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MERIAM REPORT
EDUCATION SECTION
A SCANNED-DIGITIZED VERSION

Scanned-Digitized Version
By
Thomas (Tom) R. Hopkins

Original Citation
Meriam, Lewis. THE PROBLEM OF INDIAN ADMINISTRATION. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1928, 872 pp.

2008

Health Education. One of the most helpful signs in recent Indian school administration is the interest shown in health education. The Indian Office has shown a commendable desire to put into the schools a health education program based on the recommendations of such national agencies as the American Child Health Association, the National Tuberculosis Association, and the American Junior Red Cross, and many teachers have sincerely tried to carry out the directions as to weight charts, diet suggestions, and other aids applicable to the school room. The program has, however, fallen down almost everywhere in actual practice because the unsatisfactory school plant and the meagre food and milk supply nearly always negative any health instruction given in the classroom.

Health Conditions at the Schools. The deplorable health conditions at most of the schools have been sufficiently described in the chapter on Health of this report 9 Old buildings, often kept in use long after they should have been pulled down, and admittedly bad fire-risks in many instances; crowded dormitories; conditions of sanitation that are usually perhaps as good as they can be under the circumstances, but certainly below accepted standards; boilers and machinery out-of-date and in some instances unsafe, to the point of having long since been condemned, but never replaced; many medical officers who are of low standards of training and relatively unacquainted with the methods of modern medicine, to say nothing of health education for children; lack of milk sufficient to give children anything like the official "standard" of a quart per child per day, almost none of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are recommended as necessary in the menus taught to the children in the classroom; the serious malnutrition, due to the lack of food and use of wrong foods; schoolrooms seldom showing knowledge of modern principles of lighting and ventilating; lack of recreational opportunities, except athletics for a relatively small number in the larger schools; an abnormally long day, which cuts to a dangerous point the normal allowance for sleep and rest, especially for small children; and the generally routinized nature of the insti- tutional life with its formalism in classrooms, its marching and dress parades, its annihilation of initiative, its lack of beauty, its almost complete negation of normal family life, all of which have disastrous effects upon mental health and the development of wholesome personality: These are some of the conditions that make even the best classroom teaching of health ineffective. Building up of health habits is at the basis of any genuine health educational program, and right health habits cannot develop where all the surroundings pull the other way. Some conspicuous exceptions, of course, must be noted to this general indictment; a few schools where there is milk in abundance; possibly one or two where most of the buildings are in good condition; and an occasional one where the children show the effect of natural human handling and are not as restrained and shy as they usually are. In almost no case, however, could a reasonably clean bill of health be given to any one school: it happens that a school with one of the finest-looking plants in the service is at the same time one of the least satisfactory in the physical condition of its children and in routinization; and in one school that is conspicuous for its delightful handling of orphan children the school authorities recently stopped testing their water supply because it regularly showed contamination.

What Should be Included in a Health Education Program. The recommendations of a group of health education experts who studied conditions in a number of medium-sized communities in 1925 for the American Child Health Association were as follows:

  1. Every community should provide at least once in the course of the school career a thorough and complete physical exami- nation of every school child. This examination should be educational in its character, interpreted to parent and teacher carefully followed up by nurses and teachers to secure maxi- mum results.
  2. The school medical service should recognize the importance of standardizing the physical examination procedure so as to make possible the comparison of findings and results.
  3. Health training and instruction should be developed in a manner to interest the pupils and to maintain a balance between sound basic instruction and stimulation of proper habit formation.
  4. School buildings should be built and maintained with due regard for the hygiene of the school child. Items demanding particular attention are:
    1. Adequate lavatory and toilet facilities.
    2. Sufficient play space within easy access of the building.
    3. Provisions for proper natural and artificial lighting of all rooms.
    4. Provisions for the maintenance of cool temperature and adequate ventilation in the classrooms.

As shown more in detail in the chapter on Health, Indian schools do not meet the minimum standards here suggested, largely because they have not had the personnel or the necessary funds.

A program that can be readily adapted to Indian schools if requisite medical and other personnel can be provided is that of the United States Bureau of Education, which covers nearly a score of points: (1) Thorough physical and mental examination at school entrance, in the presence of a teacher and parent; (2) individual health training throughout all the grades; (3) weighing and measuring school children regularly and sending records home to the parents; (4) arousing pleasure in teaching health habits; (5) using every school opportunity, as cleanliness of blackboards, for example; (6) daily inspection by teacher or committee of pupils; (7) enlisting cooperation of parents and the rest of the community; (8) connecting health teaching with citizenship; (9) physical exercise and play, with adequate play space ; (10) mental hygiene; (11) school physician, but emphasizing vigorous health rather than disease; (12) school nurses; (13) standards of promotion dependent in part upon correction of remediable defects; (14) teacher to exemplify perfect cheerfulness and health; (15) special health classes for malnourished children; (16) domestic science courses for health teaching; (17) school furniture—adjustable and ad- justed; (18) eye and ear care; (19) care of teeth in every grade.

Physical Education and Recreation. Modern emphasis in physical education is upon the recreational and play-type of activity rather than upon the formal and military. In accordance with this principle playground apparatus has been installed at Indian schools and directions have been issued from the Washington office intended to provide recreational opportunities for all school children. Lack of qualified personnel, however, has made it possible to develop this program only partially. The result is that Indian schools for the most part have as the only system of physical training applicable to all pupils a scheme of military drilling that is largely obsolete even in Army training camps. Whatever the advantages of military drill for boys of high school age (and this is a controverted matter even among military experts), few advocates of military training would find any value for girls and little children in the formal type of drill insisted upon in most Indian boarding schools. Fortunately in actual practice the rigors of this drilling are often considerably modified, especially in smaller schools, but it does seem as if the necessary financial support might be given to making the physical education and recreation program more nearly in .accord with modern educational practice.

One of the advantages of the work-study-play or platoon plan as carried out in public school systems is that it makes a definite place for play and recreation as an integral part of education. The larger Indian boarding schools have developed athletics extensively, but it is almost wholly athletics of the specialist type, in which only the " star " athletes, or those approaching stardom sufficiently to make the first teams, have any chance at participation. Senior girls at one of the large schools, when asked what present lack of their school they would like best to have met, spoke almost unanimously in favor of play space for tennis and other sports for girls. Instead of play space, play time, and recreational athletic opportunities for all pupils, the larger Indian schools emphasize first-team athletics of the spectacular sort, accompanied in some cases by the evils American athletic leaders are trying hard to eliminate. Haskell Institute, for example, has been harboring athletes of the most dubious kind; and while the administration of the school has cleaned up the worst part of the situation, the school has apparently continued to feel under the necessity of deliberately "recruiting" athletes for its teams the present year. The presence of an elaborate stadium in an institution distressingly in need of other educational features can doubtless be defended, but it seems a pity that at a time when both private and public colleges and schools everywhere in the United States are engaged in a clean-up of athletics the national government, in one of the few educational institutions for which it is directly responsible, should openly countenance the abuses of a previous athletic period. Haskell and other Indian schools should as soon as possible adopt the standards of other schools in respect to eligibility. Many desirable and practical methods are now available for carrying on athletics without the old abuses, such as, for example, a program of athletic participation of all students, boys and girls; physical education under competent medical and athletic direction; scouting, both for boys and girls, and other outside activities. Haskell's beginning in the training of physical directors is in the right direction, but even this may prove unfortunate unless the work is on a sufficiently high level to get beyond the present undesirable methods.

9 See pages 314 to 339.

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Last modified April 25, 2008