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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Let them Grow While they can

Let them Grow While they can.

"There are only two periods in the life of the human being in which rapid growth naturally takes place, and we should see that we make hay while the sun shines. During the first year of life and during the climax of puberty the individual should be growing with extreme rapidity, and it must be remembered that the periods of rapid growth are the periods in which we can specially influence the destiny of the organism not merely as regards size and weight, but also in respect to mental and moral qualities and potentialities. The diagram which I drew up for last Thursday's lecture illustrates the importance of these growing periods. (See Fig. I. on page 29.)

"It will be noticed, on referring to Fig. 1. that the second great period of growth culminates in boys at sixteen years and in girls at thirteen. It is an extraordinary perversity that leads us at these momentous epochs of life to offer every inducement to an immature being to neglect the body for the sake of mental acquirements, many of which are superficial, trivial, inconsequent, fugitive, and worse than useless. We know by actual scientific observation made on the Continent and elsewhere that mental work carried on during the period of rapid growth, except in strict moderation, dwarfs the development of the various organs of the body, of which the brain is one. The growth of the brain is obviously dependent on the health, strength, and development of the organs which feed and serve it. Our main aim seems to be to centre attention on the work of producing a maximum amount of superficial display during youth instead of bending our energies to building up the organism with a view to the bodily mental, and moral requirements of the future man or woman. For the sake of present pretentious display we strain the immature brain with much useless, uninteresting toil, and all our trouble ends in the production of an adult who has infinitely less bodily and mental power and initiative for the actual serious work of life than he would have if properly and moderately trained all round.

"The compulsion which we exercise with regard to school children is in effect just as absolute as the compulsion which we exercise in regard to prisoners in gaol. Education is not an optional question, and when we compel children to go to school the least that we can do in justice to those whom we thus deprive of liberty for the time being is to see that they are supplied with the primary requirements of all organic life. They should have good air, sufficient warmth, sunlight, and recreation. The tasks set them should be such as will best conduce to their mental development and fit them for the battle of life, and should certainly be such as will not trench upon the periods of rest or interfere with the proper regular daily rhythm for sleep, meals, exercise, recreation, etc. We seem to think that we can disregard nature and ordinary common sense, and we set about building the ton storey without giving any reasonable consideration to the foundation and scaffolding of our buildings."—(See Chart A, page 52.)