S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
A great school is very trying: it never can present images of rest and peace; and when the spring and activity of youth are altogether unsanctified by anything pure and elevated in its desires, it becomes a spectacle that is dizzying and almost more morally distressing than the shouts and gambols of a set of lunatics. It is very startling to see so much of sin combined with so little of sorrow. In a parish, among the poor, whatever of sin exists, there is sure also to be enough of suffering: poverty, sickness, and old age, are mighty tamers and chastisers. But with boys of the richer classes one sees nothing but plenty, health, and youth; and these are really awful to behold when one must feel that they are unblessed. On the other hand, few things are more beautiful than when one does see all holy and noble thoughts and principles, not the forced growth of pain, or infirmity, or privation, but springing up as by Gods immediate planting, in a sort of garden of all that is fresh and beautiful, full of so much hope for this world as well as for heaven.
We complain with reason that the teachers of girls schools are seldom guided by any definite principles in educating the feelings and the intellect of their pupils; but expect what is good and right to come of itself as a result of teaching: much as if a watch could be set in accurate movement by labor spent upon the polishing and decoration of its dial-plate. The power of self-control is seldom diligently exercised; the power of reflection, of looking inwards, of gaining self-knowledge in its true sense, is left to be the growth of chance: and the purely intellectual faculty, the power of comprehension, instead of being constantly employed upon objects within its grasp, is neglected, in order to overload the memory. Often joined to all this is a forcing system which encourages over-exertion of the growing brain, with all its concomitant and attendant evils; and which, among the elder girls, or among pupil teachers, who are excited by emulation or necessity to neglect the friendly warnings of fatigue, is often a source of lamentable bodily and mental failure.
The illustration will be found in the very common, perhaps universal, custom of furnishing a school with stools and forms in lieu of ordinary chairs. This is a direct sacrifice of health to parsimony. The stools cost little, and are conveniently moved from one room to another. All mistresses know, however, that the spine of a growing girl is unable to support constantly the weight of her head and shoulders. Nature teaches leaning as a means of relief, by which the weight is lessened, and the free action of the chest not impeded. But a girl who sits on a stool cannot lean, and her spine bends. The resulting deformity may be permanent or temporary; an abiding curvature to one or other side, or a mere rounding of the back removable at will. But all such distortions, while they last, if only for five minutes, have a bad effect that is commonly forgotten. They confine the chest and hinder respiration, limiting the quantity of air admitted into the lungs, and producing effects similar to those of a vitiated atmosphere. This is no light thing.