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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Education of Girls

Education of Girls.

Monsieur Guyau, in his book 'Education and Heredlty,' says :—

The whole question of the education of women seems to be governed by the following principles:—(1) Woman is physio-logically weaker than man; she has but a small reserve of energy to make up for the considerable expenditure entailed by brain work carried beyond certain limits (2) The generative function occupies a far more important place in the female than in the male organism. Now, this func- page 43 tion, according to all physiologists, is antagonistic to brain expenditure; the dis-equilibration produced in the woman by intellectual work will therefore be necessarily greater than in man. (3) The consequences to the race of this disequilibration are much more serious in the case of the woman than in the case of the man. The life of woman, generally sedentary and under more or less unhealthy condition., gives no time for recuperation to a constitution exhausted by an irrational education, whereas in the case of man recuperation may take place; on the other hand, the mother's health is of much more importance to the child than the health of the father. The man's expenditure in paternity is insignificant compared to the woman's; the latter needs a considerable reserve of physical and moral energy during gestation, maternity, and afterwards during the early education of the child. The mothers of Bacon and Goethe, though both very remarkable women, could not have written either the 'Novum Organum' or 'Faust'; but if they had ever so little weakened their generative powers by excessive intellectual expenditure, they would not have had a Bacon or a Goethe as a son. If daring life the parents expend too much of the energy they have drawn from their environment, to much the less will be left for their children. . . . Herbert Spencer says : "If we consider that the regimen of girls of the upper classes is much better than that of girls belonging to the poorer classes, while in most other respects their physical treatment is not worse, the deficiency of reproductive power among them may be reasonably attributed to the overtaxing of their brains—an overtaxing which produces a serious reaction on their physique. This diminution of reproductive power is not only shown by the greater frequency of absoute sterility, nor is it only shown in the earlier cessation of child-bearing, but it is also shown in the very frequent inability of such women to suckle their in-ants. In its full sense the reproductive power means the power to bear a well-developed infant, and to supply that child with the natural food for the natural period. Were their fertility measured by the number of children they could rear without artificial aid, they would prove relatively unfertile." Dr Hertel, a Dane, has ascertained that in the higher schools in his country 29 per cent. of the boys and 41 per cent. of the girls are in a precarious state of health from overwork. Anaemia, scrofula, and headache are the most prevalent scourges. Professor Bystroff, of St. Petersburg, has collected information of the same purport. From these and many similar facts it may be concluded that the excessive work entailed by competition and examination in higher education, dangerous as it is to the race in the case of boy6, is infinitely more so in the case of girls. Fatigue of this kind, repeated for several successive generations, would eventually absolutely unfit the woman for her duties as a mother.

Monsieur Guyau's book, from which the above is quoted, was published in 1891. Since that date improvements have been made in Continental Education, especially in the direction of reduction of cramming, insistence on physical exercise and recreation (including more time spent in the open air and sunlight), recognition of the importance of handicrafts and technical instruction, and improved hygienic arrangements in schools as regards warming, ventilation, and furnishing (desks, etc.), but much remains to be done.