Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/282

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their children. . . . In proof of this, look at the streets of our cities after nightfall, swarming with rude, unmannerly boys taking their first lessons in hoodlumism. Parents fail to realize their responsibility toward their children." When this is the case, what more can we expect than the prevalence of lawlessness in town as well as city, in the East as well as the West, in the North as well as the South? Children that have not been subjected to the firm but gentle discipline of the home, that have not been taught by their parents the habits of order, decency, and virtue, are not likely to grow up with a sense of their duty to themselves or to their fellows. They are almost certain to grow up as loafers, or corruptionists, or as citizens indifferent to the demoralization around them. It is still as true as it ever was in the old copy book that as the twig is bent so is the tree inclined.

But why are parents lax in bringing up their children? Why do they fail to realize their responsibility toward their offspring? Nothing is more important in the world than parenthood; it is the basis of society and civilization. Nothing is better fitted to give pleasure. We believe that some German pessimist has condemned it on the ground that as long as it prevails the desire to live will never be extinguished. When men and women lose their interest in the world itself, they cling to it because of their interest in their children; and when their children have grown up, it is still maintained by their interest in their grandchildren, ever hoping to see realized in the lives of the new generation the dreams of happiness and fame that were never realized in their own. However cynical and depressing this may be, it has unquestionably much of truth. The survival of those children whose parents took the best care of them has given birth to a set of powerful feelings that can be gratified only through parenthood. These feelings, sacred above all others, respond to efforts to protect the child from harm, to develop its intellect, to cultivate its manners, to intensify its affections—in a word, to make it a good man or woman, capable and high-minded.

Yet how recklessly and amazingly have parents strayed from the path that will lead them to the greatest happiness vouchsafed to any human being! How ceaseless have been the efforts to convince them that there is another way for them to attain this bliss and at the same time hasten the advent of the millennium! So successful have these efforts been that it is now expected that the public schools shall do all the work that Nature herself designed for more fit and tender hands. Only last summer the Superintendent of Public Education of the State of New York set forth very elaborately the new theory of parenthood, or, rather, revived the old Greek theory with slight modifications. "The State," he said, "has a right to demand from the schools that children be trained, first of all, to a thorough mastery of the studies in the elementary course. . . . But with these studies," he continued, demanding the impossible, "should be taught courtesy of manner, politeness of speech, refinement of thought, and genuine culture of life. The State has the right to expect also that pupils from the beginning of their course be imbued with the spirit of honesty, with the love of truth and purity, with integrity of thought and action. . . . While it is never the province of the State to teach religious truth after the distinctive tenets of any form of belief, it is emphatically the duty of the State to see that children are taught the highest and purest morality."