Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/278

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simple consideration should moderate the ardor of those who think that, because the domain of scientific knowledge has been wonderfully enlarged, all things must have been made new in the moral order as well. That is not the case: the main outlines of morality will remain as they were traced centuries ago, the reason being that they were traced not on theoretical hues, but on lines directly suggested by experience. There are not wanting voices in the present day that whisper, nor even some that shout, that the age of restraint has passed away, and that nothing is now forbidden to the emancipated spirit of man. Such teaching is dangerous, and, just in so far as it is listened to, will the wisdom of the past rise up to reprove the folly of a lawless present, and experience set its seal on the reprobation.

The wise parent will follow a just mean between inculcating unquestioning deference to established beliefs and practices and stimulating a spirit of rebellion against whatever can not produce its logical credentials in a shape suited to the critical temper of the times. Room must be left for intellectual growth, and the mind must be allowed to go on voyages of discovery of its own; but as a preparation for such voyages a disposition, not to accept with absolute submission, but at least to respect—in some measure to reverence—the principles of morality which the experience of mankind has slowly elaborated, will be found to be of no mean value.

"Me this unchartered freedom tires,
I feel the weight of chance desires,"

says the poet Wordsworth in his Ode to Duty. The poet felt their weight; others, less happily constituted, have experienced their danger, for not every one can join in the affirmation:

"Through no disturbance of my soul

 Or strong compunction in me wrought
I supplicate for thy control,

But in the quietness of thought."

Some parents who have no wish to launch their children on too adventurous a career nevertheless help to do so by unduly stimulating, or not wisely repressing, their egotism, and by emphasizing too strongly or without due discrimination the importance of individuality. Not every seedling is worth cultivation, and a given individuality may be little better than a "freak." The true advice to give to every one is, not to abound in his own peculiar sense for the sake of being different from others, but to choose wisely an object in life and to develop his nature to the utmost in the effort to advance that object. The proof of a pudding is in the eating, and the measure of the value of an individuality is not the angle of its divergence from the normal, but the amount of effective help it can give to the work of the world.

The character of every human being will be largely shaped by heredity: the function of education is to repress as far as possible all hurtful tendencies by bringing their nature and consequences into prominence, and to call into activity such useful faculties or traits as threaten to lie dormant. The wise educator will not, however, proceed on any Procrustean plan. His aim will not be conformity to an arbitrary or conventional model, but simply the production of the best possible results from the particular type submitted to him; and he will respect individuality in this sense, that he will know that Nature sometimes does more in one stroke than education can accomplish in a hundred years. It is hardly necessary to say, in conclusion, that the formation of character is by far the most important problem in education. Give us learning, give us accomplishments, give us talents if you can; but above all strive to give us men and women fitted for life and its activities, for its joys, its sorrows, and its struggles, fitted to be happy themselves and to make others happy.