EDUCATION OF THE BODY
By ERNEST MAJOR (Warden of the Carnegie Physical Training College, Leeds)
AS a nation we cannot yet claim that we have de- veloped a scheme of physical. education which meets the requirements of young people of all ages and the results of which are demonstrated in the., physique of our boys and girls, men and women. It is true that physical education alone will not work miracles in these days of unemployment, overcrowding and other social evils, but there is no question that it can contribute a great deal towards developing in our people the fine art of living up to the maximum capacity, physically, mentally and morally.
Great advances have recently been made in the physical education of the elementary school child, and although the progress has not been uniform throughout the country, the scheme devised by the Board of Educa- tion bears favourable comparison with that of any other country of the world. As a nation we have never taken kindly to the formal systems of gymnastics which have been so popular in many other countries. Unlike Sweden and Germany, we have never had a national system of gymnastics, but have been content to borrow and experiment with the systems advocated in these countries. The type of gymnastics advocated by the Beard of Education for use in schools is based on the Swedish System, but has been carefully adapted to meet the requirements of our national character, climate and facilities. The old narrow rigid type of drill has given place to a more elastic and adjustable system of bodily education adapted to the needs and capabilities of the various ages of childhood. The whole scope and con- ception of physical education have broadened. The value of well-organized games, swimming, and camping. for the mass of the country's . future citizens is now generally accepted. In short, the physical education of the school child now aims at the development of a healthy body and an appreciation of the importance of a healthy way of living. Healthy ways of occupying leisure time are inculcated and the child is thus pre- pared, not only for the present, but also for the future.
Any scheme of future development must have its beginning in the schools. Improved facilities are urgently required. A playground, frequently small in area and poor of surface, has too long been regarded as the only necessary equipment for physical education., Adequate.
space—indoor and outdoor—is essential. .room, not less than 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, and devoted exclusively to gymnastics, is as necessary in every school as the classroom. The value of exercise in the open air cannot be over-estimated, but provision must be made for continuing the training indoors during bad weather. Children of 11 years and over in the new, Senior Schools must also have the opportunity of learning exercises on simple gymnastic apparatus, and the treat- ment by simple remedial exercises of those children suffering from spinal curvature and flat foot, &c., should be included in the scheme. More time might usefully be given to the subject, particularly for those children who are not likely to benefit greatly from the purely academic side of education.
Better facilities and equipment, and more time devoted to the subject, would necessitate better trained teachers. The amount of time devoted to the physical aspect of education in the Teachers' Training Colleges and, par- ticularly, in the Universities, still leaves much to be desired. The appointment by Local Education Authori- ties of men and women Organizers of Physical Education should be compulsory. It is true that some areas are too small to provide full-time employment for these officers, but areas could be grouped and Organizers shared by several Authorities. In the past, the greatest advances have been made in those areas where Organizers are employed. It is the duty of an Organizer not only to guide and stimulate the teachers, but also to develop every branch of physical education in the area and to co-operate with every type of Voluntary Organization working for the physical welfare of the young people.
Generally speaking, in the Boys' Public and Secondary Schools, we cannot claim to have put the mental and physical sides of education on an equality, or even correlated them for educational purposes. The physical aspect of education is too frequently regarded as an "extra," or "frill," or else almost entirely ignored. It is one of the supreme follies of our hyper-academic system that physical development has been neglected in the training of adolescents, and little progress will be made until it is more generally realized that education of the body is at least as important as education of the mind. Participation in, games and the Officers' Training Corps cannot be considered as providing all that is requisite . for bodily training. Better facilities, sounder schemes and , better • teaching are all urgently required in many of- the Boys' Public and• Secondary Schools. It is now possible to obtain the services of University. graduates who have taken a -special course of training in all branches -of physical education at the Carnegie Physical Training College, Leeds. These men are not ad hoc specialists in physical education, but are qualified to teach one or more acadefnic subject in addition' to gymnastics.. On the whole, the girls' secondary schools. have made excellent progress in regard to physical education. For many years there has • been a steady supply of well-trained and well-qualified women gymnastic teachers and modern methods -have been well supported in the girls' schools. Facilities, however, might be impremed in many girls' schools and more time might usefully be devoted to the subject.
So far, only the lines of development in the schools have been stressed. Much remains to be done in con-• nexion- with the provision of physical recreation- for the unemployed through -the -Juvenile Instruction Centres. for boys and girls, and the voluntary Social 'Centres for adults. The main difficulties are the provision of suitable facilities and -the training of leaders. The type of physical training for the unemployed requires careful consideration. Wisely directed physical. .recreation is an invaluable means of enabling them to maintain their' physical fitness and their courage 'andy hopefulness, so - that when, an opportunity of- work does arise, they are ready, physically and mentally, to undertake it Sound, sympathetic, understanding leadership is all- important.
But a great deal remains to be done yet. - What is' urgently required is a constructive policy of physical. education, designed to embrace not only the school. child, but the nation as a x'hole, and so encourage every • citizen to live a healthier and more abundant life.