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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Dr Woods Hutchinson

Dr Woods Hutchinson.

Writing several years ago, Dr Woods Hutchinson said :

One fact, however, stands out with startling distinctness!, and that is, that large parts of the brain, and these far from the least important ones, can be directly developed by muscular movements. . . . Exercise is literally the mother of the brain. As one of the most thoughtful of our gymnasium directors puts it: "The field of training is the nervous system." Every play and sport worth the name develops not merely strength, endurance, and fleetness, but also alertness, quickness of response, coolness, balance, wariness, judgment that is both sound and swift. . . It is even impossible to draw the line precisely where physical education ends and mental development begins. . . . When the child plays it is literally organising its brain, myelinising its mind machine.

If, then, play be such an important factor in not merely bodily, but also brain development, is it not time that it was more formally and extensively recognised in our systems of education? 1 soy recognition, and offcial at that, not mere indulgent and supercilious toleration. Is it wise to continue to regard it as merely an interlude in the "serious" work of education—a necessary but regrettable safety-valve by "blowing off," through which children will be able to absorb larger quantities of Latin conjugations, rules of grammer and arithmetic? Need we longer feebly and shamefacedly defend athletics in school and college life on the ground that they increase the popularity and prestige of the school, and keep the boys healthy and contented, so that more "work" can be got out of them? The argument is a high compliment to the sound judgment of the young, but is it enough? Why not frankly recognise that when the boy or girl is engaged in vigorous, joyous play, he or she carrying out an important part of the actual "work" of edncation in the broad serse of preparation for life, and give "coures credits" accordingly?"