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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/633

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"A subtle form, of paternalism is the deliberate inculcation of the patriotic spirit, especially in children." Mr. Swift is a brave man to attempt to stem this particular torrent. He thinks there are times when one who loves his country would feel shame for it rather than pride, and that the motto "My country right or wrong" is not the most wholesome sentiment that can be impressed on the mind of youth. "To fill a child with the consummate virtues of Washington, Jefferson, and other of our immortals, and to leave him ignorant of the greatness of Cromwell and of William the Silent, is a serious injustice to the child and to the cause of education." Not only is this done, but, in the domain of literature as well, it seems as if the only names with which public-school pupils obtain any acquaintance are those of national authors. So far as poetry is concerned, Mr. Swift says that almost the only name he hears from the lips of children frequenting the Public Library is "Longfellow." He can not remember ever having had a call from a child for Tennyson, while Wordsworth in the school region is equally unknown.

Apart from the studied inculcation of a narrow patriotism, the author of the paper we are considering thinks that there is altogether too much paternalism shown in the choice of children's reading. He has only a limited and feeble faith in "children's rooms" in public libraries. They are very much, he thinks, like Sunday schools—convenient places for parents to unload their offspring. The aim of the censorship is to eliminate everything that is not in accord with the most approved canons of juvenile life and thought, leaving only what is ready for immediate acceptance and assimilation. Such a policy, Mr. Swift holds, is not favorable either to individuality or to intellectual growth. "We must," he says, "take books, like life, as we find them, and learn to distinguish good and bad; learn, as we ought, that the good is not so good as we have been told it is, and that the bad contains a strong infusion of good. No wrecks are so fearful as those which come to the young who have up to a point led 'sheltered lives.'"

It is not, however, children only who get the benefit of a benevolent protective policy. Selecting committees are quite prepared to look after grown-up people as well, and keep out of their way books which might prove too exciting, which might reveal depths of passion such as persons leading decorous lives are not supposed to know anything about, or otherwise agitate the tranquil mill pond of their existence. It does not occur to them that thus the salt and savor of human life are expelled, and that, instead of the free play of vital forces, there supervenes a dreary mechanic round of semi-automatic activities unvisited by enthusiasm, untouched by strong desire, without dream or vision or any quickening of the heart or the imagination. Some good people are excessively particular not only as to what may threaten moral disturbance, but as to anything that may encourage departures from conventional modes of speech and deportment. They do not like to admit books that they regard as vulgar, and a great mark of vulgarity in their opinion is the use of slang. Yet so accomplished a littérateur as Mr. William Archer told us lately that he pleads guilty to "an unholy relish" for the talk of "Chimmie Fadden" and his Chicago contemporary "Artie." To him. as to Mr. Swift, the books in which these worthies disport themselves mean something, and something deserving of attention. That being the case, the vulgarity, which is part of