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SOME THOUGHTS CONCERNING
BY JOHN LOCKE.
This work, of which the following is an analysis, was published in 1690, and was written, as is stated in the Epistle Dedicatory to Edward Clarke, of Chipley, Esq., some years earlier. The Thoughts on Education are extremely discursive and irregular, the same topics being treated of in different places. The author of the following analysis has endeavoured to connect these disjointed parts, and to arrange the materials so as to give more method and unity to the whole ; but the opinions given are strictly those of Locke, and though excellent on the whole, they are not set forth as to be altogether implicitly adopted; the progress made in medical science, for instance, has shown that his reconi. mendation of extreme hardship in the early education of the body is altogether erroneous. The original is divided into sections; but from the cause alluded to, it has been found impossible to indicate those divisions in the Analysis. Wherever the words of Locke have been used, they are placed between marks of quotation.
By education Locke understands the training, not of the mind only, a limitation too apt to be given to the sense of the word, but of the body also ; and ac
cordingly the first, and perhaps not the least valuable, portion of his treatise is devoted to a consideration of the important question of physical health, as it relates to children. And in the first place, he strongly reprehends that over-tenderness in mothers which, in their anxiety to shield their offspring from every risk, induces them to clothe then too warmly, and otherwise to confine them at an early age, so that a certain degree of present security is obtained at the expense of a double danger from every subsequent exposure; whereas experience teaches us that the body may be inured by habit to any sufferance of cold or heat. He recommends that a child should be early accustomed to slight clothing, that as soon as his hair grows the use of caps should be discontinued, that he should have his feet washed every day in cold water, and even that his shoes “ be made so as to leak water;" which, with some other practises of a similar kind, calculated to strengthen the frame and render it independent, he enforces with much earnestness, deprecating the opposition of the mistress and the maid. With respect to diet, it should be exceedingly plain, and flesh meat should make no part of it during the first three or four years of life. No kindness towards children should induce us to mix up with their food any seasoning that may occasion an early delicacy in the palate, but good dry bread should be made the test of their appetite, which will insure that they do not eat oftener than nature really demands. Amongst the Romans it was a reproach to a man if he indulged in more than one regular meal a day; and a great part of the diseases among Englishmen may be imputed to gross feeding, especially in the article of flesh-meat. So far is Locke from counselling regularity
in meals, that he advises the time of eating to be continually varied, ---on this principle, that regularity begets expectation in the stomach, and the disappointment of that expectation must needs produce petulance and ill temper in the child, as often as it occurs; whilst on the contrary a varied system may be as easily established by habit, and will be accompanied with more independence. To prevent children from drinking more than enough, he advises that no draught be permitted them between meals that is not prefaced by a piece of dry bread; and we are to remember that hunger and thirst are as much the creatures, and therefore the subjects, of habit, as any other of our propensities. There is no matter in which servants are more narrowly to be watched than this of diet, for they are but too prone to relieve themselves of trouble and inconvenience by indulging the desires of children. Fruit is generally condemned as unwholesome, and children are led to regard it, like our first parents, with the greater longing, from the rigorous law which restrains them from it. But there is not sufficient discrimination used on this head, for
fruits are not only innocuous, but highly conducive to health, when eaten in their season, and with that moderation without which no food is wholesome. Such fruits are straw. berries, cherries, gooseberries, currants, apples, and pears, which should however not be eaten alone, but with bread, and are best at breakfast-time, Sweetmeats of every kind are to be, without exception, banished from the nursery-table. One only desire is to be indulged without restraint,—this is the inclination to sleep; sleep being as necessary to a child as food itself: and with respect to early hours,
the importance of which is universally admitted, this may be observed, that although it may be impossible, in after life, always to maintain the rule in this respect, yet by keeping it inviolate in the child, you may so far provide against future excess that sitting up shall always remain to him a species more or less of discomfort and uneasiness. The younger the child, the more needful the sleep; but there is an age when the desire for sleep is apt to slide into a fault, and
any evidences of a lazy disposition must be followed by prompt correction. He must be reduced by degrees to eight hours, which may be considered the proper term of rest for adults. Children ought not to be awakened in a rude manner, but gradually, and with kind words; they experience a certain pain in waking, which should not be added to by noise, especially of a kind to frighten them. The time of sleep is carefully to be observed, but not the manner; and a child should be accustomed to various conditions in his rest: his bed—so that it be always hard-should be made sometimes in one fashion, and sometimes in another, that he may not be unprepared for the vicissitudes of travelling and the many changes that he is certain to encounter in life. Locke is of opinion that physic should never be administered by way of prevention, but only by way of cure, and that costiveness, against which it is usually applied, may be overcome simply by the determined will of the person suffering, and by a habit of regularity in “soliciting nature.” He sums up his recommendations on the subject of health in these words :** Plenty of open air, exercise, and sleep, plain diet, no wine or strong drink, and very little or no physic, not
too warm and strait cloathing, especially the head and feet kept cold, and the feet often used to cold water, and exposed to wet.”
The health of the body being duly provided for, the mind next claims our care ; and here it will be proper to give, in Locke's own words, the proposition with which he opens this part of his subject. It conveys the very pith of his doctrine.
“ As the strength of the body lies chiefly in being able to endure hardships, so also does that of the inind. And the great principle and foundation of all virtue and worth lies in this, that a man is able to deny himself his own desires, cross his own inclinations, and purely follow what reason directs as best, though the appetite lean the other way.” (Sect. 33.)
Here, as before, the over-fondness of the mother is the first subject of observation, as it is the first barrier in the way of the child's improvement. It is not unusual even to find some little perverse tricks rather admired than reproved, as being thought not unbecoming the innocence of childhood. Whether this be the result of tenderness or of a weak judgment in the parents, it is equally reprehensible, and fails not to produce consequences in the end which the parents themselves are the first to complain of, though they choose to be ignorant of the share they had in the mischief. The amusement which children afford to grownup people, occasions them too often to be treated like play-things. Their humours are indulged for the sake of their lively spirits, and they are not to be crossed lest they change the scene and turn entertainment into trouble. Also because they are presumed to be in