Monday, June 22, 2009

They're books for kids but . . .

they were written a long time ago and how times have changed.

A few days ago I picked up a couple of discarded children's school books. The first, Good Health (Gulick Hygiene Series) by Frances Gulick Jewett, was published in 1906. In one chapter, the author tells of a Dr. Hodge, professor of physiology in Clark University, Massachusetts, who decided to force liquor on kittens and puppies to see how it would affect them. They didn't cotton to the idea of imbibing and so Dr. Hodge dribbled it down their furry little throats. Not surprisingly, the drunken kittens and puppies didn't thrive like their littermates and this was supposed to be a morality lesson for impressionable children. As if forced alcholism wasn't enough, Hodge dubbed the drunken puppies "Bum" and "Tipsy." Picture this in a modern health book for today's kiddies!

Next, the case of a trapper, St. Martin, is revealed in hideous detail. The poor guy sustained a wound in his side that never healed and allowed anyone who had the nerve to peak at his stomach. This inspired yet another doctor - Beaumont (no doubt urged on by Hodge) to force liquor on the unfortunate trapper to see what sort of damage would result.

"Before this time doctors could only judge about alcohol by the way men felt and acted after they drank it. Even when Bum and Tipsy used alcohol, Dr. Hodge could not tell what the drink really did to their stomachs."

Dr. Beaumont found that the liquor didn't do St. Martin any favors. "Whenever he looked in the lining was redder than it was the time before; then there were sores on it; after that the sores were worse and blood came from them." So did he stop the experiment? Of course not.

"Dr. Beaumont tried his experiments over and over again at different times and in the end decided . . . alcohol made the lining of St. Martin's stomach sore and unhealthy." Eventually he came to his senses and after he had, "found out all he needed to know, stopped giving alcohol to St. Martin, whereupon the lining of his stomach grew more healthy."

There's no word as to whether St. Martin was a hopeless sot by that time.

Well, on to the second book, Reed's Introductory Language Work: A simple, varied, and pleasing but methodical series of exercises in English to precede the study of technical grammar by Alonzo Reed, AM. This one was published by Maynard, Merrill & Co., 1904. To teach certain parts of grammar, bizarre little stories are used. In the first, kittens are once again in peril:

"One bright, sunny spring morning a family of kittens were playing about the door of a farmhouse. The mother had lain down, and was watching the playful tricks of her happy kittens. A large hawk, which had been searching all morning for his breakfast, saw them. Like an arrow he darted upon one of the kittens. The mother saw the danger of her little one, and sprang at once upon the hawk. a long and fierce battle was fought, but at last the hawk was killed. Though the cat had lost one eye and was covered with blood, she first ran to her kitten and licked its wounds."

Then we have a dulcet and sylvan story that quickly descends into utility:

"Helen, here is a pretty flower. Willie, do flowers have legs? O Helen, how much this butterfly looks like a flower! Thomas, put the net over him."

And what does one do with the following fact:

"The fly does not grow after getting legs and wings."

Thank God.

Finally, amusing Lesson CLXV: The Wise Goats

"Two goats meet on a narrow ledge. A steep rock and a deep chasm. One goat lies down. The other passes over him and bounds away. Suppose they had quarreled."

Ah, it HAD a happy ending. Why spoil it by asking why one didn't act like a horse's (er, goat's) ass?

I guess if he had, it would have made a story at least as interesting as the one about the cat and kittens mauled by the hawk.

Goodnight and sleep well, children!

No comments:

Post a Comment