But, as in all human things, there are drawbacks to school education, and because it is in the power of those who direct its organization to counteract some of these drawbacks, it is worth while to examine them and consider the possible remedies.
In the first place it will probably be agreed that boarding-school life is not desirable for very young children, as their well-being requires more elasticity in rule and occupations than is possible if they are together in numbers. Little children, out of control and excited, are a misery to themselves and to each other, and if they are kept in hand enough to protect the weaker ones from the exuberant energy of the stronger, then the strictness chafes them all, and spontaneity is too much checked. The informal play which is possible at home, with the opportunities for quiet and even solitude, are much better for young children than the atmosphere of school, though a day-school, with the hours of home life in between, is sometimes successfully adapted to their wants. But the special cases which justify parents in sending young children to boarding schools are numerous, now that established home life is growing more rare, and they have to be counted with in any large school. It can only be said that the yoke ought to be made as light as possible—short lessons, long sleep, very short intervals of real application of mind, as much open air as possible, bright rooms, and a mental atmosphere that tends to calm rather than to excite them. They should be saved from the petting of the elder girls, in whom this apparent kindness is often a selfish pleasure, bad on both sides.
For older children the difficulties are not quite the same, and instead of forcing them on too fast, school life may even keep them back. When children are assembled together in considerable numbers the intellectual level is that of the middle class of mind and does not favour the best, the outlook and conversation are those of the average, the language and vocabulary are on the same level, with a tendency to sink rather than to rise, and though emulation may urge on the leading spirits and keep them at racing speed, this does not quicken the interest in knowledge for its own sake, and the work is apt to slacken when the stimulus is withdrawn. And all the time there is comfort to the easy-going average in the consciousness of how many there are behind them.