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Temperature

( Originally Published 1899 )

THE organic senses just mentioned embrace those senses not so clearly differentiated in the consciousness as the six senses generally recognized. They give us a knowledge of muscular movement, of hunger and thirst, of fatigue, of respiration, of disease, feelings of relish, of depression, of exhilaration, etc. Few of them are localized. They pertain rather to the system as a whole than to any particular part of it.

The sense of temperature is now clearly distinguished from the sense of touch and really makes the seventh sense, if those above mentioned are still embraced in the term organic. Take a toothpick or a sharp-pointed lead pencil and touch various parts of the palm of the hand and it will sometimes appear warm and sometimes cold, with occasional places where neither effect appears. By the use of delicate instruments the presence and location of these warm, cold, and neutral spots have been definitely determined and mapped. It would appear that certain nerve filaments have special temperature functions entirely distinct from those of touch. That the warm and cold spots are more numerous and more sensitive in some people than in others is readily seen in the ease with which some people handle hot bars, hot plates, etc., or with which they put their hands or feet into hot water, or drink hot liquids, while others are almost thrown into spasms when they attempt it. The character of the epidermis the outer skin has much to do with the sensitiveness to heat or cold. The calloused hand of a black-smith or a cook enables him to handle hot pokers and stove lids that would blister the tender fingers of a child. A mother not infrequently scalds the feet of her child by forcing them into water which is " hardly warm " to her toughened fingers, and so brings on disorders far more serious than that which she was striving to cure. Many a babe's mouth is sorely blistered by a hot gargle that the nurse, accustomed to drink boiling-hot tea three times a day, declares to be " just warm, now dearie." Hot plasters and poultices are clapped on the little innocents without intelligence or mercy for the same reasons, and incalculable injury is thus done to a multitude of children.

Incidentally, it should here be mentioned that some children are naturally warmer-blooded and need less clothing than others; they are often suffering from the heat in a room where others are perfectly comfortable. They need food with more nitrogenous and less fatty material in it than their colder-blooded fellows. I had a neighbor whose veins were always surcharged with rich blood, who kept his home four or five degrees cooler in win-ter than the normal, 68 to 70, and his children with thinner blood were constantly suffering more or less in consequence. Another, with sluggish arteries, kept his home so warm that his boys and girls, inheriting their mother's vigorous temperament, were often nervously prostrate. They took cold nearly everywhere they went, and certain serious ills were surely chargeable to nothing else.

If this were strictly a mother's book, I would enter into details concerning a variety of skin diseases in which the temperature sense is more or less involved, and which contribute their full share toward the development of the disposition of the child, but I shall content myself with a mere reference to them and with a reminder that there are far higher reasons for getting rid of them promptly than merely for the sake of the comfort and health of the child.

Sufficient has been said, however, to show the teacher the necessity of studying the temperature problem as applied to every child in his classes. It is impossible to have an equable temperature in every part of a room, particularly when heated by a stove, but it is possible to put the colder-blooded and the thinly clad near the stove and the others in more distant parts of the room. It is also possible to manage the heat so as to keep it near the normal. The health of the children requires it; comfort, good order, and effective instruction are impossible without it. Friendly feeling and interest in work seldom develop in a cold room ; reflective thought and keen analysis are paralyzed in a hot one. Many teachers owe their failure in keeping order to inability to keep the schoolroom properly ventilated and heated.

The test for the normal temperature of a child is possibly best made by conferring with the mother, and by a few inquiries of the child himself from day to day. Thermometers applied to the body will be of little avail. It will take but a week or two for a teacher to discover whether a pupil is above or below the average normal and to seat him accordingly. Of course, he should not make the mistake of thinking that temperature alone must decide the question of location. Some children are very sensitive to draughts, while others seem to be affected little by them. The seeds of permanent ill health or of fatal disease may easily be given root in a single day by neglecting these precautions.

Two seemingly parallel straight lines may be but an inch apart at their origin and yet be ten feet apart at the end of a mile. So these little things may not seem of much moment at present, but in a few years their effect is too sadly realized.

The intellectual value of the senses thus far mentioned is very small. They simply give us a knowledge of the condition of the physical organism in a general and in a specific way; some of them not even localizing a disorder or a want of the body as thirst, hunger, etc. The temperature sense is easily recognized as one step higher in the series, for it not only gives us a knowledge of the general temperature of the body, but of individual parts of the body as well. Further, it is the first to give us a knowledge of the external world, but even that knowledge is limited to the simple information concerning its temperature as compared with that of the body. While the others permit a child to say, " I am hungry, I am tired, I feel my hand moving, I have the colic, I am sick at the stomach," this sense permits him to say, " I am cold," and to add, " It is cold," meaning some-thing outside of himself, as the air, a chair, water, the bed, the poker, etc.

The organic senses give him immediate knowledge of his physical well- or ill-being only, while his skill in many of the arts is dependent in large measure upon the delicacy with which he discriminates temperature. The thermometer serves a useful purpose in many of them, but if the artisan relies upon it alone he will be a poor workman in-deed. The need, then, of great care in cultivating this sense for the sake of bodily comfort and bodily health is almost equaled by the practical demands made in everyday life. Few more help-less creatures can be imagined than those who have lost the sense by which they appreciate heat or cold, and so are liable to sustain frightful injury without being conscious of it until it is revealed by some other sense. So, in a practical way, how sorry a laundress is the girl who has not learned how to test the temperature of her sadiron, or how provoking is a cook who is unable to discover the right temperature of her oven by a single sweep of her hand, how culpable is a housekeeper or a teacher if she lack in ability to notice the changes in the temperature of the rooms in which the children live. A part, then, of every child's education is to learn how to use this sense skillfully and profitably.

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