New York Times, “A Word for the School Children,” February 14, 1857

    Source citation
    “A Word for the School Children,” New York Times, June 26, 1857, p. 4: 5.
    Newspaper: Publication
    New York Daily Times
    Newspaper: Headline
    A Word for the School Children
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Angela Crilley, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    A Word for the School Children.

    A few hours of sultry Summer weather set grown folk cogitating on the best means of maintaining a reasonable degree of health and comfort. At no other season do we study so carefully, and obey so self-sacrificingly, the laws of hygiene. Those whose means will admit of it flee to the sea-side, the mountain nook or some other rural retreat, laying aside the toils and cares of business, satisfied that recreation pays better than hard work as such a time. It may be questioned, however, whether we are not more heedless in regard to the welfare and happiness of the school children, who swelter six tedious hours in school rooms which, however well ventilated, are not altogether conducive to health.

    Physiologists have settled upon the theory that six hours devoted to school studies, under favorable circumstances, is quite as much as consists with the mental or physical well-being of children. That it is more than most of them ought to be subjected to, during the Summer months, we think any one may satisfy himself who will step into one of our public schools on a warm afternoon, half an hour before the close of its daily exercises. The sickly lassitude, the lusterless eye and dejected, fatigue-marked faces, tell the story of utter exhaustion. True, upon emerging into the open air, the elasticity of youth throws off the spell;--but such daily strains upon the physical powers of the little ones cannot fail of serious injury, though it may not be immediately apparent. When the body is relaxed, too, the mind fully shares in its exhaustion, and is fretted and tortured by demands upon it which, under more favorable circumstances, would be met and answered with pleasure.

    The Board of Education sometime since made partial provision against these Summer disadvantages, by directing that the schools should be opened and dismissed an hour earlier. The movement was a wise one; but we doubt whether it is sufficiently radical. A step further in advance by the deduction of the school term, during the Summer heat, to five hours per day, would probably more fully meet the necessities of the case. In this movement we understand the school officers of the Fifth Ward have already taken the lead, gathering the children together at 8 o’clock in the morning, and dismissing them at 1 in the afternoon. If the experiment is persisted in long enough to test its advantages, we should think there can be little doubt of its general adoption in our public schools,--for it will be found to secure better attendance, more perfect recitation, while the benefit to health will of itself more than compensate for the change. Let us hope that this important subject will receive prompt, careful and practical consideration in the right quarter.

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