This section is from the "The New Student's Reference Work Volume 5: How And Why Stories" by Elinor Atkinson.
Editors' Note to Mother and Teacher.—Do you remember the first time you opened the old-fashioned text-book on " Anatomy, Physiology and Hygiene?" It. began by enumerating the two hundred and eight bones of the human body, and showed them all in a cheerful picture of a skeleton. A year's study left you with a dazed sense of how fearfully and wonderfully you were made. But much of the knowledge was unpleasant and seemed of no practical use. The "Hygiene," or instructions on how to keep the body in health, was vague as to detail and was given little space in the back of the book next the index. Wasn't this absurd ?
Nowadays, in all lines of education, we are letting the horse pull the cart. In the very first year of school, in simple, good health talks, little children are told how to take care of the dear, rosy bodies they live in, so they can enjoy playing and working, eating and sleeping, and grow up into fine, strong men and women. Good health, you see, is a habit, and habits must be caught young. Little tots can understand why they should stand and sit straight, to give lung-bellows and engine-heart room, why they should breathe pure air, deep, and sleep with the window open; why they should bathe often, and keep the teeth clean, and not read by dim light, or sit with wet feet and clothing. They can understand why they should eat a variety of food, slowly, and not overload the stomach, or never give the little food-mill a rest.
Regard for personal health leads naturally into regard for the family and public health, and those are domestic sanitation, sociology and civics. Big words and big ideas for little folks, you think. But are they? We are all bound together. None of us can live alone, or be unaffected by the people and conditions around us. Any little child who " catches ' the measles can understand the need of quarantine. Domestic sanitation is just good health housekeeping, and practical civics for most of us is just good public housekeeping. The health, street-cleaning, police and fire departments exist to protect the health, lives and property of all the people. They all come very close to our daily lives and concern us all. We can help in this public housekeeping, take a part in the government. If we fail to do so, are selfish, indifferent or lazy, we must suffer for it.
It is astonishing how very early little children can be made to understand these things, and be brought into active relation with government: with a sense of duty toward the general public, and respect for the blessings of health, law and order in the community In some large cities, school children are organized into brigades to help the officers keep clean alleys, and clear fire escapes. Little soldiers of peace they are, serving their country as patriotically as heroes of war. The schools understand now that children need education and experience in intelligent citizenship, as much as in arithmetic.