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larger number of men and women, conscious of impaired vitality, resort to the spendthrift habit of drawing upon capital to replace income by permanently injuring their constitutions for the sake of the transitory stimulus which is obtained through the use of alcoholic liquors. Vain are the efforts of temperance societies and reformers as long as they leave untouched the condition of things which engenders the mad craving for drink. Are men and women brought up under such circumstances likely to be the parents of healthy children? Nature is stern-she has no compassion--as men sow, in like manner shall they reap. Certain well-known laws have been laid down by Providence for the guidance of man, and if he in his obstinate blindness deliberately chooses to violate them, he must abide the consequences.
Wholesome and sufficient food, warm clothing, fresh air and exercise, are necessary, at all events in childhood, to the healthy development of the human frame. How many of these requisites ordinarily fall to the lot of the children of the poorer classes in our large towns ? Let those who go in and out amongst them answer. Ask the Board School teachers in the
poorer districts of London whether children are not sometimes sent to school without having tasted food; whether they do not occasionally fall off the benches from sheer physical exhaustion; whether the teachers, from motives of humanity which do them credit, do not often supply out of their own slender resources the more pressing necessities of these wretched starvelings. Let the district visitors answer whether the children, with just sufficient clothing on their half-starved frames to satisfy the demands of decency, but not sufficient to promote warmth, do not often in the depth of winter return to homes where it is the exception rather than the rule to find a fire burning on the hearth. Ask the medical officer what is the sanitary condition of these houses, and whether it is possible for these children ever to breathe air which is not more or less contaminated. Ask the police constable how far off is the nearest public park or open space where the children now rolling in the neighbouring gutter might enjoy their games free from the dirt and contamination of the present scene of their sports. It is much to be feared he would stare in astonishment at the remark, and would answer that such a paradise was not within the reach of such as these. The truth is that our eyes are blinded to the evil effects of overcrowding by reason of the continued stream of fresh blood which is ever flowing from the more healthy districts into our towns, thus hindering and delaying the natural physical decay of the constitutions of the inhabitants of the latter, which would otherwise be more rapid and consequently more apparent. If we could establish a thoroughly efficient blockade of our large cities, and allow no further emigration into them from the country, it would not be many years before the mortality in our centres of population, as compared with that in healthier districts, would be so
marked, and the physical deterioration in our city populations would become so apparent, that we should be forced to take immediate steps to prevent their utter annihilation. But it may be said, This is an old story, and may have been true before public attention had been called to the overcrowded state of the back slums of our large cities, but since the passing of the Artisans Dwellings Act, and the establishment of working men's dwellings companies, all this has been altered, and the working classes are now housed as well as their incomes will permit. Would that this were the case! Alas! the efforts of these companies, great as they have been, are but as a drop in the ocean, and the difficulties which are met with in working Mr. (now Sir Richard) Cross's Act have sadly limited its operation. What then can be done? If Acts of Parliament and companies whose capital is counted by millions avail but little, what hope is there of a better future. Probably neither private efforts nor indeed public measures, unless of a much more arbitrary character than in the present state of public opinion are likely to be adopted, would altogether avert the deleterious influences of prolonged existence for several generations in crowded cities; but surely something might be done, if not for the adults, at all events for the children of our city populations, to strengthen their growing frames, and thus give them some chance of contending with success against the hurtful influences which surround them. We said that wholesome and sufficient food, warm clothing, fresh air and exercise, were necessary to the healthy development of the human body in time of youth. Is it quite impossible for this rich country to see that the children educated at its Board Schools shall be provided at all events with some of these requisites ? Amongst not the least of the benefits which the children of the poor have derived from the Education Act of 1870, there are two not to be overlooked : firstly, that if a child be ill-clad or starved, the fact must in time be known to the teachers, and through them to the outside world ; and, secondly, that during a considerable portion of the day, that child, instead of shivering in a cold garret, must of necessity be seated in a warm room. Here we have, therefore, warmth provided by the School Board, not a bad substitute for warm clothing. Would it greatly shock the nerves of our political economists if we were to suggest that the School Board, having provided warmth for the children attending their schools, might still further benefit them by furnishing two classes of dinners, to be cooked, if possible, by the scholars themselves—the first composed of the cheapest food which could be provided, such dinners to be supplied gratis to the most destitute children attending the school; the second, a more attractive and substantial meal, to be sold to the more well-to-do scholars, and consumed by them on the spot? By good management it might be possible to make the latter class of dinners pay for the former; and if the dinners were well cooked, it is probable that the parents might find it worth their while to purchase for themselves the meals which their own children had cooked. A profit might thus accrue to the school, whilst the children would have practical experience in the class of cookery which would be of most use to them in after life. We have already said that many School Board teachers are in the habit of providing meals for the more destitute scholars at their own expense. It is not right that a class who as a rule are not too highly paid, or over favoured by fortune, should be called upon either to shut their eyes and harden their hearts, if they can, against the sight of children suffering from the effects of hunger, or else to draw upon their own scanty incomes for the means of affording them relief. If the pill above suggested should be too large a one for the contracted gullets of our economists (though it may, en passant, be mentioned that dinners at nominal prices are provided for the children in the National Schools of Germany), philanthropists might surely be invited to look upon the subject as one not unworthy of their consideration. Money might be worse spent than in providing cheap dinners, at all events during the winter months, for the destitute children attending our Board Schools. If this were done, not only would the School Board officers find the list of truant children rapidly diminish, and the school gain favour with the most obdurate of parents, but we should be sure that every child in a Board School (which ought to mean every child in a large city) was provided with at all events one good meal a day, and that its body was warmed for a certain number of hours during the twenty-four. Now as to fresh air and exercise, the other requisites for health. The Rev. S. A. Barnett, Vicar of Whitechapel, has for some time been in the habit of boarding out during the summer months the children of his poorer parishioners in the country and at the seaside. The Leicester Charity Organisation Society has also been instrumental in carrying out a similar scheme, and the London Charity Organisation Society, encouraged by the success which has attended these efforts, has referred the question of boarding out to a special committee, which has reported favourably on the subject. It is to be hoped, therefore, that before long some general organisation will be established, by means of which city-bred children, whether convalescent or not, may from time to time be enabled to breathe true country air, refresh their minds and eyes and ears by the sights and sounds of country life, and lay in a stock of health against the hour of their return to town. Most Board Schools possess a small yard attached to the school, within which the children are allowed to amuse themselves, and sometimes have the opportunity given them of exercising their limbs in running round a ‘giant's stride. This is good as far as it goes, but it is a poor substitute for the games which country children enjoy. Would it not be possible, in the absence of a park or open space, to encourage children to do something better than loiter about, or bully one
another, or "talk bad,' as it is called, when congregated in knots ? Might not the giant's stride' be supplemented by a couple of fives courts, a cat's-gallows, or a circular running path ? Prizes might be given to successful competitors in these healthy exercises in the open air, and provision might be made for proper exercise on wet days by suspending a few ropes, rope-ladders, and a trapeze or two to the ceiling of the schoolroom. These might be so arranged as to be drawn up to the ceiling by means of a pulley during the lesson hours, and thus not interfere with the ordinary work of tuition. The above plan, in the absence of a proper gymnasium, has been most successfully carried out in a school with which the writer is acquainted. In Germany and Switzerland gymnastics are made as much a part of the system of education as reading and writing. If Germans and Swiss, who mostly live in country districts or in small towns, where ample means of exercise are to be found, consider it essential for the inaintenance of national health that their children should be taught gymnastics, surely it is of some importance that our city-bred English children, who never have any opportunity of using their limbs, should be supplied with these artificial means of strengthening their bodies and of fortifying their nerves. There is
reason why a certain knowledge of gymnastics should not be required of every School Board master, so that he might be able to superintend these exercises during the hours which are now nominally given up to play, but which are really often passed in a manner neither conducive to morality nor to health. The teachers, who perhaps suffer from want of exercise more than the scholars, would welcome the establishment of good gymnasia and fives courts, and would find themselves clearer in head and brighter in mind after an hour's bout at the one or the other, whilst their scholars might possibly perceive in them a greater equanimity of temper. Each School Board district in London is provided with a spacious room, now used for meetings of managers, and for other similar purposes connected with the business of the schools. These might with very small expense be easily fitted up as gymnasia, without in the least interfering with the objects for which they were built, and here might be held advanced classes in gymnastics under properly qualified instructors. In addition to these classes, is there any reason why these rooms should not be thrown open, under proper supervision, on week-day evenings, subject to a small annual payment or entrance fee, to former Board School scholars, or, indeed, to any young lads between the ages of thirteen and twenty, who chose to spend their evenings in healthy exercise, rather than in the dissipation of the gin palace, the music hall, or the cheap gaff? Prison statistics inform us that men rarely take to a life of crime after twenty-one years
and hat he criminal classes are as a rule recruited from young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty, who not
infrequently are induced to desert honest industry, and to enter upon a life of crime, by associating of an evening with bad characters in low places of resort. A young man after hard work or close confinement all day must have society and recreation of some sort. Where at present can he find this out of the gin palace or music hall? English towns, as compared with continental ones, are lamentably deficient in places where of an evening a young man can find innocent and wholesome recreation. Surely the establishment of gymnasia for the use of the youth of our towns would not be foreign to the educational purposes for which School Boards exist. Physical and intellectural education should go hand in hand. The London School Board has so far acknowledged this principle, as to allow prizes to be given to their scholars for swimming and drilling, and have encouraged them to become proficients in both exercises. If gymnasia were fitted up, and occasionally thrown open, as suggested above, and made attractive to the young men of the neighbourhood, no doubt these establishments would shortly become a source of income to the Board.
The object of this paper will have been fulfilled if it induces some School Board authorities to devote greater attention to the question of improving and of promoting the physique of the city-bred children assigned to their care. The ideas thrown out do not profess to meet all the difficulties of the question of the health of our city populations. The writer is well aware that he has but touched the fringe of the subject; that a radical reform can never be effected until much bolder and more important measures than he has proposed, or would venture to suggest, have approved themselves to our parliamentary and municipal authorities. He has therefore confined himself to considering the best means of improving the health of our city children, leaving to abler hands the wider question of how to deal with the adults. If some improvement, even though sligbt, may reasonably be expected to accrue to the health of the rising generation in cities by the adoption of the above suggestions, surely it would be worth an effort to endeavour to bring them into practice. Salus populi suprema est lex.