Saturday, September 26, 2009

Social History Saturday: School Hygiene

School Hygiene by Ludwig Kotelmann, published in 1899, is available as a digital book on Internet Archive at

The book explains in its beginning that the term school hygiene is .."concentration of the principles of architecture, sanitary engineering, psychology, pedagogy, and preventative medicine upon the physical conditions of school life. The translators of this volume state that pupils should be able to “do his work without injury to health-that is without becoming nervous and sleepless, or having his eye-sight, digestion, or other bodily functions impaired."

This book goes over everything from the way schools are heated and illuminated to school furniture. One chapter focuses on homework, the order of subjects, and medical conditions that may have something to do with school, everything from curvature of the spine to eye problems and infectious disease to suicide (…warning to teachers to be conservative in their demands upon the energies of the 231).

It’s interesting to read some of the controversies that were present in the late 1800’s that continue today. As schools argue about kindergarten curriculums and whether to have kindergarten children attend school half day or full day, this books also addresses the issue, “..many children are sent to school too young. As is well known, the sixth year is generally looked upon as the most suitable age…even pupils who have completed the sixth year do not always have the necessary strength of body and mind for the demands of school.” (pg. 209).

This is a great look at some of the thinking on school reform in the late 19th century. There is a comprehensive bibliography in the back of the book as well as some advertisements for school supplies that will provide some historical context.

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