Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/58

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or colleges. The teacher, it is true, exercises his influence among the rest. Men and women of all sorts, from university professors to village dames, have stamped some part of their own character upon a large proportion of their disciples. But this is a power that must grow feebler as the number of scholars is increased. In the enormous schools and classes in which the public instruction of the greater part of the children of the people is given, the influence on character of the individual teacher is reduced to a minimum. The old village dame might teach her half-dozen children to be kind and brave and to speak the truth, even if she failed to teach them to read and write. The headmaster of a school of 2,000 or the teacher of a class of eighty may be an incomparably better intellectual instructor, but it is impossible for him to exercise much individual influence over the great mass of his scholars.

There are, however, certain children for the formation of whose characters the nation is directly responsible—deserted children, destitute orphans and children whose parents are criminals or paupers. It is the duty and interest of the nation to provide for the moral education of such children and to supply artificially the influences of individual care and love. The neglect of this obligation is as injurious to the public as to the children. Homes and schools are cheaper than prisons and workhouses. Such a practice as that of permitting dissolute pauper parents to remove their children from public control to spend the summer in vice and beggary at races and fairs, to be returned in the autumn, corrupt in body and mind, to spread disease and vice amongst other children of the State, would not be tolerated in a community intelligently alive to its own interest.

A profound, though indirect and untraceable, influence upon the moral education of a people is exercised by all national administration and legislation. Everything which tends to make the existing generation wiser, happier or better has an indirect influence on the children. Better dwellings, unadulterated food, recreation grounds, temperance, sanitation, will all affect the character of the rising generation. Regulations for public instruction also influence character. A military spirit may be evoked by the kind of physical instruction given. Brutality may be developed by the sort of punishments enjoined or permitted. But all such causes have a comparatively slight effect upon national character, which is in the main the product for good or evil of more powerful causes which operate, not in the school, but in the home.

For the physical and mental development of children it is now admitted to be the interest and duty of a nation in its collective capacitv to see that proper schools are provided in which a certain minimum of primary instruction should be free and compulsory for all, and, further, secondary instruction should be available for those fitted to