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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Impaired Growth

page 24

Impaired Growth.

Retarded or disproportionate growth not only precedes all forms of nervous breakdown in youth, but is the unfailing index of incipient consumption and other maladies, manifesting itself, as a rule, long before other physical signs of disease would attract attention—sometimes even before disease would be discoverable by other means. Six years ago, when I gave a lecture at the Otago Institute 'On the Undue Weight Attached to the Training of Certain Intellectual Faculties,' I pointed this out, and quoted, among other authorities, the following from an excellent book, 'Common Sense in Education,' by P. A. Barnett, M.A., who is not only a teacher himself, but also an authority on the subject of education :—

It remains, however, for the teacher to note and make sure of the signs of distress and defect. ... It is much to be wished that every school weighed and measured its pupils three or four times each year, or even at the beginning and end of each term. The loss of weight in relation to size would at once give the teacher a hint that his pupil was suffering from defective nutrition in some form or another, and he would ask himself whether there was anything in the school work or the boys' work out of school to account for the unhealthy condition. In a boarding-school the school doctor would be consulted; in the case of a day school boy the parents would be notified and warned, and the teacher himself should "go easy" with the case.

The limitation of growth and development caused by school life, as compared with life at home or in the open air, has been conclusively shown by Dr Schmid Monnard and other German observers, and we cannot hope that the results will be more favorable in any of our own schools where over-pressure is allowed and a proper share in open-air games is not insisted on as a part of the school curriculum of every boy and girl in attendance. We have made primary education compulsory. Why not insist that reasonable safeguards shall be enforced with a view to ensuring the health and strength of the pupils in all schools? Why not follow the example of an advanced Home city such as Glasgow?