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PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN COLLEGES.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The current number of the North American Review contains an article on physical education in colleges by Dr. Sargent, which is well worth the attention of every person interested in this subject.

Dr. Sargent prefaces his article with the remark that "there exists in the public mind a wide spread misapprehension as to the amount and the system of physical training in American colleges," and he states as his object in the article before us "to correct this mistaken notion, and to call the attention of educators to the urgent need of some system of physical exercise in our highest institutions of learning."

After describing in a few words what is provided in the way of physical culture by the corporations in the best of our literary institutions, the article proceeds to take up what is done by the students themselves: "Inherited tendencies are sufficiently strong, we think, to warrant us in grouping college students in four great classes: (1) The athletes; (2) The sporting men; (3) The scholars; (4) The idlers.

"The class of athletes is made up of those who give most of their time and energy to boating, base-ball, foot-ball and general gymnastics. Those who take part in these sports are chosen on account of their peculiar fitness for the position to be filled. A candidate for the university crew must possess at the outset a large and vigorous frame, must be especially strong in the back, loins and legs, and have great powers of endurance. These qualifications, we say, must be possessed at the outset, or a man cannot hope for a place in a college or class crew, and outside these crews very little rowing is done by individual students. The improvement in the art or rowing has shut out the majority from participation in this sport. If they own boats, well and good; they can row when they like, and as long as they like; but, unfortunately, this luxury can be enjoyed only by the few. At Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Cornell less than five per cent. of the students row regularly; and in smaller colleges we find that, unless a regatta is anticipated, the boat-house is hardly opened at all. It benefits only those who undergo the three months' training, and is of personal interest only to those whose physique insures them a place in the next year's crew. And when we look over the ground today we find that the only men who are enjoying the advantages of boating are the men who do not need them.

"These remarks in regard to the boating men are almost equally true of the ball players. The game has been reduced to a science, and only one who possesses the necessary skill and experience can hope to belong to the nine. ** The game, therefore, is limited to a class of experts, and only those who are members of the nine get the benefit of systematic training.

"The game of foot-ball opens a some-what wider field. More men are required, the rules are easily mastered, and the qualifications demanded a more generally possessed. One should be sound and healthy in heart and lungs, and able to stand thumping and bumping for an hour or two with impunity. If to this hardiness be added a fleet foot, strong limbs, quick perception and presence of mind, one has the requisites of a foot-ball player. Of all college games this is the most accessible, and yet for the average and untrained student it is unquestionably the most dangerous.

"The athletic contests afford an excellent chance for the specialist to display his abilities, and only specialists enter them. In their case the entire energy of the system has been concentrated on the development of special powers, and every thing else is set aside as useless. This is the great objection to athletic exercises as they are at present conducted. Symmetry of development is never thought of, nor is it ever acquired by exclusive reliance upon any of our popular sports. Indeed, we would venture to select from any group of recognized athletes the oarsmen, the ball-players and the gymnasts, simply from their peculiar muscular development."

The sporting class includes the men whose part in athletics simply amounts to their attending the games and races. The two other classes as a rule take no part at all in physical education. Of course these classes do not include everybody, as there are often exceptional cases.

"To summarize, we may say that the athletes devote too much time to the development of special powers, and sometimes carry their exercises to excess; that the sporting men rely upon their inheritance, physical and financial, and make no attempt to renew their capital; that the scholars, as a class, take too little exercise; and that the idlers take no exercise at all. When we consider the relative numbers in these several classes in all our colleges, it is safe to conclude that, of the whole number of students, not more than ten per cent. give any attention whatever to physical exercise, and that less than six per cent. take it systematically as a means of culture and development. Surely, then, the charge that too much time is given to muscular education in our literary institutions has the slenderest possible foundation in the facts of the case. And it must be evident, too, that the members of college crews and ball nines are not in any proper sense representatives of the physical condition of the average students in their respective institutions. The bane of American college life today is the spirit of prize-getting which underlies and inspires the entire system. It is equally powerful in every department of education. It utterly destroys harmony of development. It unduly cultivates a student's powers in one direction, and dwarfs and stunts his growth in every other. The valedictorian has no time for exercise, or is too weary to take it; the champion athletes has no time for study, or is too stupid to begin it. One sits in his room with a wet towel about his head, and conscientiously works out his allotted task; the other stretches himself upon a lounge and has the day's lesson poured into him by admiring comrades. Both are toiling for fame, though in opposite directions. Both have won honors for their Alma Mater; so she gives them the same certificate of acquirements. And as to subsequent usefulness in the world, there is little to choose between them."

Dr. Sargent then proceeds to explain the causes for the absence of enthusiasm in most institutions of learning. He attributes this in great part to either poor gymnasia or inefficient instructors. His account of an average gymnasium is very amusing and well worth reading. He also deprecates "the lack of a suitable man, with sufficient authority, at the head of the department - a man who is a college graduate, a practical gymnast, and an educated physician."

Under the present circumstances he considers the college the suitable place to lay the physical foundation for a man's life, to further this end he advocates compulsory attendance at gymnasium exercises of a graded character, suited to the needs of each individual student. He deprecates the custom in some places of keeping the student for ever at the same exercises, as he needs change and advancement in physical as well as in mental study. In conclusion, although he recognizes the value of such sports as foot-ball, rowing and base-ball, he considers a well conducted gymnasium as best adapted to the requirements of a complete muscular education.

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