The Century of the Child
by Ellen Key (1900)
I: The Right of the Child to
Choose his Parents
Filled with sad memories or eager hopes, people waited for the turn of the century, and as the clock struck twelve, felt innumerable undefined forebodings. They felt that the new century would certainly give them only one thing, peace. They felt that those who are labouring to-day would witness no new development in that process of change to which they had consciously or unconsciously contributed their quota.
The events at the turn of the century caused the new century to be represented as a small naked child, descending upon the earth, but drawing himself back in terror at the sight of a world bristling with weapons, a world in which for the opening century there was not an inch of free ground to set one's foot upon. Many people thought over the significance of this picture; they thought how in economic and in actual warfare all the lower passions of man were still aroused; how despite all the tremendous development of civilisation in the century just passed, man had not yet succeeded in giving to the struggle for existence nobler forms. Certainly to the question why this still is so, very different answers were given. Some contented themselves with declaring, after consideration, that things must remain just as they are, since human nature remains the same; that hunger, the propagation of the race, the desire for gold and power, will always control the course of the world. Others again were convinced that if the teaching which has tried in vain for nineteen hundred years to transform the course of the world could one day become a living reality in the souls of men, swords would be turned into pruning hooks.
My conviction is just the opposite. It is that nothing will be different in the mass except in so far as human nature itself is transformed, and that this transformation will take place, not when the whole of humanity becomes Christian, but when the whole of humanity awakens to the consciousness of the "holiness of generation." This consciousness will make the central work of society the new race, its origin, its management, and its education; about these all morals, all laws, all social arrangements will be grouped. This will form the point of view from which all other questions will be judged, all other regulations made. Up to now we have only heard in academic speeches and in pedagogical essays that the training of youth is the highest function of a nation. In reality, in the family, in the school, and in the state, quite other standards are put in the foreground.
The new view of the "holiness of generation" will not be held by mankind until it has seriously abandoned the Christian point of view and taken the view, born thousands of years ago, whose victory has been first foreshadowed in the century just completed.
The thought of development not only throws light on the course of the world that lies behind us, continued through millions of years, with its final and highest point in man; it throws light, too, on the way we have to travel over; it shows us that we physically and psychically are ever in the process of becoming. While earlier days regarded man as a fixed phenomenon, in his physical and psychical relations, with qualities that might be perfected but could not be transformed, it is flow known that he can re-create himself. Instead of a fallen man, we see an incompleted man, out of whom, by infinite modifications in an infinite space of time, a new being can come into existence. Almost every day brings new information about hitherto unsuspected possibilities; tells us of power extended physically or psychically. We hear of a closer reciprocal action between the external and internal world; of the mastery over disease, of the prolongation of life and youth; of increased insight into the laws of physical and psychical origins. People even speak of giving incurable blind men a new kind of capacity of sight, of being able to call back to life the dead; all this and much else which it must be allowed still belongs simply to the region of hypothesis, to what psychical and physical investigators reckon among possibilities. But there are enough great results analysed already to show that the transformations made by man before he became a human being are far from being the last word of his genesis. He who declares to-day that human nature always remains the same, that is, remains just as it did in those petty thousands of years in which our race became conscious of itself, shows in making this statement that he stands on the same level of reflection as an ichthyosaurus of the Jura period, that apparently had not even an intimation of man as a possibility of the future.
But he who knows that man has become what he now is under constant transformations, recognises the possibility of so influencing his future development that a higher type of man will be produced. The human will is found to be a decisive factor in the production of the higher types in the world of animal and plant life. With what concerns our own race, the improvement of the type of man, the ennobling of the human race, the accidental still prevails in both exalted and lower forms. But civilisation should make man conscious of an end and responsible in all these spheres where up to the present he has acted only by impulse, without responsibility. In no respect has culture remained more backward than in those things which are decisive for the formation of a new and higher race of mankind.
It will take the thorough influence of the scientific view of humanity to restore the full naive conviction, belonging to the ancient world, of the significance of the body. In the later period of antiquity, in Socrates and Plato, the soul began to look down upon the body. The Renaissance tried to reconcile the two but the effort was unfortunately not serious enough. Boldness it did not lack, but its effort was not successful in carrying out a task which Goethe himself said must be approached both with boldness and with serious purpose. Only now that we know how soul and body together build up or undermine one another, people are beginning to demand again a second higher innocence in relation to the holiness and the rights of the body.
A Danish writer
has shown how the Mosaic Seventh Commandment sinks back into nothing,
as soon as one sees that marriage is only an accidental social
form for the living together of two people, while the ethically
decisive factor is the way they live together. In morality there
is taking place a general displacement from objective laws of
direction and compulsion to the subjective basis from which actions
proceed. Ethics become an ethic of character, a matter dealing
with the constitution of the temperament. We demand, we forgive,
or we judge according to the inner constitution of the individual;
we do not readily call an action immoral which only in an external
point of view does not harmonise with the law or is opposed to
the law. In each particular case we decide according to the inner
circumstances of the individual. Applying this point of view to
marriage, we find in the first place that this form offers no
guarantee that the proper disposition towards the relation of
the two sexes is present. This can exist as well outside as within
marriage. Many noble and earnest human beings prefer for their
relation the freer form as the more moral one. But as the result
of this, the significance of the Seventh Commandment is altered,
that states explicitly that every relationship of sex outside
of marriage is immoral. People have commenced already to experiment
with unions outside of marriage. People are looking for new forms
for the common life between man and woman. The whole problem is
being made the subject of debate.
In this respect humanity occupies a field of discovery. People are seeing more and more what a complicated subject the whole relation of sex is, how full it is of dangers to the happiness of man. New observations are being constantly made both in regard to the significance of this relation for individuals and for posterity. To bring light gradually into this chaos is supremely important for humanity, and literature should therefore have the greatest possible freedom in this sphere, -- just the opposite to the tendencies of the present day that would limit this freedom. While I fully agree with what has been said I should like to state that the greatest obstacle to the free discussion of this theme is still the Christian way of looking at the origin and nature of man. His only possible escape from the results of the fall is made to consist in his belief in Christ; for with this point of view, there came into Western Europe, by means of Christianity, the opinion that everything concerning the continuation of the race was impure; to be suppressed if possible, and if this could not be done, that it must at least be veiled in silence and obscurity. For Christianity, eternal life, not life in the world, is ever the significant factor. The dualism of existence it tries in the first place to remove by asceticism, not by attempting to ennoble the life of human impulses. This standpoint still continues to be popular in our days, as is shown in its victories through legislation directed against the nude in art and in literature.
The Christian way of looking at the relation of the sexes as something ignoble, alone capable of being made holy by indissoluble marriage, has had great direct influence on man's development during a certain period of time. It has caused progress in self-mastery, which has elevated the life of the soul. Modesty, domesticity, sincerity, have been promoted by it; these along with innumerable other influences have developed the impulse to love. If these emotions disappeared from love, it would not be human, but only animal.
But allowing that the individual love between every new pair of human beings always requires seclusion and reserve; allowing too that personal modesty always remains an achievement wrought by mankind, differentiating man from the animal world, it is still true that this kind of spirituality, which passes over in silence and shame all the serious questions connected with this subject, or treats them as occasions for ambiguities calling forth joking and blushes, must be rooted out.
Each one from earliest childhood should on every question asked about this subject receive honest answers, suitable for the especial stage of his development. One should be in this way completely enlightened about one's own nature as man or woman, and so acquire a deep feeling of responsibility in relation to one's future duty as man or woman. One should be trained in habits of earnest thought and earnest speaking on this subject. In this way alone can there come into existence a higher type of sex with a higher type of morality.
But at the time when Bjoernsen in Thomas Rendelen brought up the question of training youth to purity through intelligence of nature's laws, I objected to his book on the ground that like the purity sermons of Christianity his efforts were rather directed to the mastery of natural impulses than towards their ennoblement. I showed that Bjoernsen certainly brought up two new points of view, that of bodily health, and that of the ennobling of sex. He did not, as Christianity does, stress the spiritual and personal side of the question. These new points of view of his were significant, because they united the just egoism of the individual with the combining altruism produced by the feeling of solidarity. The great purpose of Bjoernsen's book was to transform inherited characteristics as they are related to man's attitude towards morality. So he proposed to create a sound and happy new generation, in which the sufferings of present day sexual discord should be brought to an end. For this purpose he wished the collaboration of the schools. They were to communicate the knowledge of human beings as members of sex, and to instruct their scholars how, as human beings, they should protect themselves and their posterity.
I objected at that time to this plan, showing that the school was not the place to lay the foundation for such knowledge. It should be slowly and carefully communicated by the mother herself; the school should only give a theoretical basis. More defective still, I found the question of chastity handled essentially and solely as a question of bodily purity, as a negative not a positive ideal. I maintain that only erotic idealism could awaken enthusiasm for chastity. The basis for such idealism must be found in stories, history, and belles-lettres. Information derived from physiology is, in this respect, very inadequate, unless the imagination and the feeling are moved in the same direction. Neither imagination nor feeling can be helped by natural science and bodily exercises alone, and just as little by Christian religious instruction.
No, we must on the basis of natural science attain, in a newer and nobler form, the whole antique love for bodily strength and beauty, the whole antique reverence for the divine character of the continuation of the race, combined with the whole modern consciousness of the soulful happiness of ideal love. Only so can the demand for real chastity save mankind from the torments which sexual divisions and degradations now bring with them. It is profoundly significant that in the world of the past, divinity was associated with woman on the ground of observations concerning the continuation of the race; while in Christianity, woman became divine as the Virgin Mother. Through heathen and Christian thought, reunited and ennobled, the woman will receive a new reverence for herself as a sexual being. Antique and modern love, the love of the senses and the love of soul, will, united and ennobled, induce human beings, men and women alike, to adore again Eros the All-powerful.
To diminish the significance of love, to oppose it as a lowering sensualism, does not mean the elevation of mankind; it means, on the other hand, working for its debasement. For as lowering as sexual life would be if it were continued in man accompanied by a feeling of shame as a characteristic of animal life, it would be just the same if it were regarded as a degrading duty, reluctantly carried out for the preservation of the species.
Antiquity stood higher than the present day, for example when Lycurgus' laws asserted that a people's strength lies in the breast of blooming womanhood. Accordingly in Sparta; the physical development of the woman was watched over as well as of the man, and the age of marriage was determined with reference to a healthy offspring. Higher, too, stood Judaism in relation to the conception of the seriousness of bearing children. This conviction expressed itself in the strictest hygienic legislation known to history. Jewish, like other Oriental legislation, depended, in relation to sexual morality as in relation to diet, on sharp-sighted observations of natural law and disease. The foundation to a new ethic in these questions cannot be laid, until men begin with Old Testament shrewdness and Old Testament seriousness to handle the life questions which the idealism of Christianity has indeed spiritualised but at the same time debased.
This new ethic will call no other common living of man and woman immoral, except that which gives occasion to a weak offspring, and produces bad conditions for the development of their offspring. The Ten Commandments on this subject will not be prescribed by the founders of religion, but by scientists.
Up to the present day, partly as a result of a perverted modesty in such things, science has only been able to offer incomplete observations on the physical and psychical conditions for the improvement of the human type in its actual genesis.
really a new science in our century, introduced by Van Leeuwenhoek,
de Graaf, and others. It was founded in 1827, by von Baer. The
differences of opinion and the discovery of different theories
are very far from being ended. Purely scientific points of view
are being combined with social, physiological, or ethical ones.
It is maintained that by changing the diet of the mother the sex
of the child can be determined. Attempts have been made to show
that about three fifths of all men of genius were firstborn children.
People are studying what influence the age of parents has on the child; extreme youth of parents seems unfavourable for the offspring as well as extreme age. The first child of a too youthful mother is often weak, and besides ordinarily the joys of motherhood are not desired, because she feels that physically and psychically a child is too great a burden to her, who herself is only a child. The conditions of a strong, well-nourished offspring require the postponement of the marriage age for women. In northern countries it should be established, if not by law at least by custom, at about twenty years. This is all the more necessary because then the young woman can have behind her some years of careless youthful joy, an undisturbed self-development, and will also have reached the physical development necessary for motherhood. While twenty years should be regarded as the earliest period of marriage it should actually be often postponed some years still for the well-being of the woman, the man, and the children, and married life as a whole, in which most conflicts arise because women have decided about their fate before their personality was definitely formed, before their heart was able to find its choice. The love of the man chooses and the young girl often confuses the happiness of being loved with the happiness of loving, an experience which later on is gone through in a tragic way. To the many questions which are related to heredity and natural selection, belongs one which notices the significance of nature's purpose to cause strong opposites to exert upon one another the strongest attraction. This attraction often during married life changes into antipathy; it almost results in impatience against the characteristics which originally had so deep an attraction. Nature in this case seems to wish to reach its end with the greatest lack of consideration for the happiness of the individual. So often the contradictions of parents seem really to be moulded in full in the child. Occasionally these contradictions are expressed as a deep discord, but in both cases there often arises an exceptional being. To attain correct results in this case, belongs to the numerous still open possibilities.
Differences of opinion are most apparent in the theory of heredity, where there is a struggle between Darwin's view, that even acquired characteristics are inherited, and Galton's and Weissmann's conviction that this is not the case. In connection with this stands, also, the question of the marriage of consanguineous relations; some regard these marriages as dangerous, per se, for the posterity; others only as dangerous from the point of view that the same family trait is often found in both parents, and so becomes strongly impressed on the children. For example, congenital shortsightedness of both parents develops into blindness of the children, their stupidity becomes idiocy, their melancholy, insanity.
The Occident has gradually abolished the Oriental marriage law to which Moses gave validity, while other Oriental legislators, for example, Manes and Mohammed, are still followed to a great extent. In China, too, similar prohibitions have a binding power. Here and there the feeling of the significance of heredity has vaguely appeared in some Occidental writers. Sir Thomas More, like Plato, required a physical examination before entering into marriage. It was not until the nineteenth century that the question of the rights of the child in this respect began to be noticed. It was Robert Owen who in one way awakened the general right feeling in favour of children, by investigations begun in 1815. They showed that children under eight years old were forced to work by blows from leather whips, to work from fifteen to sixteen hours a day, with the result that a fourth or fifth of them ended as cripples. Another Englishman, Malthus, published in 1798 an essay on the Principle of Population, and directed the attention of society to the conditions which had caused him to write his work. He pointed to the deficiency of food supply produced by over-population and the obstacles it offered to legitimate marriages. Again, these conditions, he showed, resulted partly in great mortality among children, partly in the murder of children. Malthus saw the significance of selection and the danger of degeneration. With perfect calmness of conscience he met the storm he had evoked. Personally a blameless and tender hearted man, Malthus, as all other reformers of moral ideas, had to allow the shameless accusations of corruption and immorality to pass over his head. Harriet Martineau, who advocated Malthus's views, had the same experience. When she wrote her novels on this subject she knew very well to what she was exposing herself; but this remarkable woman, who died unmarried and childless, was at an early period of her life filled with a feeling for the holiness of the child. When nineteen years old, at the time of the birth of a small sister, she fell on her knees and devoutly thanked God that she had been allowed to be the witness of the great wonder of the development of the human being from the beginning. The same feeling caused her in her novels to expound the duty of voluntary limitation of population. She was pained by the thought of the fate endured by children, when they were so numerous that their parents were unable to maintain and educate them. This part of the subject of the right of the child called forth in all countries books for and against it. Everywhere the question is discussed. I shall briefly handle the differences of opinion about other sides of the right of the child.
In Francis Galton's celebrated work, Hereditary Genius, almost all has been said that is required to-day from the point of view of the improvement of the race. Galton, as early as the seventies, opposed Darwin's view that acquired characteristics were inherited. In this respect he had a fellow-champion in the German Weissmann, who on his side was opposed, among others, by the English Darwinian Romanes.
Galton invented from a Greek word a name for the science of the amelioration of the race, Eugenics. He showed that civilised man, so far as care for the amelioration of the race is concerned, stands on a much lower plane than savages, not to speak of Sparta which did not allow the weak, the too young, and the too old to marry, and where national pride in a pure race, a strong offspring, was so great that individuals were sacrificed to the attainment of this end. Galton, like Darwin, Spencer, A. R. Wallace, and others, has brought out the fact that the law of natural selection, which in the rest of nature has secured the survival of the fittest, is not applicable to human society, where economic motives lead to unsuitable marriages, made possible by wealth. Poverty hinders suitable marriages. Besides the development of sympathy has come into the field as a factor which disturbs natural selection. The sympathy of love, chooses according to motives that certainly tend to the happiness of the individual, but this does not mean that they guarantee the improvement of the race. And while other writers hope for a voluntary abstinence from marriage in those cases, where an inferior offspring is to be expected, Galton, on the other hand, is in favour of very strict rules, to hinder inferior specimens of humanity from transmitting their vices or diseases, their intellectual or physical weaknesses. Just because Galton does not believe in the inheritance of acquired characteristics, selection has the greatest significance for him.
On the other side, he advocates using all means to encourage such marriages, where the family on both sides gives promise of distinguished offspring. For him, as later for Nietzsche, the purpose of married life is the production of strong, able personalities.
Galton makes it plain that civilised man, by his sympathy with weak, inefficient individuals, has helped to continue their existence. This tendency on its own side has lessened the possibility of the efficient individuals to continue the species. Wallace, too, and several others, have on different occasions declared that men in relation to this question must have harder hearts, if the human race is not to become inferior. The moral, social, and sympathetic factors, they say, which in humanity work against the law of the survival of the fittest, and have made it possible for the lower type, to continue and to multiply in excess, must give way to new points of view where certain moral and social questions are concerned. So the natural law will be supported by altruism, instead of as now being opposed by this sentiment.
Spencer's thoughts contain a great truth. They have been quoted in just this connection. He says: We see the germ of many things that later on are developed in a way no one now suspects. Profound transformations are worked in society and its members, transformations which we could not have hoped for as immediate results, but which we could have looked for in confidence as final consequences. The effort to find natural laws which cause racial progress or deterioration is one of these germinal ideas. As to scientific investigation in this field, we can apply another maxim of the same thinker, one often overlooked by science. "The passion to discover truth must be accompanied by the passion to use it for the welfare of mankind." But science must really reach universally accepted conclusions before we can expect humanity to begin seriously its self-purification; but it is certain to come then. When we read in ethnographical and sociological works what restrictions in marriage are imposed by savage people on themselves, and religiously obeyed on the ground of superstitious prejudice, we have a right to hope that civilised men will one day bow before scientific proofs. This hope is not too optimistic.
not for such absolute regulations as Galton, in order to prevent
the marriages of the less worthy and to encourage the marriages
of the superior types of humanity. He perceives that the problem
is tremendously complicated. One thing is, that the personal attraction
of love is extremely essential from the point of view of the improvement
of the race. If human beings could be bred like prize cattle,
it is not likely that a superior type of humanity would be produced.
In the Middle Ages, the human race deteriorated, Galton said,
because the best fled to the monasteries and the worst reproduced
themselves. But if Galton's strict requirements had to be carried
out in every case before a marriage could be allowed, not only
would marriage lose its deepest meaning, but the race also would
lose its noblest inheritance.
But even with a strict limitation of Galton's principles and with a wise limitation of his requirements, science has already shown the truth of so many of the first, that the significance of the last, taken as a whole, must be granted. We know that in the inherited tendencies of children, often another form is taken from that which appears in their parents. Of three hundred idiots, one hundred and forty-five had alcoholic parents. Epilepsy, too, is often produced by the same cause. It is known that apparently sound individuals are often attacked at the same age by a disease to which their parents were subject. On the other hand, there are fortunately proofs that individuals endowed with power of will can resist certain dangerous inherited weaknesses. In the discussion on this subject, it should also be justly brought out, that it is possible for the unsound tendency of one parent to be neutralised in the case of children, by the soundness of the other. But this result, as well as the many other questions involved, as I have shown above, are far from being established.
The question as to the inheritance of mental diseases has been especially examined by Maudsley. In this case, too, nervous and psychic diseases of the parents often change their character in the children. He requires medical testimony before marriage, and asks that the appearance of mental diseases after marriage shall form a legitimate ground for divorce. And he hopes that a pure descent, in a new sense of the word, will be as important for the marriages of the future, as for aristocratic marriages in early times. One of Maudsley's statements is so interesting that it should be mentioned here. Fathers, he says, who have directed their whole energy towards attainment of wealth, have degenerate children; for this sort of nerve strain undermines the system as infallibly as alcohol or opium. If this statement be true, we would add another point of view to the many already existent, that show how hostile to life is our best social order, which aims at power and gain. It proves how necessary is that transformation of existence which will make work and production serve a new end. Each man should claim to live wholly, broadly, and in a way worthy of humanity. He should be able to leave behind him a posterity provided with all capacities for a similar life. When this day dawns people will regard, as a terrible atavism, that expression on the face of a child, which an artist of the present day has preserved in a picture of a boy represented as a future millionaire.
I will mention now from literary sources, some of Nietzsche's work on this subject. Although this author did not base his ideas of the "superman" directly on Darwin's theories, yet they are, as Brandes has lately shown, the great consequences of Darwinism, that Darwin himself did not see. In no contemporary was there a stronger conviction than in Nietzsche that man as he now is, is only a bridge, only a transition between the animal and the "superman". In connection with this, Nietzsche looked upon the obligations of man for the amelioration of the race as seriously as Galton, but he expressed his principles with the power of poetic and prophetic expression, not with scientific proof.
Literature on this subject is increasing every day; different opinions press one another hard. As long as this is the case, there is every reason to observe the warning of the German sociologist Kurella, who says that we must reckon with social as well as with anthropological factors if we wish to prevent the degeneration of the human species. A vital point in his position is, that it is a matter of indifference whether the Darwinian theory of the transmission of acquired characteristics, or its contrary is victorious. The former is the theory of an unchangeable germ plasm transmitted by the parents to the children; so that better types can only originate through a new combination of the characteristics of father and mother, and also by natural selection in the struggle for existence. We must be careful before beginning to act in a social and political way on the basis of anthropological motives. He finally lays down with perfect justice, that the material to be gathered from the works of Spencer, Galton, Lombroso, Ferri, Ribot, Latourneau, Havelock Ellis, J. B. Haycraft, Colajanni, Sergi, Ritchie, and others, must be systematically worked over. The sociologist must be zoölogist, anthropologist, and psychologist before his plans for civilising man, and for elevating the human race could be carried out.
As to intellectual characteristics it has been maintained that exceptionally gifted men have mostly inherited their characteristics from the mother. This fact has in our day, so very much increased the interest taken in the mothers of famous men. This truth is supposed to hold good for a son, but if the daughter is gifted, her talent is held to come from the father. Another and certainly a better founded phenomenon seems to be this: That when in a family characteristics find their culmination in a world genius, this genius either remains childless or his children are not only ordinary, but often insignificant. It may be that nature has exhausted her power of production in these great personalities, or as is often assumed, the creative power of genius in an intellectual direction, diminishes the creative power in the physical direction.
Along with the question of heredity stands that of the development of races. In the beginning of the Origin of Species Darwin showed how essential pure descent is for the production of a noble race. This theory is appealed to by a modern anti-Semitic writer, who represents the Jew as a typical example of pure race, an idea which one of the most conspicuous representatives of Judaism, Disraeli, has also expressed in the following words: "Race is everything; there is no other truth, and every race which carelessly allows mixed blood, perishes." Yet other specialists consider some racial mixture as highly advantageous to the offspring.
Professor Westermark has offered a good reason for the significance attached to beauty in the case of love, and therefore its importance for the race. He has shown how man has conceived physical beauty to be the full development of all of those characteristics which distinguish the human organism from the animal, and which mark sex distinctions, and, most of all, race distinctions. He thinks individuals with these characteristics are best suited for their life work. Accordingly it is the result of natural selection that exactly those individuals are found most beautiful and are most desired, who first as human beings best fulfil the general demands of the human organism, as sexual beings fulfil those of their sex, and as members of the race are best suited to the conditions which surround them. In the struggle for existence, those are overcome, who are descended from human beings, whose instincts of love are directed to individuals badly adapted to that struggle; while those who are victorious are children happily so adapted. In this way, taste has developed by which, what is best adapted to environment appears as the highest beauty. This is equivalent to health, the power to resist the attacks of the external world. While every considerable deviation from the pure type in sex and race, has a lesser degree of adaptability; that is of health, and also of beauty.
Another writer has used the foot as an example of this principle. The small, high-arched foot with the fine ankle is always, he says, regarded as the most beautiful. But such a foot is only combined with a fine, strong, and elastic bony structure. Such a foot besides has, by its great elasticity, a considerably higher power of bearing weight than the flat foot. The high-vaulted foot, in walking and jumping, increases the activity of the lungs and the heart. This again makes the walk elastic, strong, and easy, agile and stately. These traits, for the same reason as the beauty of the foot itself, are looked upon as a racial sign. This physical power and ease influence the mind, and produce self-confidence, and so increase the feeling of superiority and the joy of living, marks of distinction in human beings.
Whether the illustration in this special case holds good or not, it proves nothing against the truth of the theory on which it rests, and which is gradually becoming prevalent; the view I mean, according to which souls and bodies are mutually developed through adaptability to their surroundings.
So it is necessary not only to investigate what conditions give the best selection, but also what external ones strengthen or weaken the characteristics found in natural selection. We must again see the importance of bodily exercise. Painful experiences have taught us to prevent the consequences of overstrain, over-exertion in competitive imbecility, and mania for sport. Such results have specially shown themselves to be harmful for women in respect to motherhood. Sport and play, gymnastics and pedestrianism, life in nature and in the open air, a regenerated system of dancing, after the model of the Swedish peasant dances, will be most excellent bases for the physical and psychical renewal of the new generation.
In plans concerning this renewal, people have pointed to the influence of art; it has been shown how Burne-Jones created the new English type of woman. It was formed by an adaption to the quiet, distinguished style, by a process that went slowly on. This was the type regarded by him as the model one. It is maintained that we only need to see a pair of young English girls in front of one of his pictures, in order to notice how not only the faces but the expressions show a resemblance. The artist has impressed his trait on youth before it was conscious of it. Before these forms they grew up, they have seen them in their picture books, they have been dressed in clothes cut in the fashion of the master's pictures. There is another reason. Mothers of the present day are supposed to have passed on to their children the Burne-Jones type in the same way in which the charm of the Greeks was influenced by the beauty of their statuary. In antiquity it was believed, even in other details, (for example, in attaining the much-longed-for blonde hair) that this end could be secured by observing the proper directions.
As to the significance of external influences of this kind on mothers, there is too little material still to build up conclusions. On this point, learned men also disagree. I have only, therefore, incidentally mentioned this factor among others. All should be established before we can get a final and certain insight into the conditions of human birth. In the absence of scientific knowledge I can only refer to the literature and comprehensive investigations commenced in the preceding century, that throw light on the riddle of man's coming into the world. Many of these matters are still involved in obscurity. But man's spirit is resting on the waters; gradually a new creation will be called forth from them.
I: The Right of the Child to
Choose his Parents
In connection with this, must be discussed the development of new ideas of law in these spheres. Heathen society in its hardness, exposed weak or crippled children. Christian society on the other hand, has gone so far in its mildness, that it prolongs the life of the child who is incurably ill, physically and psychically, even if he is misshapen and so becomes an hourly torment to himself and his surroundings. Yet respect for life is still not strong enough in a social order, which keeps up among other things, the death penalty and war, that one can without danger suggest the extinction of such a life. Only when death is inflicted through compassion, will the humanity of the future show itself in such a way, that the doctor under control and responsibility can painlessly extinguish such suffering. On the other hand, this Christian society still maintains the distinction between legitimate children and the children of sin, a distinction which more than anything else has helped to obstruct a real ethical conception of the duties of parents. Every child has the same rights in respect to both father and mother. Both parents have just the same obligation to every child. Until this is recognised there will be no basis for the future morality of the common life between man and woman. Some day society will look upon the arrangements of the love relation as the private affair of responsible individuals. Those who are lovers, those who are married will regard themselves as completely free, and will also be so regarded. Binding promises in respect of emotions, demands of exclusive possession over personality, have already come to be regarded by fine feeling and fully developed human beings as a relic of erotic sentiments on a lower plane. These sentiments were the outcome of desire for mastery, vanity, cruelty, and blind passion. People are beginning to see that perfect fidelity is only to be obtained by perfect freedom; that complete exchange of individuality can only take place in perfect freedom; that complete excellence can only come into being in perfect freedom. Each must cease to try to force and bend the emotions, opinions, habits, and inclinations of the other towards him- or herself. Each must regard the continuance of the feeling of the other as a happiness, not as a right. Each must regard the possible cessation of this feeling as a pain, not as an injustice. Only in this way can there arise between the two souls such pure, full, freedom that both can move with absolute independence, and complete unity.
Freedom is no danger to fidelity. The kind of fidelity required by the church and by the law has certainly been a notable means of education. But the method, as it is, is opposed to the end. For it has produced the feeling of possession. This has led to loss of respect in the worship of love. The requirements based on force have awakened hostility in soul and sense; the fear of public opinion has produced all sorts of dishonesty between man and wife, between them and the world. When the bonds of compulsion fall away feeling will be strengthened. For when the external supports of fidelity are wanting, the power required for it will come from the inner life. Although human beings will be exposed always to the possibility of serious mistakes about themselves and the object of their love; although time can always change human beings and their emotions; although, even in a marriage which has resulted from mutual love, conditions can arise which make Nietzsche's ideal legitimate, that it is better to break up the marriage than to be broken up by it; yet on the whole freedom will encourage fidelity, which itself will always have a support through the experience of its psychological and ethical value.
It is not through a series of lightly entered into and lightly dissolved connections that one is prepared for the happiness of great love. Voluntary fidelity is a sign of nobility, because it assumes the will to concentrate about the centre of life's meaning; because it signifies the unity with our own proper innermost ego. This is as true of fidelity in love as of all other kinds of fidelity. Only when love is the practical religion of the work-day, and the devotion of the holiday, when it is kept under the constant supervision of the soul, when it brings with it a constant growth, (why should not the fine old word "sanctification" be used) of personality, is love great. Then it comes into possession of a higher right than some earlier union, because it then means really fidelity and nothing else towards our own highest ego. But where it does not have this character, it does not possess this right. It is then a petty emotion even when it is made pardonable by great passion. The children which issue from temporary unions are often as imperfect as their origin. Great love is, as a young doctor once said, only that which grips so deeply, that after its loss one no longer feels as a whole, but as a half of a whole. Yet nature has protected itself against annihilation by giving the possibility of love more than once. But what nature's ideal is cannot be doubted. The race which would come into existence, provided young men and women were given the possibility of uniting when the first love took possession of them, -- that love which is the deepest, -- this race would be sound and strong, different from what our own race is now. But when young people love now they seldom have the means for union, and when they have the means, then that which leads them to the marriage union is not the deepest feeling they have ever felt, but only an impulse, which, even if real, is still only a substitute.
Such a transformation of the conditions of society and of the individual view of the true worth of life will enable young men and women, between the ages of twenty and thirty, to found their own home and under simple conditions, to secure their happiness. Here would be one of the most essential foundations for the origin of a new race, which would have the ancient feeling for the hearth as an altar, and would have the life of love as the service of a divinity. Only through such a transformation might it be expected that the deepest misery of society, prostitution, could be restrained. Only after such a transformation could we with full right require from our youth that self-mastery which is the best precondition of the sound development of the new generation.
As things are at present, it is certain that just as there are really immoral, unmarried mothers, so there are others deeply moral, who would be mothers with a great pure love to the father of their child, but who for various reasons should not be united with them in legal marriage. And even if the contraction of marriage were simplified, such motherhood on the part of single women, should continue to exist.
Bjoernsen, when he gave lectures in Norway on sexual morality, maintained the view that the woman who wished for motherhood, but who was not adapted in her opinion for marriage, should be fully entitled to the first, without the last being regarded as necessary, on condition that she was willing to fulfil to the child her maternal duties. This idea certainly has a future. In Germany there was a well-known case in which a fully mature woman, not a mere girl, saw shortly after her marriage that the temperaments and conditions of both parties to the marriage would make it an unhappiness for both. She separated, therefore, brought her child into the world unmarried, educated it publicly and with self-sacrifice. Now she has along with the peace which comes from work and the happiness of motherhood, the possibility of fulfilling her duty also as daughter, while married life would have destroyed this for all parties. This is one of the many cases out of the great collection of life, that shows how foolish is that requirement of society to press human nature, in its manifold types, into one mould, with a sphere of duty arranged in the same way for all.
But the sphere of duty, an ever-widening one, is the sphere which embraces the right of the child. Yet its lines will be drawn in the future bounded in quite a different way from now. It will then be looked upon as the supreme right of the child that he shall not be born in a discordant marriage. Above everything, therefore, marriage must be free. This means that the two parties can freely separate after mutual agreement. In entering into marriage and in dissolving it, only certain duties towards the children are to be assumed. Such legal provisions might well be superfluous even in this case; in others, they might be important. But in none are they to become an obstacle to the development of this relation to the children. On the other hand, the compulsory marriage laws of to-day, as well in relation to divorce as to the guardianship given the man, have become obstacles to the higher development of the common life of man and woman.
The vigorous drawing together of the bonds of marriage will not protect children from growing up in a destroyed home. This protection will be secured by deeper earnestness in entering upon marriage, but above all by a deeper sense of responsibility to the children themselves. This will make it possible for the parents who see themselves deceived in their married happiness to keep a peaceful resignation, a high character, as they continue to live together, if they feel that this is the best solution of the conflict, for the children who are already born. But this resolution does not mean the continuance of real married life, but parenthood alone. Only so can it be really useful to the children that the marriage should not be dissolved. The parents, who are profoundly and finally alienated must not bestow life on any new being.
entered into are many; lightly entered into divorces are few,
at least where there are children. It is not the prescriptions
of the law, but those of blood which work as a restraining influence
here even at the present day. The decisive sentence is not spoken
by society but by the children. But these deep motives are just
as decisive in the case of a free union as in the case of a legal
one; if the father or the mother is only kept with the children
by compulsion, the children have not much to lose. The important
thing for unwritten duties, duties which largely can not be determined
by law, is to awaken the conscience of fathers and mothers in
order to create a better morality. Perhaps for this, new legislation
is necessary for the present. Certainly antiquated legal conceptions
should be done away with; they have done good duty as a past training
for morality. Now they stand in the way of the higher morality.
The man or the woman who plays the role of seduction, spoiling
the life of a young woman or a young man, or disturbing the peace
of a happy marriage, this type of character, is being treated
with ever-increasing contempt. The more one learns to distinguish
the heartless play of masculine or feminine desire for conquest,
the selfish soulless claims of the senses, from those of love,
the more does the conception of morality become equivalent to
the feeling of responsibility towards the new generation.
The gratification of natural impulses, which act contrary to the real profound intention of nature, is what destroys individuals and peoples. But as has been said, these devastations cannot be successfully restrained by the extermination of man's material nature.
It is a favourable symptom when a poet opposes the mastery of material nature, apart from the feeling of responsibility. But it is harmful when this sensuousness is made, as Tolstoi does, equivalent to the conception of love. Love must not be debased to simple sensuousness, nor must it be etherealised to a simple spiritual quality, if the human race is to be freed from the debasing mastery of impulse. This happens, as I have often shown before, and in an earlier part of this work as well, by the elevation of sensuousness to love. I mean by this that the spiritual unity of beings, the indulgence of tenderness, the sympathy of souls, the community of work, and the happiness of comradeship, will be as really decisive factors in the lofty emotions of love, and in the charm of love, as the attraction of the senses. This wealth in the elements of mutual dependence is what keeps fidelity in love both inwardly and outwardly. This soft current of the soul's depths keeps the sensuous charm fresh; while mere relation, both legal marriage and free union, very soon exhausts happiness and leaves behind ennui, if love has contained only sensuous attraction, and not that mutual feeling of dependence, which involves the union of the soul and the sense, and which unites the spirit and the sympathies.
The duty and responsibility towards the children will be all the more strict as society learns to regard it as one of its principal duties to hinder all thoughtless and undeserved suffering.
The morality of the future will not be found in sacrificing to the holiness of the family so-called illegitimate children, who are often by nature richly endowed, but who by the prevailing legal system receive such treatment, that they often become what they are called, and so are filled with vengeance against society and the perverse conceptions of law whose victims they are. Child murder, phosphorous poisonings, "angel-making" -- all these are connected with these perverse legal ideas. But all of these results are still less pernicious than those which society draws upon itself through those "disgraced" children, who go to ruin not physically but psychically. In them, there are not only frequently good powers lost, but socially destructive powers developed. When the whole of Europe shuddered over the murder of the Empress Elizabeth, one fact above every other seemed to me terrible. The murderer confessed, "I know nothing of my parents."
The time will come in which the child will be looked upon as holy, even when the parents themselves have approached the mystery of life with profane feelings; a time in which all motherhood will be looked upon as holy, if it is caused by a deep emotion of love, and if it has called forth deep feelings of duty.
Then the child, who has received its life from sound, loving human beings and has been afterwards brought up wisely and lovingly, will be called legitimate, even if its parents have been united in complete freedom. Then will the child, who has been born in a loveless marriage, and has been burdened by the fault of its parents with bodily or mental disease, be regarded as illegitimate, even if its parents have been united in marriage by the Pope at St. Peter's. The shadow of contempt will not fall on the unmarried tender mother of a radiantly healthy child, but on the legitimate or illegitimate mother of a being made degenerate by the misdeeds of its forefathers.
In a much discussed drama called The Lion's Whelp, there occurs the following dialogue between an older and younger man:
THE OLDER MAN: The next century will be the century of the child, just as this century has been the woman's century. When the child gets his rights, morality will be perfected. Then every man will know that he is bound to the life which he has produced with other bonds, than those imposed by society and the laws. You understand that a man cannot be released from his duty as father even if he travels around the world; a kingdom can be given and taken away, but not fatherhood.
THE YOUTH: I know this.
THE OLDER MAN: But in this all righteousness is still not fulfilled -- in man's carefully preserving the life which he has called into existence. No man can early enough think over the other question, whether and when he has the right to call life into existence.
has supplied me with a title for this book. It is the point of
departure of my assertion, that the first right of the child is
to select its own parents.
What here must be first considered is the thought constantly being brought out by Darwinian writers, that the natural sciences, in which must now be numbered psychology, should be the basis of juristic science as well as of pedagogy. Man must come to learn the laws of natural selection and act in the spirit of these laws. Man must arrange the punishments of society in the service of development; they must be protective measures for natural selection. In the first place this must be secured by hindering the criminal type from perpetuating itself. The characteristics of this type can only be determined by specialists. But the criminal must be prevented from handing on his characteristics to his posterity.
So the human race will be gradually freed from atavisms which reproduce lower and preceding stages of development. This is the first condition of that evolution by which mankind will be able to let the ape and tiger die. Then comes the requirement that those with inherited physical or psychical diseases shall not transmit them to an offspring.
As to this type of heredity opinions are still very much divided. Great authorities are in conflict with one another on the question of tuberculosis. Some contend that it is hereditary, others declare that it is only transmitted by infection. Accordingly when a child is born of a tuberculous mother, and is taken away from her, there is no danger for the child. Views are also divided on the subject of cancer. Regarding other diseases, however, there is complete certainty. Legislation has already interfered in the case of epilepsy, although the law in practice is not always applied. But in the case of syphilis, alcoholism, and many kinds of nervous complaints, diseases which afflict children most certainly, in various ways, legislation has yet done nothing.
There is an old axiom that we are obliged to thank our parents for life. Our parents, I know from my own experience, can themselves have been the heirs of bodily and mental health, resulting from the fact that maternal and paternal ancestors all made early, right, and happy marriages. But generally, parents must on their part, ask the children's pardon for the children's existence.
It makes no difference, whether we talk with people sunken in necessity or crime, or with those suffering from nervous and other diseases, or finally with people who are spiritually maimed. In most cases we are convinced that the main cause of their condition as indicated by them, goes back to their birth, or to the time of their childish consciousness. Sometimes their parents have been too young or too old, their fathers or mothers invalids. Sometimes they are the offspring of intemperance. Again their mother may have been overburdened by the torment of work, or by a large family of children; or they may have received their life in marriages concluded without love, or after the cessation of love. They have been unwelcome, or born under feelings of revulsion, bearing in their blood the germ of discord or disgust of life. Numerous abnormal tendencies, among them misanthropy in women, can be traced back to these causes. Finally they have been brought up in a home where they have suffered from the burden of bad examples, or conflicting influences.
So strong has the conviction of the meaning of heredity become that young men, who have themselves borne a burden, imposed by generations of one character or another, have begun to see that it is their duty rather to abstain from marriage than to transmit their unfortunate inheritance to a new generation. I knew a woman in whose family on her father's and mother's side, mental disease was inherited. Therefore, though healthy herself, she refused to marry the man she loved. I know of another who broke her engagement, because she was convinced that the man whom she loved was a drinker, and she did not want to give her children such a father. It is especially on this point that women sin in marrying from ignorance, because they do not know that epilepsy and other diseases, especially alcoholism, are often caused because the child has had a drunkard for a father. A young woman could have no more certain test for the continuance of her feelings for a man, than whether she feels exalted joy or tormenting distress, at the thought of seeing his characteristics transmitted to their child.
Men sin against the coming race not only by excessive drinking, but in other respects where the results are still more destructive.
Besides the conscience of men must begin to awaken. This will express itself partly in the requirement to abstain from marriage when they know that they have to transmit a bad inheritance, partly in other spheres of morality as in the following examples:
A young man, himself a physician, thought he was healthy when he married. He discovered his mistake and found himself confronting the choice of wronging his wife or separating from her. As they were deeply in love, the only possible way was separation. He chose death which he inflicted on himself in such a way that his wife thought it was caused by accident.
Another man acted in the same way after he had been married several years and had three children; he found out that he was his wife's half-brother.
But these incidents as the one before mentioned, where women are concerned, are notoriously only isolated examples. It will require the development of several generations before it will be the woman's instinct, an irresistibly mastering instinct, to allow no physically or psychically degenerated or perverted man to become the father of her children. The instinct of the man is far stronger in this direction, but it is dulled too by an antiquated legal conception, according to which the woman must subject herself as a duty to requirements against which her whole being revolts. In this respect a woman has only one duty, an unmistakable one, against which every transgression is a sin, namely that the new being to which she gives life, must be born in love and purity, in health and beauty, in full mutual harmony, in a complete common will, in a complete common happiness. Until women see this as a duty, the earth will continue to be peopled by beings, who in a moment of their existence have been robbed of the best pre-conditions of their life's happiness and their life's efficiency. Occasionally they show plainly at an early age the sign of degeneration or of discord. Occasionally they seem for a long time to be healthy and powerful specimens of humanity, until in some critical moment they go to pieces through an insufficient supply of physical and psychical vitality caused by their very origin.
As to marriages between healthy and active individuals, legislation can do nothing. Ethics alone can exert an influence for betterment. Children must be taught from their earliest years about their existence and their future duties as men and women. So mothers and fathers together can impress on the conscience of the children not any abstract conception of purity, but the concrete commandment of chastity in letters of fire. So they will keep their health, their attractiveness, their guilelessness, for the being they are to love; for the children who from this love will receive their life.
The impulse to preserve the species, it is true, makes human beings low, small, or laughable; as poets like Maupassant, Tolstoi, and others have depicted from quite different points of view; but it only does so when the impulse appears without relation to the end given it in nature, or when this end is attained without consideration for the production of an offspring qualified to live. The kind of love which disturbs life is that which diminishes the value of an individual as a creator of life. This type of love really degrades human beings, is immoral from the standpoint of the modern view, which wills life to be, but above all, wills the progress of life to ever higher forms.
Young people must therefore learn to reverence their future duties. These they altogether miss, if they squander their spiritual and bodily obligations, in unions formed and dissolved thoughtlessly, without any intention of fidelity, without the worth of responsibility. But they must also know that it is a still greater transgression of their duty if the life of a child is called forth with cold hearts and cold temper, whether this happens in a marriage based on worldly motives or one maintained on moral grounds in which the previously existing discord is transmitted to a new being.
apathetic and unresponsive, by the consciousness of numerous breaches
of faith, towards their youthful dreams, their ideal convictions,
are often precisely those, who in their children, struggle against
the pure instincts of love, its chaste and strong feelings, its
higher aims. They often teach that love as a rule ends after marriage,
that marriages can be made without love. This is a process of
thought resembling the conclusion that a vessel can quite well
go into the sea with some defect, since it is possible in any
event that it will be damaged. They speak of the impurity of the
senses, of the advantages of a marriage based on friendship and
reason, of the calming power of duty. All of these are chilly
processes of reason by which souls, filled with the warmth of
life, are killed. Daughters must be helped by their mothers, wisely
and delicately, in order to be protected from hasty acts, in order
to distinguish with open eyes, when their feelings themselves
are uncertain. It must be branded upon their souls and their nerves
that they will be fallen beings if they give themselves from other
reasons than from reciprocated love. Under these convictions alone,
will there be a great transformation of present ethical standards.
Men think that they can do with marriage what they will; that
they can enter upon it with any kind of motive; they think that
they must marry from feelings of duty, to fulfil some given engagement,
or to atone for some fault; that they have the right to enter
upon a marriage without love because they long for home life.
While these things are regarded as legitimate, men stand on the
same ethical level as the person who commits murder because he
has first stolen, or has stolen because he was hungry. The great
crime against the holiness of generation is believing that one
can treat arbitrarily, the most sensitive sphere of life, the
sphere where innumerable secret influences order the destiny of
a new generation.
While children continue to be born in the cold atmosphere of duty, or in the stormy atmosphere of discord, while people continue to regard such marriages as moral, while people can transmit to their children all kinds of intellectual mutilation and bodily unsoundness, and their parents continue to be called honorable, so long will the world be without the slightest conception of that morality which will mould the new mankind.
This morality has still more exalted precepts. To-day it seldom happens that a young girl enters marriage in ignorance, but in my generation I know cases where the ignorance of the bride resulted in insanity. In another case this ignorance led to thoughts of suicide; in a third, the child was regarded with coldness by its mother; in the fourth, the child had abnormal psychic qualities. Still it is not sufficient for the ideal beauty of marriage and the harmony of the child that the woman knows in general what is before her. A young man said once to me that most marriages are spoilt at the very beginning, because the man brings with him the point of view and the habits of those degraded women, from whom he has received his initiation into love; frequently he annihilates forever the tenderest element in his relation to his wife. He damages the most beautiful factor in their mutual feelings. Man must learn to have reverence and patience, and I know men who have shown these characteristics really because they saw that their wives gave, as is not unfrequently the case, their souls and their hearts before their senses were awakened. Only the constant close association taught them to desire a completed marriage. A child should receive life only through this common impulse. Many children are born, as it is, in legalised prostitution, in legalised rape. Yet there is wanting in the consciences of many women and men, the slightest shadow of religious reverence, of aesthetic feeling before the greatest mystery of existence. And yet we continue in the name of morality to veil for youth the nakedness of nature and we neglect to inspire their feeling of devotion towards their own being as the shrine in which the mystery of life must some day be fulfilled.
In this mystery there are still hidden fields only penetrated by the intuition. Here and there a profound poet has surmised the innumerable affinities or repulsions which under changing spiritual and material dispositions with altering opinions, condition the life of love in modern human beings, the mystic influences which sometimes forever, sometimes partially, can change the deepest feeling. All these mystic influences, the tender woof of all these fine threads, will then be a part of the living fabric of the child. These secret processes explain the great differences between children of the same parents, children who externally are born and brought up in quite similar conditions.
In all these promptings of instinct, in all these categorical imperatives of the nerves and the blood, human beings must be at the same time obedient listeners and strict masters. On this depends the future happiness of love, and with it a happier future race.
The people of to-day live under inherited morals and newly acquired transgressions of morality. Both must be conquered before soul and sense in love can become inseparable, or in other words, before this unity is recognised as the only possible moral basis of the relation between man and woman.
Talented men, as well as one-sided advocates of women's rights, think that the development will take quite a different course, after the low impulse which is at the basis of love has been laid bare and scientifically analysed. They say that the superior person will satisfy the impulse shamelessly and animally, without any emotional decoration; or he will isolate himself from its influence and devote to more noble purposes that vital power, that emotional capacity, which is now consumed by love.
Nothing impossible is to be found in this point of view. I have shown more than once that woman by her maternal functions, uses up so much physical and psychical energy, that in the sphere of intellectual production she must remain of less significance. What I at an earlier period assumed intuitively, has been substantiated since then by a specialist. A Finnish doctor has shown how the vital power of lower organisms, is concentrated in sexual production. But the higher man goes, so much more power is made free. This power which is not consumed in the production of new generations, can serve intellectual production. Each of the two different productive expressions of human vital action must to a certain extent limit the development of the power of the other, and restrict its capacity of work. The same writer contends that this is the natural cause of the more limited fertility of civilised man, and will be, according to the pessimists named above, the decisive factor in the prophesied downfall of love.
According to my conception of the world, it is love on the contrary, which will win the victory by the relative weakening of impulse, and by scientific analysis of the same. Men will no longer mistake impulse for love. Of course this impulse is always present in love, but in the same way in which the sculpture of the cave man is present in the work of Michael Angelo. Man will then, with all the powers of his being, be able to love, when love, according to the happy expression of Thoreau, is not a glow, but a light. Then he will see for the first time, what wealth life can have through love, when love becomes a happiness worthy of man because it becomes an aesthetic creation, a religious worship; when the completed unity of those who love is expressed in a new being, -- a being that will some day be really grateful for the life it has received. Where the amelioration of the human race is concerned, the transformation of customs and feelings is always the essential thing. Influence of legislation in comparison with it is ever slight. But as has been said before, legislation has its role to play. Especially where there are diseases which can certainly be transmitted, society must interfere to restrict marriage. In Germany and America a good proposal has been made, for the period of transition in this direction. It is suggested that the law shall require as an obligatory condition for marriage, a certificate of a medical witness with complete data as to the health of both parties. Those who contract marriage will continue to have their freedom of choice but at least they would not enter ignorantly upon marriage as they do now, and expose themselves and their children to disastrous consequences. It appears to me to be at least as important for society to have a medical certificate as to capacity for marriage, as it is for military service. In the one case, we deal with giving life, in the other with taking it away. And although the latter has certainly been, up till now, regarded as a more serious occasion than the former, still an awakening social conscience should demand progress in this direction. It is conceivable that from this beginning new customs will develop; further legislation may be dispensed with; human beings will agree to sacrifice the most dangerous of all liberties, giving life to a defective offspring, while prohibition of marriage now would not hinder parenthood. For the great mass might continue, outside of marriage, to rob children of the possibilities of health and happiness, by burdening them with inherited diseases or bad tendencies.
Nietzsche, who knew little of love because he knew nothing of woman, and who therefore on this subject says little worthy of attention, has still spoken more profoundly on the subject of parenthood than any contemporary writer. He saw what impurity, what poverty are concealed under the name of marriage. He saw how meretricious, how ignorant education is. In his writings are to be found prophetical and poetical words describing the end aimed at in parenthood, and showing what true parenthood should be.
I will that thy victory and thy emancipation shall yearn for a child. Living memorials shalt thou build for thy victory, and for thy emancipation.
Thou must build upward to a height beyond thyself. But first I would have thee thyself built with a square foundation, body and soul.
See that through thee the race progresses, not continues only.
Let a true marriage help thee to this end.
A more exalted being must thou create, a being gifted with initiative like a wheel that turns itself. A creative principle shouldst thou create.
Marriage: I call marriage the will shared by two to create the one, -- the one that is in itself more than its creators. Reverence for one another, I call marriage; such reverence as is meet for those whose wills are united in this one act of will.
II: The Unborn Race and Woman's
There are few factors in the life of the present in which the dualism between theory and practice is greater and more unconscious than in questions concerning woman. The protagonists of the feminist movement are in many cases sturdily Christian. They protest with vigour against the idea that they could have any share in the sort of emancipation of personality that includes freedom for all the powers and activities of the personality. Individualism, and the assertion of self are for them degrading words with a sinful significance. That the emancipation of women is practically the greatest egoistic movement of the nineteenth century, and the most intense affirmation of the right of the self that history has yet seen, they have no suspicion. Freedom for the powers and the personality of woman have never appeared to them except as an ideal struggle for justice, as a noble victory to be won. In its deepest meaning this is as true of every other effort at self-affirmation, the end of which is the recognition of the right of human personality to the full development of capacities in a sphere of freedom, where responsibility belongs to the self alone. But just as every other such affirmation of the individual self, of a class, of a race, easily falls into an unjustifiable egoism, so with the emancipation of woman.
This great, deep, serious movement for woman's emancipation has in the course of time received a new name, the "Woman Question." The change in terminology signifies a change in the attitude of thought. From a real emancipation movement, that is, a movement to free the restricted powers of woman and her restricted personality, the movement has become a question, a social institution with officers, a church system with dogmas. Certainly we still hear in books and speeches that the woman question is being discussed and urged, in its relation to the happiness and development of the whole of humanity. But in reality the woman question, since it became a fact, a cause with an end of its own, since its champions have lost more and more their appreciation of its connection with other great questions of the day, is tending to increase the civil rights and the fields of woman's labour. In both cases people really have the women of the upper classes in view. This has been the end, and it is thoroughly justified and justifiable. But, in striving for this end, those who are aiming at it have come more and more into opposition to the first and highest of all rights, the rights of the individual woman to think her own thoughts, to go her own ways, even when these thoughts and these ways follow other courses than those of the advocates of woman's rights. While this group is, on one hand, very far from conceding to the individual woman the freedom which belongs to her, it is, on the other hand, blind to the results of the self-assertion of the whole female sex. In taking up work more and more external in character, they are blind to the profound and revolutionary effects of this movement, on the conditions of labour in the present day, on the existence of man and the family, on society as a whole.
Doing away with an unjust paragraph in a law which concerns woman, turning a hundred women into a field of work where only ten were occupied before, giving one woman work where formerly not one was employed, -- these are the mile-stones in the line of progress of the woman's rights movement. It is a line pursued without consideration of feminine capacities, nature, and environment.
The exclamation of a woman's rights champion when another woman had become a butcher, "Go thou and do likewise," and an American young lady working as an executioner, are, in this connection, characteristic phenomena.
The emancipation of woman has practically ceased to be the freedom which enlarges soul and heart. It is conducted quite officially, like a business, and dogmatically, too, without feeling for the pulsating manifoldness of life, and has become an egoistic self-concentrated campaign. On this account I, and many others of my generation, with many more of the younger generation, stand outside of the movement, although we actively wished, and still wish, for the freedom of woman. The champions of woman's rights, like the champions of other movements for rights, illustrate the truth of the old Swedish saying, that "what we are pursuing is really only a runaway horse attached to our waggon." How blindly the fanatics of woman's rights have rushed by the other needs of the time can be best measured by considering their attitude towards the greatest question of the day -- I mean the social question.
The old advocates of woman's rights maintain that the adult woman must have the same right as the adult man to "protect" herself, and they ask why the woman is hindered from working because she is married, or because she has children. Protective legislation drives woman from the factories and workshops; and this legislation is very far, they tell us, from meriting the support of women. Women, on the contrary, they say, should demand the same protective legislation for women as for men. They ask for technical instruction and an extended field of work for women.
This whole argument is quite logical from the point of view that limitation of woman's labour is opposed to one of the foremost principles of our time, -- the self-determination of the individual. This implies the right of the adult woman, as well as the adult man, to choose her own work. Privileges on the ground of sex only hinder the woman from being put on an equality with man before the law.
But all these arguments are based on the sophistical notion which perverts the whole feminist movement. The idea is to free woman from the limitations of nature. It involves, too, the other sophistical notion with which capitalistic society meets every demand of protective legislation for men, women, or children. Such legislation is said to be an interference with the individual's right of choice.
being who is socially alive is aware that this right to control
one's life is the emptiest phrase to describe reality in a society
built up on a capitalistic basis. It is doubly empty where woman
is concerned. I have never heard a woman desire that woman should
fulfil military duties as an equivalent for having civil rights
like man. But this would be the consequence of the argument that
woman should have no privileges on the ground of her sex. The
greatest privilege that can be thought of in modern society is
to be spared the discomforts and loss of time that come from military
training, to be exempt from the dangers and the terrors of war.
That women are not absolutely incapable of service in warfare,
women have shown on many occasions, especially in the Boer War.
So when the advocates of women's rights hesitate before this extreme
consequence of their principle, and introduce the functions of
motherhood as a cogent ground for the privilege of being freed
from military service in time of war (even if women at some time
should receive the same civil rights now enjoyed by man), they
are in the highest degree illogical. Other women with more logic
declare that on another battle-field, a still more destructive
one, that of the factory system, the same maternal functions require
certain privileges for woman, and these same functions must result
in subjecting her to certain limitations of her individual right
to control her life. That is, she cannot pass beyond the limits
drawn by nature, without interfering with the rights of another,
the potential child.
It lies in the individual sphere of woman's choice as of man's choice not to choose marriage, or to desire it without parenthood; and for exemption from the latter, real altruistic as well as real egoistic reasons can be urged. It lies in the individual choice of the woman, as well as of the man, to isolate herself from what may be regarded as an obstacle to her individual development, or to her freedom of movement. She can do without love or motherhood, if the one or both of these are regarded from this point of view. Woman has the full right to allow herself to be turned into a third sex, the sex of the working bees, or the sexless ant, provided she finds in this her highest happiness.
A good while ago I was ingenuous enough to maintain that motherhood was the central factor of existence for most women. In the discussion of this question I considered several facts: woman's work imposed by necessity, woman's ambition stimulated by the freedom of her power, woman's intellectual life modified by many other influences of contemporary thought, -- all these have forced the maternal instinct into the background for the time being. Here was a danger which, it seemed, was not too late to expose. There are women in whom the feeling of love is really and absolutely stunted; there are others who do not find in modern man the soulful and profound harmony in love that they quite rightly demand; there are others, more numerous, who wish for love but do not wish for motherhood. They absolutely fear it. The famous German authoress Gabrielle Reuter has spoken of this fear, this alarm of motherhood continually vigilant, active, placing woman in an attitude of self-defence, -- a fear which to-day has taken possession of so many strenuous and creative women. The alarm, the aversion, becomes so strong, so dominant in them that one might almost believe it a dark perverse instinct, which, like all unnatural instincts, has been conceived and born through cruel necessities, and through these necessities has become overmastering. It is as if a secret voice in the depths of their nature was telling these women that, by paying their tribute to their sex, they would lose that power, brilliancy, and sharpness of intellect by which they have elevated themselves above their sex; and perhaps certain kinds of women are right in having this fear.
I am convinced, just as the German writer is, that every actual phenomenon of disease and of health alike is a necessary result from given causes; and I am more convinced than the advocates of women s rights ever were, that it is in the sphere of human freedom to choose one's own type of development, happiness, or ruin. I am not inclined to say anything further to the women who do not desire motherhood.
It would be very disastrous if these women, who have never been moved by tenderness when they felt a soft childish hand in their own, who have never longed to surrender themselves entirely to another being, were to become mothers. Their children would be more unfortunate than they themselves.
Many women like these are to be found today, and if things remain as they are, they are bound to increase in numbers. In some of them, however, the maternal instinct is not dead, but only dormant. Modern women with their capacity for psychic analysis, with their physical and psychical refinement, are often repelled by the crudeness, the ignorance, or the importunities of man's nature. The whole factor of love in the being of these women is shrivelled up as a bud that has never blossomed, and in enthusiasm for a duty, or for a woman friend, they find an expression for that sacrifice whose real aim they deny or overlook, a something which ends often by avenging itself in a tragic way.
I am simply insisting that every woman, who has not yet ceased to desire motherhood, has duties as a girl, and still more as a woman, to the unborn generation from which she cannot free herself without absolute selfishness. This selfishness is often disguised under a great impulse, an impulse which, like that of the preservation of the species, masters existence. I mean the impulse of self-protection. But it is just this that should make the "obligatory" egoism of the modern working woman appear so terrible to those who are busied with the emancipation of woman.
To talk of the freedom of woman, of her individual right to control her actions, when she works like a beast of burden to reach a minimum of existence, to keep from dying of starvation, to talk of the freedom of women where conditions are such that the free choice of work, for man as well as for woman, is an empty phrase -- to put it mildly, it is senseless. I will throw some light on the results of freedom by the following illustration:
When women in England worked in white lead factories, seventy-seven women were examined in one factory. It appeared in the time covered by the investigation that there were among this number ninety miscarriages, twenty-seven cases of still-born children; beside, forty young children died of convulsions produced by the poisoning of their mothers. The effects of this occupation were most harmful in the case of women from eighteen to twenty-three years of age. Lameness, blindness, and other infirmities resulted from this kind of work.
An English doctor has shown from exact investigations conducted during a number of years, that the enormous mortality among young children in factory districts arises chiefly because the child is deprived of a mother's care a few weeks after birth. A child needs its mother's milk at least six months, and the mother's milk cannot be substituted by artificial means, least of all when the substitutes are used with carelessness. In certain textile factory districts, in Nottingham, for example, where lace is produced, and where people have complained of the law limiting women s work, out of each thousand children, two hundred die annually. Mortality in factory districts is four to five times greater than in country districts; and yet the death of children is, relatively speaking, a lesser evil. More unfortunate still is it that those who survive always suffer partial weakness from the lack of a mother's care at a tender age.
In Silesia, where children and quite young girls are employed in the glass industry, the work has so distorted their bodily structure that when they bear children, their sufferings are intense. Such unique material do they offer for the study of obstetrics, that doctors make pilgrimages to Silesia to learn from their cases.
have reached maturity, when they can, according to the advocates
of women's rights, protect themselves, they are ruined physically.
If it is said that the facts mentioned above belong to the question
of the protection of children, not to that of the protection of
women, the answer lies close at hand. The physical and moral interest
of children and of women are so mutually related, that they cannot
be separated. Crippled women have children who are stunted at
the time of their birth. The burden of toil they take up with
weakened power of resistance and they transmit this weakness to
their offspring. Cause and effect are so intimately associated
here, that they cannot be accurately apportioned between the work
of women and the work of children.
Even the advocates of women's rights must allow that the limit of their claims to right is to be found where the right of another begins. They cannot suppose that the individual right of the woman to control her life should go so far that a woman could take a piece of a neighbour's property to lay out a garden, or use for an industrial scheme a part of the water power belonging to some one else.
Can they not see that woman's individual freedom is limited by the rights of another, by the rights of the potential child? The potential child has its own proper rights, its own vital power. This property, the woman has not the right to encroach upon in advance.
A woman, who from one motive or another, great or small, permanently keeps outside of the marriage relation, has complete right to ruin herself by work, provided she does not, as a result of so doing, become a burden to others through incapacity.
But the woman who looks forward to motherhood as a possibility for herself, or the woman who is expecting to become a mother, should not, through an unlimited amount of voluntary work or of work forced upon her contrary to her will, sacrifice the capacities for life and work of an unborn generation, in such a way that she will bring into the world weak, invalid, or physically incapable children, who will later on be neglected.
It does not occur to the dogmatic advocates of women's rights that their talk about the individual freedom of the woman to control her career, their contention that no limitation need restrict woman's power of deciding her own vocation, because they are married or are mothers, mean the most crying injury, not only to children, but to women themselves. For the demand of equality, where nature has made inequality, brings about the injury of the weaker factor. Equality is not justice. Often it is just the opposite, the most absolute injustice.
The strongest reasoning will not convince those advocates of women's rights who discuss woman's labour from the old-fashioned level of individualism, unaffected by the social feeling of solidarity, which is the solution offered by our age. But fortunately protective legislation does not depend on the women who advocate the rights of women. The working-men's movement, aided by women and men of all classes who are active in it, will carry through this legislation. The movement for the normal working day is steadily gaining ground.
Experience has shown that, because of the greater intensity of the work done, just as much can be accomplished in a shorter as in a longer time. The first concern has been the work of children and of younger adults. The effect of factory life on the health of women themselves, as well as on their children, has excited general attention. In England first, then in other European countries, it has become recognised as necessary that a normal period of work should be laid down for women as well. The programme was and continues to be threefold: -- a maximum working time for women's work; limitation, or, better still, the cessation of night work on the part of women; the prevention, too, of the work of women in mines and in certain other industries dangerous to health; finally the protection of women who are about to become mothers. In most European countries there is now a maximum working time fixed at eight to eleven hours. Night work, work in mines, and extra work, is either forbidden or considerably limited, and a rest period of three to eight weeks is established for women at childbirth.
From all points of view, an eight-hour working day should be the highest limit for woman's work. There are more reasons for it in her case than for man's work. The eight-hour day means not only for the woman as for the man the possibility of enjoying her life in permanent health; it secures time for improving recreation. For the married woman it is an indispensable requirement. Without it her home cannot be kept in order and comfort, her children cannot be physically cared for; without it she is not able to co-operate in their education. The normal working day is, therefore, more necessary for the woman than for the man, because on her, rather than on him, comes the burden of household work. The dangers of night work, as of work in mines, are from the standpoint of health and morality so plain, that no further reason need be urged to defend protective legislation in this case.
But not only the theoretical principles of women's rights are urged against this legislation. Socialists as well as the advocates of women's rights are responsible for different objections of a more solid character. It is urged that legislation will increase the number of unemployed women who, in order to live, will be forced into prostitution, but it is forgotten that the same result comes from low wages in many occupations, and that these low wages are caused by an over-supply of working women. It is said, also, that if protective legislation hinders or prevents women from working, they will not be able to care for their children and the children will be employed in the factory in their stead. The way out of the last difficulty is absolutely plain: the complete prohibition of all work by children under fifteen years of age.
It is urged also that if women are hindered by legislation from fulfilling the demands of their occupation, the result will be, not that they are protected in their occupation, but that the occupation is protected against them. The remedy in this case is certainly difficult, but not impossible to find. Let only the tenth part of the energy now used in agitation for the free right of women to labour be employed in preparing women for such labour as they are suited to undertake. But even when this cannot be done protective legislation carries with it its own corrective. It is always urged that the occupation will be destroyed by protective legislation. Then new methods and new machines will be invented to replace cheap labour power. Those who are protected often themselves complain that they suffer economically under protective legislation, but a long experience will show them how, through the reciprocal effects of all factors in production, the temporary failures will be balanced. A potent remedy for this effect of protective legislation may be looked for in the assertion, found in the programmes of all labour parties, of the right of the unemployed to have work, and a fixed minimum wage. These demands along with that for a normal working day, in which is included rest at night and rest on Sunday, and other measures for the protection of working-men against accident and old age, are the chief methods by which the labour question, both for men and women, will be solved. Until these aims are realised Ruskin's judgment on modern industrialism which kills the real humanity in man holds good both for men and for women. We make, he says, everything except real men; we bleach cotton; we harden and improve steel; we refine sugar; we make porcelain and print books; but to refine a single living soul, to reform it, to improve it never enters into our reckoning of profit.
The women of the working classes must continue to endure the suffering, to bear the dangers, to subject themselves to the forces which solidarity in this great struggle implies. Only under these conditions can men as well as women elevate themselves, partly by their own combination, partly by the extension of the principle, more and more coming to be recognised, that society, through its legislation, can determine the conditions under which its members work. So will be produced conditions of life and work worthy of mankind, -- a healthier, stronger, and more beautiful race. In this ever continuing progress every part is related to every other part.
Unorganised, ordinary and therefore badly paid work, done by woman, diminishes the wages of man and his opportunity of work. Work in a factory unfits the woman for the conduct of the household, for her duties as a mother. In the turmoil, heat, and rush of the factory her nerves are destroyed and with them her finer emotions. The woman loses not only the right hand, but also the right heart for family life. Badly conditioned women make marriage more difficult for the man; through celibacy, his mortality is increased. Low wages, or times of lack of employment, cause bad dwellings, bad clothes, and bad nourishment. The tortured or ill-conditioned woman is not able to prepare anything good with the small amount of money which the man may earn. From all of this come intemperance and disease. Through these causes, combined with those already noted, the population of factory districts degenerates, in republican Switzerland, not less than in absolutistic Russia.
It is true that
such limitations of work in many cases are felt, as well by the
single woman as by the family. The restriction of child labour
may bring immediate discomfort. But all this is a passing evil.
It can be corrected, as soon as it is clearly seen in what direction
the advance along all the line is being made. This kind of progress
moves in zigzag fashion. What decides whether temporary limitation
of freedom makes for progress or not is whether one finds, in
turning from the individual, or small groups, to the great whole,
that the last is gaining, that in the future, freedom and happiness
for all will be increased by this temporary limitation of freedom.
II: The Unborn Race and Woman's
In other relations of life it is a just law that he who goes into a game must abide by its rules. But this rule cannot be applied to that very cruel game which we call life. We do not go into it of our own will. Children have the right not to be obliged to suffer for the mistakes and errors of their parents. How this suffering can be best avoided in case an inharmonious marriage must be decided by the different individuals, as a question belonging to them alone. As I have already shown, change of custom in relation to the time, age, and motives for marriage is the surest protection for the children, a protection that will gradually be extended. Under a serious conviction of woman's duty as a member of her sex, it will be regarded as a crime for a young wife voluntarily to ill-treat her person, either by excessive study, or excessive attention to sports, by tight-lacing, or consumption of sweets, by smoking or the use of stimulants, by sitting up at night, excessive work, or by all the thousand other ways by which these attractive simpletons sin against nature, until nature finally loses all patience with them.
It must be demanded of the laws of society that they hinder involuntary crimes of unprotected women against their feminine nature.
This is the great work of woman's emancipation; everything else compared with it is non-essential. Through their failure to see this the present representatives of women's rights are working against progress, though they themselves apply the word reactionary to all who assert that the only way by which the woman question as a whole can be solved is through the social revolution. In this revolution protective legislation is an important factor.
According to my method of thinking, and that of many others, not woman but the mother is the most precious possession of the nation, so precious that society advances its own highest well-being when it protects the functions of the mother. These functions are not limited to birth nor to the nourishment of the child; but they go on during the whole time of its training. I believe that in the new society where all women and men alike will be compelled to work (not children, not invalids, and not the aged) people will regard the maternal function as so important for the whole social order, that every mother under fixed conditions, subject to certain control, during a certain period, and for a certain number of children, will obtain from society an allowance for education. She will receive this during the time in which her children require all her care, while she herself is freed from work outside the home. Naturally this does not exclude the case of mothers who from one or another reason cannot devote themselves to the care and training of their children; they can by their own productive work secure a substitute. But for the majority of women, the proposal made above would undoubtedly be the real solution of many problems which now seem insoluble. I do not believe that social development will maintain the old ideal of the father as the one who takes care of the family. I hope, rather, that the new conception of having every individual look after himself will gain more ground. The father will then be, in the real sense of the word, the educator, when the care for the maintenance of the family does not press him down to the ground. A woman will then, as mother of the family, not be in dependence on the man, -- a position she feels as humiliating, if as a girl she earned her own living. People are bound to return to this new form of matriarchy, when they begin to consider care of the new generation, as the great business the mother takes over for society. During its progress society must guarantee her existence. In many cases, the answer of the married woman who works outside the home would be as follows: That her happiness would consist in quietly looking after her children, and in being able to keep house, but that she must have an income that would make her independent of her husband. A Swedish evening paper, the special organ of the feminist movement, two years ago started an investigation on the productive work of married women. The answers, contrary to the expectations of the paper, were nearly unanimous in showing what dangers for children, and what interference with household comfort, were caused by the woman working outside the home. An impartial investigation of the causes of the increasing brutality of the young would show certainly that the rapid increase in crime in several countries among the young is caused partly by their prematurely taking up productive work, and partly by early lack of home life, the result of the mother working outside the home.
If the world is agreed that children must still continue to be born and that a home furnishes generally the best means for training them during the first years of their life, the present consequences of woman's work done outside the home must cause pessimism; such work must be stopped. After we have thought over the matter, it is plain that nothing is now more needed than such plans of social order, such programmes of education, as will give the mother back to her children and to her home.
Everything that philanthropy now does to heal the injurious and disintegrating effects of the capitalistic industrial system is on the whole wasted power. Children's crèches, kindergartens, providing meals for children, hospitals, vacation homes, cannot with all their noble efforts replace a hundredth part of the life energy, taken directly or indirectly from the new generation by women working outside the home.
There are some people who expect the problem of domestic life to be solved by collective institutions which will take care of the children, and give them meals. Just as brewing, baking, slaughtering, making candles and clothes, have more and more ceased to be done in the home, much of the work which now absorbs the greatest part of household activity, cooking, washing, mending and cleaning clothes, will, I firmly believe, finally be done by collective effort, by the help of electricity and machines. But I hope the tendency of man towards individualisation will overcome the tendency towards impersonal, uniform application of power en masse -- in everything by which the innermost relations of life and private habits are deeply affected. A strong family life will, I hope, be regarded as the basis for true happiness and for the development of personality. When women are free from the barbarous relics of present methods of housekeeping, -- the market basket, the kitchen utensils, the scrubbing brush gone from every house, electricity everywhere spreading warmth and life, -- they will still be forced to do a certain amount of work. This cannot be avoided even by the help of the most perfect apparatus and by co-operative methods, provided the house is not to be replaced by the barrack. And since the custom of keeping servants will soon cease because, probably, there will be no servants to keep, all women will be forced to do housework, or find the remedy already discovered in America where bureaus supply domestic help for a fixed time for a fixed price. In London, too, there is at present a guild for general houseworkers who are trained for occupation and work under regularly established conditions. In the country, not only wives but daughters will be needed for agricultural labour, when there are no more hired labourers to be had. This will be a natural corrective against that pressure towards outside fields of labour, that has taken the daughters in multitudes away from home, and has crowded and overflowed the cities with them.
Finally if we weigh the economic loss occasioned by the fact that women after five or ten years' preparation have to give up work or study as a result of marriage, it is easy to see that the modern work of women has had results which must soon lead to earnest thought, in balancing up the accounts for or against the system. From the point of view of the woman herself, from the children's point of view, from the man's point of view, and finally, from the productive point of view, it has become pretty plain that society must either change the conditions of woman's labour or see a progressive disintegration in home life. Society must either transform the conditions of life and work, or it will witness the degeneration of the sexes.
-- no age has seen more of it than our own -- is only a savoury
fumigation burning at the mouth of a sewer. This incense offering
makes the air more endurable for passers-by, but it does not hinder
the infection in the sewer from spreading.
Selfishness, the instinct of self-preservation, will perhaps end by forcing the leaders of society to direct their actions from the social point of view. Then the woman question will become a question of humanity; then will its champions perhaps come to see that there can be no enduring good for the woman, if she works under conditions injurious to men and to children. It will be seen that the old axiom can be justly applied to the demands made in the name of woman's individuality; supreme right becomes supreme injustice. Justice is not to be reached by having the woman work under conditions which ruin both her and the whole generation physically. In other respects she must be able to use her free choice, and be educated enough to make good use of it. Justice consists in protecting innumerable women, who are not able as yet to protect themselves, against the abuses of which capital is guilty in employing their labour power.
It is an instructive feature in the history of class conflict, and of the movement for women's progress, that as women began by driving men out of certain fields of labour, so now unmarried women try to force married women from the labour market. In America, where everything goes at full speed, an association has been founded among unmarried women with this intention. These and similar phenomena belong to the system of free competition, the creation of the "leading thought of our time, the right of the individual to determine his own vocation." Perhaps when the war of women against women becomes the rule, the women's rights women will see that the problem of woman's work is more complicated than they imagine. They have continued to look at it till now only from the point of view of a woman's right to take care of herself. Perhaps they will then understand that individualism, apart from the feeling of solidarity, leads to social conflict, class against class, sex against sex, unmarried against married, young against old. So it will be seen that only in the transformation of the whole of society can woman attain her full rights without impairing, through her advance, the rights of others.
The sooner the women's rights party understands this, the better. Instead of fighting protective legislation, they should advocate it; instead of regarding unions and strikes with disfavour, they should help labouring women to organise unions, and support strikes where strikes are justified.
Our century, which has opened up to women new fields of labour, has made life very hard for her by forcing her in the competitive struggle. As wives, as married or unmarried mothers, as divorced women, as widows, women often not only have the burden of their own support to bear, but they have frequently the rôle of guardian of a family, working for an invalid or intemperate husband; for children, or sisters, or aged parents. These women, whether they belong to those who labour with the brain or with the hand, are worn out, partly by earning their own living, partly by household tasks. While the man goes from home to his work, refreshed by rest, the woman often goes already tired out, and she comes back to the house perhaps to work at night. It is as clear as day that by so doing she loses her bodily health and mental equanimity, both needed by her children. It is astonishing how many working women despite all this have enough energy for intellectual effort in reading and thinking. They soon see, women like these, that an occupation is not emancipation. The best that can be said is that it is only a means to emancipation. Those who work with their hands are not the worst off in this respect. Bookkeepers, telephone and telegraph operators, post-office employees, shop girls, waiters in public establishments, and servants in private houses, who must often serve the public standing, and who are often deprived of rest at night and on Sunday, are practically labour's worst slaves. Who can wonder if the possible income obtained by an immoral life is reckoned by the employer, when he secures for his establishment, at low wages, the services of attractive young girls? Small wonder it is that such employees, worried to death in shops, telephone bureaus, post and telegraph offices, should often be driven to hysteria, insanity, and suicide.
The advocates of women's rights are not blind to all these incongruities. They ask equal salaries for men and women, and claim, often with justice, and often without, that women's work is too inadequately compensated. But they do not see that they have contributed to the evil by constantly urging women to work in all possible occupations, and that a low rate of wages and an overcrowding of all fields of labour is the result. It is far more necessary to pay attention to these things than to open up new fields of labour to women, if their vital energy is not to be dried up, if they are not to lose their youthful freshness and attractiveness prematurely, and their possibilities for development and happiness as human beings, wives, and mothers.
A loss of freedom accomplished gradually, this is, on the whole, the sad result of the so-called emancipation of women in our century, if the subject is looked at broadly, apart from the few thousand women of the upper classes in good paying positions. For several decades, I have felt strongly against the importance given by the advocates of women's rights to the work of women outside of the home, for the reasons I have given above. I have applied to such work the objection formulated by Feuerbach in these words: "Mediocrity always weighs correctly, only its weight is false."
Wherever we look, in Europe or America, we find new and injurious results from the new conditions, from the free activity of women's work through the development of industry on a large scale, through the transformation of home work, and the growing conviction on the part of women that "celibacy is the aristocracy of the future," to quote the words of a distinguished supporter of woman's rights.
Yet it would be foolish to wish a change in these unhappy results through a reaction that would again rob the woman of her essential freedom in relation to her choice of work, and the control of her life.
The line of progress is tending towards a new society, where all will be compelled to work and all will find work; where all will work moderately under healthy conditions for an adequate wage. Then neither the unmarried nor the married woman will lose her strength by exhausting work done to earn a living, or impair the powers she needs for motherhood. If she becomes a mother, in most cases she will really rejoice at the possibility offered to her by society of working for society, as a mother and an educator.
We are yet very far from such a society, but every social regulation should, as we have said, be tested as to whether it brings us nearer this ideal or leads us farther away from it. The question should be asked whether the direction of thought is encouraged or restricted, that will in the end transform everything, the conviction I mean that economic production is here in the world for the sake of men, not, as now, men for the sake of production; that work is to be done for the sake of freedom, not, as now, freedom created for the sake of work.
When I tried
in my book called The Misuse of the Power of Woman to urge
women to test the consequences of this process, my thesis was
as follows: In our programme of civilisation, we must start out
with the conviction that motherhood is something essential to
the nature of woman and the way in which she carries out this
profession is of value for society. On this basis we must alter
the conditions which more and more are robbing woman of the happiness
of motherhood and are robbing children of the care of a mother.
Or, we must begin with the assumption that motherhood is not essential:
then everything must continue to go on as it is going on now,
and work directed towards external spheres with its satisfaction
in the joy of creation, of ambition, of gain, of enjoyment, of
independence, will be more and more the end towards which women
will arrange their plan of life. For this end they will modify
their fundamental habits and remould their feelings. The naïve
belief that every woman, who has the liberty to do so, is following
her own nature, shows a complete ignorance of psychology and history.
Some ideal considered worth striving for, the prevailing view
of a period, will obtain supremacy over nature. This is shown
best in the stunted feeling of motherhood peculiar to the eighteenth
century, by the plain results of mediaeval asceticism. By a new
ideal innumerable women are now driven from a life directed inwards
to a life directed outwards.
I am in favour of real freedom for woman; that is, I wish her to follow her own nature, whether she be an exceptional or an ordinary woman. But the opinion held by the feminine advocates of woman's emancipation, in regard to the nature and the aims of the everyday woman, does violence to the real nature of most women. It is one of the most remarkable manifestations of the times that, while women preach about the rights of woman and her will to work and to act unrestrained by family ties, men like Ibsen, for example, in When We Dead People Awake, show that the real Fall of Man in life is transgression of the law of love, meaning that man through this transgression not only diminishes his personality, but lessens his creative capacity.
It would appear as though men were approaching the conception of love once held by women, while women were beginning to regard love as a petty episode in life compared with what are really its true concerns, an episode which gives life the colour of a sensual, sentimental, psychological, or sportsmanlike adventure, an episode which she treats as a game which she can get into, and just as easily get out of. From this new position in which extremes meet, suffering, previously undreamed of, must arise. Such results coming to the emancipated woman will I hope reveal to her the eternal laws of her own being, laws from which she cannot be freed without destroying herself.
I would not put the slightest hindrance, however, in the way of a single isolated woman pursuing her own path freely, if it leads her even to the most unusual forms of labour and attempts to make a living. But for the sake of women themselves, for the sake of children, for the sake of society, I wish men as well as women to think earnestly over the present position of things. They will see that in the near future, one of two things must be chosen. Either there must be such a transformation of the way in which modern society thinks and works that the majority of women will be restored to motherhood, or the disintegration of the home and the substitution of general institutions will inevitably result. There is no alternative.
Undoubtedly it required the whole egoistic self-assertion of woman, all her efforts towards individuality, her temporary separation from home and from family, her independent efforts to make a living to convince man and society of the following truths: that woman is not solely a sexual being, not solely dependent on man, the home and the family, no matter in what form these may exist. Only in this way could woman fulfil her destiny as wife and mother with really free choice. Only in this way could she secure the right of being regarded as man's intellectual equal in the field of the home and the family, the recognition that in her way she was just as complete a being as he.
But it is clear that this fragment of feminine egoism must have a further consequence. With the rights of sex the feeling of solidarity must be awakened. The woman must see that her emancipated and developed human personality will lead to this solidarity by the realisation of her especial vocation as woman. Women in parliament and in journalism, their representation in the local and general government, in peace congress and in working-men's meetings, science and literature, all this will produce small results until women realise that the transformation of society begins with the unborn child, with the conditions for its coming into existence, its physical and psychical training. It must be the general conviction that the new instincts, the new feelings, the new thoughts, the new ideas, which mothers and fathers pass on into the flesh and blood of their children, will transform existence. When, after many successive generations, the new spiritual kingdom of this world has arisen, there will come into being these greater ideas through which life may be renewed.
Until that time secular misdeeds, political injustice, economic struggles, -- all these socially destructive abuses will go on from generation to generation. Mankind remains the same though its acts may take different shapes. Thinkers will always find new ideas, scholars new methods and systems, artists new aesthetic creations, but on the whole everything must remain the same. Only when woman heeds the message which life proclaims to her, that, through her, salvation must come -- will the face of the earth be renewed. Oratorical talk of the high task of mothers and of the great profession of education are empty phrases, until we see that the possibility of humanity and civilisation winning some day the victory over savagery depends on the physiological and psychological transformation of man's nature. This transformation requires an entirely new conception of the vocation of mother, a tremendous effort of will, continuous inspiration. Those who believe they can fulfil their duties as mothers and at the same time can accomplish other valuable work have never made the experiment of education. The long continued habit of alternately caressing and striking one's children is not education. It needs tremendous power to do one's duty to a single child. This by no means signifies giving up to the child every hour of one's time, but it does mean that our soul is to be filled by the child, just as the man of science is possessed by his investigations and the artist by his work. The child should be in one's thoughts when one is sitting at home or walking along the road, when one is lying down or when one is standing up. This devotion, much more than the hours immediately given to one's children, is the absorbing thing; the occupation which makes an earnest mother always go to any external activity with divided soul and dissipated energy. Therefore the mother, if she gives her children the share they need, can devote to social activities only her occasional attention. And for the same reason she should be entirely free from working to earn her living during the most critical years of the children's training.
Neither in the upper nor in the lower classes, have I ever heard of any mother forced to do work of this kind or one engaged in artistic productions through the stimulus of her talents, who was able to satisfy her children in the period when they were growing up.
Adele Gerhard and Helen Simon under the title of Motherhood and Intellectual Work published a very interesting investigation in which I found my own observations substantiated. The book showed that a mother who wished to train her children and at the same time engage in an occupation, or take part in some public activity, could give to neither her whole personality. The result is a mediocre education for the children and for herself; mediocre work done with a divided soul. This is allowed to be true by all of those really conscientious mothers who have maintained a high aim in their work and in the bringing up of their children. They are dilettantes in both directions; what they do is half done owing to the effort to unite two separate fields of work.
From the point of view of women's rights, it is said, in reply to these opinions of mine, that motherhood can be made infinitely easier by a natural method of life, that work can be very well combined with it. It is said that children soon grow out of needing the protection of their mother, that the mothers can then devote themselves entirely to their work. They contend besides that motherhood is no unconditional obligation; that people are fully justified in making different individual arrangements; one woman wishes to become a mother, another not. The one gets married with the hope of becoming a mother; the other with the resolution of avoiding maternity. The third does not marry at all. Attempts to generalise on this matter in which individual freedom has every right to be recognised, they consider reactionary. Full freedom for the woman, married or unmarried, to choose her work and to continue it; full freedom to choose motherhood or to do without it, this they say is the way to free woman, this is the line of progress. Here woman is subject to that economic law which has made it necessary for her to work for her own living. Just as woman's household work has been superseded by factory work, so too, they say, will the maternal obligations of woman be fulfilled collectively, and the difficulties on which the so-called reactionary members of the women's rights movement base their arguments, will in the future only arise in exceptional cases. As regards these arguments, I have already shown that I recognise fully the right of the feminine individual to go her own way, to choose her own fortune or misfortune. I have always spoken of women collectively and of society collectively.
From this general, not from the individual standpoint, I am trying to convince women that vengeance is being exacted on the individual, on the race, when woman gradually destroys the deepest vital source of her physical and psychical being, the power of motherhood.
But present-day woman is not adapted to motherhood; she will only be fitted for it when she has trained herself for motherhood and man is trained for fatherhood. Then man and woman can begin together to bring up the new generation out of which some day society will be formed. In it, the completed man -- the Superman -- will be bathed in that sunshine whose distant rays but colour the horizon of to-day.
Goethe showed long ago in his Werther a clear understanding of the significance of individualistic and psychological training, an appreciation which will mark the century of the child. In this work he shows how the future power of will lies hidden in the characteristics of the child, and how along with every fault of the child an uncorrupted germ capable of producing good is enclosed. " Always," he says, " I repeat the golden words of the teacher of mankind, 'if ye do not become as one of these,' and now, good friend, those who are our equals, whom we should look upon as our models, we treat as subjects; they should have no will of their own; do we have none? Where is our prerogative? Does it consist in the fact that we are older and more experienced? Good God of Heaven! Thou seest old and young children, nothing else. And in whom Thou hast more joy, Thy Son announced ages ago. But people believe in Him and do not hear Him -- that, too, is an old trouble, and they model their children after themselves." The same criticism might be applied to our present educators, who constantly have on their tongues such words as evolution, individuality, and natural tendencies, but do not heed the new commandments in which they say they believe. They continue to educate as if they believed still in the natural depravity of man, in original sin, which may be bridled, tamed, suppressed, but not changed. The new belief is really equivalent to Goethe's thoughts given above, i.e., that almost every fault is but a hard shell enclosing the germ of virtue. Even men of modern times still follow in education the old rule of medicine, that evil must be driven out by evil, instead of the new method, the system of allowing nature quietly and slowly to help itself, taking care only that the surrounding conditions help the work of nature. This is education.
Neither harsh nor tender parents suspect the truth expressed by Carlyle when he said that the marks of a noble and original temperament are wild, strong emotions, that must be controlled by a discipline as hard as steel. People either strive to root out passions altogether, or they abstain from teaching the child to get them under control.
To suppress the real personality of the child, and to supplant it with another personality continues to be a pedagogical crime common to those who announce loudly that education should only develop the real individual nature of the child.
They are still not convinced that egoism on the part of the child is justified. Just as little are they convinced of the possibility that evil can be changed into good.
Education must be based on the certainty that faults cannot be atoned for, or blotted out, but must always have their consequences. At the same time, there is the other certainty that through progressive evolution, by slow adaptation to the conditions of environment they may be transformed. Only when this stage is reached will education begin to be a science and art. We will then give up all belief in the miraculous effects of sudden interference; we shall act in the psychological sphere in accordance with the principle of the indestructibility of matter. We shall never believe that a characteristic of the soul can be destroyed. There are but two possibilities. Either it can be brought into subjection or it can be raised up to a higher plane.
Madame de Staël's words show much insight when she says that only the people who can play with children are able to educate them. For success in training children the first condition is to become as a child oneself, but this means no assumed childishness, no condescending baby-talk that the child immediately sees through and deeply abhors. What it does mean is to be as entirely and simply taken up with the child as the child himself is absorbed by his life. It means to treat the child as really one's equal, that is, to show him the same consideration, the same kind confidence one shows to an adult. It means not to influence the child to be what we ourselves desire him to become but to be influenced by the impression of what the child himself is; not to treat the child with deception, or by the exercise of force, but with the seriousness and sincerity proper to his own character. Somewhere Rousseau says that all education has failed in that nature does not fashion parents as educators nor children for the sake of education. What would happen if we finally succeeded in following the directions of nature, and recognised that the great secret of education lies hidden in the maxim, " do not educate"?
Not leaving the child in peace is the greatest evil of present-day methods of training children. Education is determined to create a beautiful world externally and internally in which the child can grow. To let him move about freely in this world until he comes into contact with the permanent boundaries of another's right will be the end of the education of the future. Only then will adults really obtain a deep insight into the souls of children, now an almost inaccessible kingdom. For it is a natural instinct of self-preservation which causes the child to bar the educator from his innermost nature. There is the person who asks rude questions; for example, what is the child thinking about? a question which almost invariably is answered with a black or a white lie. The child must protect himself from an educator who would master his thoughts and inclinations, or rudely handle them, who without consideration betrays or makes ridiculous his most sacred feelings, who exposes faults or praises characteristics before strangers, or even uses an open-hearted, confidential confession as an occasion for reproof at another time.
The statement that no human being learns to understand another, or at least to be patient with another, is true above all of the intimate relation of child and parent in which, understanding, the deepest characteristic of love, is almost always absent.
Parents do not see that during the whole life the need of peace is never greater than in the years of childhood, an inner peace under all external unrest. The child has to enter into relations with his own infinite world, to conquer it, to make it the object of his dreams. But what does he experience? Obstacles, interference, corrections, the whole livelong day. The child is always required to leave something alone, or to do something different, to find something different, or want something different from what he does, or finds, or wants. He is always shunted off in another direction from that towards which his own character is leading him. All of this is caused by our tenderness, vigilance, and zeal, in directing, advising, and helping the small specimen of humanity to become a complete example in a model series.
I have heard
a three-year-old child characterised as " trying" because
he wanted to go into the woods, whereas the nursemaid wished to
drag him into the city. Another child of six years was disciplined
because she had been naughty to a playmate and had called her
a little pig, -- a natural appellation for one who was always
dirty. These are typical examples of how the sound instincts of
the child are dulled. It was a spontaneous utterance: of the childish
heart when a small boy, after an account of the heaven of good
children, asked his mother whether she did not believe that, after
he had been good a whole week in heaven, he might be allowed to
go to hell on Saturday evening to play with the bad little boys
The child felt in its innermost consciousness that he had a right to be naughty, a fundamental right which is accorded to adults; and not only to be naughty, but to be naughty in peace, to be left to the dangers and joys of naughtiness.
To call forth from this " unvirtue" the complimentary virtue is to overcome evil with good. Otherwise we overcome natural strength by weak means and obtain artificial virtues which will not stand the tests which life imposes.
It seems simple enough when we say that we must overcome evil with good, but practically no process is more involved, or more tedious, than to find actual means to accomplish this end. It is much easier to say what one shall not do than what one must do to change self-will into strength of character, slyness into prudence, the desire to please into amiability, restlessness into personal initiative. It can only be brought about by recognising that evil, in so far as it is not atavistic or perverse, is as natural and indispensable as the good, and that it becomes a permanent evil only through its one-sided supremacy.
The educator wants the child to be finished at once, and perfect. He forces upon the child an unnatural degree of self-mastery, a devotion to duty, a sense of honour, habits that adults get out of with astonishing rapidity. Where the faults of children are concerned, at home and in school, we strain at gnats, while children daily are obliged to swallow the camels of grown people.
The art of natural education consists in ignoring the faults of children nine times out of ten, in avoiding immediate interference, which is usually a mistake, and devoting one's whole vigilance to the control of the environment in which the child is growing up, to watching the education which is allowed to go on by itself. But educators who, day in and day out, are consciously transforming the environment and themselves are still a rare product. Most people live on the capital and interest of an education, which perhaps once made them model children, but has deprived them of the desire for educating themselves. Only by keeping oneself in constant process of growth, under the constant influence of the best things in one's own age, does one become a companion half-way good enough for one's children.
To bring up a child means carrying one's soul in one's hand, setting one's feet on a narrow path, it means never placing ourselves in danger of meeting the cold look on the part of the child that tells us without words that he finds us insufficient and unreliable. It means the humble realisation of the truth that the ways of injuring the child are infinite, while the ways of being useful to him are few. How seldom does the educator remember that the child, even at four or five years of age, is making experiments with adults, seeing through them, with marvellous shrewdness making his own valuations and reacting sensitively to each impression. The slightest mistrust, the smallest unkindness, the least act of injustice or contemptuous ridicule, leave wounds that last for life in the finely strung soul of the child. While on the other side unexpected friendliness, kind advances, just indignation, make quite as deep an impression on those senses which people term as soft as wax but treat as if they were made of cowhide.
Relatively most excellent was the old education which consisted solely in keeping oneself whole, pure, and honourable. For it did not at least depreciate personality, although it did not form it. It would be well if but a hundredth part of the pains now taken by parents were given to interference with the life of the child and the rest of the ninety and nine employed in leading, without interference, in acting as an unforeseen, an invisible providence through which the child obtains experience, from which he may draw his own conclusions. The present practice is to impress one's own discoveries, opinions, and principles on the child by constantly directing his actions. The last thing to be realised by the educator is that he really has before him an entirely new soul, a real self whose first and chief right is to think over the things with which he comes in contact. By a new soul he understands only a new generation of an old humanity to be treated with a fresh dose of the old remedy. We teach the new souls not to steal, not to lie, to save their clothes, to learn their lessons, to economise their money, to obey commands, not to contradict older people, say their prayers, to fight occasionally in order to be strong. But who teaches the new souls to choose for themselves the path they must tread? Who thinks that the desire for this path of their own can be so profound that a hard or even mild pressure towards uniformity can make the whole of childhood a torment.
The child comes into life with the inheritance of the preceding members of the race; and this inheritance is modified by adaptation to the environment. But the child shows also individual variations from the type of the species, and if his own character is not to disappear during the process of adaptation, all self-determined development of energy must be aided in every way and only indirectly influenced by the teacher, who should understand how to combine and emphasise the results of this development.
Interference on the part of the educator, whether by force or persuasion, weakens this development if it does not destroy it altogether.
The habits of the household, and the child's habits in it must be absolutely fixed if they are to be of any value. Amiel truly says that habits are principles which have become instincts, and have passed over into flesh and blood. To change habits, he continues, means to attack life in its very essence, for life is only a web of habits.
Why does everything remain essentially the same from generation to generation? Why do highly civilised Christian people continue to plunder one another and call it exchange, to murder one another en masse, and call it nationalism, to oppress one another and call it statesmanship?
Because in every new generation the impulses supposed to have been rooted out by discipline in the child, break forth again, when the struggle for existence -- of the individual in society, of the society in the life of the state -- begins. These passions are not transformed by the prevalent education of the day, but only repressed. Practically this is the reason why not a single savage passion has been overcome in humanity. Perhaps man-eating may be mentioned as an exception. But what is told of European ship companies or Siberian prisoners shows that even this impulse, under conditions favourable to it, may be revived, although in the majority of people a deep physical antipathy to man-eating is innate. Conscious incest, despite similar deviations, must also be physically contrary to the majority, and in a number of women, modesty -- the unity between body and soul in relation to love -- is an incontestable provision of nature. So too a minority would find it physically impossible to murder or steal. With this list I have exhausted everything which mankind, since its conscious history began, has really so intimately acquired that the achievement is passed on in its flesh and blood. Only this kind of conquest can really stand up against temptation in every form.
A deep physiological truth is hidden in the use of language when one speaks of unchained passions; the passions, under the prevailing system of education, are really only beasts of prey imprisoned in cages.
While fine words are spoken about individual development, children are treated as if their personality had no purpose of its own, as if they were made only for the pleasure, pride, and comfort of their parents; and as these aims are best advanced when children become like every one else, people usually begin by attempting to make them respectable and useful members of society.
But the only correct starting point, so far as a child's education in becoming a social human being is concerned, is to treat him as such, while strengthening his natural disposition to become an individual human being.
The new educator will, by regularly ordered experience, teach the child by degrees his place in the great orderly system of existence; teach him his responsibility towards his environment. But in other respects, none of the individual characteristics of the child expressive of his life will be suppressed, so long as they do not injure the child himself, or others. The right balance must be kept between Spencer's definition of life as an adaptation to surrounding conditions, and Nietzsche's definition of it as the will to secure power.
imitation certainly plays a great role, but individual exercise
of power is just as important. Through adaptation life attains
a fixed form; through exercise of power, new factors.
Thoughtful people, as I have already stated, talk a good deal about personality. But they are, nevertheless, filled with doubts when their children are not just like all other children; when they cannot show in their offspring all the ready-made virtues required by society. And so they drill their children, repressing in childhood the natural instincts which will have freedom when they are grown. People still hardly realise how new human beings are formed; therefore the old types constantly repeat themselves in the same circle, -- the fine young men, the sweet girls, the respectable officials, and so on. And new types with higher ideals, -- travellers on unknown paths, thinkers of yet unthought thoughts, people capable of the crime of inaugurating new ways, -- such types rarely come into existence among those who are well brought up.
Nature herself, it is true, repeats the main types constantly. But she also constantly makes small deviations. In this way different species, even of the human race, have come into existence. But man himself does not yet see the significance of this natural law in his own higher development. He wants the feelings, thoughts, and judgments already stamped with approval to be reproduced by each new generation. So we get no new individuals, but only more or less prudent, stupid, amiable, or bad-tempered examples of the genus man. The still living instincts of the ape, double, in the case of man, the effect of heredity. Conservatism is for the present stronger in mankind than the effort to produce new types. But this last characteristic is the most valuable. The educator should do anything but advise the child to do what everybody does. He should rather rejoice when he sees in the child tendencies to deviation. Using other people's opinion as a standard results in subordinating one's self to their will. So we become a part of the great mass, led by the Superman through the strength of his will, a will which could not have mastered strong personalities. It has been justly remarked that individual peoples, like the English, have attained the greatest political and social freedom, because the personal feeling of independence is far in excess of freedom in a legal form. Accordingly legal freedom has been constantly growing.
For the progress of the whole of the species, as well as of society, it is essential that education shall awake the feeling of independence; it should invigorate and favour the disposition to deviate from the type in those cases where the rights of others are not affected, or where deviation is not simply the result of the desire to draw attention to oneself. The child should be given the chance to declare conscientiously his independence of a customary usage, of an ordinary feeling, for this is the foundation of the education of an individual, as well as the basis of a collective conscience, which is the only kind of conscience men now have. What does having an individual conscience mean? It means submitting voluntarily to an external law, attested and found good by my own conscience. It means unconditionally heeding the unwritten law, which I lay upon myself, and following this inner law even when I must stand alone against the whole world.
It is a frequent phenomenon, we can almost call it a regular one, that it is original natures, particularly talented beings, who are badly treated at home and in school. No one considers the sources of conduct in a child who shows fear or makes a noise, or who is absorbed in himself, or who has an impetuous nature. Mothers and teachers show in this their pitiable incapacity for the most elementary part in the art of education, that is, to be able to see with their own eyes, not with pedagogical doctrines in their head.
I naturally expect in the supporters of society, with their conventional morality, no appreciation of the significance of the child's putting into exercise his own powers. Just as little is this to be expected of those Christian believers who think that human nature must be brought to repentance and humility, and that the sinful body, the unclean beast, must be tamed with the rod, -- a theory which the Bible is brought to support.
I am only addressing people who can think new thoughts and consequently should cease using old methods of education. This class may reply that the new ideas in education cannot be carried out. But the obstacle is simply that their new thoughts have not made them into new men; the old man in them has neither repose, nor time, nor patience, to form his own soul, and that of the child, according to the new thoughts.
Those who have " tried Spencer and failed," because Spencer's method demands intelligence and patience, contend that the child must be taught to obey, that truth lies in the old rule, " As the twig is bent the tree is inclined."
Bent is the appropriate word, bent according to the old ideal which extinguishes personality, teaches humility and obedience. But the new ideal is that man, to stand straight and upright, must not be bent at all only supported, and so prevented from being deformed by weakness.
One often finds, in the modern system of training, the crude desire for mastery still alive and breaking out when the child is obstinate. " You won't!" say father and mother; " I will teach you whether you have a will. I will soon drive self-will out of you." But nothing can be driven out of the child; on the other hand, much can be scourged into it which should be kept far away.
Only during the first few years of life is a kind of drill necessary, as a pre-condition to a higher training. The child is then in such a high degree controlled by sensation, that a slight physical pain or pleasure is often the only language he fully understands. Consequently for some children discipline is an indispensable means of enforcing the practice of certain habits. For other children, the stricter methods are entirely unnecessary even at this early age, and as soon as the child can remember a blow, he is too old to receive one.
The child must certainly learn obedience, and, besides, this obedience must be absolute. If such obedience has become habitual from the tenderest age, a look, a word, an intonation is enough to keep the child straight. The dissatisfaction of those who are bringing him up can only be made effective when it falls as a shadow in the usual sunny atmosphere of home. And if people refrain from laying the foundations of obedience while the child is small, and his naughtiness is entertaining, Spencer's method undoubtedly will be found unsuitable after the child is older and his caprice disagreeable.
With a very small child, one should not argue, but act consistently and immediately. The effort of training should be directed at an early period to arrange the experiences in a consistent whole of impressions according to Rousseau and Spencer's recommendation. So certain habits will become impressed in the flesh and blood of the child.
Constant crying on the part of small children must be corrected when it has become clear that the crying is not caused by illness or some other discomfort, -- discomforts against which crying is the child's only weapon. Crying is now ordinarily corrected by blows. But this does not master the will of the child, and only produces in his soul the idea that older people strike small children, when small children cry. This is not an ethical idea. But when the crying child is immediately isolated, and it is explained to him at the same time that whoever annoys others must not be with them; if this isolation is the absolute result, and cannot be avoided, in the child's mind a basis is laid for the experience that one must be alone when one makes oneself unpleasant or disagreeable. In both cases the child is silenced by interfering with his comfort; but one type of discomfort is the exercise of force on his will; the other produces slowly the self-mastery of the will, and accomplishes this by a good motive. One method encourages a base emotion, fear. The other corrects the will in a way that combines it with one of the most important experiences of life. The one punishment keeps the child on the level of the animal. The other impresses upon him the great principle of human social life, that when our pleasure causes displeasure to others, other people hinder us from following our pleasures; or withdraw themselves from the exercise of our self-will. It is necessary that small children should accustom themselves to good behaviour at table, etc. If every time an act of naughtiness is repeated, the child is immediately taken away, he will soon learn that whoever is disagreeable to others must remain alone. Thus a right application is made of a right principle. Small children, too, must learn not to touch what belongs to other people. If every time anything is touched without permission, children lose their freedom of action one way or another, they soon learn that a condition of their free action is not to injure others.
It is quite true, as a young mother remarked, that empty Japanese rooms are ideal places in which to bring up children. Our modern crowded rooms are, so far as children are concerned, to be condemned. During the year in which the real education of the child is proceeding by touching, tasting, biting, feeling, and so on, every moment he is hearing the cry, " Let it alone." For the temperament of the child as well as for the development of his powers, the best thing is a large, light nursery, adorned with handsome lithographs, wood-cuts, and so on, provided with some simple furniture, where he may enjoy the fullest freedom of movement. But if the child is there with his parents and is disobedient, a momentary reprimand is the best means to teach him to reverence the greater world in which the will of others prevails, the world in which the child certainly can make a place for himself but must also learn that every place occupied by him has its limits.
If it is a case of a danger, which it is desirable that the child should really dread, we must allow the thing itself to have an alarming influence. When a mother strikes a child because he touches the light, the result is that he does this again when the mother is away. But let him burn himself with the light, then he is certain to leave it alone. In riper years when a boy misuses a knife, a toy, or something similar, the loss of the object for the time being must be the punishment. Most boys would prefer corporal punishment to the loss of their favourite possession. But only the loss of it will be a real education through experience of one of the inevitable rules of life, an experience which cannot be too strongly impressed.
We hear parents who have begun with Spencer and then have taken to corporal punishment declare that when children are too small to repair the clothing which they have torn there must be some other kind of punishment. But at that age they should not be punished at all for such things. They should have such simple and strong clothes that they can play freely in them. Later on, when they can be really careful, the natural punishment would be to have the child remain at home if he is careless, has spotted his clothes, or torn them. He must be shown that he must help to put his clothes in good condition again, or that he will be compelled to buy what he has destroyed carelessly with money earned by himself. If the child is not careful, he must stay at home, when ordinarily allowed to go out, or eat alone if he is too late for meals. It may be said that there are simple means by which all the important habits of social life may become a second nature. But it is not possible in all cases to apply Spencer's method. The natural consequences occasionally endanger the health of the child, or sometimes are too slow in their action. If it seems necessary to interfere directly, such action must be consistent, quick, and immutable. How is it that the child learns very soon that fire burns? Because fire does so always. But the mother who at one time strikes, at another threatens, at another bribes the child, first forbids and then immediately after permits some action; who does not carry out her threat, does not compel obedience, but constantly gabbles and scolds; who sometimes acts in one way and just as often in another, has not learned the effective educational methods of the fire.
The old-fashioned strict training that in its crude way gave to the character a fixed type rested on its consistent qualities. It was consistently strict, not as at present a lax hesitation between all kinds of pedagogical methods and psychological opinions, in which the child is thrown about here and there like a ball, in the hands of grown people; at one time pushed forward, then laughed at, then pushed aside, only to be brought back again, kissed till it, is disgusted, first ordered about, and then coaxed. A grown man would become insane if joking Titans treated him for a single day as a child is treated for a year. A child should not be ordered about, but should be just as courteously addressed as a grown person in order that he may learn courtesy. A child should never be pushed into notice, never compelled to endure caresses, never overwhelmed with kisses, which ordinarily torment him and are often the cause of sexual hyperaesthesia. The child's demonstrations of affection should be reciprocated when they are sincere, but one's own demonstrations should be reserved for special occasions. This is one of the many excellent maxims of training that are disregarded. Nor should the child be forced to express regret in begging pardon and the like. This is excellent training for hypocrisy. A small child once had been rude to his elder brother and was placed upon a chair to repent his fault. When the mother after a time asked if he was sorry, he answered, " Yes," with emphasis, but as the mother saw a mutinous sparkle in his eyes she felt impelled to ask, " Sorry for what?" and the youngster broke out, " Sorry that I did not call him a liar besides." The mother was wise enough on this occasion, and ever after, to give up insisting on repentance.
Spontaneous penitence is full of significance, it is a deeply felt desire for pardon. But an artificial emotion is always and everywhere worthless. Are you not sorry? Does it make no difference to you that your mother is ill, your brother dead, your father away from home? Such expressions are often used as an appeal to the emotions of children. But children have a right to have feelings, or not have them, and to have them as undisturbed as grown people. The same holds good of their sympathies and antipathies. The sensitive feelings of children are constantly injured by lack of consideration on the part of grown people, their easily stimulated aversions are constantly being brought out. But the sufferings of children through the crudeness of their elders belong to an unwritten chapter of child psychology. Just as there are few better methods of training than to ask children, when they have behaved unjustly to others, to consider whether it would be pleasant for them to be treated in that way, so there is no better corrective for the trainer of children than the habit of asking oneself, in question small and great, -- Would I consent to be treated as I have just treated my child? If it were only remembered that the child generally suffers double as much as the adult, parents would perhaps learn physical and psychical tenderness without which a child's life is a constant torment.
As to presents, the same principle holds good as with emotions and marks of tenderness. Only by example can generous instincts be provoked. Above all the child should not be allowed to have things which he immediately gives away. Gifts to a child should always imply a personal requital for work or sacrifice. In order to secure for children the pleasure of giving and the opportunity of obtaining small pleasures and enjoyments, as well as of replacing property of their own or of others which they may have destroyed, they should at an early age be accustomed to perform seriously certain household duties for which they receive some small remuneration. But small occasional services, whether volunteered or asked for by others, should never be rewarded. Only readiness to serve, without payment, develops the joy of generosity. When the child wants to give away something, people should not make a presence of receiving it. This produces the false conception in his mind that the pleasure of being generous can be had for nothing. At every step the child should be allowed to meet the real experiences of life; the thorns should never be plucked from his roses. This is what is least understood in present-day training. Thus we see reasonable methods constantly failing. People find themselves forced to " afflictive" methods which stand in no relation with the realities of life. I mean, above all, what are still called means of education, instead of means of torture, -- blows.
Many people of to-day defend blows, maintaining that they are milder means of punishment than the natural consequences of an act; that blows have the strongest effect on the memory, which effect becomes permanent through association of ideas.
But what kinds of association? Is it not with physical pain and shame? Gradually, step by step, this method of training and discipline has been superseded in all its forms. The movement to abolish torture, imprisonment, and corporal punishment failed for a long time owing to the conviction that they were indispensable as methods of discipline. But the child, people answer, is still an animal, he must be brought up as an animal. Those who talk in this way know nothing of children nor of animals. Even animals can be trained without striking them, but they can only be trained by men who have become men themselves.
forward with the doctrine that terror and pain have been the best
means of educating mankind, so the child must pursue the same
road as humanity. This is an utter absurdity. We should also,
on this theory, teach our children, as a natural introduction
to religion, to practice fetish worship. If the child is to reproduce
all the lower development stages of the race, he would be practically
depressed beneath the level which he has reached physiologically
and psychologically through the common inheritance of the race.
If we have abandoned torture and painful punishments for adults,
while they are retained for children, it is because we have not
yet seen that their soul life so far as a greater and more subtle
capacity for suffering is concerned has made the same progress
as that of adult mankind. The numerous cases of child suicide
in the last decade were often the result of fear of corporal punishment;
or have taken place after its administration. Both soul and body
are equally affected by this practice. Where this is not the result,
blows have even more dangerous consequences. They tend to dull
still further the feeling of shame, to increase the brutality
or cowardice of the person punished. I once heard a child pointed
out in a school as being so unruly that it was generally agreed
he would be benefited by a flogging. Then it was discovered that
his father's flogging at home had made him what he was. If statistics
were prepared of ruined sons, those who had been flogged would
certainly be more numerous than those who had been pampered.
Society has gradually given up employing retributive punishments because people have seen that they neither awaken the feeling of guilt, nor act as a deterrent, but on the contrary retribution applied by equal to equal brutalises the ideas of right, hardens the temper, and stimulates the victim to exercise the same violence towards others that has been endured by himself. But other rules are applied to the psychological processes of the child. When a child strikes his small sister the mother strikes him and believes that he will see and understand the difference between the blows he gets and those he gives, that he will see that the one is a just punishment and the other vicious conduct. But the child is a sharp logician and feels that the action is just the same, although the mother gives it a different name.
Corporal punishment was long ago admirably described by Comenius, who compared an educator using this method with a musician striking a badly tuned instrument with his fist, instead of using his ears and his hands to put it into tune.
These brutal attacks work on the active sensitive feelings, lacerating and confusing them. They have no educative power on all the innumerable fine processes in the life of the child's soul, on their obscurely related combinations.
In order to give real training, the first thing after the second or third year is to abandon the very thought of a blow among the possibilities of education. It is best if parents, as soon as the child is born, agree never to strike him, for if they once begin with this convenient and easy method, they continue to use corporal discipline even contrary to their first intention, because they have failed while using such punishment to develop the child's intelligence.
If people do not see this it is no more use to speak to them of education than it would be to talk to a cannibal about the world's peace.
But as these savages in educational matters are often civilised human beings in other respects, I should like to request them to think over the development of marriage from the time when man wooed with a club and when woman was regarded as the soulless property of man, only to be kept in order by blows, a view which continued to be held until modern times. Through a thousand daily secret influences, our feelings and ideas have been so transformed that these crude conceptions have disappeared, to the great advantage of society and the individual. But it may be hard to awaken a pedagogical savage to the conviction that, in quite the same way, a thousand new secret and mighty influences will change our crude methods of education, when parents once come to see that parenthood must go through the same transformation as marriage, before it attains to a noble and complete development.
Only when men realise that whipping a child belongs to the same low stage of civilisation as beating a woman, or a servant, or as the corporal punishment of soldiers and criminals, will the first real preparation begin of the material from which perhaps later an educator may be formed.
Corporal punishment was natural in rough times. The body is tangible; what affects it has an immediate and perceptible result. The heat of passion is cooled by the blows it administers; in a certain stage of development blows are the natural expression of moral indignation, the direct method by which the moral will impresses itself on beings of lower capacities. But it has since been discovered that the soul may be impressed by spiritual means, and that blows are just as demoralising for the one who gives them as for the one who receives them.
The educator, too, is apt to forget that the child in many cases has as few moral conceptions as the animal or the savage. To punish for this -- is only a cruelty, and to punish by brutal methods is a piece of stupidity. It works against the possibility of elevating the child beyond the level of the beast or the savage. The educator to whose mind flogging never presents itself, even as an occasional resource, will naturally direct his whole thought to finding psychological methods of education. Administering corporal punishment demoralises and stupefies the educator, for it increases his thoughtlessness, not his patience, his brutality, not his intelligence.
A small boy friend of mine when four years old received his first punishment of this kind; happily it was his only one. As his nurse reminded him in the evening to say his prayers he broke out, " Yes, to-night I really have something to tell God," and prayed with deep earnestness, " Dear God, tear mamma's arms out so that she cannot beat me any more."
Nothing would more effectively further the development of education than for all flogging pedagogues to meet this fate. They would then learn to educate with the head instead of with the hand. And as to public educators, the teachers, their position could be no better raised than by legally forbidding a blow to be administered in any school under penalty of final loss of position.
That people who are in other respects intelligent and sensitive continue to defend flogging, is due to the fact that most educators have only a very elementary conception of their work. They should constantly keep before them the feelings and impressions of their own childhood in dealing with children. The most frequent as well as the most dangerous of the numerous mistakes made in handling children is that people do not remember how they felt themselves at a similar age, that they do not regard and comprehend the feelings of the child from their own past point of view. The adult laughs or smiles in remembering the punishments and other things which caused him in his childhood anxious days or nights, which produced the silent torture of the child's heart, infinite despondency, burning indignation, lonely fears, outraged sense of justice, the terrible creations of his imagination, his absurd shame, his unsatisfied thirst for joy, freedom, and tenderness. Lacking these beneficent memories, adults constantly repeat the crime of destroying the childhood of the new generation, -- the only time in life in which the guardian of education can really be a kindly providence. So strongly do I feel that the unnecessary sufferings of children are unnatural as well as ignoble that I experience physical disgust in touching the hand of a human being that I know has struck a child; and I cannot close my eyes after I have heard a child in the street threatened with corporal punishment.
Blows call forth the virtues of slaves, not those of freemen. As early as Walther von der Vogelweide, it was known that the honourable man respects a word more than a blow. The exercise of physical force delivers the weak and unprotected into the hands of the strong. A child never believes in his heart, though he may be brought to acknowledge verbally, that the blows were due to love, that they were administered because they were necessary. The child is too keen not to know that such a " must" does not exist, and that love can express itself in a better way.
Lack of self-discipline,
of intelligence, of patience, of personal effort -- these are
the corner-stones on which corporal punishment rests. I do not
now refer to the system of flogging employed by miserable people
year in and year out at home, or, particularly in schools, that
of beating children outrageously, or to the limits of brutality.
I do not mean even the less brutal blows administered by undisciplined
teachers and parents, who avenge themselves in excesses of passion
or fatigue or disgust, -- blows which are simply the active expression
of a tension of nerves, a detestable evidence of the want of self-discipline
and selfculture. Still less do I refer to the cruelties committed
by monsters, sexual perverts, whose brutal tendencies are stimulated
by their disciplinary power and who use it to force their victims
to silence, as certain criminal trials have shown.
I am only speaking of conscientious, amiable parents and teachers who, with pain to themselves, fulfil what they regard as their duty to the child. These are accustomed to adduce the good effects of corporal discipline as a proof that it cannot be dispensed with. The child by being whipped is, they say, not only made good but freed from his evil character, and shows by his whole being that this quick and summary method of punishment has done more than talks, and patience, and the slowly working penalties of experience. Examples are adduced to prove that only this kind of punishment breaks down obstinacy, cures the habit of lying and the like. Those who adopt this system do not perceive that they have only succeeded, through this momentarily effective means, in repressing the external expression of an evil will. They have not succeeded in transforming the will itself. It requires constant vigilance, daily self-discipline, to create an ever higher capacity for the discovery of intelligent methods. The fault that is repressed is certain to appear on every occasion when the child dares to show it. The educator who finds in corporal punishment a short way to get rid of trouble, leads the child a long way round, if we have the only real development in view, namely that which gradually strengthens the child's capacity for self-control.
I have never heard a child over three years old threatened with corporal punishment without noticing that this wonderfully moral method had an equally bad influence on parents and children. The same can be said of milder kinds of folly, coaxing children by external rewards. I have seen some children coaxed to take baths and others compelled by threats. But in neither case was their courage, or self-control, or strength of will increased. Only when one is able to make the bath itself attractive is that energy of will developed that gains a victory over the feeling of fear or discomfort and produces a real ethical impression, viz., that virtue is its own reward. Wherever a child is deterred from a bad habit or fault by corporal punishment, a real ethical result is not reached. The child has only learnt to fear an unpleasant consequence, which lacks real connection with the thing itself, a consequence it well knows could have been absent. Such fear is as far removed as heaven from the conviction that the good is better than the bad. The child soon becomes convinced that the disagreeable accompaniment is no necessary result of the action, that by greater cleverness the punishment might have been avoided. Thus the physical punishment increases deception not morality. In the history of humanity the effect of the teaching about hell and fear of hell illustrates the sort of morality produced in children's souls by corporal punishment, that inferno of childhood. Only with the greatest trouble, slowly and unconsciously, is the conviction of the superiority of the good established. The good comes to be seen as more productive of happiness to the individual himself and his environment. So the child learns to love the good. By teaching the child that punishment is a consequence drawn upon oneself he learns to avoid the cause of punishment.
Despite all the new talk of individuality the greatest mistake in training children is still that of treating the " child" as an abstract conception, as an inorganic or personal material to be formed and transformed by the hands of those who are educating him. He is beaten, and it is thought that the whole effect of the blow stops at the moment when the child is prevented from being bad. He has, it is thought, a powerful reminder against future bad behaviour. People no not suspect that this violent interference in the physical and psychical life of the child may have lifelong effects. As far back as forty years ago, a writer showed that corporal punishment had the most powerful somatic stimulative effects. The flagellation of the Middle Ages is known to have had such results; and if I could publish what I have heard from adults as to the effect of corporal punishment on them, or what I have observed in children, this alone would be decisive in doing away with such punishment in its crudest form. It very deeply influences the personal modesty of the child. This should be preserved above everything as the main factor in the development of the feeling of purity. The father who punishes his daughter in this way deserves to see her some day a " fallen woman." He injures her instinctive feeling of the sanctity of her body, an instinct which even in the case of a small child can be passionately profound. Only when every infringement of sanctity (forcible caressing is as bad as a blow) evokes an energetic, instinctive repulsion, is the nature of the child proud and pure. Children who strike back when they are punished have the most promising characters of all.
Numerous are the cases in which bodily punishment can occasion irremediable damage, not suspected by the person who administers it, though he may triumphantly declare how the punishment in the specific case has helped. Most adults feel free to tell how a whipping has injured them in one way or another, but when they take up the training of their own children they depend on the effect of such chastisement.
What burning bitterness and desire for vengeance, what canine fawning flattery, does not corporal punishment call forth. It makes the lazy lazier, the obstinate more obstinate, the hard, harder. It strengthens those two emotions, the root of almost all evil in the world, hatred and fear. And as long as blows are made synonymous with education, both of these emotions will keep their mastery over men.
One of the most frequent occasions for recourse to this punishment is obstinacy, but what is called obstinacy is only fear or incapacity. The child repeats a false answer, is threatened with blows, and again repeats it just because he is afraid not to say the right thing. He is struck and then answers rightly. This is a triumph of education; refractoriness is overcome. But what has happened? Increased fear has led to a strong effort of thought, to a momentary increase of self-control. The next day the child will very likely repeat the fault. Where there is real obstinacy on the part of children, I know of cases when corporal punishment has filled them with the lust to kill, either themselves or the person who strikes them. On the other hand I know of others, where a mother has brought an obstinate child to repentance and self-mastery by holding him quietly and calmly on her knees.
How many untrue
confessions have been forced by fear of blows; how much daring
passion for action, spirit of adventure, play of fancy, and stimulus
to discovery has been repressed by this same fear. Even where
blows do not cause lying, they always hinder absolute straightforwardness
and the down-right personal courage to show oneself as one is.
As long as the word " blow" is used at all in a home,
no perfect honour will be found in children. So long as the home
and the school use this method of education, brutality will be
developed in the child himself at the cost of humanity. The child
uses on animals, on his young brothers and sisters, on his comrades,
the methods applied to himself. He puts in practice the same argument,
that " badness" must be cured with blows. Only children
accustomed to be treated mildly, learn to see that influence can
be gained without using force. To see this is one of man's privileges,
sacrificed by man through descending to the methods of the brute.
Only by the child seeing his teacher always and everywhere abstaining
from the use of actual force, will he come himself to despise
force on all those occasions which do not involve the defence
of a weaker person against physical superiority. The foundation
of the desire for war is to be sought for less in the war games
than in the teachers' rod.
To defend corporal discipline, children's own statements are brought in evidence, they are reported as saying they knew they deserved such discipline in order to be made good. There is no lower example of hypocrisy in human nature than this. It is true the child may be sincere in other cases in saying that he feels that through punishment he has atoned for a fault which was weighing upon his conscience. But this is really the foundation of a false system of ethics, the kind which still continues to be preached as Christian, namely; that a fault may be atoned for by sufferings which are not directly connected with the fault. The basis of the new morality is just the opposite as I have already shown. It teaches that no fault can be atoned for, that no one can escape the results of his actions in any way.
Untruthfulness belongs to the faults which the teacher thinks he must most frequently punish with blows. But there is no case in which this method is more dangerous.
When the much-needed guide-book for parents is published, the well-known story of George Washington and the hatchet must appear in it, accompanied by the remark which a clever ten-year-old child added to the anecdote: " It is no trouble telling the truth when one has such a kind father."
I formerly divided untruthfulness into unwilling, shameless, and imaginative lies. A short time ago I ran across a much better division of lying; first " cold" lies, that is, fully conscious untruthfulness which must be punished, and " hot" lies; the expression of an excited temperament or of a vigorous fancy. I agree with the author of this distinction that the last should not be punished but corrected, though not with a pedantic rule of thumb measure, based on how much it exceeds or falls short of truth. It is to be cured by ridicule, a dangerous method of education in general, but useful when one observes that this type of untruthfulness threatens to develop into real untrustworthiness. In dealing with these faults we are very strict towards children, so strict that no lawyer, no politician, no journalist, no poet, could exercise his profession if the same standard were applied to them as to children.
The white lie is, as a French scientist has shown, partly caused by pure morbidness, partly through some defect in the conception. It is due to an empty space, a dead point in memory, or in consciousness, that produces a defective idea or gives one no idea at all of what has happened. In the affairs of everyday life the adults are often mistaken as to their intentions or acts. They may have forgotten about their actions, and it requires a strong effort of memory to call them back into their minds; or they suggest to themselves that they have done, or not done, something. In all of these cases, if they were forced to give a distinct answer, they would lie. In every case of this kind, where a child is concerned, the lie is assumed to be a conscious one, and when on being submitted to a strict cross-examination, he hesitates, becomes confused, and blushes, it is looked upon as a proof that he knows he has been telling an untruth, although as a rule there has been no instance of untruthfulness, except the finally extorted confession from the child that he has lied. Yet in all these complicated psychological problems, corporal punishment is treated as a solution.
The child who never hears lying at home, who does not see exaggerated weight placed on small, merely external things, who is not made cowardly by fear, who hears conscious lies always spoken of with contempt, will get out of the habit of untruthfulness simply by psychological means. First he will find that untruthfulness causes astonishment, and a repetition of it, scorn and lack of confidence. But these methods should not be applied to untruthfulness caused by distress or by richness of imagination; or to such cases as originate from the obscure mental ideas noted above, ideas whose connection with one another the child cannot make clear to himself. The cold untruth on the other hand, must be punished; first by going over it with the child, then letting him experience its effect in lack of confidence, which will only be restored when the child shows decided improvement in this regard. It is of the greatest importance to show children full and unlimited confidence, even though one quietly maintains an attitude of alert watchfulness; for continuous and undeserved mistrust is just as demoralising as blind and easy confidence.
No one who has been beaten for lying learns by it to love truth. The accuracy of this principle is illustrated by adults who despise corporal punishment in their childhood yet continue to tell untruths by word and deed. Fear may keep the child from technical untruth, but fear also produces untrustworthiness. Those who have been beaten in childhood for lying have often suffered a serious injury immeasurably greater than the direct lie. The truest men I ever knew lie voluntarily and involuntarily; while others who might never be caught in a lie are thoroughly false.
This corruption of personality begins frequently at the tenderest age under the influence of early training. Children are given untrue motives, half-true information; are threatened, admonished. The child's will, thought, and feeling are oppressed; against this treatment dishonesty is the readiest method of defence. In this way educators who make truth their highest aim, make children untruthful. I watched a child who was severely punished for denying something he had unconsciously done, and noted how under the influence of this senseless punishment he developed extreme dissimulation.
Truthfulness requires above everything unbroken determination; and many nervous little liars need nourishing food and life in the open air, not blows. A great artist, one of the few who live wholly according to the modern principles of life, said to me on one occasion: " My son does not know what a lie is, nor what a blow is. His step-brother, on the other hand, lied when he came into our house; but lying did not work in the atmosphere of calm and freedom. After a year the habit disappeared by itself, only because it always met with deep astonishment."
This makes me, in passing, note one of the other many mistakes of education, viz., the infinite trouble taken in trying to do away with a fault which disappears by itself. People take infinite pains to teach small children to speak distinctly who, if left to themselves, would learn it by themselves, provided they were always spoken to distinctly. This same principle holds good of numerous other things, in children's attitude and behaviour, that can be left simply to a good example and to time. One's influence should be used in impressing upon the child habits for which a foundation must be laid at the very beginning of his life.
There is another still more unfortunate mistake, the mistake of correcting and judging by an external effect produced by the act, by the scandal it occasions in the environment. Children are struck for using oaths and improper words the meaning of which they do not understand; or if they do understand, the result of strictness is only that they go on keeping silence in matters in which sincerity towards those who are bringing them up is of the highest importance. The very thing the child is allowed to do uncorrected at home, is not seldom corrected if it happens away from home. So the child gets a false idea that it is not the thing that deserves punishment, but its publicity. When a mother is ashamed of the bad behaviour of her son she is apt to strike him -- instead of striking her own breast! When an adventurous feat fails he is beaten, but he is praised when successful. These practices produce demoralisation. Once in a wood I saw two parents laughing while the ice held on which their son was sliding; when it broke suddenly they threatened to whip him. It required strong self-control in order not to say to this pair that it was not the son who deserved punishment but themselves.
On occasions like these, parents avenge their own fright on their children. I saw a child become a coward because an anxious mother struck him every time he fell down, while the natural result inflicted on the child would have been more than sufficient to increase his carefulness. When misfortune is caused by disobedience, natural alarm is, as a rule, enough to prevent a repetition of it. If it is not sufficient blows have no restraining effect; they only embitter. The boy finds that adults have forgotten their own period of childhood; he withdraws himself secretly from this abuse of power, provided strict treatment does not succeed in totally depressing the level of the child's will and obstructing his energies.
This is certainly a danger, but the most serious effect of corporal punishment is that it has established an unethical morality as its result. Until the human being has learnt to see that effort, striving, development of power, are their own reward, life remains an unbeautiful affair. The debasing effects of vanity and ambition, the small and great cruelties produced by injustice, are all due to the idea that failure or success sets the value to deeds and actions.
A complete revolution in this crude theory of value must come about before the earth can become the scene of a happy but considerate development of power on the part of free and fine human beings. Every contest decided by examinations and prizes is ultimately an immoral method of training. It awakens only evil passions, envy and the impression of injustice on the one side, arrogance on the other. After I had during the course of twenty years fought these school examinations, I read with thorough agreement a short time ago, Ruskin's views on the subject. He believed that all competition was a false basis of stimulus, and every distribution of prizes a false means. He thought that the real sign of talent in a boy, auspicious for his future career, was his desire to work for work's sake. He declared that the real aim of instruction should be to show him his own proper and special gifts, to strengthen them in him, not to spur him on to an empty competition with those who were plainly his superiors in capacity.
Moreover it ought not to be forgotten that success and failure involve of themselves their own punishment and their own reward, the one bitter, the other sweet enough to secure in a natural way increased strength, care, prudence, and endurance. It is completely unnecessary for the educator to use, besides these, some special punishments or special rewards, and so pervert the conceptions of the child that failure seems to him to be a wrong, success on the other hand as the right.
No matter where one turns one's gaze, it is notorious that the externally encouraging or awe-inspiring means of education, are an obstacle to what are the chief human characteristics, courage in oneself and goodness to others.
A people whose education is carried on by gentle means only (I mean the people of Japan), have shown that manliness is not in danger where children are not hardened by corporal punishment. These gentle means are just as effective in calling forth selfmastery and consideration. These virtues are so imprinted on children, at the tenderest age, that one learns first in Japan what attraction considerate kindliness bestows upon life. In a country where blows are never seen, the first rule of social intercourse is not to cause discomfort to others. It is told that when a foreigner in Japan took up a stone to throw it at a dog, the dog did not run. No one had ever thrown a stone at him. Tenderness towards animals is the complement in that country of tenderness in human relationship, a tenderness whose result is observed, among other effects, in a relatively small number of crimes against life and security.
War, hunting for pleasure, corporal discipline, are nothing more than different expressions of the tiger nature still alive in man. When the rod is thrown away, and when, as some one has said, children are no longer boxed on their ears but are given magnifying glasses and photographic cameras to increase their capacity for life and for loving it, instead of learning to destroy it, real education in humanity will begin.
For the benefit of those who are not convinced that corporal punishment can be dispensed with in a manly education, by so remote and so distant an example as Japan, I should like to mention a fact closer to us. Our Germanic forefathers did not have this method of education. It was introduced with Christianity. Corporal discipline was turned into a religious duty, and as late as the seventeenth century there were intelligent men who flogged their children once a week as a part of spiritual guardianship. I once asked our great poet, Victor Rydberg, and he said that he had found no proof that corporal punishment was usual among the Germans in heathen times. I asked him whether he did not believe that the fact of its absence had encouraged the energetic individualism and manliness in the Northern peoples. He thought so, and agreed with me. Finally, I might note from our own time, that there are many families and schools, our girls' schools for example, and also boys' schools in some countries, where corporal punishment is never used. I know a family with twelve children whose activity and capacity are not damaged by bringing them under the rule of duty alone. Corporal punishment is never used in this home; a determined but mild mother has taught the children to obey voluntarily, and has known how to train their wills to self-control.
By " voluntary obedience," I do not mean that the child is bound to ask endless questions for reasons, and to dispute them before he obeys. A good teacher never gives a command without there being some good reason, but whether the child is convinced or not, he must always obey, and if he asks " why" the answer is very simple; every one, adults as well as children, must obey the right and must submit to what cannot be avoided. The great necessity in life must be imprinted in childhood. This can be done without harsh means by training the child, even previous to his birth, by cultivating one's self-control, and after his birth by never giving in to a child's caprices. The rule is, in a few cases, to work in opposition to the action of the child, but in other cases work constructively; I mean provide the child with material to construct his own personality and then let him do this work of construction. This is, in brief, the art of education. The worst of all educational methods are threats. The only effective admonitions are short and infrequent ones. The greatest skill in the educator is to be silent for the moment and then so reprove the fault, indirectly, that the child is brought to correct himself or make himself the object of blame. This can be done by the instructor telling something that causes the child to compare his own conduct with the hateful or admirable types of behaviour about which he hears information. Or the educator may give an opinion which the child must take to himself although it is not applied directly to him.
On many occasions a forceful display of indignation on the part of the elder person is an excellent punishment, if the indignation is reserved for the right moment. I know children to whom nothing was more frightful than their father's scorn; this was dreaded. Children who are deluged with directions and religious devotions, who receive an ounce of morality in every cup of joy, are most certain to be those who will revolt against all this. Nearly every thinking person feels that the deepest educational influences in his life have been indirect; some good advice not given to him directly; a noble deed told without any direct reference. But when people come themselves to train others they forget all their own personal experience.
The strongest constructive factor in the education of a human being is the settled, quiet order of home, its peace, and its duty. Open-heartedness, industry, straightforwardness at home develop goodness, desire to work, and simplicity in the child. Examples of artistic work and books in the home, its customary life on ordinary days and holidays, its occupations and its pleasures, should give to the emotions and imagination of the child, periods of movement and repose, a sure contour and a rich colour. The pure, warm, clear atmosphere in which father, mother, and children live together in freedom and confidence; where none are kept isolated from the interests of the others; but each possesses full freedom for his own personal interest; where none trenches on the rights of others; where all are willing to help one another when necessary, -- in this atmosphere egoism, as well as altruism, can attain their richest development, and individuality find its just freedom. As the evolution of man's soul advances to undreamed-of possibilities of refinement, of capacity, of profundity; as the spiritual life of the generation becomes more manifold in its combinations and in its distinctions; the more time one has for observing the wonderful and deep secrets of existence, behind the visible, tangible, world of sense, the more will each new generation of children show a more refined and a more consistent mental life. It is impossible to attain this result under the torture of the crude methods in our present home and school training. We need new homes, new schools, new marriages, new social relations, for those new souls who are to feel, love, and suffer, in ways infinitely numerous that we now can not even name. Thus they will come to understand life; they will have aspirations and hopes; they will believe; they will pray. The conceptions of religion, love, and art, all these must be revolutionised so radically, that one now can only surmise what new forms will be created in future generations. This transformation can be helped by the training of the present, by casting aside the withered foliage which now covers the budding possibilities of life.
The house must
once more become a home for the souls of children, not for their
bodies alone. For such homes to be formed, that in their turn
will mould children, the children must be given back to the home.
Instead of the study preparation at home for the school taking
up, as it now does, the best part of a child's life, the school
must get the smaller part, the home the larger part. The home
will have the responsibility of so using the free time as well
on ordinary days as on holidays, that the children will really
become a part of the home both in their work and in their pleasures.
The children will be taken from the school, the street, the factory,
and restored to the home. The mother will be given back from work
outside, or from social life to the children. Thus natural training
in the spirit of Rousseau and Spencer will be realised; a training
for life, by life at home.
Such was the training of Old Scandanavia; the direct share of the child in the work of the adult, in real labours and dangers, gave to the life of our Scandanavian forefathers (with whom the boy began to be a man at twelve years of age), unity, character, and strength. Things specially made for children, the anxious watching over all their undertakings, support given to all their steps, courses of work and pleasure specially prepared for children, -- these are the fundamental defects of our present day education. An eighteen-yearold girl said to me a short time ago, that she and other girls of the same age were so tired of the system of vigilance, protection, amusement, and pampering at school and at home, that they were determined to bring up their own children in hunger, corporal discipline, and drudgery.
One can understand this unfortunate reaction against an artificial environment, the environment in which children and young people of the present grow up; an existence that evokes a passionate desire for the realities of life, for individual action at one's own risk and responsibility, instead of being, as is now the case, at home and in the school, the object of another's care.
What is required, above all, for the children of the present day, is to be assigned again real home occupations, tasks they must do conscientiously, habits of work arranged for week days and holidays without oversight, in every case where the child can help himself. Instead of the modern school child having a mother and servants about him to get him ready for school and to help him to remember things, he should have time every day before school to arrange his room and brush his clothes, and there should be no effort to make him remember what is connected with the school. The home and the school should combine together systematically to let the child suffer for the results of his own negligence.
Just the reverse of this system rules to-day. Mothers learn their children's lessons, invent plays for them, read their story books to them, arrange their rooms after them, pick up what they have let fall, put in order the things they have left in confusion, and in this and in other ways, by protective pampering and attention, their desire for work, their endurance, the gifts of invention and imagination, qualities proper to the child, become weak and passive. The home now is only a preparation for school. In it, young people growing up, are accustomed to receive services, without performing any on their part. They are trained to be always receptive instead of giving something in return. Then people are surprised at a youthful generation, selfish and unrestrained, pressing forward shamelessly on all occasions before their elders, crudely unresponsive in respect of those attentions, which in earlier generations were a beautiful custom among the young.
To restore this custom, all the means usually adopted now to protect the child from physical and psychical dangers and inconveniences, will have to be removed. Throw the thermometer out of the window and begin with a sensible course of toughening; teach the child to know and to bear natural pain. Corporal punishment must be done away with not because it is painful but because it is profoundly immoral and hopelessly unsuitable. Repress the egoistic demands of the child when he interferes with the work or rest of others; never let him either by caresses or by nagging usurp the rights of grown people; take care that the servants do not work against what the parents are trying to insist on in this and in other matters.
We must begin in doing for the child in certain ways a thousand times more and in others a hundred thousand times less. A beginning must be made in the tenderest age to establish the child's feeling for nature. Let him live year in and year out in the same country home; this is one of the most significant and profound factors in training. It can be held to even where it is now neglected. The same thing holds good of making a choice library, commencing with the first years of life; so that the child will have, at different periods of his life, suitable books for each age; not as is now often the case, get quite spoilt by the constant change of summer excursions, by worthless children's books, and costly toys. They should never have any but the simplest books; the so-called classical ones. They should be amply provided with means of preparing their own playthings. The worst feature of our system are the playthings which imitate the luxury of grown people. By such objects the covetous impulse of the child for acquisition is increased, his own capacity for discovery and imagination limited, or rather, it would be limited if children with the sound instinct of preservation, did not happily smash the perfect playthings, which give them no creative opportunity, and themselves make new playthings from fir cones, acorns, thorns, and fragments of pottery, and all other sorts of rubbish which can be transformed into objects of great price by the power of the imagination.
To play with children in the right way is also a great art. It should never be done if children do not themselves know what they are going to do; it should always be a special treat for them as well as their elders. But the adults must always on such occasions, leave behind every kind of educational idea and go completely into the child's world of thought and imagination. No attempt should be made to teach them at these times anything else but the old satisfactory games. The experiences derived from these games about the nature of the children, who are stimulated in one direction or another by the game, must be kept for later use.
Games in this way increase confidence between children and adults. They learn to know their elders better. But to allow children to turn all the rooms into places to play in, and to demand constantly that their elders shall interest themselves in them, is one of the most dangerous species of pampering common to the present day. The children become accustomed to selfishness and mental dependence. Besides this constant educational effort brings with it the dulling of the child's personality. If children were free in their own world, the nursery, but out of it had to submit to the strict limits imposed by the habits, wills, work, and repose of parents, their requirements and their wishes, they would develop into a stronger and more considerate race than the youth of the present day. It is not so much talking about being considerate, but the necessity of considering others, of really helping oneself and others, that has an educational value. In earlier days, children were quiet as mice in the presence of elder persons. Instead of, as they do now, breaking into a guest's conversation, they learned to listen. If the conversation of adults is varied, this can be called one of the best educational methods for children. The ordinary life of children, under the old system, was lived in the nursery where they received their most important training from an old faithful servant and from one another. From their parents they received corporal punishment, sometimes a caress. In comparison with this system, the present way of parents and children living together would be absolute progress, if parents could but abstain from explaining, advising, improving, influencing every thought and every expression. But all spiritual, mental, and bodily protective rules make the child now indirectly selfish, because everything centres about him and therefore he is kept in a constant state of irritation. The six-yearold can disturb the conversation of the adult, but the twelve-year-old is sent to bed about eight o'clock, even when he, with wide open eyes, longs for a conversation that might be to him an inspiring stimulus for life.
Certainly some simple habits so far as conduct and order, nourishment and sleep, air and water, clothing and bodily movement, are concerned, can be made the foundations for the child's conceptions of morality. He cannot be made to learn soon enough that bodily health and beauty must be regarded as high ethical characteristics, and that what is injurious to health and beauty must be regarded as a hateful act. In this sphere, children must be kept entirely independent of custom by allowing the exception to every rule to have its valid place. The present anxious solicitude that children should eat when the clock strikes, that they get certain food at fixed meals, that they be clothed according to the degree of temperature, that they go to bed when the clock strikes, that they be protected from every drop of unboiled water and every extra piece of candy, this makes them nervous, irritable slaves of habit. A reasonable toughening process against the inequalities, discomforts, and chances of life, constitutes one of the most important bases of joy of living and of strength of temper. In this case too, the behaviour of the person who gives the training, is the best means of teaching children to smile at small contretemps, things which would throw a cloud over the sun, if one got into the habit of treating them as if they were of great importance. If the child sees the parent doing readily an unpleasant duty, which he honestly recognises as unpleasant; if he sees a parent endure trouble or an unexpected difficulty easily, he will be in honour bound to do the like. Just as children without many words learn to practice good deeds when they see good deeds practiced about them; learn to enjoy the beauty of nature and art when they see that adults enjoy them, so by living more beautifully, more nobly, more moderately, we speak best to children. They are just as receptive to impressions of this kind as they are careless of those made by force.
Since this is my alpha and omega in the art of education, I repeat now what I said at the beginning of this book and half way through it. Try to leave the child in peace; interfere directly as seldom as possible; keep away all crude and impure impressions; but give all your care and energy to see that personality, life itself, reality in its simplicity and in its nakedness, shall all be means of training the child.
Make demands on the powers of children and on their capacity for self-control, proportionate to the special stage of their development, neither greater nor lesser demands than on adults. But respect the joys of the child, his tastes, work, and time, just as you would those of an adult. Education will thus become an infinitely simple and infinitely harder art, than the education of the present day, with its artificialised existence, its double entry morality, one morality for the child, and one for the adult, often strict for the child and lax for the adult and vice versa. By treating the child every moment as one does an adult human being we free education from that brutal arbitrariness, from those over-indulgent protective rules, which have transformed him. Whether parents act as if children existed for their benefit alone, or whether the parents give up their whole lives to their children, the result is alike deplorable. As a rule both classes know equally little of the feelings and needs of their children. The one class are happy when the children are like themselves, and their highest ambition is to produce in their children a successful copy of their own thoughts, opinions, and ideals. Really it ought to pain them very much to see themselves so exactly copied. What life expected from them and required from them was just the opposite -- a richer combination, a better creation, a new type, not a reproduction of that which is already exhausted. The other class strive to model their chilrden not according to themselves but according to their ideal of goodness. They show their love by their willingness to extinguish their own personalities for their children's sake. This they do by letting the children feel that everything which concerns them stands in the foreground. This should be so, but only indirectly.
of the whole scheme of life, the ordering of the home, its habits,
intercourse, purposes, care for the needs of children, and their
sound development, must stand in the foreground. But at present,
in most cases, children of tender years, as well as those who
are older, are sacrificed to the chaotic condition of the home.
They learn self-will without possessing real freedom, they live
under a discipline which is spasmodic in its application.
When one daughter after another leaves home in order to make herself independent they are often driven to do it by want of freedom, or by the lack of character in family life. In both directions the girl sees herself forced to become something different, to hold different opinions, to think different thoughts, to act contrary to the dictates of her own being. A mother happy in the friendship of her own daughter, said not long ago that she desired to erect an asylum for tormented daughters. Such an asylum would be as necessary as a protection against pampering parents as against those who are overbearing. Both alike, torture their children though in different ways, by not understanding the child's right to have his own point of view, his own ideal of happiness, his own proper tastes and occupation. They do not see that children exist as little for their parent's sake as parents do for their children's sake. Family life would have an intelligent character if each one lived fully and entirely his own life and allowed the others to do the same. None should tyrannise over, nor should suffer tyranny from, the other. Parents who give their home this character can justly demand that children shall accommodate themselves to the habits of the household as long as they live in it. Children on their part can ask that their own life of thought and feeling shall be left in peace at home, or that they be treated with the same consideration that would be given to a stranger. When the parents do not meet these conditions they themselves are the greater sufferers. It is very easy to keep one's son from expressing his raw views, very easy to tear a daughter away from her book and to bring her to a tea-party by giving her unnecessary occupations; very easy by a scornful word to repress some powerful emotion. A thousand similar things occur every day in good families through the whole world. But whenever we hear of young people speaking of their intellectual homelessness and sadness, we begin to understand why father and mother remain behind in homes from which the daughters have hastened to depart; why children take their cares, joys, and thoughts to strangers; why, in a word, the old and the young generation are as mutually dependent as the roots and flowers of plants, so often separate with mutual repulsion.
This is as true of highly cultivated fathers and mothers as of simple bourgeois or peasant parents. Perhaps, indeed, it may be truer of the first class, the latter torment their children in a naive way, while the former are infinitely wise and methodical in their stupidity. Rarely is a mother of the upper class one of those artists of home life who through the blitheness, the goodness, and joyousness of her character, makes the rhythm of everyday life a dance, and holidays into festivals. Such artists are often simple women who have passed no examinations, founded no clubs, and written no books. The highly cultivated mothers and the socially useful mothers on the other hand are not seldom those who call forth criticism from their sons. It seems almost an invariable rule that mothers should make mistakes when they wish to act for the welfare of their sons. " How infinitely valuable," say their children, " would I have found a mother who could have kept quiet, who would have been patient with me, who would have given me rest, keeping the outer world at a distance from me, with kindly soothing hands. Oh, would that I had had a mother on whose breast I could have laid my head, to be quiet and dream."
A distinguished woman writer is surprised that all of her well-thought-out plans for her children fail -- those children in whom she saw the material for her passion for governing, the clay that she desired to mould.
The writer just cited says very justly that maternal unselfishness alone can perform the task of protecting a young being with wisdom and kindliness, by allowing him to grow according to his own laws. The unselfish mother, she says, will joyfully give the best of her life energy, powers of soul and spirit to a growing being and then open all doors to him, leaving him in the broad world to follow his own paths, and ask for nothing, neither thanks, nor praise, nor remembrance. But to most mothers may be applied the bitter exclamation of a son in the book just mentioned, " even a mother must know how she tortures another; if she has not this capacity by nature, why in the world should I recognise her as my mother at all."
Certain mothers spend the whole day in keeping their children's nervous system in a state of irritation. They make work hard and play joyless, whenever they take a part in it. At the present time, too, the school gets control of the child, the home loses all the means by which formerly it moulded the child's soul life and ennobled family life. The school, not father and mother, teaches children to play, the school gives them manual training, the school teaches them to sing, to look at pictures, to read aloud, to wander about out of doors; schools, clubs, sport and other pleasures accustom youth in the cities more and more to outside life, and a daily recreation that kills the true feeling for holiday. Young people, often, have no other impression of home than that it is a place where they meet society which bores them.
Parents surrender their children to schools in those years in which they should influence their minds. When the school gives them back they do not know how to make a fresh start with the children, for they themselves have ceased to be young.
But getting old is no necessity; it is only a bad habit. It is very interesting to observe a face that is getting old. What time makes out of a face shows better than anything else what the man has made out of time. Most men in the early period of middle age are neither intellectually fat nor lean, they are hardened or dried up. Naturally young people look upon them with unsympathetic eyes, for they feel that there is such a thing as eternal youth, which a soul can win as a prize for its whole work of inner development. But they look in vain for this second eternal youth in their elders, filled with worldly nothingnesses and things of temporary importance.
With a sigh they exclude the " old people" from their future plans and they go out in the world in order to choose their spiritual parents.
This is tragic but just, for if there is a field on which man must sow a hundred-fold in order to harvest tenfold it is the souls of children.
When I began at five years of age to make a rag doll, that by its weight and size really gave the illusion of reality and bestowed much joy on its young mother, I began to think about the education of my future children. Then as now my educational ideal was that the children should be happy, that they should not fear. Fear is the misfortune of childhood, and the sufferings of the child come from the half-realised opposition between his unlimited possibilities of happiness and the way in which these possibilities are actually handled. It may be said that life, at every stage, is cruel in its treatment of our possibilities of happiness. But the difference between the sufferings of the adult from existence, and the sufferings of the child caused by adults, is tremendous. The child is unwilling to resign himself to the sufferings imposed upon him by adults and the more impatient the child is against unnecessary suffering, the better; for so much the more certainly will he some day be driven to find means to transform for himself and for others the hard necessities of life.
A poet, Rydberg,
in our country who had the deepest intuition into child's nature,
and therefore had the deepest reverence for it, wrote as follows:
" Where we behold children we suspect there are princes,
but as to the kings, where are they?" Not only life's tragic
elements diminish and dam up its vital energies. Equally destructive
is a parent's want of reverence for the sources of life which
meet them in a new being. Fathers and mothers must bow their heads
in the dust before the exalted nature of the child. Until they
see that the word " child" is only another expression
for the conception of majesty; until they feel that it is the
future which in the form of a child sleeps in their arms, and
history which plays at their feet, they will not understand that
they have as little power or right to prescribe laws for this
new being as they possess the power or might to lay down paths
for the stars.
The mother should feel the same reverence for the unknown worlds in the wide-open eyes of her child, that she has for the worlds which like white blossoms are sprinkled over the blue orb of heaven; the father should see in his child the king's son whom he must serve humbly with his own best powers, and then the child will come to his own; not to the right of asking others to become the plaything of his caprices but to the right of living his full strong personal child's life along with a father and a mother who themselves live a personal life, a life from whose sources and powers the child can take the elements he needs for his own individual growth. Parents should never expect their own highest ideals to become the ideals of their child. The free-thinking sons of pious parents and the Christian children of freethinkers have become almost proverbial.
But parents can live nobly and in entire accordance to their own ideals which is the same thing as making children idealists. This can often lead to a quite different system of thought from that pursued by the parent.
As to ideals, the elders should here as elsewhere, offer with timidity their advice and their experience. Yes they should try to let the young people search for it as if they were seeking fruit hidden under the shadow of leaves. If their counsel is rejected, they must show neither surprise nor lack of self-control.
The query of a humourist, why he should do anything for posterity since posterity had done nothing for him, set me to thinking in my early youth in the most serious way. I felt that posterity had done much for its forefathers. It had given them an infinite horizon for the future beyond the bounds of their daily effort. We must in the child see the new fate of the human race; we must carefully treat the fine threads in the child's soul because these are the threads that one day will form the woof of world events. We must realise that every pebble by which one breaks into the glassy depths of the child's soul will extend its influence through centuries and centuries in ever widening circles. Through our fathers, without our will and without choice, we are given a destiny which controls the deepest foundation of our own being. Through our posterity, which we ourselves create, we can in a certain measure, as free beings, determine the future destiny of the human race.
By a realisation of all this in an entirely new way, by seeing the whole process in the light of the religion of development, the twentieth century will be the century of the child. This will come about in two ways. Adults will first come to an understanding of the child's character and then the simplicity of the child's character will be kept by adults. So the old social order will be able to renew itself.
Psychological pedagogy has an exalted ancestry. I will not go back to those artists in education called Socrates and Jesus, but I commence with the modern world. In the hours of its sunrise, in which we, who look back, think we see a futile Renaissance, then as now the spring flowers came up amid the decaying foliage. At this period there came a demand for the remodelling of education through the great figure of modern times, Montaigne, that skeptic who had so deep a reverence for realities. In his Essays, in his Letters to the Countess of Gurson, are found all of the elements for the education of the future. About the great German and Swiss specialists in pedagogy and psychology, Comenius, Basedow, Pestalozzi, Salzmann, Froebel, Herbart, I do not need to speak. I will only mention that the greatest men of Germany, Lessing, Herder, Goethe, Kant and others, took the side of natural training. In regard to England it is well known that John Locke in his Thoughts on Education, was a worthy predecessor of Herbert Spencer, whose book on education in its intellectual, moral, and physical relations, was the most noteworthy book on education in the last century.
It has been noted that Spencer in educational theory is indebted to Rousseau; and that in many cases, he has only said what the great German authorities, whom he certainly did not know, said before him. But this does not diminish Spencer's merit in the least. Absolutely new thoughts are very rare. Truths which were once new must be constantly renewed by being pronounced again from the depth of the ardent personal conviction of a new human being.
That rational thoughts on the subject of pedagogy as on other subjects, are constantly expressed and re-expressed, shows among other things that reasonable, or practically untried education has certain principles which are as axiomatic as those of mathematics. Every reasonable thinking man must as certainly discover anew these pedagogical principles, as he must discover anew the relation between the angles of a triangle. Spencer's book it is true has not laid again the foundation of education. It can rather be called the crown of the edifice founded by Montaigne, Locke, Rousseau, and the great German specialists in pedagogy. What is an absolutely novel factor in our times is the study of the psychology of the child, and the system of education that has developed from it.
In England, through the scientist Darwin, this new study of the psychology of the child was inaugurated. In Germany, Preyer contributed to its extension. He has done so partly by a comprehensive study of children's language, partly by collecting recollections of childhood on the part of the adult. Finally he experimented directly on the child, investigating his physical and psychical fatigue and endurance, acuteness of sensation, power, speed, and exactness in carrying out physical and mental tasks. He has studied his capacity of attention in emotions and in ideas at different periods of life. He has studied the speech of children, association of ideas in children, etc. During the study of the psychology of the child, scholars began to substitute for this term the expression " genetic psychology." For it was found that the big-genetic principle was valid for the development both of the psychic and the physical life. This principle means that the history of the species is repeated in the history of the individual; a truth substantiated in other spheres; in philology for example. The psychology of the child is of the same significance for general psychology as embryology is for anatomy. On the other hand, the description of savage peoples, of peoples in a natural condition, such as we find in Spencer's Descriptive Sociology or Weitz's Anthropology is extremely instructive for a right conception of the psychology of the child.
It is in this kind of psychological investigation that the greatest progress has been made in this century. In the great publication, Zeitschrift für Psychologie, etc., there began in 1894 a special department for the psychology of children and the psychology of education. In 1898, there were as many as one hundred and six essays devoted to this subject, and they are constantly increasing.
In the chief civilised countries this investigation has many distinguished pioneers, such as Prof. Wundt, Prof. T. H. Ribot, and others. In Germany this subject has its most important organ in the journal mentioned above. It numbers among its collaborators some of the most distinguished German physiologists and psychologists. As related to the same subject must be mentioned Wundt's Philosophischen Studien, and partly the Vierteljahrschrift fur Wissenschaftliche Philosophie. In France, there was founded in 1894, the Année Psychologique, edited by Binet and Beaunis, and also the Bibliotheque de Pedagogie et de Psychologie, edited by Binet. In England there are the journals, Mind and Brain.
Special laboratories for experimental psychology with psychological apparatus and methods of research are found in many places. In Germany the first to be founded was that of Wundt in the year 1878 at Leipzig. France has a laboratory for experimental psychology at Paris, in the Sorbonne, whose director is Binet; Italy, one in Rome. In America experimental psychology is zealously pursued. As early as 1894, there were in that country twenty-seven laboratories for experimental psychology and four journals. There should also be mentioned the societies for child psychology. Recently one has been founded in Germany, others before this time have been at work in England and America.
A whole series of investigations carried out in Kraepelin's laboratory in Heidelberg are of the greatest value for determining what the brain can do in the way of work and impressions.
An English specialist has maintained that the future, thanks to the modern school system, will be able to get along without originally creative men, because the receptive activities of modern man will absorb the cooperative powers of the brain to the disadvantage of the productive powers. And even if this were not a universally valid statement but only expressed a physiological certainty, people will some day perhaps cease filing down man's brain by that sandpapering process called a school curriculum.
A champion of the transformation of pedagogy into a psycho-physiological science is to be found in Sweden in the person of Prof. Hjalmar Oehrwal who has discussed in his essays native and foreign discoveries in the field of psychology. One of his conclusions is that the so-called technical exercises, gymnastics, manual training, sloyd, and the like, are not, as they are erroneously called, a relaxation from mental overstrain by change in work, but simply a new form of brain fatigue. All work, he finds, done under conditions of fatigue is uneconomic whether one regards the quantity produced or its value as an exercise. Rest should be nothing more than rest, -- freedom to do only what one wants to, or to do nothing at all. As to fear, he proves, following Binet's investigation in this subject, how corporal discipline, threats, and ridicule lead to cowardice; how all of these methods are to be rejected because they are depressing and tend to a diminution of energy. He shows, moreover, how fear can be overcome progressively, by strengthening the nervous system and in that way strengthening the character. This result comes about partly when all unnecessary terrorising is avoided, partly when children are accustomed to bear calmly and quietly the inevitable unpleasantnesses of danger.
Prof. Axel Key's investigations on school children have won international recognition. In Sweden they have supplied the most significant material up to the present time for determining the influence of studies on physical development and the results of intellectual overstrain.
It is to be hoped that when through empirical investigation we begin to get acquainted with the real nature of children, the school and the home will be freed from absurd notions about the character and needs of the child, those absurd notions which now cause painful cases of physical and psychical maltreatment, still called by conscientious and thinking human beings in schools and in homes, education.
From time to time the present age is criticised, as if its corruption contrasted with the moral strictness of earlier periods. Such charges are as crude and as groundless as is most of the same kind of criticism that is common to every generation of man's history. They have been repeated ever since man began to strive consciously for other ends than the momentary gratification of his undisciplined impulses.
One need only to consult the men of the present generation and the still living representatives of the past generation, to be assured that bad conduct at school is not characteristic of our time. Let any one read the account of life at universities in earlier periods when the younger students were of the same age as schoolboys in high schools and it will soon be plain that the cause of the evil is not modern literature nor modern belief.
The really direct causes of this difficulty must be looked for in human emotions. This side of the question I do not intend to discuss here. It can only be solved by an expert in psychology and physiology; by one who, along with this capacity, is a pedagogical genius. There might not be sufficient material for such a task, even if an individual could be found able to put together the original elements in the systems of Socrates, Rousseau, Spencer, and give them life. Under no other condition could a real contribution be made adequate to meet the requirements of the present day in the field of education. My intention is only to make some remarks on the secondary cause of the evil, for not sufficient attention has been devoted to this side of the problem. The cause I have in view is the increasing homelessness of all branches of society. Living with one's parents as children do who go to school in the city is not the same as living at home. Family life in the working classes is unsettled by the mother working out of the house. In the upper classes the same result is produced by the constantly increasing pressure of social pleasures and obligations.
Formerly it was only the husband and father whom outside interests took from the home. Now the home is deserted by the wife and mother also, not alone for social gatherings but for clubs for self-improvement, meetings, lectures, committees; one evening after another, just at the time which she should be devoting herself to her children who have been occupied in the morning at school.
The ever-growing social life, the incessant extension of club and out-of-door life, result in the mother sending her children as early as possible to school, even when there is nothing but the conditions above mentioned to prevent her from giving the children their first instruction herself. As a rule the present generation of mothers who have had school training could do this quite well, in the case of children who do not need the social stimulus of the school. Indeed before the school time begins, and in the hours out of school, children are as a rule taken by a maid servant to walk or to skate and so on. Children of the upper classes in most cases receive just as much, perhaps more, of their education from the nursery maid or from the school than from the mother. The father need not be mentioned at all, for as a rule he is an only occasional and unessential factor in the education of the child.
Many will say by way of objection, that at no time has so much been done for the education of children as at present; that parents were never so watchful over the physical and psychical needs of the children; that at no time has the intercourse between children and parents been so free; at no time have schools been so actively at work.
This is true but much of this tends to increase the homelessness of which I am speaking. The more the schools develop the more they are burdened with all the instruction for children, the more hours of the day they require for their demands. The school is expected to give instruction even in such simple matters as making children acquainted with their national literature, and handwork, which mothers could do perfectly well, certainly as well as our grandmothers. The greater the attention given at school to such essentially good things as gymnastics, handwork, and games, the more children are withdrawn from home. And even when at home, they are hindered by lessons and written exercises from being with their father and mother, on those exceptional occasions when the parents are at home. If we take into consideration the way in which the modern school system uses up the children's time, and pre sent social and club life take up the time of parents, we come to the conclusion I began with, that domestic life is more and more on the decline.
The reforms that must be demanded from the schools in order to restore the children to the home cannot be discussed now, since it is my intention to deal here only with those matters which must be reformed by the family itself, if reforms at school are to really benefit the young.
Reforms of this kind have been made in schools but mothers complain that children have too little work at home or too few hours at school; that they, the mothers, absolutely do not know how they can keep the children occupied in so much free time.
What may justly be considered the great progress in the family life of the present day, the confidential intercourse between parents and children, has not taken an entirely right direction. The result has been that children have been permitted to behave like grown people, sharing the habits and pleasures of their parents, or that the parents have ceased to live their own life. In neither of these two ways can a deep and sound relation between children and parents be produced.
We see on the one side a minority of conscientious mothers and fathers, who in a real sense live only for the children. They mould their whole life for the life of the children; and the children get the idea that they are the central point of existence. On the other side, we see children who take part in all the life and over-refinements of the home. They demand like adults the amusements and elegancies of life; they even give balls and suppers at home or in hotels for their school companions. In these social functions, the vanity and stupidity of adults are conscientiously imitated.
Then we require from these boys and girls, when they reach a time of life in which the passions awake, a self-control, a capacity of self-denial, a stoicism towards temptations to which they have never been trained, and which they have never seen their parents exercise.
Most homes of the upper classes have not the means to keep up the life that is lived in them. By the money of creditors, or by an exorbitant profit made at the cost of working people, or by careless consumption of the very necessary savings to be laid by for hard times, or against the death of the family provider, a luxurious style of living is maintained. But even when in rare cases there is real ability to live in this way, parents would not do it, if the best interests of the children were taken into account.
Elders may speak of industry as much as they like; if the father's and mother's work for children has no reality about it, the parents would do best to be silent. The same must be said of warnings and arbitrary prohibitions to children concerning the satisfaction of their desire for enjoyment, if the parents themselves do not influence the children by their own example.
On the other hand there are just as disturbing consequences when industrious parents conceal their self-denial from their children, when they deprive themselves in the effort to spare their children the knowledge that their parents are not in a position to clothe them as well as their companions or to give them the same pleasures. Least of all is home life successful in helping children through the difficulties of their earlier years, when discipline has killed confidence between them and their parents, when they become insincere from want of courage and careless from want of freedom; when parents present themselves to the children as exceptional beings, asking for blind reverence and absolute subjection. From such homes in old days fine men and women could proceed, but now extremely seldom. Young people recognise in our days no such requirements; confidential intercourse with parents has robbed them of this nimbus of infallibility.
Homes which send out men and women with the strongest morality, with the freshest stimulus to work, are those where children and parents are companions in labour, where they stand on the same level, where, like a good elder sister or an elder brother, parents regard the younger members of the household as their equals; where parents by being children with the children, being youthful with young people, help those who are growing up, without the exercise of force, to develop into human beings, always treating them as human beings. In a home like this nothing is especially arranged for children; they are regarded not as belonging to one kind of being while parents represent another, but parents gain the respect of their children by being true and natural; they live and conduct themselves in such a way that the children gain an insight into their work, their efforts, and as far as possible into their joys and pains, their mistakes and failures. Such parents without artificial condescension or previous consideration gain the sympathy of children and unconsciously educate them in a free exchange of thought and opinions. Here children do not receive everything as a gift; according to the measure of their power they must share in the work of the home; they learn to take account of their parents, of servants, and one another. They have duties and rights that are just as firmly fixed as those of their parents; and they are respected themselves just as they are taught to respect others. They come into daily contact with realities, they can do useful tasks, not simply pretend that they are doing them; they can arrange their own amusements, their own small money accounts, their own punishments even, by their parents never hindering them from suffering the natural consequences of their own acts.
In such a home a command is never given unless accompanied at the same time with a reason for it, just as soon as a reason can he understood. So the feeling of responsibility is impressed upon the children from the tenderest age. The children are as seldom as possible told not to do things, but such cornmands when given are absolute because they always rest on good reasons, not on a whim. Mother and father are watchful, but they do not act as spies on their children. Partial freedom teaches children to make use of complete freedom. A system of negative commands and oversight produces insincerity and weakness. An old illiterate housekeeper who earned a living by taking school children to board was one of the best educators I have ever seen. Her method was loving young people and believing in them -- a confidence that they as a rule sought to deserve. Moreover a good home is always cheerful, its affection real, not sentimental. No time is wasted in it in preaching about petty details or prosing. Mother and sisters do not look shocked when the small boy tells a funny story or uses strong language. A joke is not regarded as evidence of moral corruption, nor keen views as an indication of depravity. Liveliness, want of prudishness, which can be combined, so far as the feminine part of the household is concerned, with purity of mind and simple nobility, are characteristics for which there can be no substitutes. In such a household concord prevails, the young and old work, read, and talk together, together take common diversions; sometimes the young people, sometimes their elders, take the lead. The house is open for the friends of the children; they are free to enjoy themselves as completely as possible but in all naturalness without allowing their amusements to change the habits of the home.
It is told of the childhood of a great Finnish poet, Runeberg, that his mother when she invited the young guests of her son to dance as long as they could, added, "When you are thirsty, the water cooler is there, and by it hangs the cup"; and more delightful dances, the old lady who told the story never remembered to have seen. This old-fashioned distinction, the courage to show oneself as one is, is absent from modern homes, and lack of courage has resulted in lack of happiness.
The simple hospitable homely pleasures that have now been superseded by children's parties, lesson drudgery, and by parents living outside of the home must come back again if what is bad now is not to become worse. Evil is not to be expelled by evil; it is to be overcome by good. If the home is not to be again sunny, quiet, simple, and lively, mothers may go out as much as they like to discuss education and morality in the evening. There will be no real change. Mothers must seriously perceive that no social activity has greater significance than education, and that in this nothing can replace their own appropriate influence in a home. They must make up their minds to real reform, such reforms as those introduced by a lady in Stockholm; burdened though she was with social engagements and public obligations, she refused to accept any invitation except on one day of the week, in order to spend her evenings quietly with her children. How long will the majority of mothers sacrifice children to the eternal ennui and vacuity of our modern social and club life?
There is no
intention here to recommend that social life and public activities
shall be deprived of the influence of experienced and thinking
mothers. But I only wish to point to the cases of overstrain now
caused by the stress of excessive sociability and outside activity.
This kind of over-exertion, more especially, injures the home
through the mother. In our day as in all other periods, be our
opinions in other respects what they may, pagan, Christian, Jewish,
or free thinking, a good home is only created by those parents
who have a religious reverence for the holiness of the home.
V: Soul Murder in the Schools
Any one who would attempt the task of felling a virgin forest with a penknife would probably feel the same paralysis of despair that the reformer feels when confronted with existing school systems. The latter finds an impassable thicket of folly, prejudice, and mistakes, where each point is open to attack, but where each attack fails because of the inadequate means at the reformer's command.
The modern school has succeeded in doing something which, according to the law of physics, is impossible: the annihilation of once existent matter. The desire for knowledge, the capacity for acting by oneself, the gift of observation, all qualities children bring with them to school, have, as a rule, at the close of the school period disappeared. They have not been transformed into actual knowledge or interests. This is the result of children spending almost the whole of their life from the sixth to the eighteenth year at the school desk, hour by hour, month by month, term by term; taking doses of knowledge, first in teaspoonfuls, then in dessert-spoonfuls, and finally in tablespoonfuls, absorbing mixtures which the teacher often has compounded from fourth- or fifth-hand recipes.
After the school, there often comes a further period of study in which the only distinction in method is, that the mixture is administered by the ladleful.
When young people have escaped from this régime, their mental appetite and mental digestion are so destroyed that they for ever lack capacity for taking real nourishment. Some, indeed, save themselves from all these unrealities by getting in contact with realities; they throw their books in the corner and devote themselves to some sphere of practical life. In both cases the student years are practically squandered. Those who go further acquire knowledge ordinarily at the cost of their personality, at the price of such qualities as assimilation, reflection, observation, and imagination. If any one succeeds in escaping these results, it happens generally with a loss of thoroughness in knowledge. A lower grade of intelligence, a lower capacity for work, or a lower degree of assimilation, than that bestowed upon the scholar by nature, is ordinarily the result of ten or twelve school years. There is much common-sense in the French humourist's remark. "You say that you have never gone to school and yet you are such an idiot."
The cases in which school studies are not injurious, but partially useful, are those where no regular school period has been passed through. In place of this there was a long period of rest, or times of private instruction, or absolutely no instruction at all, simply study by oneself. Nearly every eminent woman in the last fifty years has had such self-instruction, or was an irregularly instructed girl. Knowledge so acquired, therefore, has many serious gaps, but it has much more freshness and breadth. One can study with far greater scope and apply what one studies.
Yet it is still true to-day that, however vehemently families complain about schools, they do not see that their demands in general education must change, before a reasonable school system, a school system in all respects different from the prevailing one, can come into existence. The private schools, few in number, that differ to a certain extent from the ordinary system are swallows that are very far from making a summer. Rather they have met the fate of birds who have come too early on the scene.
As long as schools represent an idea, stand for an abstract conception, like the family and the state, so long will they, just as the family and the state, oppress the individuals who belong to them. The school no more than the family and the state represents a higher idea or something greater than just the number of individuals out of which it is formed. It, like the family and the state, has no other duty, right, or purpose than to give to each separate individual as much development and happiness as possible. To recognise these principles is to introduce reason into the school question. The school should be nothing but the mental dining-room in which parents and teachers prepare intellectual bills-of-fare suitable for every child. The school must have the right to determine what it can place on its bill-of-fare, but the parents have the right to choose, from the mental nourishment supplied by it, the food adapted to their children. The phantom of general culture must be driven from school curricula and parents' brains; the training of the individual must be a reality substituted in its place; otherwise reform plans will be drawn up in vain.
But just as certain simple chemical elements are contained in all nourishment, there are certain simple elements of knowledge that make up the foundation of all higher forms of learning. Reading and writing one's own language, the elements of numbers, geography, natural science, and history, must be required by the schools, as the obligatory basis for advanced independent study.
The elementary school beginning with the age of nine to ten years, I regard as the real general school. The system of instruction must assume that the children have breadth, repose, comprehensiveness, and capacity for individual action. All these qualities are destroyed by the present "hare and hound" system and by its endless abstractions. Such are the results of course readings, multiplicity of subjects, and formalism, all defects that have passed from the boys' schools into the girls' schools, from the elementary schools into the people's schools. They too are burdened by all these faults, which, though deplored by most people, can only be cured by radical reform.
The instruction must be arranged in groups, certain subjects placed among the earlier stages of study while others are put aside for a later period. And in this connection it is not sufficient to consider the psychological development of the child. Certain subjects must be assigned to certain times of the year.
The courses in these schools must come to an end at about the age of fifteen or sixteen. From them our young people can pass either into practical life, or go on to schools of continuation and application. It would be desirable to adopt the plan recommended by Grundtvig, that one or more vacation years should follow, before studies are taken up again. Girls, especially, would then come back to their studies with strengthened bodily powers and an increased desire for knowledge. It is now a common experience that the desire to learn, even in the case of talented young people, becomes quiescent, if they go on continuously with their studies, as they often do, from the sixth to the twentieth year and longer.
To mark out the courses of such a school would offer tremendous difficulties. But these difficulties will not be found insuperable, after people have agreed that the souls of children require more consideration than a school programme.
Among objections coming from parents, may be heard the following: That while the state refuses to take initiative in school reform, no one would dare to embark on a road which makes the future of their children so uncertain. In the meantime children must be allowed to learn what all others learn. When the state has taken the first step, the parents would be willing they say to follow with remarkable eagerness.
What, I ask, has been always the right way to carry out reforms? There must be first an active revolt against existing evils. This particular revolt is yet not sufficiently supported, especially on the part of parents. The children themselves have begun to feel the need of protest, and, if not earlier, I hope that when the present generation of school children become fathers, mothers, and teachers, a reform will come about.
No one can expect a system to be changed, until those who disapprove of it show that they are in earnest, show that they are taking upon themselves the sacrifices necessary to protect themselves from the unhappy results of the system. Families complain of the excessive aggregation of subjects, and yet they constantly burden the school with new subjects, even when these subjects are things the family can undertake itself. While families complain of overstrain, but make no use of the elective system in schools, where it has been introduced, while parents are willing to risk nothing to realise their principles, we cannot wonder that the state does not embark on reforms of any kind.
There is an
old pedagogical maxim, "Man learns for life not for school."
While, for a great part of their time, the sexes are separated
from one another, boys studying by themselves and the girls by
themselves, the training for their future life is a bad one --
a life in which the common work and co-operation between man and
woman is, according to nature's ordinance, the normal thing. So
long as the general school is a school for a special class, and
not for everybody, it is no general school in the high sense of
the word, and besides no school in which people learn for life.
I have therefore always warmly held that the school should be no boys', no girls' school, no elementary and no people's school, but should be a real general or public school as in America, where both sexes, the children of all grades of society, will learn that mutual confidence, respect, understanding, by which their efficient co-operation in the family and state may be made possible. The common school, so arranged, is perhaps the most important means to solve definitely the problem of morality, the woman question, the marriage question, the labour question, in less one-sided and more human ways. From this point of view the establishment of the common school is much more than a pedagogical question; it is the vital question of our social order.
Men and women, upper and lower classes, are walking on different sides of a wall. They can stretch their hands over it; the important thing to be done is to break the wall down. The school, as described above, is the first breach in this wall.
A school like this would be like heaven. The many never reform the few; it is the few who gradually introduce reforms for the many. Because the few have strong enough dissatisfaction with present defects, courage great enough to show their disgust, a belief in the new truths real enough, they are ready to prepare the ground for the future.
Such a school must be guided by the same principle which has humanised morality and law in other spheres. It must consider individual peculiarities. Personal freedom will thus have as few hindrances as possible to obstruct it. The rights of others must not be approached too close. The limits, where the rights of others can be affected, must be maintained, even enlarged.
This humanising process will be introduced into the schools, when scholars are no longer regarded as classes, but each individual for himself. The schools will then commence to fulfil one of the many conditions necessary to give young people real nourishment and so develop them and make them happy.
Such a school life will make its first aim to discover in early years uncommon talent, to direct such talent to special studies.
Secondly, for those who lack definite talent, a plan of study will be arranged, in which their individuality too can be developed, and their intellectual tension increased. This condition is, if possible, more important than the first, for unusual talents are accompanied by greater power of self-conservation. Ordinary or lesser talented people, i.e., the larger majority, are rather confused by a plurality of studies and are much easier impaired, as personalities, by the uniformity of the prevailing system.
The rights of unusually gifted people, and those of other classes too, can be considered when, as mentioned above, the school curriculum is so arranged, that certain subjects are studied during part of the school year, another class of subjects during another part. Moreover, certain subjects are to be studied at different times, not finished once for all.
The instruction must be so arranged that real independent study, under the direction of the teacher, will be the ordinary method. The presentation of the subject by the teacher will be the exception, a treat for holidays, not for every day.
The instruction too must take the scholar to the real thing, as far as possible, not direct him to report about the thing. Such a school must break up absolutely the whole system of lecturing, arranged in concentric circles. In certain cases, it must return to the methods of the old-fashioned school, which concentrated its attention on humanistic study. But dead languages should not be the subjects around which its studies should centre.
Early specialisation must be allowed, where there are distinct individual tendencies for such work;
Concentration on certain subjects at certain points of time;
Independent work during the whole period of school;
Contact with reality in the whole school curriculum; -- these must be the four corner-stones of the new school.
But the time is far distant still, when government schools will begin to build on this basis. What follows is meant, therefore, to apply, not to the great revolutions of school systems indicated above, but deals with improvements to take place at present.
Learning lessons should be assigned to school hours as in France. Children should have an entirely free day in the week; study at home should be confined to the reading of literary works, tales of travel, and the like, which teachers can recommend in combination with the studies pursued at school.
Tasks done at home are inconvenient; they do not increase the independence of the scholar; they are prepared as a rule with excessively free and often unwise help from the parents. At school such work would be done as a rule without help; besides, it is individual and quickly finished.
In the school, time can be taken for study selected at the scholar's free choice. It can be arranged for in the following way. Take a class of about twelve scholars; in larger classes no reasonable or personal method of instruction is possible. There may be three scholars with distinct tastes, one for history, one for languages, one for mathematics. There may be two without any distinct talent for mathematics or languages. The other seven may have ordinary capacities. The first three must, during the whole term, apply themselves specially in certain hours, set aside for independent study, each in his chosen subject. The first will read some historical work on the periods taken up in the history class; the second will devote this time to mathematics; the third will read the books in foreign languages, mentioned in the language course. The other seven with ordinary gifts can devote this time to ordinary reading and handwork. In this way all will get some portion of history, mathematics, and languages, but those who are specially interested will have the opportunity of going deeper into the subject. If one of the three gifted scholars shows a great inclination for and a ready comprehension of all three subjects, he should study by himself at home, provided the more thorough study of one subject does not impair work on the other. The two who have special difficulty in mathematics or languages could either substitute one subject wholly for the other, or in those periods remain away from school, or, finally, the hours used by gifted scholars for individual study beyond the requirements of the common course could be devoted by these to work, under the teacher's supervision, in the course common to the whole class.
To carry out this plan, there is need of such concentration of subjects as I have mentioned; there should be never more than one or at most two main subjects -- history, geography, natural science -- studied at once. Moreover no more than one language should be studied at the same time; practice in those already learnt is to be acquired by literary readings, written résumés, and conversation.
of concentration is necessary. Not every subject should be split
up into subdivisions but history should be made to include literary
history, church history, etc. In geography at the early stage,
a part of natural science should be included, and the history
of art combined with both. Another not less important method implied
in concentration is in all general courses to direct one's attention
to the main questions, and to sacrifice the mass of details. Detailed
work should not have been incorporated, as indispensable for general
culture (from generation to generation), during the constant growth
of the contents or knowledge.
In regard to instruction, methods now popular should be forced out of the field. The two obligatory features, the careful hearing of lessons by the teacher, and the equally careful preparation of the next lesson, must be changed for other methods according to the age of the scholar, the special character of the subject, and of the scholar himself; or according to the particular stage of the subject. At one time the teacher should give an attractive, comprehensive account of a period, a character, a land, a natural phenomenon. Another time it will be enough to give a simple, introductory reference to the reading of one or more works on the subject, best of all an original authority. Sometimes he should require an oral account of what he has said, or what has been read; sometimes this should be done in writing. When the lesson is filled with many facts the scholar should write them down in the hour; another time he should summarise them from memory. An assigned amount too can be gone through along with the teacher's explanation; on another occasion, the assignment need not be gone over at all, but the scholars could show their capacity to understand it and comprehend it without assistance. Occasionally the task might be done in a short time from one day to another, sometimes it might take a longer period.
But this work would, as has been said, take place ordinarily in the school. Purely literary readings and books of a similar type must be assigned for work at home, to be done during a considerable length of time. For we all know that the reading which has made a deep impression on us was only what was read freely; reading for which we ourselves could set the time, place, and inclination. And since, in this case, the important thing is the impression, not the knowledge, freedom is more important than in other subjects. Individual initiative can be furthered by having the teacher, as is done in France, explain in passing all words and subjects in a poem difficult to understand. The teacher too should now and then, by reading poetry aloud, stimulate the desire of the scholar to learn more of the same poet. A poem has the greatest effect when it is presented unexpectedly. When a history lesson is ended there should be read aloud a passage from an historical poem. Scholars do not forget either the poem, or the episode handled in it, even if they forget everything else. But test questions, used in the period of literature-study, go in at one ear and out at the other.
A teacher who wishes to use this concentrated system in detail, that rests on the intelligent co-operation of the scholar, will naturally find that the method is to be derived from the personality of the teacher himself. I think the teacher of history should not take up the prehistoric period, but should give the scholar some good popular work on it and let him go to a museum; he should then require a written essay, to be illustrated by the scholar with drawings of characteristic types of archaeological specimens. In the same way, he could give a comparative view of the same period among other people. Then, if there were a scholar especially anxious to learn, he could put in his hands a work about the primitive condition of man. Every teacher, man or woman, can easily think out, for the subjects they teach, analogous methods. The teacher of geography who is talking about Siberia can give some good general description of it to all the scholars for their private study. Those particularly interested would be recommended to read a narrative of travels in Siberia, Dostojewsky's Out of the Dead House, and so on. If the teacher of history were taking up Napoleon, he could read in the French hour a work like Vigny's Servitude et Grandeur Militaire. For the Dutch War of Independence, Motley's history, Goethe's Egmont, and Schiller's Don Carlos could be read. A whole book could be written on plans like these, with indications how the different fields of knowledge could supplement one another, how history, geography, literature, and art could be intertwined just as on the other side geography and natural science. Similarly it would show how different teachers could be of use to one another in communicating to their scholars a fuller knowledge.
I should like to propose an hypothesis for discussion and examination that I have formulated, after a wide experience in story-telling, both as a listener and as a narrator. If I might put together in a statement, without intending to prove it, the result of my experience in the subject named, I should say that the mental food which is most attractive for the child, also gives the most nourishment. This is the fact that the physiology of our day has proved in the case of the organic existence of the child. Pedagogy is beginning, consciously or unconsciously, to apply it to the mental sphere, yet without daring to hold that nature is so simple, that need and inclination can be so nearly related. Naturally, it cannot be maintained that what is most attractive for children's stories should constitute their whole training, as physiology maintains that what tastes most agreeable to the child, for example sugar, should form his sole nourishment.
What every story-teller finds as specially attractive to children, is the epic smoothness, the clear comprehensiveness of the tale, its consistent objectivity. Every narrative which will win the attention of the child, whether it be from Scandinavian, classical, or biblical history, must have these characteristics of the tale. There are hardly any story-tellers who so completely absorb children as old nurses. They never forget any picturesque trait in the tale, they always give the same broad, full narrative. They tell their stories without explanations and without applications, with the real direct feeling of the child for grasping the subject. Everything which disturbs the smooth flow of the narrative, above all, when the narrator puts himself outside of it by indulging in a joke, strikes the child as a profound incongruity. Children are always more or less artistic in their nature, in the sense that they desire to receive an impression in its purity, not as a means to something else. They wish through the story to go through a real experience; at the same time they will say "No," if they are asked whether they would prefer to hear a real history to a story. This apparent contradiction can be explained in this way: the tale presents reality, as reality is conceived of by the naive fancy of early ages, and is in just the form in which the imagination of the child can receive it.
In telling stories, we find, besides, that what attracts children is the narrative of actions; in this roundabout way they get hold of emotions and sentiments. The development of the child -- this is a truth which has to be worked out before it can really be taken in -- answers in miniature to the development of mankind as a whole. And it follows from this that children combine idealism and realism, as epic national poetry does. Great, good, heroic, supernatural traits affect them most; but only in a concrete shape sensibly perceived, with the richness of the power which comes from life, without any adaptation to our present conceptions.
We can test this by telling a real folk-lore tale, and Anderson's version of it. With a few exceptions children are unanimous in calling the first type the most beautiful.
Besides what is attractive for lively children, with sound appetites, is quantity, but in no way multiplicity.
First of all they ask whether the story is long after they have begun to hope that it is beautiful. They are glad to hear the same story innumerable times; they have an unconscious need for thorough assimilation, just as soon as what is given to them harmonises with their stage of development. This is true of all subjects. I know children who detest the "choice stories" from the Bible, with which their morning prayers are commenced, but who read the New Testament as a story-book. In this respect, all small children are like great ones, the artists. The imagination of children requires full, entire, deep impressions, as material for their energies that are incessantly creating and reconstructing. And if their sound feeling has not been disturbed by a dualism foreign to them it brings them with remarkably sure instinct to choose the sound, pure, and beautiful, and to reject the unsound, hateful, and crude. Finally, we find in story-telling that children much prefer continuity of impressions though they are said to express preference for change. We never hear children say, "Now tell a funny story, the one before was too gloomy." But if we commence telling gloomy stories they want one after another of the same type. If we had begun telling amusing stories, they never tire of laughing. The changeableness of children in playing, reading, and working is not so general a characteristic of childish nature as is believed. It is true only of children whose readings and games are not adapted to their nature and inclinations. Changeableness is, in a certain way, nature's self-defence against what is unconsciously injurious.
As to comic
narratives, it is found in storytelling that the child has the
most keen sense for the humour of a situation. On the other hand
they have hardly a trace of feeling for the humour that rests
on deep intellectual contrasts, least of all for humour of the
ironical type. If a narrative out of their own world is really
to make impression on them, it must be like a tale, full of life,
with action and surprises, broad and naive in its style, without
any noticeable aim. All the children's books which children through
their life recollect and by which they are impressed, are those
that at least in one way or another fulfil these conditions. The
rest give other impressions, but even so they become no more harmless
than arsenic wall-paper covered by fresh undyed layers. As to
the humour of children, it can be easily tested. We can tell them
the most comic psychological children's stories; ninety-nine out
of a hundred they will declare to be terribly stupid, while a
simple history presenting a funny situation doubles them up with
Children do not feel drawn to abstract things; this is an old truth, whose correctness is established best by story-telling. All virtues and qualities, no matter how well concealed they may be, are very quickly pronounced stupid by children. For fables, children have seldom any taste, least of all for essays. The introduction of a fox or a bear into the story or in a real adventure makes the story-teller the dearest friend of children. But the most lively and childish essay on the bear or the fox leaves them cold, unless it is made real by some personal experience in the country or by a visit to a zoölogical garden. This truth is so recognised and proved from so many points of view, that I will simply say here that experience in story-telling gives additional evidence of it. Children show, in listening to stories, a finely developed sensitiveness to all attempts to descend to, or to adopt, the standpoint of the child, to everything that is artificial in the narrative. In intercourse with children, especially with those who represent progressive methods, can be seen how the reaction against the old lesson and hidebound methods has produced an artificial naïveté, a richness of illustrations, and a liveliness that children soon feel as something specially prepared for them, something not quite real. This way of partially giving to children their own imaginative power puts them to sleep, even when it succeeds at first in giving them a good entertainment in their lessons. For the illustrations and comparisons, as well as the consequences which another has thought out for them, obstruct the initiative of the child; besides they are all soon forgotten. It is the same with playthings; those they make themselves give inexhaustible pleasure, while those that are ready made only confer joy once or twice. They are shown and then broken in pieces in order to extract the clockwork, for this is the only possible way for the child to do something with it himself. Instruction is beginning to resemble children's playthings and children's books; it is too complete, too richly illustrated. It hinders individual free voyages of discovery of the imagination. Even good illustrations are often injurious; but we do not intend to speak at length on this subject. As a matter of fact children often feel themselves deceived by illustrations.
The reserve in a story is also a property that attracts the child. Its pictures are indicated with a few definite but repeated details. The imagination is allowed to fill the picture with colours. The uniformity, the rhythm, and the symmetry, all qualities belonging to the folk-lore tale, are for the child extremely absorbing. They enjoy such repetitions as "the first, second, and third year" and so on, quite like the refrain in rhyme and poetry.
But all these observations lead to a final result. The present reading-book system is neither the most attractive for children, nor does it best supply them with what they want. Instead of epic smoothness and unity, reading-books bring a confused mixture of all kinds, nursery rhymes, religious teaching, poetry, natural history, and history. Occasionally there comes a tale or a real poem, standing apart distinctly from its neighbours, in tone and in comprehensiveness. Instead of clear impressions, children get through the reading-book a disturbing jumble; instead of objectivity, they get instructive children's stories; instead of poetry, edifying versification; instead of action, reflection; instead of much of one thing, a little of everything; instead of continuity of impressions, constant change; instead of concrete impressions of life, essays; instead of naïve tales, things written down to their level.
I ask what is the result of this reading-book system on the development of the child from six to sixteen years old?
What, in general, is the result on the development of character when one flits from impression to impression, nipping in flight at different things, letting one picture after another slip away, making no halt anywhere?
As to the effect on adults, immediate answers can be given. These answers are so unfavourable that they do not need to be repeated. But, should a principle which applies to the adult be less suitable for the child? It really applies much more to the child. Adults generally have some work, some occupation, some one centre around which they can arrange manifold events, change may often be advantageous for them; but the whole school day of the child is change; the way the child absorbs knowledge is by the teaspoonful. Is not this condition enough to urge us to work with all our might against the system of diffusion wherever it is unnecessary?
In reading-books diffusion is not necessary; in foreign languages, as in his own tongue, the interest of the child is much more stimulated by a book than by a reader; his vocabulary is increased. But even if this were not the case, what the child gains through reading-books, in quick readiness in the mother tongue or in foreign languages, does not compensate for the loss their use signifies in development in the way already mentioned.
The schools deal improperly with the mental powers of youth, through their lack of specialising, of concentration, in their depreciation of initiative, in their being out of touch with reality.
High schools and colleges are absolutely destructive to personality. Here, where only oral examinations should.take place from time to time, where all studies should tend to be individual, the hunger of the scholar for reality is hardly satisfied in any direction. Nothing is done to help his longing to see for himself, to read, to judge, to get impressions at first-hand, not from second-hand reports.
Certainly here, too, the direction of the reacher is necessary. He can economise superfluous work by clarifying generalisations; he can criticise a one-sided account in order to complete the picture fully himself. Often the teacher must excite interest by a vigorous account from his own point of view; by a fine psychological study, he can illustrate a complex historical picture. He will help the scholar to find laws, governing the phenomena which he has come to know by his own experiments, or he can suggest comparisons which lead to such experiments. Here, also, oral and written exercise must have great weight.
But the end of all instruction in college, as in the school, should not consist in examinations and diplomas; these must be obliterated from the face of the earth. The aim should be that the scholars themselves, at first hand, should acquire their knowledge, should get their impressions, should form their opinions, should work their way through to intellectual tastes, not as they now do, taking no trouble themselves, but being supposed to acquire these gifts through interesting lectures given by the teacher on five different subjects, heard every morning while the students are dozing, and soon forgotten. Facts slip away from every one's memory, quickest from the memory of those who have learned according to the dose and teaspoonful system. But education happily is not simply the knowledge of facts, it is, as an admirable paradox has put it, what is left over after we have forgotten all we have learnt.
The richer one is in such permanent acquisitions, the greater the profit of study. The more subjective pictures we have; the more numerous our vibrating emotions and associations of ideas are; the more we are filled with suggestively active impressions; -- so much the more development we have, won by study for our personality. The fact that our students acquire so little, even if they have passed through every school with excellent marks, is a serious injustice they feel during their whole life. The beautifully systematised, ticketed, checkerboard knowledge given by examinations soon disappears. The person who has kept his desire for knowledge and his capacity for work by his free choice and by his independent labor can easily fill out the gaps left by this method of study in the knowledge he has acquired.
Only the person
who by knowledge has obtained a view of the great connected system
of existence, the connection between nature and man's life, between
the present and the past, between peoples and ideas, cannot lose
his education. Only the person who, through the mental nourishment
he has received, sees more clearly, feels more ardently, has absorbed
completely the wealth of life, has been really educated. This
education can be gained in the most irregular way, perhaps around
the hearth or in the field, on the seashore or in the wood; it
can be acquired from old tattered books or from nature itself.
It can be terribly incomplete, very one-sided, but how real, personal,
and rich it appears to those who for the period of fifteen years
in school have ground out the wheat on strange fields, like oxen
with muzzled mouths! Our age cries for personality; but it will
ask in vain, until we let our children live and learn as personalities,
until we allow them to have their own will, think their own thoughts,
work out their own knowledge, form their own judgments; or, to
put the matter briefly, until we cease to suppress the raw material
of personality in schools, vainly hoping later on in life to revive
VI: The School of the Future
I should like to set down here briefly my dreams of a future school, in which the personality may receive a free and complete self-development. I purposely say "dreams," because I do not want any one to believe that I am pretending in the following outline to give a reformed programme for the present time.
My first dream is that the kindergarten and the primary school will be everywhere replaced by instruction at home.
Undoubtedly a great influence has proceeded from that whole movement which has resulted, among other things, in the Pestalozzi-Froebel kindergartens, and in institutions modelled after them. Better teachers have been produced by it; but what I regard as a great misfortune, is the increasing inclination to look upon the crèche, the kindergarten, and the school as the ideal scheme of education. Every discussion dealing with the possibilities of women working in public life exalts the advantage of freeing the mother from the care of children, emancipating children from the improper care of their mothers, and giving women possibilities of work outside of the home. Mrs. Perkins Stetson proposes as a compromise, that every mother, pedagogically qualified, shall take care of a group of children along with her own. But what her own children will receive under such conditions is sufficiently shown in the case of those poor children who grow up in educational institutions presided over by their parents; and also by the experience of the poor parents who are not able under these conditions to look after their own children.
The crèche and the kindergarten were and continue to be a blessing undoubtedly for those innumerable mothers who work outside of their homes and are badly prepared for their duties. Some type of kindergarten will perhaps be necessary under particular circumstances as a partial substitute for the home, as, for example, when a child has no companions to play with, or when the mother herself is disinclined or not able to educate the child. This incapacity is ordinarily the result of an extremely nervous temperament, caused by weak will or depression.
Mary Wollstonecraft's remarks, made more than a hundred years ago, still call for our approval. "If children are not physically murdered by their ignorant mothers, they are ruined psychically by the inability of the mother to bring them up. Mothers, in those first six years that determine the whole development of the child's character, turn them over to the hands of servants, whose authority is often undermined by the way in which they are treated. Then children are passed on to school to control the bad behaviour which the vigilance of the mother could have prevented, and which she controls with means that become the basis for all kinds of vices." But because such cases are still frequent and because there will always be mothers incapable of bringing their children up, it would be a premature assumption to believe that the majority of women cannot be trained to become parents, if the development of the woman has this end in view. One of the tasks of the future is the creation of a generation of trained mothers, who among other things will emancipate children from the kindergarten system. Children are handled in crowds from two and three years up, they are made to appear before the public in crowds, made to work on the one plan, made to do the same petty, idiotic, and useless tasks. In this way, we believe at the present time that we are forming men, while actually we are only training units. Any one who remembers how, as a child, he played on the beach or in the wood, in a big nursery or in an old-fashioned attic, or has seen other children playing in these surroundings, will know how such unrestrained play deepens the soul, increases the capacity for invention, and stimulates the imagination a hundredfold more than children's games and occupations devised by the arrangement, and promoted by the interference, of elder persons. Adults are accustomed to amuse children in crowds, a custom which comes from intellectual vulgarity, instead of leaving them alone to amuse themselves. Besides this system encourages children to produce what they do not need, and leads them to imagine that they are working by so doing. Children should be taught to despise all the numerous unnecessary things which put life on a false level and make it artificial. They should be taught to try to simplify it, to aim for its supreme values; this should be the end of education. The kindergarten system is, on the contrary, one of the most effective means to produce the weak dilettante and the self-satisfied average man.
If there is any further need for the kindergarten in the near or distant future, let it be a place where children may have the same freedom as cats or dogs, to play by themselves, and for themselves, to think out something of their own, where they can be provided with means to carry out their own plans, where they have companions to play with them. A sensible woman may be near at hand to look on or to supervise, but only to interfere when the children are likely to hurt themselves. Let her draw something for them occasionally, tell them a story, or teach them an amusing game, but otherwise let her be apparently quite passive and yet untiringly active in the observation of the traits of character and of disposition which play of this free type reveals. In like manner the mother should observe the play of children, their treatment of their companions at play, their inclinations, and collect as much material as she can but interfere as little directly as possible. The mother finally by this constant, many-sided, strenuous, yet passive kind of observation gets a knowledge of the child that is partially exact. One being never learns to know another being entirely, not even when that being has received its life from the other, not even when that life is daily renewed by the other being, in order to reach the full happiness of spiritual motherhood. It has been well said that as people regard the birth of a child as the sign of physical maturity, the education of a child is regarded as a sign of psychical maturity. But through lack in psychological insight, most parents remain their whole life immature. They can have the best principles, the most zealous fidelity to duty, combined with absolute blindness to the nature of children, the real causes of their actions, and the different combinations of different characteristics.
Take some examples of the worst blunders of this type; the small child is often called vain who studies, full of interest, his own identity in the glass; the child who, from fear or confusion at a hard or incomprehensible question, does not answer or obey is called stubborn; the child that cannot explain his actions in those small things which adults every day entirely forget is looked upon as lying; and even before the child has a conception of the right of property, when he pilfers, he is called thievish. The child who says that he knows that he is naughty, and wants to be naughty, is called obdurate and impertinent, while this statement is really a self-confession and shows a character to which one may appeal with the best results. The child, sunk in thought, who forgets the small things of daily life, people call thoughtless. Even when a child is really selfish and is really lying or lazy, these characteristics are treated as if they were something individual, while actually they are caused often by some serious fault which must be dealt with. These characteristics can proceed from a good quality which may be destroyed, if the fault is not treated suitably.
But even parents who now observe their children with more psychological insight than was used in earlier times are not able to study them, if their children go to school and kindergarten at an early age. This want of insight produces mistakes which often cause deep antagonisms between children and their parents, the sort of thing which now embitters so many households. Only fathers and mothers who reverence the individuality of their children, and combine with this feeling a careful observation of them through their whole life, are able to avoid this typical fault of our own time. People expect to gather grapes from thistles, instead of being satisfied with haws. Parents must see that they cannot create where there is no material to be created. But they must be capable of developing the characteristics which they discover in the nature of their children. This work they must undertake with optimism and resignation, for it represents the teaching of real psychological study. This will stop those efforts, painful alike for children and parents, that are applied in directions which offer no reward to effort.
But the study of the psychology of the child, begun at its birth, continued in its play, its work, its rest, means a daily comparative study, and requires the undivided attention of one person. It can only be done by a person who has charge of but a few children; in a crowd it is impossible. It is all the more impossible because children in a crowd resemble one another more or less; and this makes observation more difficult.
The kindergarten is only a factory. Children learn in it to model, instead of making mud pies according to their own taste. This process is typical of what these small atoms of humanity go through themselves. From the first floor of the factory the objects that have been turned out there are sent to the next floor above, the school; and from this they then go out put up in packages.
The aim of school
training is to carry out, with all its might, production by quantities
that expresses the demands of our time in all spheres. The invention
of individual school methods may reduce the influence of "canned
As long as there are large cities, poor children in them must be able to obtain the possibilities of country children. Their playthings must be made out of the world which surrounds them. The obligations of their own home must supply them with work. This is altogether different from the play work of the kindergarten that has no connection with the seriousness of reality. A wise mother or teacher will adopt from the kindergarten system just so much as will enable her to teach children to observe nature and their surroundings; will take from it what enables her to make them combine their activity with some useful end; their amusement with some kind of knowledge.
The Froebel dictum, "Let us live for the children," must be changed into a more significant phrase, " Let us allow the children to live." This, among other things, means "let them be emancipated from the burden of learning by heart," from the forms of system, from the pressure of the crowd, in those years while the quiet, secret work of the soul is as vital for them as the growing of the seed in the earth. The kindergarten system is opposed to this; it is forcing up the seed to life on a plate, where it looks very pretty, but only for the time being.
The school with its esprit de corps opens the way public lack of conscience. Modern society manages thus to reproduce the crimes of every past period; manages too, to reproduce them through men who are conscientious in their own private life. For those without consciences, who lead criminal movements, would never be able to put the masses of people in motion, unless they were just masses and nothing more; unless they were made to follow collective laws of honour, collective patriotic feelings, collective conceptions of duty. The child learns to be obedient to his school, to be loyal to his comrades, just as later on in life he learns these qualities as they are presented in his university, his student society, and his profession. All of this he learns sooner than to reverence his conscience, his feeling of right, his individual impulse. He learns to wink at, pardon, and disguise the sins committed by his own circle of companions, his own club, and his own country.
This is the way the world produces its "Dreyfus Affairs," its Transvaal Wars. If the aim is to create men and not masses, we should follow the educational programme of the great statesman Stein -- "to develop all those impulses on which the value and strength of mankind depend." This is only possible when the child is taught, at the earliest age, the freedom and danger of his own choice, the right and responsibility of his own will, the conditions and duties of being put to the test himself. All of these elements of character are unconsciously opposed by the kindergarten; the home alone can develop them. The highest result of education is to bring the individual into contact with his own conscience. This does not mean that the individual cannot experience by degrees the happiness and the necessity of being a factor in the service of the whole, first in his home, then among his companions and in his country, and finally in the world. The difference is this: in the first case the man is a living cell, co-operating and building up living forms; in the other he is a piece of cut stone used in artificial construction.
Both for the development of individuality, as well as for the cultivation of the emotions, the home is to be preferred to the kindergarten and to the school. In the limited small circle of the home the emotional element can be deepened and tenderness can be developed, by the acts called for in the realities of domestic life. The kindergarten first, and then the school, free children from their natural individual obligations and put in their place demands that can only be fulfilled en masse. The child enters into a number of superficial relations. This situation tends to make his emotions superficial; here is the great danger of beginning school life at a tender age. On the other hand a one-sided home life brings with it the danger of concentrating the emotions to an excess. Education at home in the years when the emotions become harmonious and receive their decisive training is just as important for the child as is later on a pleasant sociable life with others of the same age, after the twelfth year is passed. All intellectual cultivation done according to the most excellent method, all social feelings, are worthless unless they have as their basis an individual development of the emotions. Somewhere in our body we must have a heart, to act as a real balance against our head. Only the man who has learnt to love a few, deep enough to die for them, is able to live profitably for the many.
I should like to see not only the kindergarten but the preparatory school transferred to the home. There things can be considered that are never taken into account in a general school. The child need not have the nourishment he does not want, and which he does not need, at the time he now generally receives it. In the home school, one child can put off reading to a later age, another can be taught reading early. The desire for action in one child can be satisfied; the book-hunger of the other encouraged. Bodily development, the desire to make a real acquaintance with external nature can be considered in home work, play, and out-of-door activities. Then we can begin to teach when the child himself asks for teaching; that is, when he wishes to hear or do something in which knowledge alone can assist him. The child can twice as easily learn at ten years, under these conditions, what he now learns at eight; at eight what he now learns at six, if he comes to his study with developed powers of observation and an eager desire for action. Schools can never attain a full insight into the peculiar character of personality, into the ways in which knowledge must be placed before different individuals, into the right time for taking a subject or giving it up. The home school must be considered the ideal method where the child studies with a small group of well-selected companions. Individuality can be considered, plans of study and courses can be neglected. Through such neglect only, is a real living instruction possible. The advantages the modern school has over the home are hardly worth discussing. The order of the school, its method, system, and discipline, so much praised by its advocates as advantages, are, from my point of view, nothing but disadvantages. Habits of fulfilling duties, or work, orderly and punctual activity, that belong to a sound education, can be attained in the home school through far less artificial means. Of course it is urged as another advantage of the school that the school child becomes a member of a small community where he learns social duties. But the home is the natural community where the child, in full seriousness, learns the real social duties of readiness to help, and readiness to a while the present-day school artificially replaces that domestic social education, of which the child is now robbed by studies at school and preparation at home. The real value of school life among companions can be had from the home school without its ordinary dangers. These dangers are not only evil influences, but, more than anything else, that collective process of reaching a standard of stupidity, due to the pressure of public opinion that comes from association in masses. The fear of common opinion, of being laughed at, is created in the receptive years of childhood, so open to such influences. The slightest deviation in dress, or taste, is criticised unsparingly. If an investigation were conducted on the sufferings of children through the tyranny of their fellows, a tyranny which sometimes takes harsher, sometimes milder forms, it would upset the prejudice that the usefulness of the school in this respect cannot be replaced.
Besides there is the levelling pressure of a uniform discipline, which stunts personality from above, while life with school companions restricts it on all sides. Every criticism on this formal pedantry is met with the answer, "In a school it is absolutely impossible to permit children to do what can be done in the household; only fancy if all children in the school were to sharpen their lead pencils or erase words in their exercises." There is no need to insist further on this point. Hundreds of petty rules must exist, we are told, for the sake of discipline. And even if the rules could be reduced to a fourth of their present cubic contents, even the best schools would still feel the pressure of uniformity. The more this pressure is resisted by individuals, so much the better.
Education in the first years must aim to strengthen individuality. The whole of biographical literature supplies an almost uniform proof of the importance of not commencing too early the levelling social education of the school. Early attendance at school is one of the reasons why we so frequently meet, as Dumas says, so many clever children, and so many stupid adults.
Almost all great men and women, who have thought and created for themselves, have received either no education in school at all, or have gone to school at a rather later period, with longer or shorter interruptions, or have been trained in different schools. In most cases it was an accident, some living point of view, a book read in secret, a personal choice of subject that gave these exceptional beings their training. In this respect Goethe's education was ideal, considered apart from some pedantry due to his father's influence. At his mother's work-table he learnt to know the Bible; French he learnt from a theatrical company; English from a language master, in company with his father; Italian, because he heard his sister being taught the language; mathematics from a friend in the household, a study which Goethe applied immediately, first in cardboard diagrams, later in architectural drawings. His essays he prepared in the form of a correspondence in different languages between different relatives, scattered in various parts of the world. Geography he eagerly studied in books of travel in order to be able to give his narrative local colour. He knocked about with his father, learnt to observe different kinds of handwork, and also to try himself small experiments of his own skill.
But some one
may say, all men are not geniuses, and accordingly the majority
without distinct talent need the school. Is it possible that the
connection between originality and irregular attendance at school
is merely accidental? How often does the school sin in its watering
down of originality! As for unoriginal people, the argument urged
here is an application of the biblical axiom, that from him who
has nothing even the little will be taken away. I mean the individual
who has no distinct personality will be forced in the school to
give up the little that he can call his own. The old-fashioned
school, where a few subjects were learnt by heart, where the teachers
were often badly prepared, where the students could go to sleep
or pretend to learn, where the courses were simple and attention
concentrated on Latin, seems barbarous to us. But it had less
danger for the personality than the present-day school with its
thorough preparation, its interest in readings, its perfected
methods, its capital instructors who take every little stone out
of the student's road, and prepare as much delightful intellectual
nourishment as possible, sometimes even in a cooked-up form. This
"good school" with its over-insistence on versatility
is responsible for the nervousness of our day. Its general intellectual
apathy has caused the negativeness of our times.
The quietest, most obedient child is thought the best pupil, that is, the most impersonal individual is the model. So we see how the school confuses its conception of values. The more the soul and body are passive, are willing to be controlled and receptive, so much the better are the results from the school standpoint. Mischievous children, obstinate characters, one-sided and original natures, are always martyrs at school because of their desire for action, their spirit of opposition, their so-called "stupidity." Only the easy-going, amiable, commonly endowed natures can keep some of their own individual tendencies, slip through the school, and at the same time get good certificates of industry, moral character, order, and progress. In the first-class modern school, the mobile structure of personality is forced into shape -- or rather it is knocked about by wind and waves, like a pebble on the seashore. It is struck by one wave after another, day by day, term by term; on they come -- forty-five minutes for religious instruction, the same period for history, then French, then sloyd, then natural history; the next day new subjects in new, small doses. In the afternoon, there is preparation at home, and writing exercises, previously arranged and marked out, then corrected with care, and the prepared readings made the basis of questioning by the most approved methods, the mother having at home first gone over them with the child. These powerful billows stupefy the brain, and take the edge off the souls of both teacher and scholar. Even the most active teachers move along fettered by requirements and prejudices, unconditional necessities and methodical principles. Only occasionally is a soul saved from this fate by total skepticism. Some exalt this pettifogging professionalism to a plan of salvation, others are untiringly busy in changing details, in discussing minor improvements. Every real thoroughgoing reform affecting the principle, not the methods alone, goes to pieces, because it conflicts with the system supported by the state. It fails, through the obedient acceptance of the system on the part of parents, through the incapacity of teachers to look at the whole results of the system, through their disinclination to all radical methods of improvement.
The school, like the home and society, in general should aim to fight more vigorously and more successfully the influences belittling life, and should further its development towards ever higher forms. This end is opposed by the modern schools. It is a gross mistake to hold up their excellent material and their number as proofs of popular culture. How the people are educated in the schools, how the material is used, what subjects are pursued in them are the momentous questions.
Goethe's saying that "fortune is the development of our capacities" is as applicable to children as to adults. What these capacities are can be determined soon in the case of the talented child; his future can be secured by obtaining for him the possibility of such a development. But there are common capacities, proper to every normal human being, and from their development, fortune too can be the outcome. Among such capacities is memory, which modern man has nearly destroyed. "We throw ashes," says Max Müller, "every day on the glowing coals of memory while men of past ages could retain in their minds the treasures of our present literature." To these capacities belong, among others, power of thought, not in the sense of philosophic thinking, but in the simpler use of the word, gifts of observation, ability to draw conclusions and to exercise judgment. Of the common universal human faculties the emotions suffer most at the hand of the modern school.
One of the fundamentally wrong pedagogical assumptions, is that mathematics and grammar develop the understanding. This is only true after a higher stage is reached in these courses. But there is no one who seriously maintains that, so far as nature or man is concerned, he has used directly or indirectly, in a single observation, conclusion, or exercise of judgment, the theses, hypotheses, statements, problems, the rules and exceptions, of mathematics and grammar, with which his childish brain was burdened. I have heard from mathematicians and philologians the same heresy that I am proclaiming, that mathematics and grammar, when they are not pursued as sciences, must be reduced to a minimum. Provided a person has mathematical talent, the study of mathematics is naturally agreeable, through the development of a capacity in a certain direction. If one has the gift for languages, the same is true of linguistic study. But without such special talent, these subjects have no educational value, because the powers of observation, drawing conclusions, exercising judgment, are just as undeveloped as they were before the mathematical problem was solved or the grammatical rules learned.
Life -- the life of nature and of man -- this alone is the preparation for life. What the world of nature and the world of man offers in the way of living forms, objects of beauty, types of work, processes of development, can, by natural history, geography, history, art, and literature, give real value to memory; can teach the understanding to observe, to judge and distinguish; can train the feeling to become intense, and through its intensity combine the varying material in that unity which alone is education. In brief, real things are what the home and school should offer children in broad, rich, and warm streams. But the streams should not be taken off in canals and dammed up by methods, systems, divisions of courses, and examinations.
I never read a pedagogical discussion without the fine words "self-activity, individual development, freedom of choice," suggesting to me the music which accompanies the sacrificial feasts of cannibals. The moment these words are used, limitations and reservations are introduced by their advocates. Their proposed application is ludicrously insignificant, in contrast with the great principle in the name of which they urge these changes. And so the pupil continues to be sacrificed to educational ideals, pedagogical systems, and examination requirements, that they refuse to abandon. The everlasting sin of the school against children is to be always talking about the child.
The sloyd system (manual dexterity, handwork, artistic production) has certain good results on children. Accordingly the sloyd must be introduced into the school, and all must be made to share the advantages of this training; but there are children for whom the sloyd is as inappropriate and as useless a requirement as learning Latin. The child who wants to devote himself to his books should be no more forced to take up the sloyd, than the child who is happy with his planing table should be dragged to literature.
All talk about "harmonious training" must be given the place where it belongs -- in the pedagogical culinary science. Certainly harmonious development is the finest result of man's training, but it is only to be attained by his own choice. It implies a harmony between the real capacities of the individual, not a harmony worked up from a pedagogical formula. The results from the school kneading trough with its mince-meat processes are something quite different.
Isolated reforms in the modern school have no significance; they will continue to have none, until we prepare for the great revolution, which will smash to pieces the whole present system and will leave not one stone of it upon another. Undoubtedly a "Deluge" of pedagogy must come, in which the ark need only contain Montaigne, Rousseau, Spencer, and the modern literature of the psychology of the child. When the ark comes to dry land man need not build schools but only plant vineyards where teachers will be employed to bring the ripe grapes to the children, who now get only a taste of the juice of culture in a thin watery mixture.
The school has
only one great end, to make itself unnecessary, to allow life
and fortune, which is another way of saying self-activity, to
take the place of system and method.
VII: Religious Instruction
At the present moment the most demoralising factor in education is Christian religious instruction. What I mean by this is principally catechism, Scripture history, theology, and church history. Even earnest Christians have said, regarding the ordinary instruction in these subjects, that nothing shows better how deeply religion is rooted in man's nature than the fact that "religious education" is not able to destroy religion.
But beside this, I believe that even a more living, a more actual instruction in Christianity injures the child. Children should bring themselves by themselves to live in the patriarchal world of the Old Testament; indeed, in the world of the New Testament as well. This can be done best in the form of children's Bibles. These works will be treasured by children; they will find in them infinite material for nourishing the imagination and the emotions. But this can only be done by allowing children to read the Bible undisturbed, without the need of pedagogical or dogmatic explanation. At home this book, like other children's books, should be only talked about and explained when the child requests it. It should never be treated as a school book or appear on the school desk. If the child gets impressions in this way from the Bible, freed from all other authority, apart from the subjective one of the impressions themselves, the myths of the Bible will no more contradict the rest of his instruction, than the Scandinavian story of creation or the Greek legends of the gods.
But the most dangerous of all educational mistakes in influencing humanity, is due to the fact, that children are now taught the Old Testament account of the world as absolute truth, although it wholly contradicts their physical and historical instruction. Besides children learn to regard the morality of the New Testament as absolutely binding, while its commands are everywhere seen to be transgressed by the child, the moment he takes his first step into life. Our whole industrial and capitalistic society rests on a contradiction of the Christian command to love one's neighbour as one's self. The capitalistic axiom is that every man is nearest neighbour to himself.
The eyes of children are here and in similar cases, clear-sighted in their simplicity. At a tender age they are able to observe whether their surroundings are in living accord with Christian teaching. From a four-year-old child, with whom I was talking about Jesus commandment to love one another, I received the reply, "If Jesus really said so, Papa is no Christian." Before long the child gets into conflict with his instructors and with the commands of Christianity. A small child in a Swedish city took the word of Jesus about charity to heart. Not only his playthings, but his clothes he gave to the poor; his parents cured, by corporal punishment, this practical type of Christianity. A teacher who was impressing on a small girl in a Finnish city the commandment to love one's enemies, received as an answer that this was impossible, for no one in Finland could love Bobrikoff.
I know the sophism used in both cases to overcome the invulnerable logic of the child; but I also know how these sophisms make hypocrisy so natural among Christians, that it is now unconscious. It would take a new Kirkegaard to shake up our consciences. Everywhere Rousseau's words hold true, "The child gets high principles to direct him, but he is forced by his surroundings to act according to petty principles, every time he wishes to put the high ones into practice." He goes on to say people have innumerable "ifs" and "buts," by which the child has to learn that great principles are only words, that the reality of life is something quite different.
The dangerous thing is not that the ideal of Christianity is high; it comes from the fact that every ideal in its essence is unattainable. The nearer we get to it the more lofty it is. This is the characteristic of every ideal. But the demoralising feature in Christianity as an ideal is, that it is presented as absolute, while man as a social being is obliged to transgress it every day. Besides he is taught in his religious instruction, that as a fallen being he cannot in any case attain the ideal, although the only possibility of his living righteously in temporal things, and happily in the world to come, depends on his capacity for realising it.
In this net of unsolvable contradictions, generation after generation has seen its ideal of belief obscured. Gradually each new generation has learned not to take its new ideal seriously. As to the cowardly or braggart concessions to the idiocies of fashion, and the follies by which people are ruined in order to live according to their position, among other psychological grounds for man's lack of steadiness must be placed, as its ultimate cause, the following: The child, along with religion, has breathed in the conviction that opinions are one thing, actions another. This experience goes through the whole of life, even in the case of those who have lost the conviction that the Christian religion is absolute. The freethinker is married, has his children baptised, and allows them to be confirmed, without considering whether he is forced to it by his own wish, or the wish of doing like other people. The republican sings the royal hymn, sends loyal salutations by telegraph, accepts decorations, -- but I must break off, otherwise I should have to enumerate all the small acts of insincerity to one's self, of which the daily life of most people consists, and which are defended under the name of non-essentials; I could never get to the end. This is not the way the Christian martyrs thought who might have freed themselves from death by casting a few grains of incense on the emperor's altar. Two grains of incense, -- what an unimportant matter, thinks the modern man, and with quiet conscience he daily sacrifices to many gods in whom he does not believe.
How illogical Protestantism is too, and yet for so long it possessed a spiritually educative power, while its dualism was unsuspected, while one with full sincerity gave to holiday and work day its due share. But now that a new Protestantism is come to life within the fold of Protestantism, this method of speaking in two voices is deeply demoralising.
Piece by piece has been torn down that system of teaching which the Catholic church built up, so wonderfully adapted to the psychological needs of the majority of people. It formed its fundamental creeds, just as they still remain, on the deepest experiences of mankind. But Protestantism is ever looking back from the results of its own handiwork.
In home, in the school, in the high school, during military service, in office work, everywhere passive dependence is insisted on under the name of discipline, discretion, faithfulness to duty. And like all the fine words, by which the living souls of men are turned into the slaves of discipline, these terms exalt esprit de corps, and pass over really serious faults. Discipline means subordinating one's self to every crude force. Only when all Protestants really become actual Protestants, and refuse to receive the greatest good of life, their religion, through authority, will they begin even in social and political questions to attain an independent opinion of their own. As teachers and leaders, they will secure for school children, and for students, for officers and for officials, the freedom in word and deed that is the right of the citizen and the man. Men and women, who in their private life are strictly honourable, have learnt, in general questions, to put their thoughts, their acts, under the command of a leader, and above all they have learnt to do this in the name of religious belief.
to construct one's own opinion in everything that makes the essential
worth of life, but chiefly in one's religious belief, the power
to express it, the will of making some sacrifice for it, all these
give man a new share of civilisation and culture. As long as education
and social life do not consciously forward this kind of courage,
power, and will, the world will remain as it is, a parade ground
of stupidity, crudeness, force, and selfishness, no matter whether
radicals or conservatives, the democratic or aristocratic elements,
have the upper hand.
The most demoralising of all principles of belief was the discouraging teaching that human nature was fallen and incapable of reaching holiness by its own effort -- the teaching that one could only come through grace and forgiveness of sins into a proper relation with temporal and eternal things. For those below the ordinary level, this position of grace produced spiritual stagnation, not to speak of the business people, who daily allowed the blood of Jesus to wipe out their day's debit in the score of morality. Only those who were naturally superior increased in holiness on being convinced that they were children of God in Christ. Mankind, on the whole, showed the deep demoralisation of a double morality. This dualism commenced as soon as the first Christians ceased to expect the return of Jesus, -- an expectation which brought their life into real unity with his teaching. But this double morality has for nineteen hundred years retained man's soul and the social order in practical heathenism. Although some pure and great spirits really received aid from Christianity in their longings for infinity, and although in the Middle Ages many strong hearts tried seriously to realise its teaching, yet the majority of mankind lived and lives still in wavering irresolution. This is the result of having no place to anchor to while the citizens of antiquity had an ethic, which could be translated into reality and could turn them into sincere, steadfast personalities.
Since nineteen hundred years have proved that there is no possibility, in a humanly constructed society, of living according to the teaching of Jesus, as a practical, infallible rule of holiness, man can escape this immoral duplicity only in one way: the way already travelled over by many separate individuals, who with Prometheus cry out, "Hast thou not, thyself, completed all, O holy glowing heart!" In other words, these individuals have become convinced that Christianity is the product of humanity. Just as little as any other product of humanity does it exhaust absolute and eternal truth.
When men cease to teach their children belief in an eternal providence, without whose will no sparrow falls from the roof, they will be able, instead of this, to imprint on the minds of children the new religious conception of the divinity of a world, proceeding according to law. The new morality will be built on this new religious idea. It will be filled with reverence for the absolute conjunction of cause and effect -- a connection which no grace can remove. Man's actions will really be directed by this certainty. He will not rock himself to sleep in any sort of hope, based on providence or a reconciliation, able to defer surely fixed effects. This new morality, strengthened by the realities of life, admits of logical consequences. No single command of this teaching needs to remain an empty phrase. In its system, too, there will be a place to apply all the eternal profound words uttered by Jesus or by other great human souls. These words will ever furnish further material for application, which is the same as saying material for self-application. Yet the application will be worked out in complete freedom. Each word will be used as furnishing the material just suited to that style which men wish to apply to the architecture of their personality. Yet neither the words nor the examples of one or the other teacher will be taught as absolutely binding.
The soul of the child will not be stained by tears of repentance for sins nor by the fear of hell. It will not be stained by a realism without ideas and without ideals, by the contemptuous mistrust, which the mouldering effects of fine words leave behind, like cold damp spots. The weak, as well as the strong, will progress in the happy and responsible belief in their own personality, as their only source of help. The pulse of their purpose will be strong and warm with red blood. They will not be forced to humility; they will not accept even equality with all others, or with any other one. On the contrary they will be strengthened in their right, to give their own individual stamp to their joys, their sufferings, and their works. They will be warned to do their best because it is their own; to seek their highest good, by drawing their own boundaries at the place where the rights of others begin.
While the home and the school make compromises between two opposed views of life, people obtain from neither of them any real good for the education of children. I have already shown how in one and the same school religious instruction and a certain amount of knowledge and love for nature as well as history can be communicated. In one and the same school the course of natural development and history can be taught in connection with instruction in religious history. In this instruction Judaism and Christianity will receive the first place. So the reverence and love children were wont to acquire for the personality and morality of Jesus, previously obtained in the Bible, can be increased. Guided by sincere and serious purposes one can select either plan. But, during religious instruction, to make Moses and Christ the absolute teachers of truth, and in the hours devoted to natural history, to expound Darwinism, cause more than anything else that want of logic, that moral laxity and flaccidity that can effect nothing and want nothing. Everything I have learnt, since these words were written, has strengthened a hundred fold my previous convictions that the most essential thing is not, what kind of view of life we have -- this may be important enough too -- but that we have enough capacity of faith to appropriate for ourselves some view of life, enough force to bring it to reality in life. But nothing works more depressingly on the ethical energy of growing generations than the dualistic view of life, received at the present time at school. The school too must exercise its choice; there must be no compromise between two schemes of education and two views of life, if the strength of will and the power of faith in young people is not to be broken. The question of a compromise is in this case not a question of application; it is a most important question of principle in education.
Since I set down these words, many points of view have been brought out in this connection. One which made a sensation when it was published, in 1890, was Professor Dodel's book, Moses or Darwin? The author showed how deeply Darwinism was implanted in science and in civilisation; how popular education was restricted, because it was kept remote from the scientific views of the present day and forced into the circle of ecclesiastical ideas. Religious instruction is simply a crime against the psychological law of development. For children are taught by a theological system to think about abstract conceptions, while they are in no condition to do it. The worst is, he said, that in high schools the theory of development is now taught as scientific truth, while in the common schools, built and maintained by the same government, the myth of the Mosaic story of creation continues to be taught, in the sharpest contrast with what science and living nature teach the child. This is an immoral and dishonest state of affairs that must be brought to an end.
It is my deepest conviction that man, without religion in the emotional element of his nature, can pursue no ideal ends, cannot see beyond his own personal interest, cannot realise great purposes, cannot be ready to sacrifice himself. Religious enthusiasm broadens our soul, binds us to the acts we hold as ideals. But because Christianity weighs upon the soul and can no longer be the connecting link of all factors in our conduct, earnest men are abandoning it more and more, influenced by purely religious reasons. Such men should not have their children brought up as Christians, under the excuse that the child requires Christianity. Here, as in other cases, in which adults are not agreed about what the child needs, we should try to get, not from adults but from children themselves, some information about their real needs. In this way we can learn that the child himself begins at a very early period to be concerned with the eternal riddles of mankind, to be troubled with the questions of whence and whither. At the same time one discovers that the sincere and honest childish nature is opposed to the Christian explanation of the world, until the child's sincerity is dulled and he either takes without question what is taught, or in his own soul denies what his lips must repeat, or finally allows his heart to be possessed by the only nourishment offered to his religious needs.
My own recollections of childhood caused me to make observations of the religious ideas of children at an early period. I have now before me comprehensive accounts of this investigation, going back twenty-five years. I recollect my own fierce hate against God, when I, at the age of six years, heard of the death of Jesus being caused by God's demand for an atonement, and at ten years I recall my denial of God's providence, when a young workman died far away from his wife and his five children, to whom his existence was so necessary. My brooding about the existence of God took on this occasion the form of a challenge. I wrote in the sand, "God is dead." In doing so I thought, If there is a God, he will kill me now with a thunderbolt. But since the sun continued to shine, the question was answered for the time being; but it soon turned up again. I had no other religious instruction than reading the Bible on Sunday, preaching on Sunday, and reading from the catechism, which, by the way, was never explained. Yet the New Testament belonged to my play books; I learnt in it to love Jesus as profoundly as other great personalities of whom I read. But during the confirmation period, I received explanations of the Bible; in them every point, every name in the Gospel was explained, every sentence made the basis of hair-splitting distinctions, to show the fulfilment of prophecies and the edifying hidden meaning of every word, that formerly seemed so simple. The dogma of the Trinity for example was shown to be contained in the second verse of Genesis. This was a terribly sad discovery for me, that the living book of my childish heart and my childish imagination could be so stone dead. That religious indifference is a frequent result of religious instruction, that spiritual maladies come from the desire to convert the souls of children, numerous proofs can be given. I have heard children of six years speak with holy horror of their four-year-old brother who dug with a spade on Sunday. On the other hand I have heard a six-year-old child who was dragged in one day to three church services ask after reflection whether it was not more tolerable to go to hell immediately.
The Judaic Christian conception of a creative and sustaining providence, which gives the fullest perfection to all things, is so absolutely opposed to all that experience and evolution teaches us about existence, that one cannot even conceive of the possibility of holding both ideas theoretically at the same time. Much less can one practically unite them by the paste of compromise. The child with sharp-sighted simplicity does not allow himself to be deceived. If we do not wish to speak the truth then let us not speak to children about life at all -- life in its unity and diversity, its manifold creative acts, its process of continuous creation, its eternal divine subjection to law.
But this means that it is impossible to save the Christian God for children, after the child begins to think about this God, in whom he is taught blind confidence. Nor can the child be prepared in this way for the new conception of God with its religious, its uniting and elevating power, I mean for the conception of a God whose revealed book is the starry heavens, and whose prophetic sight is in the unfathomable sea, and in the deeps of man's heart, the God who is in life and is life. Nothing shows better how imperfect is the real belief of modern thinkers, than the fact that they always teach their children a system which they do not wish to live by spiritually themselves, but which they hold as indispensable for the moral and social future of the child.
When we pass
from the conception of providence to the conception of sin, we
find in children the same natural logic. A small girl, an only
child, asked: "How could God allow his only child to be killed?
You could not have done it to me!" And a small boy said,
" It is a very good thing for us that the Jews crucified
Christ, so that nothing happened to us." These are both poles
of an emotional and a practical way of looking at the Atonement.
Within them all similar circumferences are drawn. To a more comic
and naïve sphere of ideas belongs the proposal of a small
girl to call the Virgin Mary God's wife. Also there is the story
of a boy who spoke in school of Our Lord and the two other Lords,
meaning the Trinity.
From the classes in Bible history and catechism, there are innumerable examples of children reading the words incorrectly, and misunderstanding the ideas they stand for. A boy, warned to keep the lamps burning, answered contentedly, "We have petroleum gratis." Another, asked whether he would like to be born again, said, "No, I might be turned into a girl." These are typical examples. There is an anecdote of a child, who, on being consoled with the statement that God was in the dark near her; asked her mother to put God out and light the lamp. Another child, seeing the pictures of the Christian martyrs in the arena, cried out sympathetically, "Look at that poor tiger; he hasn't got a Christian." These are a few out of a mass of examples, typical of the explanation given by children to the religious ideas they receive, notions forcing them into a world of ideas which they either accept in a material sense, or by which they are absolutely nonplussed.
The childish circle of ideas is revealed by anecdotes of this kind, or by the comment of a small girl who asked when she heard that she had been born about eleven o'clock at night, "How could I have remained out so late?" These examples show that such conceptions as original sin, the fall of man, regeneration and salvation, are first necessarily meaningless words, and afterwards terribly difficult words. In my whole life fear of hell never absorbed my attention for five minutes, but I know children and grown people who are martyrs to this terror. I know children too who, when belief in hell was presented to them in school as absolutely necessary, bewailed that their mother had said she did not believe in hell, and therefore thought she must be very wicked.
We are certainly a long way off from those times when, to use the picturesque expression of an historian of civilisation, "The fear of the devil constantly darkened the life of men, as the shadow of the sails of a windmill darkens the windows of the miller"; far from the times, too, when divine persons constantly revealed themselves to the believer, and when miracles belonged just as really to the daily habits of thought as to-day they are disregarded even by the believer. But so long as belief in the devil, providence and miracles is upheld in religious instruction, it will be impossible for the sunshine of the civilised view, which is the scientific as opposed to the superstitious view, to penetrate the darkness where the bacilli of cruelty and insanity are nurtured.
The ideas children form of heaven are generally fine examples of childish realism. A child thought his brother could not be in heaven, because he would have to climb a ladder, and so would be disobedient, for he had been forbidden to climb one. A girl asked, when she heard that her grandmother was in heaven, whether God was sitting there and holding her from falling out. These are a few of the many proofs of the child's sense of reality, that leads to mistaken answers here, as in so many other instances. If it is said by way of protest that the childish imagination needs myths and symbolism, the answer is an easy one. We cannot and should not rob the child of the play of imagination, but play should not be taken in earnest. It is not to be wondered at that children construct for themselves realistic ideas about spiritual things. This practice is no more to be opposed, than any of the other expressions of the life of the child's soul. But when these false ideas are presented as the highest truth of life, they must disturb the sacred simplicity of the child.
I know children in whom the origin of unbelief is to be traced to the words of Jesus, that everything asked for by the believing heart will be received. A small child, locked up in a dark room, prayed that God might show people how badly he was being treated, by causing a lamp of precious stones to be lit in the dark. Another asked to have a sick mother saved; another prayed by the side of a dead companion that she might rise again. For all these three, the experience of having their most believing, most fervent prayer unanswered, was the great turning point in their spiritual life. I can authenticate from my own experience and the experiences of others the ethical revolt which the cases of injustice in the Old Testament -- for example God's preference of Jacob over Esau -- occasion in a healthy child. The explanations offered in this case and in others like it fill the child with silent contempt. When the child ends in finding that adults themselves do not believe the religion they teach, the childish instinct for belief and for reverence, that capacity which is the real ground for all religious feeling, is injured for life.
I will say nothing of the heroes and heroines of the pious literature written for children, with their stories of conversion and holiness. Parents are able to protect their children from them. I speak here only of that way of looking at the world, which is forced on children with or against the will of their parents. This degrades their conceptions of God, of Jesus, of nature. These conceptions, the child if left to himself can develop simply or powerfully. It is this way of looking at the world that causes unnecessary suffering and dangerous prejudices. The inclination of the child to deep religious feeling, sound faith, and ardent zeal for holiness will be strengthened by an ability to draw the standards of life as freely from the Bible as from the world's literature. The same result will be produced by books on other religions, like Buddhism, from the great religious personalities who illustrate the struggle for an ideal, and from such children's books as show like efforts in a healthy form. No child has the slightest need of the catechism or theology for his religion or for his training; no other church history is needed than that connected with the general history of the world. In this last study the chief stress should be laid in teaching on the errors, in order to impress on the young the conviction, that all new truths are called by their contemporaries "errors." In other words these "errors" are the best negative material man has for discovering the truth.
Working over and explaining the contradictions met with by the child in such religious instruction, as I am outlining here, belongs to the preparation for a true life, in which people have to put up with innumerable contradictions. But this personal work injures neither the piety nor the soundness of the child's soul. Such injuries come rather from irritating pietism or vain hypocrisy, from spiritual fanaticism, from deceits of the reason, barrenness of soul, or perverted feeling of right, all of which are the notorious results of Christian training and Christian instruction, given according to the usual methods of the present day. For the present as well as for the future, a child will be able to solve more easily these spiritual problems if his fine feeling for right and his quick logic have not been dulled by the dogmatic answers to those eternal problems, that place him in as much difficulty as the thinker.
long ago the most serious injuries of the kind of religious instruction
which still prevails. lie showed that by making the church's teaching
the basis of morality, improper motives were assigned to action.
A thing must be avoided, not because God has forbidden it, but
because it is in and for itself wrong. Man must aim at good, not
because heaven or hell awaits the good or the bad, but because
good has a higher value than evil. To this point of view of Kant
there must be added the truth, that a position is ethically weakening,
when man is presented as incapable of doing good by his own power.
So he is told in this as in all other cases, he must be humble
and trust in God's help. Confidence in our strength and the feeling
of our own responsibility have a strong moral influence. The belief
that man is sin-laden, without chance of change, has led him to
remain where he is.
If the future generation is to grow up with upright souls, the first condition of such growth is to obliterate from the existence of children and young people, by a mighty scratch of the pen, the catechism, Bible history, theology and church history.
We must bow down before the infinities and mysteries of our earthly existence and of the world beyond. We must distinguish between and select real ethical values; we must be convinced of the solidarity of mankind, of man's individual duty, to construct for the benefit of the whole race a rich and strong personality. We must look to great models. We must reverence the divine and the regular in the course of the world, in the processes of development of man's mind. These are the new lines of meditation, the new religious feelings of reverence and love, that will make the children of the new century strong, sound, and beautiful.
These changes will destroy that idea of God that combines "God help us" with our victories, that has increased the national lust for conquest, the passion for mastery, the instinct of gain. It will be felt that mixing up God in the standards of human passions is blasphemous. People will see, that patriotism, nourished on egoism and ambition, is the most godless thing because the most inhuman of all the life-perverting sins with which man outrages the holiness of life.
Intellects which can now pass over the contradiction between Christianity and war, which can even derive strength and consolation from them, have been depraved by the ideas forced upon mankind through thousands of years. Nothing more can be expected from men of such brains, than that they should die in the wilderness, without ever obtaining a sight of the promised land.
But the brains of children can be protected from the most unholy of all mental misconceptions, from the superstition that the patriotism, and the nationalism, which injures the rights of others, have something in common with ideas about God.
Let children be taught that national characteristics, the use of force, the right of independent action, is as essential for a people as for an individual, that it is worth every sacrifice. Let them be taught that, on their appreciation of the nature of their country, of its life in the past and in the present, depends their own development. Let them be taught to dream beautiful inspiring dreams of the future of their country, of their own work, as the necessary foundation of this future.
They should be taught at an early age to understand the deep gulf between patriotic feeling and the egoism which is called patriotism. This is the patriotism in whose name small countries are oppressed by great countries, in whose name nineteenth-century Europe has armed itself under the stimulus of revenge, in whose name the close of the century witnessed the extension of violence in north and south, in west and east.
Militarism and clericalism, both principles presenting authority as opposed to individual standards of right, are ever closely combined; but they are not what they are called. They are not patriotism and religion. These two words involve a sense of common citizenship, of freedom, of justice, exalted above the narrow sphere of the individual, of the interests of class, of the interests of one's own country. Such are the principles which unite different groups within a land in great interests common to all, just as they unite different peoples in great vital questions common to all. But militarism and clericalism oppress freedom by the principles of authority, oppress the idea of individual development, by that of discipline, oppress the feeling of common weal by the desire for glory and war, oppress the feeling for right by the feeling for military honour. In Germany under the badge of Christianity and militarism, the civil rights of the citizen, his claims for social freedom, have been seriously menaced. Hypnotised by these principles many members of the Russian, French, and English nations, respectable as they are individually, have gloated over the deeds of unrighteousness committed by their respective governments.
All this will go on; people will continue to be burdened to the ground by ever increasing military preparations. The rights of the small nations will be constantly encroached upon by the larger ones, even after the present world powers, like those that have preceded them, have broken down under the burden of their own expansion. It will continue to be so, until mothers implant in the souls of their children the feeling for humanity before the feeling for their country; until they strive to expand the sympathies of their children to embrace all living things, plants, animals, and men; until they teach them to see, that sympathy involves not only suffering with others but rejoicing with others, and that the individual increases his own emotional capacity, when he learns to feel with other individuals and with other peoples. It will go on, as it is now, until mothers implant in the souls of their children the certainty, that the patriotism which, in the name of national interests, treads under foot the rights of other people, is to be condemned. The moment children undertake to act as adults, we shall see a harmony between ideas so taught and facts. When the conception of nationalism in the child's mind is freed from injustice and arrogance; when the idea of God is freed from its debased union with a selfish patriotism, then the idea of the soldier will be ennobled. It will no longer be identified with blind obedience and limited class courage. The word will come to mean a man and a fellow-citizen with the same civilised interests, the same conception of law, the same need of freedom, the same feeling for honour, as all other fellow-citizens. The soldier will be a defender of his fatherland, whose character will have no other warlike traits, than those called forth for the protection of sacred human and civil rights.
Self-defense, personal or national, will be imprinted on the child as the first of duties, not as it is represented in the commands of Christianity. Or to speak more accurately the child has this instinctive feeling; all that need be done is not to confuse this instinct. The child understands quite well, that evil men, when not resisted, become lords over the property of others. He knows that the low and the unrighteous get the victory, and that right-thinking and high-minded people are sacrificed by unrighteous and low-thinking people. The impulse to resistance is the first germ of the social feeling for righteousness, and by this feeling will the unreflecting judgment of the child be led also in the study of history. The child never doubts that William Tell was right, even when, in his instruction in religion, he has been definitely taught obedience to the powers that be, that come from God. Every straight childish soul applauds Andreas Hofer, despite his uncompromising conflict with lawful authority. With his natural directness the child cuts off all sophisms; at least all children do who are not irrevocably stupefied by Christian principles.
To conclude what I have said against religious instruction, I will add a statement of a ten-year-old child, made after three years struggling with the catechism and biblical history: "I do not believe any of this, but I hope, when men are some day wise enough, each person may have his own belief, just as each one has his own face."
This small philosopher in these words hit unconsciously upon the most serious spiritual injury done by religious instruction. It forces on man's mind a special view of the world, like a conventional mask on a man's face. But freedom and the rights of the soul's life can only be secured by its own reflections. The soul itself must work out that assurance of belief in which man can live and die. For generations the great spiritual dangers of mankind have been caused by looking backwards to find the ideal and the truth, by regarding both as once for all given, as absolutely limited.
As soon as a child becomes conscious of himself he should feel that he is a discoverer with infinities before him. The king's son, in the realm of life, will no longer do menial service as a prodigal son in a foreign land. With the whole power of his will, he can repeat those old words, "I will arise and go to my father."
When Jaquino di Fiori in the Middle Ages preached of the Kingdom of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, till his hair became as silvery grey as the leaves of the olive tree, he compared these three realms with the nettle, the rose, and the lily, the light of the stars, the sunlight, and the sun.
In all the ends of the world this preaching is being heard now. But that dream of a Third Kingdom, pure as the lily, warm as the sun, can only be realised in the temper of the child who looks for life and happiness, who brushes away joyously and frankly the clouds of man's fall and man's humiliation.
as little children, men cannot enter into the Third Kingdom, the
Kingdom of the Holy Ghost, the Kingdom of the human spirit.
VIII: Child Labour and the Crimes of Children
Leaving aside questions of heredity and kindred topics, and considering only the conditions under which the child is born, developed, and reared, it is terrible to contemplate the misfortunes which happen to children through lack of insight on the part of their mothers. Doctors are never tired of telling what malformations tight-lacing causes. How many children in the first year of their life become blind through neglect. We only mention here some of the troubles which crude ignorance or lack of conscience on the part of the mothers inflict on themselves or on their children. There must be noticed too the uncertainty and the want of system in the care of children that come from such ignorance. A thorough improvement in all these things is not to be expected until women have secured universal suffrage, and until they, at the same age in which men serve their years of military service, are legally obliged to pass through a period of training lasting just as long, devoting themselves to the care of children, hygiene, and sick nursing. No other exceptions must be made, except those which exempt a man from military service. Such duties done for one's country would come for many women just at the time in which their interest in the subject is awakened by marrying or the thought of marrying. This training would give a profounder meaning to their thoughts on this subject. But even women who never become mothers themselves would in this way learn certain general principles of psychology, hygiene, and care of the sick, that they might make use of afterwards in every station of life. Further, I look for increasing limitations of the right of parents over children. Such limitations I mean as those which have forbidden the exposure of children, have imposed penalties for child murder, for cruelty towards children, and the laws which have enforced obligatory attendance at school. In England there are organisations which investigate the treatment of children at home and which prevent cruelties against them. Mothers who forget their duties can be reported and punished with imprisonment; neglectful fathers can be made to support their children, etc.; and where parents show themselves hopelessly incompetent children can be taken from them by law. In the different states of Germany there are also laws which allow children to be taken from parents who, through misuse of that relationship, injure the child's spiritual or bodily welfare. Children receive this so-called compulsory training in cases, too, where it is necessary to preserve them from moral destruction. The compulsory training may be carried out either in a suitable family or in institutions; it continues up to the eighteenth year. A notable provision is that which places the supervision over such children, in the hands of women.
An increased extension of the right of society in this direction is one of its most important provisions for self-protection, and is just as legitimate a limitation of individual freedom, as the laws to prevent the extension of contagious diseases. Unfortunately such regulations are often made ineffective by red tape. The parents or guardians of the neglected child must be admonished; the unruly child must be warned, and if this is not sufficient, the law provides that it must be disciplined. All of these provisos are absolutely senseless in such cases. By such warnings bad parents are not instructed in the art of training their children, nor is an incorrigible child to be led by admonitions to change its character, if he is left in the surroundings which have caused his degeneration. By corporal punishment administered in the presence of witnesses, a child already accustomed to cuffs and blows is made more hardened and shameless. A person with only a superficial knowledge of the subject, enough to understand the causes which produce such parents and such children, soon realises that he is concerned in each detail with the infinite horizon of the social question. It is clear for example that low wages, combined with the work of women and children, are the main factors in poor dwellings, insufficient food, and bad clothing. The fact that the wife works out of the house causes the neglect of the children and the home. The lodging-house system is the result of the lack of dwellings; want of comfort at home causes the husband to frequent saloons and public houses. All these factors, taken together, cause immorality and intemperance; these last again produce those physical and mental diseases to which children are often heirs at their birth.
Leaving out of discussion the notion that by God's help the battlefields are covered with torn, maimed beings, with whose destroyed brains innumerable thoughts and feelings are extinguished which could have enriched humanity, I know no more abnormal idea than the custom of people speaking of a guardian angel when a chance has kept two children from an accident. Where is this guardian angel in the innumerable other cases of misfortune: when children remain alone because their mother must go to work and they fall out of the window or into the fire? When they lose their eyesight in dark cellars? When they are pressed to death because in miserable lodgings they have to share a bed with their parents? When the parents are drunk and the children lose their lives? Where is this guardian angel when parents murder their children, from religious fanaticism or disgust of life: when the children themselves, tired of life or through fear of parental cruelty, take their own lives? Where are these protective angels on the occasions when they are most wanted? -- in the narrow streets of great cities, in the great industrial centres where lack of sunlight, of pure air, and of all the other primary conditions for the development of soul and body, undermines the bodily strength and efficiency of children before their birth?
To see the hand of Providence in an accidental case of preservation, while the same Providence is released from all share in natural occurrences, from all part in the terrible phenomena of society, that fill every second of the earth's existence with terror, is a relic of superstition to be overcome if man is to be filled with a sense of obligation to conditions he must master and mould. Modern man is ever becoming more and more his own Providence; he has already protected himself against fire by fire engines and fire insurance, against the sea by life-saving stations; against smallpox and cholera, diphtheria and tuberculosis, he has found other means of defence. The blind belief that death is dependent on God's will man is losing by the witness of statistics which declare that duration of life increases with improved sanitary condition; which show that when disease or summer heat mows down the children of the poor in dark tenements the rich man can preserve his own children in his healthy, light dwelling.
Every man who has his heart in the right spot does not wait for an angel, but rushes to save a child from danger. But the superstitious belief of the majority of people in God's Providence perhaps will cause the same man to regard with complete apathy conditions by which millions and millions of children are yearly sacrificed. Doctors know that the destruction caused by bacteria is insignificant, as compared with pauperism as a cause of disease. Mothers who have over-exerted themselves, drunken fathers, bad dwellings, like those where the poor dry out newly built houses for the rich, induced by the low rate of rents, insufficient nourishment, inherited diseases, especially syphilis, too early work, -- all this shows its result in the emaciated, shrivelled, ulcerated bodies of children who occasionally are cured of their momentary disease in hospitals, but cannot be freed from the results of the conditions of life under which they were born and brought up. The efforts of doctors will be in vain while they, like the other factors in society, do not devote their whole energy to avoiding diseases, instead of healing them. What they can now do in the way of prevention is but a palliative in comparison with the incurable evil which flourishes in abundance. The situation will remain as it is so long as hygiene does not receive the same attention in society as the soul. This solicitude may take the form of religious edification, or intellectual enlightenment, but it remains nothing but a cut flower, stuck in a dust heap.
It is possible, with sufficient certainty, to show from criminal statistics that degenerate children are the creation of society itself. By allowing them to be forced into "the path of virtue," by punishment, society behaves like a tyrant, who has put out a man's eyes and then beats him because he cannot by himself find his road.
The categorical imperative for the social consciousness at the present moment, is an effective legislation for the protection of children and women.
is developed, the woman is taken away from the home, the child
from play and school. In the period of guilds, women and children
worked in the house, and in the workshop of the husband. But since
the factory system has constantly restricted the household work
of woman, industrial occupations on the scale of modern capitalism
can satisfy its needs for cheaper work by woman's work. This like
children's work has forced down in many places the pay of adult
workmen. The pay with which a married man can care for his family
by his work is now divided among several members of the family.
As long as special work required great personal bodily strength
or developed manual dexterity, it fell as a rule to the men, not
to women or children. But the natural protection of women and
children disappeared with the introduction of machinery. In many
cases working a machine required neither strength nor dexterity.
In other eases, like cotton spinning or mining, delicate fingers
were more valued because they were more adaptable, tender bodies
more desirable because they were smaller.
In England the work of women and children first reached its highest point. The poorhouses sent crowds of children to the wool weaving industry in Lancashire, children who worked in shifts at the same machine and slept in the same dirty beds. The population in the industrial districts pined away, as the result; diseases unknown before came into existence; ignorance and roughness increased. Women and children from four to five years old worked fourteen to eighteen hours. The report of the investigations made on this subject caused Elizabeth Barrett to write her poem, "The Cry of the Children" that made the employers of children so indignant, but which helped to produce the Ten Hour bill. This bill laid down that women, children, and young persons should not work more than ten hours a day in textile factories. This law was succeeded by others of the same type. Similar conditions in other lands have produced similar legislation. In Saxony, Belgium, Alsace, and the Rhine Provinces the results of the system seemed to be just as frightful as in England. On the Rhine, as early as the year 1838, a Prussian army officer noticed that the number of those able to bear arms had diminished as a result of the degenerating influence of woman and child labour. But notwithstanding the introduction of this legislation generally, the labour of women and children continues. It takes the most destructive forms in those occupations which lie outside of the sphere of legislation. There are places in which child labour is as shocking as it was in England in 1848. In Russia, in the Bastmat weaving industry, children of three or four years have been found at work; and masses of children under ten working as much as eighteen hours a day. In Germany the toy industry can show as cruel figures in connection with children's work, all the more cruel because in order to provide enjoyment for happy children the living energy of others is forced out of existence. Industrial work at home is done by children four to five years old, while the age limit for child labour in factories, both in Germany and in Switzerland, is fourteen years. The government of Denmark has proposed the same limit of age. In Italy most of the crippled young children were brought up in the sulphur districts of Sicily, crowded together in low galleries, burdened with heavy sacks at an age at which their tender limbs under such conditions must inevitably and incurably be contorted. As early as twelve and thirteen years old many of them are incapable of work. In the magnesium mines of Spain, quantities of children six to eight years old are kept at work; through the poisonous odours they fall victims to severe diseases. Other children carrying heavy pitchers on their head are employed to water dry places. The child is a cheaper means of transportation than the ass.
Despite protective legislation the average of height and weight in the Lancashire children is and continues to be lower than anywhere else. Of the two thousand children investigated in this district only one hundred and fifty-one were really sound and strong; one hundred and ninety-eight were seriously crippled; the rest more or less under the standard of good health. All work in the cotton industry done from six o'clock in the morning till five in the evening changes, so this doctor says, the hopeful ten-year-old child into the thin pallid thirteen-year-old boy. This degeneration of the population in industrial districts is becoming a serious danger for England's future.
After people are convinced that all civilised nations are exposed to this same danger, industrial and street work of children will be everywhere forbidden. This will be a victory for the principle of child protection, which, in this as in other like spheres, was opposed at first on both economic and industrial grounds. Among these was the uncontested right of fathers to decide on the work of their children.
It is not alone the question of child labour that reveals the low standpoint taken by the civil authorities of Europe, but it is proved also by the introduction of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it; it is ineffective besides. Neither shame nor physical pain have any other effect than a hardening one, when the blow is delivered in cold blood long after the act occasioning it has been done. Most of the victims are so accustomed to blows already that the physical effect is little or nothing, but they awaken feelings of detestation against a society which so avenges its own faults. If the soul of the child is sensitive, corporal punishment can produce deep spiritual torment, as was the case with Lars Kruse, the hero of Skagen, who some years ago met his death by drowning. Everybody knows his story from the fine account of him by the Danish poet, Drachmann. Lars, in his childhood, had taken a plank, a piece of driftwood, and sold it. For this he was condemned to be punished. Till late in life, what he had suffered was ever present with him. He was not ashamed of his action but of his punishment -- a punishment which embittered the whole life of a really great character.
The blows administered by society are inflicted on children whose poverty and neglected education are in most cases responsible for their faults. The victims, often emaciated by hunger, and trembling with shame or terror, can experience no spiritual emotion fit to be the basis of moral shame.
If the statistics of the life-history of those who are so disciplined were revealed, we should find that the majority come from, and return to, a home where the mother, as a result of working out of the home, is hindered from caring for her children. They have suffered from the custom of sleeping together, the result of overcrowded dwellings, with its demoralising influence. It may be the child has commenced to make his living on the street as messenger, cigar picker, or newspaper boy, or has been engaged in such like occupations, and so in his immediate neighbourhood has seen the luxurious living of the upper classes, which he strives to imitate. Hardly a week passes that the street youngster does not read about the embezzlements, fraudulent acts in the capitalistic classes, frequently committed by greyheaded men, whose childish impressions go back to the good old time, on whom the lax education of the present could not have any influence. No day passes in which he does not see how the representatives of the upper classes, old and young alike, satisfy their desires for pleasure. But from the child of the tenement and the street, people expect Spartan virtue or try to thrash it into him. It is hard to say which is greater here, stupidity or savagery.
While the upper classes show that they are crude, immoderate, lazy, devoted to enjoying themselves; while the majority are aiming at getting and spending money; while so many are able to eat without working, and so few can find work who look for it; while careless luxury lives side by side with careless necessity, the upper class has not the shadow of right to expect an improved lower class. The society of the present day creates and maintains a social system whose effects are notorious in the economic crimes of the upper and lower class alike. It is not surprising that great cities are full of tramps and street urchins, like a spoilt cheese full of maggots.
A destroyed home life, an idiotic school system, premature work in the factory, stupefying life in the streets, these are what the great city gives to the children of the under classes. It is more astonishing that the better instincts of human nature generally are victorious in the lower class, than the fact that this result is occasionally reversed.
There is another argument against child labour, to be found in its immediate effect on industry itself.
Working men trained in the schools are everywhere notoriously most efficient; even in Russia, where popular education is still so defective, this experience has been noted. The working man able to read and to write receives without exception on that account a higher pay than the illiterate ones who can be only used for the coarsest kind of work. The present development of German industry, as compared with English, is to be ascribed among other things to the superior educational training of the German people. The intensive and intelligent work of the American working man has apparently the same cause. But when children made sleepy by work in the factory enter evening schools, or when children are taken too early from school, they lose under continuous hard work the desire and possibility of adapting themselves to a higher education; they become organic machines which feed the inorganic ones. This must cause the value of their work to decline. These organic machines are passive, they do not try to improve their condition of life, as do the higher workmen. Besides living machines cannot increase the product of labour. Intelligent working men who watch over their own rights and increase them are also those who learn easiest new methods of work, discover new inventions which are of advantage to their line of work, and so increase the value of their product. It is only by the growth of this class of workmen, that any country to-day can stand the pressure of foreign competition. But the chief condition of this growth is that the bodily and mental powers of the child shall be used for his own development in school games and play; at the same time his capacity for work must be trained by occupation at home and in the technical school, not by work in a factory.
Some years ago,
a poem created a furore over the whole civilised world, from Canada
to the islands of Polynesia. The author of this poem, Edwin Markham,
was inspired by Millet's simple and wonderful picture, The
Man with the Hoe. An agricultural labourer with bowed back
stands there, one hand folded on the other, supported on the handle
of the hoe. Millet in him has eternalised the expression so often
observed in old workmen, especially in those who are worn out
by day labour. The man's face is empty, says nothing, every human
aspect has disappeared; we only see in his face the look of the
patient beast of burden. For while moderate work ennobles the
animal in man, immoderate work kills humanity in the beast.
Millet's picture was to the poet, who was once himself a slave to bodily labor, a revelation, the eternal artistic type of the generation of man bowed down from childhood under the yoke of labour. In one strophe after another of that finely conceived poem he pictures this being that does not sorrow, and never hopes, his destroyed soul for which Plato and the Pleiades, the sunrise and the rose, all the treasures of mind and nature, are nothing. The poet asks sovereigns, masters, and governors how they will restore to this thing a soul, how they will give it music and dreams. What, he asks, will become of the people who have made this being what it is now; when after a thousand years' silence God's terrible question is answered, -- What has become of his soul.
Many such employers of labour go to church, they hear explanations of texts like these, "Inasmuch as ye did it unto... even the least of these, ... ye did it unto me. All that ye wish others should do to you, that do to them." It does not occur to them to think how Jesus, the most inconsiderate of men, at the right place, would have characterised their demands to have small children employed in glass works at ten years of age. It never occurs to them to ask whether they would like to see their own children in these factories or others like them.
This complete dualism between life and teaching in our present-day society will continue to exist until people realise that the opinions about life which are expressed by the lips, but are denied by deeds, should no longer be proclaimed as an absolute explanation of life and rule of life. The permanent element in Christianity can only be realised through the conviction that mankind is master of Christianity just as it is over all its other creations. The ardent idea of the Galilean carpenter, fraternity among men, will give man no rest until man has wiped out the last trace of injustice in his social relations. But the thought will not be realised by those ideals regarded by Jesus as absolute. This is the point of view which has crippled man's conscience and it applies equally to the realisation of this and all other ideals. An ideal impossible to carry out under the ordinary assumptions of human life, yet to which men have given the authority of a divine revelation, and which they conceive of as absolute, this is the main cause for the demoralisation which has gone on for nineteen hundred years. The history of humanity has really revealed to men how this absolute ideal of theirs has been betrayed. The cause of this demoralisation must cease before existence can be remodeled seriously by those who are convinced that ideals can really be binding.
People will then not do as they do now, misuse the name of the Father, whom Jesus has taught men to proclaim with their lips, will not murder one another en masse on the battlefield, to solve political and economic questions of supremacy. A society which calls itself Christian will no longer tolerate capital punishment, prostitution, stock exchange gambling, and child slavery. Men will not then as they do now, learn on their mother's breast to love their neighbours as themselves, and then tread in the footsteps of their fathers, trampling one another down in the struggle for bread.
Our reverence for God will then be found in our capacity to humanise existence by humanising the human race.
The youth of our day have not always successfully passed out of the Christian circles of ideals into another circle. The successful method would be to face immediately new purposes and aims that are really believed, and for which men wish to live. But many of our young generation know of no new purposes and aims in which they can believe. Hence comes that spiritual apathy which has mastered a great part of the young generation. Without undervaluing the influences of environment, I still believe that young people who have lost their ideals without getting new ones in their place are to be pitied. The young who are not making ideals out of their own souls will have no other time than this to find ideals. A generation of young men of this type laughed at Socrates. They would have nailed Jesus of Nazareth to the Cross, with a shrug of the shoulders; they would have become, undoubtedly, in 1789, emigrés with the Bourbons.
When the youth of any period remains without ideals, we pass through a fin de siècle period no matter what the exact date may be. But when the young generation is inspired with the feeling of having great acts to do, a new century begins. It is always the fortunate right of young people to stimulate individualism before everything else. This is done every time a young person full of sound egoism develops his own personality completely and powerfully, throws himself keenly into the struggle for his own fortune. Any one who takes his individual development seriously will find that it is hard to become an independent, noble, and exalted personality by treading underfoot other individuals. He will moreover see that it makes more demands on his personal powers to try to create new values by new means, to devote his youthful energy to new tasks, than to look back to ideas that are already exhausted. There is another truth the young man will soon find to be valid. If an individual throws himself into the struggle of life without consideration for any one else, he is all the more likely to get hurt in the struggle. The more developed, too, an individual is, the more assailable points there are about him to be wounded. Great pain, as well as great happiness, is for great men a part of the fulness of life. Failures of a personality are often better proofs that it is above the average than its victories. But failures, even if they frequently leave our innermost personality shattered, can be borne, when we have learnt that there is a bandage to heal our own wounds, the bandage, I mean, that we lay on the wounds of others.
No real man needs to wait until life has taught him, to sympathise with others. The inspiring age of youth may experience this, as well as the strong individual feeling of power. In this sense, many remain ever young, always able to pass through inspired moments, such moments when a great action, a great truth, a great and beautiful thing, or great good fortune, absorbs our whole existence; moments when our eyes fill with tears, when our arms stretch out to embrace the world and the thoughts which it contains. Such moments include the most intensive emotion of our own personality; at the same time they bring the fullest absorption in the common feeling of existence as a whole. A great life means giving continuity of action to such inspired moments.
There are young people who can look back on no such moments, who arrogantly look down on the problems of their times from the height of their "superman" theories or from their superior learning; who measure them by the iron law of historical development. At all times there have been such people. There is no question in which it is more fatal for young people to isolate themselves, than that which deals with social conflicts. This age requires the young above all others to test this question from all points of view, to investigate all other ideas in connection with it. Every reform plan must be investigated in connection with its influence on the problems of individualism and socialism. From youth we have a right to expect something for the future. This hope implies that youth, in approaching it, in thinking and acting for the many whose lot it is the immediate task of the future to improve, adopt as their own the words of Walt Whitman, "I do not ask whether my wounded brother suffers; I will myself be this wounded brother."