But how unreasonable is it to seat a child in a chair so high that his feet cannot reach the floor; and so constructed that there is no outer place on which the feet can rest. What adult would be willing to sit in so painful a posture, with his legs dangling? No wonder children dislike to sit much, in such circumstances. And it is a great blessing to both parent and child that they do. No wonder children hate the Sabbath, especially in those families where they are compelled to keep the day holy by sitting motionless! Sabbath schools, though they bring with them some evil along with a great deal of good, are a relief to the young in this particular—especially if their seats are more comfortable elsewhere than at home. They consider it much more tolerable to spend the morning and intermission of the day in going and returning from Sabbath school, than in constant and close confinement. They prefer variety, and the occasional light and air of heaven, to monotony and seclusion and silence.
It happens, however, that the seats at the Sabbath school and at church, are not always what they should be; nor, so far as church is concerned, do I see that this evil can be wholly avoided. Children usually sit with their parents, in the sanctuary—and they ought to do so: and the height of the seats cannot, of course, accommodate both. If there is a building erected solely for the use of the Sabbath school, the seats may be constructed accordingly, without seriously incommoding anybody; but in the church, I do not see, as I have once before observed, how the evil can be remedied.
The greatest trouble in regard to seats, however, is at the day school; especially in our district or common schools. There, it is usual for children to be confined six hours a day—and sometimes two in succession—to hard, narrow, plank seats, a large proportion of which are without backs, and raised so high that the feet of most of the pupils cannot possibly touch the floor. There, “suspended,” as I have said in another work, [Footnote: See a “Prize Essay,” on School Houses, page 7.] “between the heavens and the earth, they are compelled to remain motionless for an hour or an hour and a half together.”
I have also shown, in the same essay, that in regard to the desks, and indeed many other things which pertain to, or are connected with the school, very little pains is taken to provide for the physical welfare or even comfort of the pupils; and that a thorough reform on the subject appears to be indispensable.
When I speak of hard plank seats, let me not be understood as hinting at the necessity of cushions. When I wrote the essay above mentioned, I did indeed believe that they were desirable. But I am now opposed to their use, either by children or adults, even where a laborious employment would seem to demand a long confinement to this awkward and unnatural position. If our seats are cushioned, we shall sit too easily. I believe that our health requires a hard seat; because its very hardness inclines us to change, frequently, our position.