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WHAT IS FEASIBLE FOR THE PROTECTION OF SCHOOLS FROM UNCLEANLINESS AND
BY REV. F. R. BRACE, SUPT. OF SCHOOLS FOR CAMDEN COUNTY.
I. Subjects like the one assigned to this committee are assuming a greater magnitude every day. Populations of cities and towns are increasing rapidly, and with the increase comes the attendant danger from crowding and the evils which necessarily accompany a crowded condition. So long as a fair degree of separation can be maintained, or a sufficient space allotted to each individual, there is but little danger to be apprehended from the evils connected with uncleanliness, but when the populations begin to crowd together and large assemblages are packed in small inclosures, the dangers become so great that the necessity arises to adopt means for the protection of health and life.
The old Jewish code, in its ceremonial requirements, was not only of a religious nature, not merely to keep the people a separate people, but was a grand sanitary set of regulations for the physical well-being. Any kind of uncleanliness, arising from disease, from touching the dead, from touching any diseased or unclean person or thing, made it necessary that the person rendering himself unclean should be immediately separated from all other persons. And, according to the danger from the defilement, he must remain separated a greater or less portion of time. Then came the ablutions, the bathings, the inspections by proper authorities, before admission to the congregation. Well would it be for society to-day, for the preservation of the health of the people, if some of those old regulations could be put in force. With all our knowledge of the great laws that govern life and health, and with all the advancement in the care of life, we might still learn much from the old Hebrew commonwealth. It was an excellent feature that cleanliness was made part of their religion. I think there can be no doubt that every community, whether it be large or small, has a right to throw around itself all necessary protection to prevent injury to physical well-being. If it be true that an individual has a right to preserve and protect his life, it must be equally true that a collection of individuals has an equal right to do so. Nay, the right of a community is greater than that of an individual, as the injury may be more extensive.
These general principles apply to the communities that we call schools. Let us make specific applications of them.
II. Under the rule laid down that crowding has a tendency to increase the danger from uncleanliness and disease, so that disease can be more easily propagated, if not generated, there ought to be a requirement of law that a certain space should be allowed each pupil, that is, a certain floor space. There should not be any huddling of four, five or more scholars together on one bench, so as to pack as many pupils in the school room as it can be made to hold. That has been done in some districts. It is still done in some districts, I am sorry to say. There is sometimes such a crowding of children, bringing cleanly and uncleanly together and into very close contact, that conditions are created to receive whatever evils arise from uncleanliness. False ideas of economy, ignorance of the common laws of health, or at least gross carelessness with regard to them, lead men to be satisfied with such a condition of things. In an ordinary school room there ought to be allowed for each pupil at least an average of fifteen square feet of floor space. This will give in the ordinary school room, an average of from 150 to 180 cubic feet of air, a quantity which, although seemingly large, will be rendered unfit for breathing in less than half an hour. When the room has the number of pupils that this limit will permit, then the door ought to be closed against the admission of all others. The room, even with the greatest attention and precaution, will become uncleanly from the deposit on desks, and walls, and ceiling and floor, of the worn-out matter thrown off from the lungs, and from the exhalations that will arise from the dirty clothing of some of the pupils. When fifteen square feet of floor space is mentioned as the limit for each pupil, it is not meant that even that limit will entirely prevent the evils from
uncleanliness, but that is the smallest amount of space that ought to be allowed for each pupil.
III. When the proper space is allowed, there ought to be a separate seat for each pupil. As a rule, no two pupils ought to sit together. It is the custom in all our homes in these days to have separate seats for the members of the family. It ought to be the custom in all our school houses to have separate seats for the members of the school. It is more needed in school rooms than in private abodes, because the system of classification according to studies will place together on the same seat children coming from different homes; one, perhaps, with body and clothing in a pure and clean condition, and the other with body and clothing in an impure and unclean condition. Thus, the one whose parents have taken pains to put him in the very best condition to preserve health, is placed in contact with one whose uncleanly condition makes him, if not a generator of disease, a fitting subject for the reception of germs of disease, and this contact is not a passing one, but one that is kept up for several hours of each day, and in a room which has often all the necessary conditions to develop and propagate diseases that are begotten or nourished in uncleanliness.
We have made a great stride forward in the sanitary condition of our school rooms by having them built larger and by removing the old forms and desks from nearly all the school houses and substituting for them the seat that will hold only two persons. We have decreased the danger that arises from placing so many together, but we must go a step further than this, and endeavor to have in all our school rooms desks that will seat only one. This is done in some school rooms already, but generally for the older and more advanced pupils, while the pupils in the primary and secondary departments are obliged to sit two on a seat; and yet it is in these departments where the crowded condition exists, and where, from the young age of the children, there is likely to be the greater amount of uncleanliness.
In the interest of health, of the proper care of the young, of the strength of the future generation, we ought to see to it that such measures as are found promotive of health, shall be adopted in all school districts.
IV. It is necessary for the teacher to see that the room has a regular air bath three or four times a day. Every door and every window ought to be thrown wide open to let the air pour through and carry
off all the foul matter possible. It is astonishing how indifferent to such matters some teachers become. They live every day in rooms that never have a sweep of air through them, rooms whose walls and desks are reeking with the foul matter that has been thrown off from lungs and bodies and clothing, making these rooms dens of uncleanness, bringing their pupils into forbearance with uncleanness and guilty carelessness, the whole being saturated each day with uncleanness. It ought to be required of every teacher that at least once during each session, after the cold weather has set in that requires doors and windows to be closed, perhaps once every hour, the pupils should be made to leave their seats and move around the room, and every door and window be thrown open for a few minutes. It would not chill the room, as walls and floor and desks are all heated, and on the closing of the windows and doors the temperature would soon be restored.
V. Desks soon become very dirty. Hands are necessarily placed on them, hands that are moist, and the dust with the moisture soon forms a coating that a dust-brush or dry cloth will not remove. The heads of the pupils are not very far from the surface of the desks, especially when they are studying and the process of expiration is throwing out used-up matter on these desks, and the process of inspiration is taking in air that has come in contact with these desks, or that has been affected with the insensible exhalations from them, and thus the air that is inhaled is to some degree poisoned. It would be well to have the desks washed with soap and warm water once a week, at all events once every month.
If any one needs convincing of such a requirement, let him examine the desks in any school room after a month's use, and he will easily see that purification by soap and water is a very necessary thing. If he is unable by inspection to see the impurity of the desks, let him try a little warm, clean water and soap, and then inspect the character of the water and see whether the desk did not need cleansing. Attention to such matters as these will produce a very excellent effect upon the pupils. It will lead them to see the value and beauty of cleanliness, and cultivate in them unconsciously a love for the clean, and an abhorrence for the unclean, that will cause them to take better care of their own persons.
VI. In our school law there is no special enactment of the duties of trustees in the matter of sanitary regulations, but full power is
given them to make all rules and regulations for the good of the schools. The thirty-ninth section, second subsection, says: “They shall bave power, and it shall be their duty, to make and enforce rules and regulations not in conflict with the general regulations of the State Board of Education for the government of schools, pupils and teachers." This is very comprehensive and is really adequate for all purposes. Under this, rules can be made requiring attention to all sanitary matters. While trustees cannot determine the size of the school house, or, perhaps, the character of the desks, at least in country districts, they can determine how many shall be admitted to the room, and say to the teacher, when so many pupils have been registered, “ You must refuse to admit any more.” They can require that all pupils shall present themselves in a cleanly condition, and, if they do not, they can refuse them admittance. They can order that no children coming from families where there are contagious diseases, shall be permitted to attend the school.
In Gloucester township, Camden county, the following rules were adopted several years ago, and have worked well :
“Cleanliness in person and neatness in attire are expected from all. A violation of this rule will cause the pupil to be sent home to have the fault remedied.
"No pupil known to be affected with a contagious disease, or coming from a family in which a contagious disease is, shall be allowed in school.”
While full authority is conferred upon trustees by the provisions of the law, there are many of them ignorant of the evils of uncleanliness and the danger arising from contagion. They have never given any attention to laws of health, and some of them cousider the studies of physiology and hygiene as absolutely unnecessary. Indeed, from the condition of some of the school houses and outhouses one is almost led to believe that some of them consider uncleanliness as promotive of health. After the close of school, in May or June, the school houses are sometimes allowed to remain in their dirty condition all through the summer vacation, and when the teachers enter the houses in the autumn, they find that they are not in a fit condition to receive them or the pupils. The outhouses have also been neglected. The trustees give as their excuse that they have not had time to attend to such things. What shall be done in such cases ? It is now left to the discretion and good judgment of trustees as to whether such matters shall be attended to or not. It does seem as though rules and