Opinion inclines to the view that parents are the proper people to give information, the school authorities being prepared to co-operate if required.
Children vary greatly in their desire to know anything about sex, but most of them begin at a very early age to ask questions involving explanation of birth and creation. A child whose questions are answered without hesitation or confusion will acquire a healthy knowledge of sex long before the time for formal instruction comes.
Instruction in the processes of repro-duction is best begun (on a foundation of general knowledge) in the middle teens, perhaps earlier with precocious children. It is often given indirectly, by showing first reproduction in plants, and then in animals. The great advantages the parent has over any other instructors are intimacy and the absence of need to make an occasion for instruction.
Sunlight and Sunbathing for Children. Wo have of recent years come to believe more and more in the value of sunshine; we no longer draw the blinds to protect our carpets from the sun, wo open our windows and doors, our young people go hiking in the scantiest of clothes, and they and our children get bronzed and ruddy as the sun pours down on exposed faces, necks and limbs. Even elderly people are to be seen in bathing costumes sunbathing in park and on the shore. Is this all merely a fad, or is sunshine as valuable as we think?
Undoubtedly it is valuable, especially for children. The ultra-violet rays in sunshine kill germs, produce vitamins, and stimulate the chemical processes of the body whereby food is transformed into bone, muscle, blood, and energy.
We cannot see the ultra-violet rays. The human eye can perceive only one octave of fight, that of the visible spectrum (in a rainbow we see light broken up into the colours of the spectrum).
The ultra-violet rays of light begin where the visible spectrum ends. They are very easily absorbed – by moisture and by smoke and dust in the atmosphere – and they cannot pass through ordinary glass.
We get little enough of them in the ordinary way in the British Isles; our atmosphere is moist, we are shut out from them by clouds, smoke pollutes our air, and we have little high ground (the atmosphere, it is well-known, gets clearer and lighter as the altitude gets higher). Hence the very special value to us of the comparatively rare days of bright sunshine, when we can soak in the largest possible amount of ultra-violet rays.
Vitamins are absolutely necessary to health. Sunlight is essential to the production of vitamins. A deficiency of vitamins in the diet of children causes rickets. Rickets has for many years been cured by sunlight. So has tubcr-cuiosis. Sunlight increases the amount of calcium, iron, iodine, and phosphorus in the blood, increases the amount of colouring matter in the red corpuscles of the blood (haemoglobin), and the number of both red and white corpuscles.
It also stimulates the phagocytes, that is, gives greater power to the white blood cells which fall upon and destroy disease germs which enter the body. It further aids powerfully what we call the metabolism of the body, the process by which food is broken down into useful elements for body building, and those elements are built up into ourselves.
Sunlight is necessary to adults: it is far more necessary to children, who have not only to maintain health, but also to grow.
All the above effects can be produced by artificial sunlight, which is now used extensively by doctors to cure disease.
If children could have artificial sunlight baths during the winter their health and resistance to disease would be greatly improved. Artificial sunlight is, however, to be used with care, and only under expert direction.
From what has been said above, it is clear that ultra-violet rays are exceedingly powerful, and we all know what too long exposure to ordinary sunshine can do in the way of sunburn, blisters, and prickly heat, and the feeling of lassitude and exhaustion which follows upon lying out in the open sun. In artificial sunlight we get concentrated ultra-violet rays, which can do much damage if ignorantly applied.