new tissue—to grow. After waste and thermal loss have been provided for, such surplus of nutriment as remains, goes to the further building up of the frame; and only in virtue of this surplus is normal growth possible the growth that sometimes takes place in the absence of such surplus, causing a manifest prostration consequent upon defective repair. How peremptory is the demand of the unfolding organism for materials, is seen alike in that "school-boy hunger," which after-life rarely parallels in intensity, and in the comparatively quick return of appetite. And if there needs further evidence of this extra necessity for nutriment, we have it in the fact that during the famines following shipwrecks and other disasters, the children are the first to die.
This relatively greater need for nutriment being admitted, as it must perforce be, the question that remains is—shall we meet it by giving an excessive quantity of what may be called dilute food, or a more moderate quantity of concentrated food ?
If we compare different classes of animals, or different races of men, or the same animals or men when differently fed, we find still more distinct proof that the degree of energy essentially depends on the nutritiveness of the food.
VARIETY OF FOOD. 6. It is a fact, established by numerous experiments, that there is scarcely any one food, however good, which supplies in due proportions or right forms all the elements required for carrying on the vital processes in a normal manner: from whence it is to be inferred that frequent change of food is desirable to balance the supply of all the elements. It is a further fact, well known to physiologists, that the enjoyment given by a much-liked food is a nervous stimulus, which, by increasing the action of the heart and so propelling the blood with increased vigor, aids in the subsequent digestion. And these truths are in harmony with the maxims of modern cattle-feeding, which dictate a rotation of diet.
Not only, however, is periodic change of food very desirable; but, for the same reasons, it is very desirable that a mixture of food should be taken at each meal. The better balance of ingredients, and the greater nervous stimulation, are advantages which hold here as before. If facts are asked for, we may name as one, the comparative ease with which the stomach disposes of a French dinner, enormous in quantity but extremely varied in material. Few will con. tend that an equal weight of one kind of food, however well cooked, could be digested with as much facility. If any desire further facts, they may find them in every modern book on the management of animals. Animals thrive best when each meal is made up of several things. And indeed, among men of science the truth has been long ago established. The experiments of Goss and Stark “afford the most decisive proof of the advantage, or rather the necessity, of a mixture of substances, in order to produce the compound which is the best adapted for the action of the stomach."*
CLOTHING. 6. There is a current theory, vaguely entertained, if not put into a definite formula, that the sensations are to be disregarded. They do not exist for our guidance, but to mislead us, seems to be the prevalent belief reduced to its naked form. It is a grave error: we are much more beneficently constituted. It is not obedience to the sensations, but disobedience to them, which is the habitual cause of bodily evils.
Among the sensations serving for our guidance are those of heat and cold; and a clothing for children which does not carefully consult these sensations is to be condemned. The common notion about "hardening" is a grievous delusion. Children are not unfrequently "hardened" out of the world; and those who survive, permanently suffer either in growth or constitution. “Their delicate appearance furnishes ample indication of the mischief thus produced, and their frequent attacks of illness might prove a warning even to unreflecting parents," says Dr. Combe. The reasoning on which this hardening theory rests is extremely superficial. Wealthy parents, seeing little peasant boys and girls playing about in the open air only half-clothed, and joining with this fact the general healthiness of laboring people, draw the unwarrantable conclusion that the healthiness is the result of the exposure, and resolve to keep their own offspring scantily covered! It is forgotten that these urchins who gambol upon village-greens are in many respects favorably circumstanced—that their days are spent in almost perpetual play; that they are always breathing fresh air; and that their systems are not disturbed by over-taxed brains. For aught that appears to the contrary, their good health may be maintained, not in consequence of, but in spite of their deficient clothing. This alternative conclusion we believe to be the true one; and that an inevitable detriment results from the needless loss of animal heat to which they are subject.
* "Cyclopedia of Anatomy and Physiology."
For when, the constitution being sound enough to bear it, exposure does produce hardness, it does so at the expense of growth. This truth is displayed alike in animals and in man. The Shetland pony bears greater inclemencies than the horses of the south, but is dwarfed. Highland sheep and cattle, living in a colder climate, are stunted in comparison with English breeds. In both the arctic and antarctic regions the human race falls much below its ordinary height.
Excessive expeuditure for fuel entails diminished means for other purposes : wherefore there necessarily results a body small in size, or inferior in texture, or both,
As Liebig says:—"Our clothing is, in reference to the temperature of the body, merely an equivalent for a certain amount of food.” By diminishing the loss of heat, it diminishes the amount of fuel needful for maintaining the heat; and when the stomach las less to do in preparing fuel, it can do more in preparing other materials. This deduction is entirely confirmed by the experience of those who manage animals. Cold can be borne by animals only at an expense of fat, or muscle, or growth, as the case may be. "If fattening cattle are ex. posed to a low temperature, either their progress must be retarded, or a great additional expenditure of food incurred."* Mr. Apperley insists strongly that, to bring hunters into good condition, it is necessary that the stable should be kept warm. And among those who rear racers, it is an established doctrine that exposure is to be avoided.
“The rule is, therefore, not to dress in an invariable way in all cases, but to put on clothing in kind and quantity sufficient in the individual case to protect the body effectually from an abiding sensation of cold, however slight." This rule, the importance of which Dr. Combe indicates by the italics, is one in which men of science and practitioners agree. We have met with none competent to form a judgment on the matter, who do not strongly condemn the exposure of children's limbs. If there is one point above others in which "pestilent custom” should be ignored, it is this.
Our conclusions are, then—that, while the clothing of children should never be in such excess as to create oppressive warmth, it should always be sufficient
* Morton's "Cyclopædia of Agriculture.”