Educators are generally agreed that health teaching should be a part of every curriculum. The development of a health program in educational institutions is not new.
It is interesting to note that in 185o Massachusetts passed a law requiring some health teaching to be given as a part of the educational program in the schools of that State. Since only a few teachers were qualified to give this instruction, there was little accomplished at that time as a result of the legislation. In 1850 a textbook of anatomy, physiology, and hygiene was published for the use of young ladies' seminaries. In 1874 another book on hygiene was published for use in rural schools.
By 1880 the desirability of teaching anatomy, physiology, and hygiene in public schools had become so generally recognized that pressure groups had succeeded in passing laws in every State of the Union, making it mandatory for instruction to be given relative to the physiological effects of alcohol and narcotics. At that time the principal emphasis in the school health program was upon healthful living.
Today court decisions and legislation exist in all States for maintaining sanitary conditions in schools and for the supervision of health. Many States also have legislation making provision for health services and health education to be given in the schools. In many places routine health examinations are made available for pupils and teachers, and adequate nursing service is provided. Although at the present time a good health program is quite well established in most elementary public schools, the development of this phase of education has been slow, and much opposition has been manifested.
The need today for a physically fit man power to carry on the war, together with the discovery of large numbers who have been rejected for military service because of physical defects, has caused increased emphasis to be given to health in all schools, particularly in the secondary schools.
The history of the development of a health program in the schools of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been similar to that in the public schools. A lack of teachers prepared to teach health and the existence of a medical personnel more competent to care for the ill than to teach health promotion have been outstanding causes for the slow development of a well-balanced health program in the schools of this church. In 1871 Mrs. E. G. White gave her first instruction on the teaching of health in our schools. This instruction is as follows:
"Health is a great blessing, and can be secured only in obedience to natural law. Good health is necessary for the enjoyment of life. . . .
"Mothers are accountable, in a great degree, for the health and lives of their children, and should become intelligent in regard to laws upon which life and health depend. Their work does not end here. They should carefully educate their children upon this subject, that they may, by obedience to nature's laws, avoid disease, and secure health and happiness.
"It is well that physiology is introduced into the common schools as a branch of education. All children should study it. It should be regarded as the basis of all educational effort. And then parents should see to it that practical hygiene be added. This will make their knowledge of physiology of practical benefit. Parents should teach their children by example that health is to be regarded as the chiefest earthly blessing. . . .
"Mental and moral power is dependent upon the physical health. . . . Good health, sound minds, and pure hearts, are not made of the first importance in households."—Review and Herald, Oct. 31, 1871.
Since this was written, much instruction on health education has been made available to medical workers and to educators. Note the following : "So closely is health related to our happiness, that we cannot have the latter without the former. A practical knowledge of the science of human life is necessary in order to glorify God in our bodies. It is therefore of the highest importance, that among the studies selected for childhood, physiology should occupy the first place. How few know anything about the structure and functions of their own bodies, and of nature's laws!"—Counsels on Health, p. 38.
The purpose of this panel discussion is to present ways and means whereby all groups within the church may unite their efforts for utilizing this knowledge, and build a strong health education program which will function effectively in the life of each student.
D. L. B.
Question: How may we determine whether the teacher is competent to direct children in the harmonious development of all the physical powers and mental capacities!
The problem of securing well-qualified elementary teachers is particularly acute at this time. Owing to war conditions and attractions of employment elsewhere there is a shortage of well-prepared elementary teachers, with the result that it has become necessary to use teachers in our elementary schools who do not have the qualifications commonly considered necessary in order to teach.
Many teachers in training are taken out to teach in the various schools of the conference before they have completed their prescribed curriculum.
In view of these conditions one can recognize the difficulty of putting into the teacher-training curriculum some of the essential features, such as health and physical education. In normal times we would naturally expect to have a teacher-training course of from two to four years of college work ; then time would be available for offering sufficient training in preparation for the teaching of the regular elementary school subjects and for developing habits, attitudes, and experiences in other fields which are equally important, such as health, art, music, and things of that sort.
It is fully recognized by our conference superintendents and union educational secretaries that the efficiency of our health and physical education program will - be built around teacher interest and preparation, which must precede pupil interest and response. An ideal that should stand out clearly before all our teachers is a clean, healthy mind, and a pure, clean heart in a healthy body. A teacher who shows in his or her own life these characteristics of health and physical vigor will naturally transmit to the boys and girls of the school the same principles and ideals of healthful living.
It seems important also for the teacher to make use of activities and devices in connection with teaching health to children. For example, I remember visiting an elementary school where the teacher was presenting the idea of cleanliness to the children in the primary room—the simple matter of washing the hands clean and then drying them. In this room they did not have running water, so the teacher had arranged to have two or three basins and a bucket of water, with a dipper, soap, and towels. Then, with all the children watching carefully, she proceeded to wash her hands with soap and water in one of the basins. Then she rinsed off her hands once, soaped them again briefly and washed them thoroughly, in and around the fingers and up and around the wrists and arms, and rinsed them again a third time before drying. Watching this procedure, I was impressed with the lesson that it conveyed to the children in the matter of cleanliness in washing the hands. This illustrates, to my mind, the value of having simple illustrations and activities for the children, so that they will understand better what is meant by some of the health habits, as well as some of the health activities.
I remember another case, in which a teacher was demonstrating to the children how to brush the teeth, and she took pains to point out the advantages of brushing the teeth up and down, instead of straight across, so that any food would be removed from the sides of the teeth, as well as from any hidden corners where food might lodge. Pupil demonstration following the teacher demonstration might be used also to see whether they have grasped the idea properly.
I was greatly impressed with a report I read in the San Francisco Chronicle of July II, 1944, which further emphasized the importance of health teaching and the development of physical powers in children and young people. This report was by a United Press staff correspondent and embodied information drawn from the Selective Service office of the United States Army. Among other things, this report indicated that a large part of the population is mentally sick, uneducated, riddled with venereal diseases, and depleted by other illness; and these conditions indicate that Federal measures should be instituted to put the nation in good health for war needs and the postwar program. It was found by Selective Service that the young men of this nation were flabby, soft, and in need of conditioning. It was stated that "instead of a country of rugged, virile men, we have a lot of 5D's—defective, disabled, deficient, disordered,- and diseased. Health is a major man-power problem, and it will require the all-out effort on the part of everyone to correct this situation and prevent a recurrence." This evidence fits in with other reports that have been received concerning health conditions found by the Army and Navy in examining the men drawn into these services.
In view of the valuable health material given to this people, it seems that we ought to have a stronger and healthier group of young people among us. In fact, it seems to some that our young men who have been taken into the services of the country ought to have a health ratio that is better than that of the average young men who are taken in with them. We are confronted with the question as to whether we are doing all that we ought to do in our schools to make our young people not only conscious of their health needs but alert and responsive to the health ideals and principles which we have abundant knowledge of, but which need practice as well as propagation.
Surely, no more fruitful avenue is available for this important work than the school, and the elementary school holds the unique place in starting these health habits, attitudes, and ideals early in the lives of the boys and girls. We who are identified with the elementary school program stand ready to join wholeheartedly with the Medical Department in its effort to strengthen health and physical-education features among our children and youth. We wish that more of the conferences would be able to employ a nurse as a health educator who could spend much of her time in visiting among the schools with the teachers and pupils, not only presenting saving principles of healthful living, but inspiring boys and girls to enjoy life better because of this knowledge.
J. E. WEAVER.