But the reasons so far given for the encouragement of leisure-time interests are mainly negative. In order to realise to the full the importance of this side of education, we must look rather at their positive value. From whichever point of view one looks at it, physical, intellectual, or social, this value is not small. Some of these interests contribute directly to health in being outdoor pursuits; and these, in not letting games furnish the only motive and means of exercise, can help to establish habits and motives of no little help in later life, when games are no longer easy to keep up. And even in the years when the call of games is strongest, some rivalry of other outdoor pursuits is useful as a preventive of absorption in athleticism, easily carried to excess at school so as to shut out finer interests and influences. It was a consciousness of this that led Captain Scott, in the letter written in those last hours among the Antarctic snows, thinking of his boy at home, and the education that he wished for him, to write: “Make the boy interested in natural history, if you can; it is better than games: they encourage it in some schools.”
Besides health—and health, we must remember, is not only a bodily matter, but depends on mental as well as bodily activity, and on the enjoyment of the activity that comes from its being mainly voluntary—the pursuits that we are considering can do much to train skill of various kinds. The class-work represents the minimum that we expect a boy to know; but there is much that necessarily lies outside it of hardly less value. Many a boy learns as much from the hobby on which he spends his free time as from the work he does in class. Sometimes, indeed, such a free-time hobby reveals the bent that might otherwise have gone undiscovered, and determines the choice of a special line of work for the future career.
But the chief value of such interests lies rather in their influence on other work, and on the general development of character. In giving scope for many kinds of skill, they are helping the intellectual training; and however ready we may be to pay lip-service to the principle of learning by doing, and to admit the educational importance of the hand in brain-development, in most of our school work we still ignore these things, so far as any practical application of them is concerned. One is sometimes tempted to wonder if in the future there may not be so complete a reaction from our present ideas and methods as to make what are now regarded as mere hobbies the main matter of education, and to relegate much of the present school course, as the writing of verses has already been relegated, to the category of optional side-shows. At any rate these free-time interests can supply a very useful stimulus to much of the routine work. In these a boy may find himself for the first time, and discover, despite his experience in class, that he is no fool. Or at least he may find there a centre of interest,