Editor Popular Science Monthly:
IN "The Popular Science Monthly" for January I read with much interest, but not surprise, an article by Benjamin Reece, on "Public Schools as affecting Crime and Vice." The author very clearly shows that our school system is not elevating the moral standard of the rising generation, as had been so sanguinely expected, but rather, that as the minds of the masses are increased in knowledge, there is an equal if not more rapid increase of vice and crime. But the root of the evil is not in the system of public instruction, for, as a general rule, no teacher is given a school who does not bear an exceptionally good moral character, and a majority of them are members of good standing in the various churches. With this guarantee for the moral training of the pupils by precept and example on the part of the teachers, it seems to me that all is being done in that line that can be done. Furthermore, the Sunday school, where moral training is especially attended to, is now considered an indispensable adjunct to every church; yet, with all this, vice and crime are on the ascending scale, and in a most astonishing degree.
It is a mistaken notion that simply to educate a people is to improve them morally; for a man can possess the most exalted moral qualities without the least intellectual culture, and vice versa. Now that our ethical hopes in public-school education are not fulfilled, what shall be further done to lessen this dark cloud of vice and crime? My answer is, we must combine other lessons with our present system of moral teachings, and these other lessons must be ethical object-lessons. Man, to a very large degree, is an imitative creature, and especially so in childhood. By constant imitation of what he sees others do, habits are formed, and, once formed at that early period, be they good or bad are rarely, if ever, entirely suppressed in after-years. All the ethical subject-lessons may be given him that is possible; but if there be object-lessons that go counter to them, these invariably take the deeper root, and soon nullify or supplant the former.
With these truths before us, is it not the imperative duty of all—all who wish for good government, safety of person and property, and the advancement of the race—to become bright and living ethical object-lessons to the rising generation? Nor is this all that is to be done: we should discountenance and remove all who are not ethical object-lessons worthy of study. Man's imitative propensity is called forth principally by those whom he thinks are his superiors. Consequently all those in high places of all kinds who are pernicious object-lessons should be the first to be removed; for, if the source be putrid, the onflowing stream becomes foul also. The author, in the article referred to, very truly tells us that the fall of the Roman Empire was "an effect of a moral ruin." Now, all readers of Roman history know that the germ of this "moral ruin" had its birth in the topmost strata of Roman society; and the masses, with ready imitativeness, became rotten to the core. The sad finale of that wonderful empire we all know.
Is Roman history now preparing to repeat itself in these United States? The indications all strongly point that way. Do we not see venality and corruption pervading, more or less, every branch of the Government? Even our halls of justice are frequently tainted with it, while the politicians and office-seekers, with scarcely an exception, are prostituting the elective franchise throughout the land by a venal use of the "almighty dollar." This bribe-money is brought to bear almost exclusively upon the needy poor—making their pockets heavier, but dwarfing their moral manhood. With this state of things, is it to be wondered at that vice and crime are rolling up m billows mountain-high? Is it to be wondered at that our public schools, our Sunday schools, and pulpits are impotent to check the approach of this "moral ruin"? Nor can it be checked until the wise and the good throughout the land determine to elevate to places of honor and trust only those who are calculated to make the best ethical object-lessons for the study of the rising generation. How many can we point to who now sit in high places that would make good object-lessons for the study of all our school children? Purify the fountain, and the stream will become likewise limpid and pure.
|E. P. Meredith.|
|Atlee's Station. Hanover County, Va.,|
|January 27, 1890.|
Editor Popular Science Monthly:
Sir: It was a gloomy picture of the condition and prospects of agriculture in the United States which Mr. Joel Benton drew in his article entitled "The Decadence of Farming," in the November "Monthly." A similar view is presented by Judge Nott, in a series of articles published by the New York "Evening Post;" while recent reports of the State Commission-