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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

NATURE IN EDUCATION                       99

It was only a short time ago that, under the form of Infant
Hygiene, there came into practice that part of physical education
which meant giving children a closer acquaintance with the open
air in the public gardens, and leaving them exposed for some time
to water and sunshine on the sea-shore. Simpler and scantier
garments, sandals in place of shoes, the bareness of little feet, are
also timid attempts at liberation from the heavy restrictions which
quite needlessly bind children to so-called civilized life. If we
think, however, of the much greater extent to which weak, tuber-
culous and rickety children are exposed to Nature in modern
sanatoria because experience has taught us that the only means
of restoring them to health is to make them sleep in the open air
and to Hve in the sun, it ought to be perfectly evident that all the
more would strong, normal children be able, not only to endure
but to be invigorated by being exposed more freely than they are
at present to the natural elements. But there still exist too many
prejudices about the matter, for we have all made ourselves pri-
soners voluntarily, and have finished up by loving our prison and
transferring our children to it. Nature has, little by little, been
xestricted in our conception to the little growing flowers and to
the domestic animals on which we depend for food, for labour
or for defence. Besides that, our minds have been shrunken, have
adapted themselves to harbouring contrasts and contradictions,
iave even confused the pleasure of looking on animals with that
of being near the poor creatures destined to die in order to feed
us, or that of admiring the song and the beauty of birds imprisoned
in little cages—a kind of nebulous " love of nature *'. Does there
not also exist the belief that by transporting a little sea-sand to
some receptacle like a tray one is giving immense assistance to
•children? Very often it is imagined that the sea-shore is educational
"because sand is found there as in the receptacle. And so, within
the confusion of this world prison of ours, we arrive at the most
unnatural conclusions.

Nature, to tell the truth, frightens most people.   They dread
air and sunshine as if they were deadly enemies.   They fear the