This parental duty is the more to be insisted on, because school life is so exigeant that the modern schoolboy or girl is nearly as much given up by parents as was the Spartan child of whom the State took possession. The boys and girls away at school are treated very much as visitors while at home, made much of at first, and then, before the long holidays are over, found slightly in the way; but it is not often that the parents take them under training as they do the young children who have not yet left the parent wing. The day school should offer the advantage of keeping the children constantly under home influence; but does it do so? As a matter of fact, are not the children so much occupied with school tasks, and their leisure so taken up with school companions and school interests, that the parents gradually lose hold of them? Then, the young people set up a code of their own: "Oh, nobody does so!" "Nobody thinks so!" "All the boys" or, "All the girls" say so-and-so, is supposed to settle most matters of discussion. And the worst of it is, many parents, with the diffidence of good people, are ready to believe that their children get something better at school than they have power to give; that, in fact, all proper and suitable training is given there, and they just make a merit of not interfering.
This absorption in school life is the more complete because the young people are, for the time, conscious of no want which the school does not supply. Work and play, given these in due proportion and of the fitting kind, and life is delightful: and nowhere in the world are work and play so well balanced as in the school––the boys' school, at any rate; it is less easy to make provision for the play of girls. Parents prize the discipline of the playground almost as much as that of the schoolroom; and rightly so––not only for the unequalled physical training that the games afford; but for the "pluck," the "endurance, foresight, strength, and skill," the obedience to law, the deference to authority, the readiness to give place to the best man, the self-reliance, the faithfulness to each other, even in a bad cause, cultivated by means of the school games––with their laws, their captains, their contests, their rivalries. And what finer training could the boys have for a world in which pluck and temper win the prizes?
One is half inclined to regret that the games of the girls, even when they adopt the very games of the boys, can hardly be taken in such terrible earnest, and, therefore, do not exercise the same discipline; but up to the present time, at any rate, life does not offer such rough after-usage to girls as to boys, and, therefore, the same training to hardihood is not called for. The influence which these organisations for play have on the characters of boys is not to be measured. Athletic and, at the same time, thoughtful young masters perceive that, if they are to influence boys, it must be as they are able to make a good figure in the playground, and thereby show that they are in sympathy with the prime interests of a boy's life. So of friendships, comradeships; it is in the playground the boy finds his ideal of manly excellence, the example he sets himself to follow.