May 7, 2007

Mens sana in corpore sano

Posted in Education, Life at 10:49 pm by pmatos

One thing it seemed strange when I got to Southampton is that everyone does a lot of sports. Most undergraduate (and even postgraduates), male and female alike, go to the gym regularly or are part (some of them do a lot of sports at the same time) of any of the dozens of available societies. You go to the gym and you do seem very unfit. Girls and guys working out daily with fabulous bodies and running miles and miles like they’re running away from the devil. On the other hand, Southampton tops a lot of other Universities in the world regarding, at least, Electronics & Computer Science and Mathematics.

However, this seems to be part of the UK student culture. A book from the 19th century, specifically 1890, called “Four Years in an English University” by S. Satthianadhan tells Indian students what life in Cambridge, UK was all about. This part is of interest:

A Cantab [from the medieval Latin from Cambridge] never fails to take his two hours’ exercise per diem in one way or another. Seldom does one find a student in his rooms in the afternoon, however passionately fond of study he may be. One who does so and keeps to his books the whole day long will be looked upon as an abnormal character and be snubbed by the other students of the College. Mens sana in corpore sano, — a sound mind in a sound body, — is a maxim of universal and practical application. These young Englishmen, who pay as much attention to their bodily as to their mental development, are in no way worse off as students. These men, who can walk twelve miles a day or row sixteen, without being tired in the least are just as hard-working as the German students; and it is these strong, healthy, muscular, young men who turn out Wranglers and First Class Classics.

If there is one lesson which our students in India must learn from English students, it is this — to pay as great attention to their bodily as to their mental development.

You can find this cited in “The Man Who Knew Infinity”, Robert Kanigel. For a description of Wranglers and First Class Classic search for “Tripos”, or wait for my next post.

In fact, although the book is more than a century old, this cultural habit of body development is still active today. However, I should add a short note (even though this subject deserves a post by itself) that Portuguese male students should not confuse body development with spending a whole afternoon playing football and female students should understand that body development is not make-up and high heels.

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