Answers received from hundreds of girls and boys would seem to show that virtue and goodness are desirable to children at a certain stage of their development chiefly, if not solely, because they bring material or social benefits. Virtue is rewarded not by any internal or spiritual satisfaction, but by freer access to the candy supply or to the skating pond. The right is that which is allowable, or that which may be practiced with impunity. The wrong is that which is forbidden or punishable. Of course, this attitude toward moral values should not continue through life. We should do what we can to establish higher ideals of right and wrong. How soon this change will come must depend very largely on where the emphasis is laid by those around the child. If, when you give Robert a piece of candy, you always impress him with the idea that this is his compensation for having been "good," he will retain this association between virtue and material reward long past the age when he can already appreciate the satisfaction that comes from exercising his instinct to be helpful, or from doing what he thinks is right. If, however, the idea in the home is that all goes well and all feel cheerful and happy because every one is trying to do the right thing, the various indulgences and liberties will mean to the child merely the material manifestations of the good feeling that prevails, and not rewards of virtue. So far as possible, rewards and punishments should be directed toward the deed and not the child. The aim should be to make the child derive his highest satisfaction from carrying out his own ideals of conduct, rather than from the reward for that conduct. The approbation of those he honors and loves should gradually replace the material reward.
To the child the ideal of success may mean two entirely different things. At one stage it may mean the satisfaction of accomplishing a set task, whether selected by himself or imposed by some one else. Later, it comes to mean excelling some other child in a contest. Even a child of four or five years gets a great deal of satisfaction from contemplating a house he has built out of his blocks, or the row of mud pies. This satisfaction gradually comes to be something quite distinct from the pleasure of doing, and is an important element in the ideal of workmanship. As the child grows older the ideal of successful accomplishment grows stronger, and, if it is retained throughout life, it contributes a large share toward the individual's happiness.
Most of the school activities of our children lay too much emphasis upon the ideal of successful rivalry, and too little upon the ideal of high achievement. The ideal set before the children is not frequently enough that of doing the best that is in them, and too frequently that of doing merely better than the neighbor—which may be poor enough. Some of the work done with children in clubs, outside of schools, has brought out the instinct for an ideal of achievement in a very good way. Richard came home quite breathless when he was able to report that he could start a fire on a windy day, using but a single match! In some of the more modern organizations, for girls as well as for boys, graded tasks are assigned as tests of individual proficiency or prowess. Every girl and every boy must pass these standards, without regard to what the others do. The result of encouraging this ideal is likely to be an increased sense of responsibility, well as an increased self-respect; whereas the ideal of "beating" others may in many cases keep the girl or boy at a rather low level of achievement, compared to the child's own capacity.
This competitive ideal is illustrated by the girl who is ambitious to stand at the head of her class, and receives encouragement enough. But we give very little thought to the child whose ideals are for service to others or to the community. It is very often the same child that at one time glories in successful emulation under the encouragement of our approval, and that later fails to develop the germs of altruistic ideals because we fail to recognize, or at least to encourage, them. We cannot expect from the schools an early change of emphasis from the competitive type of ambition to the ideal of cooperation or service, although the teachers who have tried to encourage the latter have found the school work to proceed more satisfactorily than it does under the spirit of emulation. But in the home it should be much easier to encourage these higher types of ideals, for we do not have to set one child against the other, and there is greater opportunity for individual service on account of the greater differences in the ages and attainments of the children.
It is interesting and significant that, of the thousands of children who have given expression to their ideals and ambitions, a very small number—less than one in every hundred—have appeared to be quite content with themselves and with their surroundings. The normal child craves for some thing better, and roams as far afield as his knowledge and opportunities let him in his search for the best. It is during the years from the tenth to the fifteenth or sixteenth that this search is keenest, and during this period we should present to the children every opportunity for becoming acquainted with what has been considered best in the history of the race. The reading that the boy or girl does at this time is perhaps the most important source of ideals.
The selection of suitable books for the young is in itself an important problem, and one that many of us are apt to neglect. It is impossible to judge of the desirability or suitableness of a book from its appearance, or from its price, or from the standing of its publishers, or even from the repute of the author. Many attractive-looking books are not only worthless, but positively objectionable. If it is not possible for you to examine carefully each book that you consider buying, you should make use of an annotated list, or seek competent counsel in some other form. Through libraries and various associations it is now possible to obtain carefully prepared lists that will be helpful in selecting books for children of all ages.
An interesting point that has been brought out by studies is the fact that degrading ideals are practically wanting in children. You were no doubt shocked to discover that Eddy was planning to become a burglar, or a pirate chief, or a tramp, or an ordinary highwayman. But a careful analysis of the motives and experiences of the boy will show that the particular feature that Eddy admires in his hero is far removed from the ones that shock you. The boy is dreaming of travel and adventure, of the excitement of chasing or of being chased, of trying his ingenuity in conflict with the professionally ingenious minions of the law, of being brave in the face of danger, of testing his fortitude in the time of trouble, of the loyalty of his comrades to himself as leader, or of his loyalty to his chief when the latter is beset by his enemies. But courage and loyalty and fortitude and ingenuity are no more degrading ideals than are material possessions and intellectual accomplishments. Only it happens that many boys find these particular ideals embodied in heroes and personalities that we feel we must disapprove for various reasons. Robin Hood appeals to the children not because he violated the laws of the land or because he deprived people of their property, but because he was brave, and clever, and just, and kind to the poor.
In comparing the ideals of children raised in the city with those of children raised in the country, interesting differences appear. The city children are in general less inclined to be altruistic than country children at the same age. On the other hand, city children draw upon a wider range of characters from history and from fiction for their ideals. In the matter of future occupations, city children were often satisfied to mention some preference from the various occupations of which they had heard, without elaborating the details, whereas the country children, although they did not select from so wide a range, frequently described special features of some occupation as the interesting elements leading to a choice.
From the various studies that have been made we may see that the kind of ideals that a child is likely to have depends a great deal upon the people with whom he becomes familiar, upon the ideas with which he becomes familiar, and upon the activities with which he becomes familiar. The child should have an opportunity to discover the best that is available in his immediate environment. His earliest heroes should be his parents; then the acquaintances near home should furnish the qualities that will arouse his interest and admiration. It is a mistake to thrust upon the child ideals ready made and imported for the purpose. A hero thrust upon the young imagination may do service for a while, but is likely to be discarded later when that particular hero's virtues really need to be kept before the child much more than they did in the earlier period. George Washington and his hatchet have furnished us a legend that is a good illustration of this. The hero is dressed up to be attractive to children of nursery age, and endowed with nursery virtues. When the children grow up and so outgrow their nursery ideals, they discard interest in and admiration for George Washington: this is a serious loss to our national idealism.
The results of the studies also indicate how significant is suitable literature in the formation of ideals. A comparison of returns from girls with those from boys throws an important side light on this problem. In nearly every group of answers received it was evident that most girls, when they get to a certain age, adopt ideals that are decidedly masculine. The explanation of this seems to lie in the fact that the characters of history and of literature with whom they become most familiar are those showing distinctly masculine qualities. There are real differences between the mind of a girl and the mind of a boy, and these should be taken into consideration in their training. There is great need for the clearer recognition and sharper definition of distinctly feminine ideals. It is not enough to transfer some imitation masculine ideals to the minds of our girls.
We should make a special effort to discover our children's ideals, for several reasons. First of all, by knowing what the girl or boy has nearest the heart we shall be able to enter into closer sympathy with the child, we shall be able to understand much of the conduct that would otherwise baffle as well as annoy us. In the second place, by watching the rise of ideals we shall be better able to direct the child's playing and his reading and those other activities that are needed to supply the experiences and ideas that seem to be lacking, or to discourage tendencies that seem to us undesirable. In the third place, if we know our children's ideals we can make use of these as motive forces in helping us to carry out our larger plans. It is when the boy is in the military stage of his ambitions that we should try to make the virtues of the soldier habitual parts of his character. It is when the girl is ambitious to make a fine garden that we should try to make her fix the habits of orderliness, regularity, and attention to details. Of course, not every girl will want to have a garden, and many a boy never cares to be a soldier; but at every stage there are ideals that can be called upon to fix the heart upon certain virtues until the latter become habits.
It is very easy to ridicule the ideals and ambitions of children when they seem to us too high-flown or futile. But a person's ideals stand too close to the centre of his character to be treated so rudely. It is better to ignore the many trifling flights of fancy that are not likely to have any permanent effect, and to throw the child into circumstances that will force the emergence of more deep-seated or far-reaching ambitions.
There is another danger in the ease with which a child's faith in ideals is destroyed, when these happen to interfere with our own immediate comfort and desires. When a boy has gotten into some mischief with his friends, and is the only one caught, we are tempted to bring pressure to bear upon him to make him tell who the other culprits were. Joe is ready to take his own punishment, and that of his fellow malefactors, too, rather than "snitch." But for some reason we feel that "justice" demands the conviction of every individual involved. The conflict is not between our sense of justice and the boy's stubbornness or wilfulness; it is rather a struggle between our demand for retribution and the boy's ideal of loyalty. If, through threats and cajolery or more indirect methods, we at last succeed in finding out that it was Mrs. Brown's Bob who was responsible for the whole affair, we have at last broken down Joe's inclination to act according to certain ideal standards. Joe has fallen in his own estimation beyond calculation. It is better to let Bob go "unpunished" than to make Joe go back on his principles.
One important outcome of a study of our children's ideals and ambitions should be the direction of their vocational choices. We have read of Benjamin Franklin's father, who took his boys about to various shops with a view to helping them make up their minds as to what kind of trade they should follow. Nowadays we should consider this method rather crude; but for a variety of reasons most of us do not do even this much for our children. A study of children's plans and hopes for their future work brings out the fact that the desire to "earn money" as a motive in the choice increases up to the age of twelve years, and then declines rapidly. This may be taken to mean that, apart from the enlarged range of interests that comes with increased experience, there is also an efflorescence of the fancy that leads to increased concern with ideal ends. This is confirmed by a comparison of the choice made by children of well-to-do families with those made by children of rather poor people. The children of the poor, in tragically large numbers, appear to accept the fact of working as a necessity of life; they accept this doggedly as a matter of course. The children of more prosperous families, on the other hand, though frequently expressing preferences for the same kinds of occupations, have their hearts set on the joy of achievement, or on the ideal of service, or on the fun of doing, in much larger proportions.
From answers written by English children in a factory district these examples are typical:
A boy of eight: "I should like to be a Carpenter. Because my mother says I can be one."
A girl of twelve: "I should like to go out when I am older to earn my own living."
Another girl of twelve: "I think it would be nice to go out to a situation."
In contrast with these are the answers given by children of the same ages who came from homes of culture, if not always of wealth:
A boy of eight: "I would like to be like Major —— because I like carpentering very much and he carpenters beautifully. Once he bought a box for his silver and there was one tray to it and he wanted to make little fittings for the silver so first he painted some names on some paper of all the different things he had; then he cut them out and supposing he wanted to put knives and forks quickly he would have a little name written down where they ought to go and he made the fittings most beautifully quite as well as any shop would."
A girl of thirteen: "One thing I should like to do would be to be a very clever naturalist, and to know everything about everything alive or in the country world."
A girl of ten: "I should like to be a piano teacher, when I grow up, for then I shall be able to learn to play many pieces of poetry."
A part of this difference is no doubt due to the fact that in many families there are traditional ideals of the obligations of privilege, which the children readily imitate; or to the fact that these children do not have to think about the necessity of earning a livelihood, and so give their attention to the enjoyments that can be derived from various kinds of activity.
The subject of vocational guidance, which has come into great prominence during the past few years, includes so many ideas that are confusing and misleading that large numbers of people have become alarmed and are fighting the movement. In the first place, the title itself is misleading. Most people do not enter upon "callings" in the true sense of that word; they get into some kind of occupation or business, but could just as readily have adjusted themselves to any one of a thousand other occupations. Then the matter of guidance is misleading. It is impossible for anyone to-day to undertake to guide young people into their occupations. All that can be hoped for is that children may be given an opportunity to find out about the different types of work that need to be done, and about the different human qualities that are of value in the various occupations.
The question that concerns the parent is: What special inclinations has the child that can be utilized in a future occupation? It is not so much a question of making full use of your child's talents as it is of giving him an opportunity to do the kind of work in which he will be most happy. Society at large is interested in conserving all the different kinds of ability, but the individual child is concerned with realizing his own ideals, with living, so far as possible, his own life. At the same time, the evidence which we have on the subject—not very much, to be sure—shows that there is really a close connection between what a child likes to do and what he can do well. It is, of course, true that one can learn to do well what at first comes hard, and then learn to like it. But we must not forget that strong inclinations must be carefully considered when future work is being decided upon.
Our children are so imitative that a child with marked talents will occasionally not reveal these in surroundings that lay emphasis on qualities unrelated to these talents. So many a boy with high-grade musical ability will fail to show this where music is looked down upon as something unworthy of a man. In the same way children will develop ideals in imitation of what goes on around them. Every child is likely at some time in his career to look forward to money-making as the most desirable end in life; but most normal children will pass beyond this ideal before adolescence. If, however, the atmosphere in which the child lives is one of money-getting, the child without strong tendencies toward other ideals is likely to allow this ideal to persist into adolescence and young manhood or womanhood. In such cases the ideal becomes fixed without indicating that the individual is "by nature" of an avaricious temperament or materialistically inclined.
The same principle of imitativeness would, of course, apply to other ideals. This explains to us why the recurrence of certain ideals or modes of life in successive generations of a family leads to the supposition that there are "hereditary" elements at work. It is also a good reason why we should guard against the contaminating influence of unworthy ideals. It is impossible for us to carry about imitation virtues and fool our children into imitating them.
Children begin to form their ideals early in life, and their first standards are derived from the people and the things about them that contribute to their pleasures—sweets and parents and the heroes of the fairy tales.
As the child's experience broadens he borrows ideals from new acquaintances and the characters he meets in his reading.
The child absorbs from his surroundings, from his acquaintances, and from his reading, as well as from the instruction that he receives in school or in church, materials for building a world of what ought to be. And in this world he himself plays a very important rle. We must therefore make sure that the materials for ideals which are within our control shall be of the best.
Loose conversation, cynicism, open disrespect for the noble things in human character, lack of faith in human nature cannot be exhibited to the child day after day without having their sinister effect. It is true that some children, here and there, will resist these unfavorable influences, and will come out of the struggle strong and self-reliant, with faith in their own ideals and with faith in mankind. But we cannot afford to treat the developing character of the child on the theory that it needs exercise and temptation as a gymnast needs exercise and trying tasks. The temptation that becomes a habitual stimulus to wrong doing or wrong thinking has no moral value. The child is only too ready to follow the path of least resistance, and the temptations will come aplenty after the ideals begin to form.
High ideals in the home, and not merely good words; loyalty to ideals and a spirit of confidence in the children, are needed to give the children that confidence in themselves which they need to make them loyal to their own ideals when these are out of harmony with vulgar fashion.
THE STORK OR THE TRUTH
"Mother, where do babies come from?"
Some day you will be asked this question by your little girl or your little boy—if you have not already been asked. What will your answer be?
Even if you have been accustomed to giving frank answers to your children's questions about all sorts of subjects, you are likely to hesitate when it comes to this. You will be tempted to say what you were probably told yourself, under similar circumstances. You will perhaps say that the doctor brings babies in his satchel, or that the stork brings babies in his bill. Or perhaps you will feel impelled to tell Harry to go out and play, and ask you again a few years later when he will be old enough to understand.
The telling of a myth like the stork story is harmless enough for the time being. We have entertained Santa Claus for ages without undermining the morals of our children. And we shall continue to retell the fairy stories, for, although they are not, strictly speaking, "true" stories, they have their place in the life of the child. Why can we not go on, then, as we have done in the past, leaning upon the stork?
The difference between the story of where babies come from and the story of Santa Claus or Mother Hubbard is a very important one. Santa Claus and Mother Hubbard represent ideas and interests that are but passing phases in the child's development, whereas knowledge about reproduction is something that grows in interest with the years and reaches its deepest significance just at the time when you can hardly, if at all, regain your hold upon your child, once you have lost it. It does not matter much who disillusions your child about Santa Claus. The disappointment is brief, and soon the child can look upon the legend as a joke. But it does matter very much who tells your child that the stork story is all a lie, and how he is told.
It is well for mothers to realize that the embarrassment which they may feel when this question is first asked is quite foreign to the child, for the child at this time has no knowledge whatever of sex. To him it is simply a question for satisfying his momentary curiosity. Later on, when the child has become aware of the idea of sex, he is not likely to ask his mother embarrassing questions, or, if he should ask them, the situation would be equally embarrassing to both—unless you have in the meanwhile kept in close sympathy with your children, and they feel that they can come to you with any question and be answered frankly. And the way to keep them in close sympathy is by meeting frankly every question as it arises. It is not necessary to answer every question by telling everything you know; it is necessary merely to tell enough to satisfy the child's immediate need. Not only, then, does your frank answer tend to keep the child in touch with the mother, but you protect him in this manner against going for his information to sources that are frequently contaminating. The information that boys and girls give one another about sex matters is often something appalling, not only in its distance from the truth, but in the amount of filth with which it is encrusted. It is the desire to keep his mind clean, then, that should prompt the mother to tell her child what he wants to know when he wants to know it. A third consideration is found in the fact that many children, when they do not receive satisfactory answers to their queries, will reflect and brood about the subject to a degree that becomes morbid. This is especially likely to happen where the subject of the child's inquiry is treated as though it were an improper or a wicked one to speak about, so that the child dares not ask others for enlightenment.
That the early answering of the child's questions may offset both morbid curiosity and the danger of resorting to filthy sources of information is illustrated by the story of a seven-year-old boy who was invited by an older boy to come to the wood-shed for the purpose of being told an important secret. "If you promise not to tell any one," the older boy began, "I will tell you where babies come from." "Why, I know where babies come from," replied the second, not greatly interested. "Oh, yes you do! I suppose you think that a stork brings them? Well, you're 'way off there. The stork ain't got nothing to do with it," the instructor continued breathlessly, for fear of being deprived of his opportunity to impart his precious secret. At last the secret was out; but the younger replied, coolly, "That's nothing. My mother told me that when I was four years old." Since the matter had ceased to be a secret, and since the story even lacked novelty, all opportunity for the elaboration of details was destroyed.
But what can you tell to a child of four or five? For that is the age at which the question is likely first to present itself. Remember that the child is not asking a sex question, but one about the direct source of himself, or about some particular baby that he has seen. You can say that the baby grew from a tiny egg, which is in a little chamber that grows as the baby grows, until the baby is big enough to come out. This will satisfy most children for a considerable time, but some children will immediately ask, "Where is that little room?" To which you may reply, "The growing baby must be kept in the most protected place possible, so it is kept under the mother's heart." Or, you may say that the baby grew from a seed implanted in the mother's body, that it was nourished by her blood until it grew large enough, when it came out at the cost of much suffering. Of course, you will tell the story as personally as you can, about your particular child, and in as simple a way as you can.
If you tell the little girl or boy this much you have told him all that he probably cares to know at this time; you have told the truth so that you have nothing to fear about his being disillusioned either as to the story or as to your own trustworthiness; and you have avoided arousing the suspicion that certain subjects are unworthy of understanding. And then you will find that this new conception of his relation to you, as truly a part of your being, will deepen and strengthen his natural feeling of affection and sympathy. It is also well with the first telling to impress the child—in so many words, if necessary—with the idea that he must always come to you for anything he wants to know, and that you are always glad to tell him.
As the child grows older his knowledge of life must grow also. In the country and in small towns the child becomes familiar with many important facts about life without any special effort being required to inform him. He learns that chickies hatch out of eggs and that the eggs have been laid by the mother hen. He learns that the field and garden plants grow from seeds and that the seeds were borne by the mother plants. He learns about the coming of the calf and the colt; and even city children can learn that kittens and puppies come from mother animals. It is a comparatively simple matter for a child with such knowledge to get the further information that the baby brother developed from an egg that mother kept near her heart during the hatching time. Much of this knowledge that the country child acquires incidentally must be brought to the city child through special efforts and devices, in the school as well as in the home, that he may acquire the fundamental facts of bearing and rearing young, in plants as well as in animals, and that he may look upon these facts not as strange or disconcerting marvels, but as natural happenings.
Miss Garrett, one of the most successful teachers of sex and reproduction, tells the story of some city boys who had been taught these things, and who had decided, in their club, to raise rabbits. The selection of a father rabbit and a mother rabbit was too important a matter to leave to a committee, so the whole club went in a body to attend to these preliminaries. The care the boys took of the mother rabbit during her pregnancy was in itself an education. Later Miss Garrett saw the leader of the club—who had been the "toughest" of the gang—with another boy on the street, while a pregnant woman was trying to cross with a heavy basket. "Come on, Jim," he called, "let's help her across." This same boy but a few months back would have ridiculed the poor woman in her plight.
Every child can learn what Jim and his companion learned. He can learn to respect motherhood and to be considerate of mothers as mothers. It is very interesting to see the great differences in this regard between families in which the fact of motherhood is a secret, and those in which it is a matter of common knowledge. I was visiting a friend whose six-year-old boy knew that another baby was expected, and he was very careful to avoid annoying his mother. Of course, the attitude of the other members of the family also had an influence upon the conduct of this child. But another mother complained that she received very little consideration during pregnancy from her oldest son—a boy of fourteen—although all the other members of the family were as careful and as thoughtful as could be desired. This second mother, however, had allowed her older boys to grow up on the assumption that sex and reproduction had nothing to do with life, or, at any rate, were of no concern to them and were not suitable subjects to know about; so that her boys did not know that something unusual was in the air, or that something special was expected of them.
The important thing for the mother to do during these growing years is to retain the confidence of the children, and to give them an opportunity to become acquainted with the everyday facts about plants and animals. The questions that come to the child's mind will be questions of motherhood and babyhood, chiefly, and not questions of sex or fatherhood. When these questions do at last arise, as they are sure to almost any time after twelve years, and sometimes even before, you have a great advantage if your child brings his questions to you instead of to his casual acquaintances of the school or street, even if you are not prepared to answer all the questions for him. The girl will come to her mother, and the boy will come to his father, if they have acquired the habit of coming with frankness and confidence. Then, if for any reason you are not qualified to tell what needs to be told, you may just as frankly say so and refer the child to the right instructor, who may be a teacher or the family physician. Older children may even be sent to suitable books. But the most desirable condition is that in which the parents have prepared in advance to answer all the questions themselves, and even to anticipate some questions.
The child should receive instruction along these lines at various stages in his development, even up to young manhood or womanhood, corresponding to his physical development and to his mental development, which normally proceed in close relation to each other. The girl should be informed how to care for her health. The boy should be instructed about the sex life of the opposite sex to know what they have a right to expect, or rather what they have no right to demand of the other. Boys during the adolescent period, which has been called the "age of chivalry and romance," are keen to appreciate the rights of others and their own duties to the weak; it is at this time that we are to appeal to their sense of honor in establishing ideals of purity, and the sense of responsibility as bearers of the life stream. The standards of sex morals are established during this period, for girls as well as for boys. Their strength to time of temptation will lie in the ideals which now become fixed. We want our girls to grow up demanding purity of the young men they will meet, not pretending that they do not know the difference. And we want our boys to grow up with faith in the literal truth of that fine line about Sir Galahad:
His strength is as the strength of ten, because his heart is pure.
The parents who wish to prepare themselves with a knowledge of what to tell their children in place of the old stork fable; of when to tell, instead of postponing to a dishonest "some other time"; and of how to tell, instead of in the embarrassing, half-expressed vagueness, would do well to read some of the abundant literature on this subject that has been issued in recent years just for our help: Some of the best titles are given below.
The following titles, with comments, are taken for the most part from "A Selected List of Books for Parents," issued by the Federation for Child Study:
BIOLOGY OF SEX. By T. W. Galloway. A concise and reliable statement of fundamental sex facts.
GIRL AND WOMAN. By Caroline Latimer. Very helpful in understanding and dealing with the physical, mental and moral disturbances of girlhood and early womanhood. Some of the recommendations, particularly regarding physical aspects, are open to question.
MARRIAGE AND THE SEX PROBLEM. By F. W. Foerster. Emphasis is laid upon the religious and spiritual sides of the emotional life, upon training for self-control and the mastery of moods and instincts.
SEX. By Patrick Geddes and J. Arthur Thompson. The biological aspects of sex and also interesting chapters on sex education, the ethics of sex, and sex and society. Good bibliography.
SEX EDUCATION. By Maurice A. Bigelow. Covers the problems of sex education and of criticisms of sex education.
SEX EDUCATION. By Ira S. Wile, M.D. An excellent little volume for the purpose of assisting parents to banish the difficulties and to suggest a plan for developing a course in sex education. The chapter on terminology is most helpful.
THE SEXUAL LIFE OF A CHILD. By Dr. Albert Moll. An exhaustive study of the origin and development in childhood and youth, of the acts and feelings due to sex. Indispensable to anyone interested in sex education.
THE SEXUAL QUESTION. By August Forel, M.D., Ph.D., LL.D. Translated from the German by C. F. MARSHALL, M.D., F.R.C.S. A comprehensive and reliable study of the subject from biological, historical, social and hygienic viewpoints.
TRAINING OF THE YOUNG IN LAWS OF SEX. By the Hon. E. Lyttelton. A brief presentation, from a lofty point of view of the many phases of the sex problem as it confronts the boy.
The following books on sex education were written for children. They are listed here, not to be put into the hands of the young, but as a help to parents in supplying methods of approach and a usable vocabulary:
THE RENEWAL OF LIFE. By Margaret W. Morley.
THE SEX SIDE OF LIFE. An Explanation for Young People. By Dr. Mary Ware Dennett (Pamphlet, published by the author, New York.)
THE SPARK OF LIFE. By Margaret W. Morley.
THE THREE GIFTS OF LIFE. By Nellie M. Smith, A.M.
Special studies in many parts of the country, especially during the war, have made it clear that girls in the adolescent stage are definitely aware of the need for clean and trustworthy instruction on matters pertaining to the relations between the sexes, to the control of the emotions, to the care of the body during the menstrual period, and to other problems arising from the facts of sex.
It is pathetic, is it not, to have a high-school girl write: "Some parents are ashamed to tell their girls everything, so that is why I think they should be told in school." Whose parents had she in mind?
Another writes: "There are many girls with no mother or very near female relation that can tell them all they need to know, and if anything should happen in a girl's life, she does not think it proper to speak to a male, even if it is her father." Are the girls who have mothers or "very near female relations" to be none the better, or happier for it?
I hope that mothers will not continue in the future, as most have done in the past, to hesitate about giving such information to their children. If you are perhaps tempted to feel that you would like to preserve the child's innocence as long as possible, you have but to realize that innocence is not the same as ignorance. We are apt to forget how young we ourselves were when we had obtained one way or another a large mass of information about reproduction, and even about sex. The question is not whether a young child should have this information or not; the question is whether he shall have correct and pure information, or false and filthy information. For one or the other he is sure to get. True knowledge is the best mantle of innocence.
Much misery is caused, not only for girls, but also for boys, by the lapses from the path of virtue. If the young man who has gone astray is in a position to say, "Had I but heeded!" instead of saying, "Had I but known!" it will make a great difference in the way he will later feel toward the one person from whom he had a right to expect protecting knowledge. It is true enough that knowledge alone is not a sure protection against wrong-doing; but you can have no moral training without knowledge, and knowledge is the least you can give.
There is no reason why parents should think of enlightening their children on this subject as a disagreeable necessity, instead of as one of the important means through which to be of real help to their children, and at the same time to help themselves to retain their hold upon the children.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF TRANSITION
There comes a time in the life of every boy and every girl that brings a maximum of trials and worry—to the other people. This time is the golden age of transition from childhood to manhood or womanhood, the age of adolescence. If you have had annoyance and hardship with your infants, if the children have perplexed you and tried you—as you thought, to the limit—you may be sure that there is more in store for you. For the age of adolescence brings with it problems and perplexities and annoyances that will make you forget that it's any trouble at all to look after younger children.
After years of painstaking attention to all the details of a child's home surroundings, in the hope that this attention will result in distinct gains to the child's character, it must be very discouraging to notice some fine day that Louise is becoming rather finicky about the food—which is just as good as she has always had—and that Arthur is inclined to become rather short in speaking to his mother—not to say impudent. And both are likely to become critical not only about the food but about a hundred other things that they find at home. And both are likely to be something not far from impudent in giving expression to their criticisms. In fact, they will be quite prepared to undertake the education of their parents, and to tell you with alarming assurance just how and when to do things, both at home and abroad. Fortunate, indeed, are the parents who have come to this critical stage in their education equipped with a sense of humor.
However, these unexpected and mortifying outbreaks of inconsiderateness and bad manners do not show that your early efforts have all been in vain. They do not show that outside influences beyond your control have perverted your children, or have counteracted your efforts. They show merely that Louise and Arthur are still growing, and have now entered upon that most interesting and most significant period of the new birth.
It is well, first of all, for the mother—and the father, too—to realize that this period is a passing one, for this knowledge can save you many a worried day and many a sleepless night. I do not mean that when the child comes to this dangerous age you are simply to let nature and impulse have their way. I mean only that the problems are to be met with many devices, but not with worry. For we are coming to understand some of the fundamental causes of the great changes that occur in the nature of the growing child at this time, and we are learning, accordingly, better ways of dealing with the troublesome manifestations of these changes. Not that we can lay down rules for the proper handling of all adolescents everywhere, for we can not. Every individual is a problem by himself; but we can learn a better way of approaching this precious problem, a more helpful attitude to maintain toward him or her.
There is a physical basis for the remarkable alterations in the minds and morals of this age. The infant grows very rapidly at first, but with a diminishing rate until about the twelfth year. Then, almost suddenly, the rate of growth increases again, and in four or five years most children have attained nearly their full physical growth. Associated with this great physical growth is the fact that some organs grow much faster than others, so that the proportions of an adult come to be very different from those of a child. In the meanwhile, however, there has been a great strain on the system, because, apart from the demands of the general body growth, some of the organs have not been able to keep up with the special demands made upon them. For example, the growth in body weight and in muscle may proceed more rapidly than the proportionate growth of the lungs or the liver, or the weight may increase more rapidly than the proportionate strength of the muscles. Moreover, the nervous system is developing at a more rapid rate, probably, than the other systems of organs, and this strain shows itself in various ways that are disagreeable to adults with fixed habits and standards.
All of these changes are intimately bound up with the development of the sex organs and with the approach of sexual maturity.
A graceful child becomes awkward and a well-mannered child comes to act rudely and to speak quite unlike his former self. These changes are related to the fact that with the development of the nervous system there arise impulses for hundreds of new kinds of movements which the child can learn to suppress or to control only with the passing of time. This is the age at which the child is exposed to the acquirement of many undesirable muscular habits, such as various kinds of fidgetings, biting of the finger-nails, twirling of buttons, wrinkling of the forehead, shruggings, swaying the body, rolling the tongue, tapping with the fingers or the feet, and so on. Nearly a thousand of these uncontrolled or "automatic" movements have been described in children of this age. Of course, any of these movements that produce sounds or that catch our eye are very annoying to us, and if we have never nagged before, we are likely to begin now by saying Don't this and Don't that, for we have never been tempted like this before. But nagging is not what is called for.
Are we then to let them keep on annoying others, or are we to leave them to themselves to make permanent these awkward and disturbing and often hideous movements? We should do neither. We should remember that now of all times the boy or girl needs our friendship and our sympathy; we should let the young person feel that our objections are not based upon our momentary annoyance, but upon our concern for the kinds of habits he will acquire; and we should do what we can to help him break his habit, not insist that he break it for us. Moreover, it is not certain that all of these fidgetings and tappings should be suppressed upon their first appearance. Most of these automatic movements disappear of themselves as the child matures and learns to direct his nervous energy into channels that lead to useful actions, as he acquires skill and self-control through practice in gymnastics or with tools, or musical instruments or at some games. And while there should be every opportunity to play games and musical instruments and to handle tools, etc., we should not be discouraged if, after a whole day of hard exertion in work and play, there is still some energy left for drumming on the table or teasing sister or the cat, or for dancing a jig upstairs and rattling the lamp.
Closely connected with the rapid development of the nervous system is the fact of the increasing irritability of temper. This will show itself every day in a hundred ways. Of course, it is unreasonable, and, of course, the boy or girl is not to be allowed to become rude and impatient and domineering. But with this increasing irritability comes increasing sensitiveness, and it is very easy for you to make him realize that his conduct is not that becoming a gentleman, or that his manner has been offensive. He will not give you the satisfaction, very often, of letting you know that he fully appreciates your point of view; indeed, he will even make a show of disputing your position; he will try to argue out a justification for his conduct, or at least a mitigation. But he knows very well what his offense is, and is thoroughly ashamed of himself; but he has to save his face.
It may be helpful to mothers and fathers, and to others who have to do with girls and boys of this age, to know that what appears to us as impudence is very often but an expression of the child's awkward attempt to hide his discomfiture or embarrassment. This is especially true in the early stages of adolescence. The boy or girl is becoming conscious of himself as a person, and resents being treated as a child; the only way he knows of asserting his personality is by affecting an air of disdain toward those who presume to treat him as a child. This swagger is more likely to be put on when there is a third person present. It is therefore always safer to reserve your discussions and corrections to the time when you are alone with your girl or boy, and can place your conversation on an intimate basis.
Hand in hand with spells of most irritating self-assertiveness, the adolescent is subject to spells of most depressing humility and self-abnegation. Indeed, at every point this period is marked by the most violent contrasts and alterations of mood. Hours or days of seeming indifference to all interests and activities will be followed by keen excitement and enthusiasm. A fit of doubt in his own ability and worthiness will be followed by almost ludicrous self-confidence. A feverish desire for constant companionship will follow a dull and moody search for seclusion and solitude. In general it is perhaps wisest to ignore these changing moods, except where they find their outlet in offensive or vicious conduct. We must remember that it is just as trying to the young person as it is to the older ones; and, while we may not be prepared to yield our comfort and our standards to the whims of the girl or boy, we should seek for adjustment through sympathetic exchange of ideas and sentiments, and not through arbitrary rules. In any case, these changing moods need not in themselves be considered occasions for misgivings and worry about the future development, for they are part and parcel of the rapid changes in the nervous system.
So complex is the character of this stage that volumes have been written about it; it has been recorded in song and in literature, and has been celebrated in religious ceremonials from ancient times. If, then, the mother finds it perplexing, and somewhat beyond her full comprehension, she certainly should not blame herself.
It has been said that the complexity of the individual during adolescence is due to the fact that at this time the brain and the whole body become at last awakened to their manifold capacities, and that the child now is not only capable of doing everything that a human being can do, but feels the impulse to do everything. But manifestly he cannot do all things at once; hence the rapid changes of impulse and mood. There is a sudden increase in emotions, without suitable habits for giving them an outlet. There is vague longing and formless yearning for the child knows not what. Much relief and satisfaction come from physical exertion, especially for boys. There is much satisfaction of the emotions from association with others; hence the growth of the gang and the feeling of kinship.
Adults, with their limited interests and their appreciation of the need for specialization in the practical pursuits of life, are often inclined to look with disfavor upon the growing girl's or boy's "dabbling" in a hundred different directions. Not content with athletics and hunting, the boy will want to collect stamps or birds' eggs, to make a motor-boat and learn telegraphy; to take photographs and try his hand at the cornet; to experiment in chemistry and stuff an owl. Not content with dancing, sewing and cooking, the girl will want to master several poets and make attempts at painting; she will want to become more proficient at the piano and do some singing; she will want her share of photography and athletics, and would try her hand at writing a novel. All these things seem so distracting to us that we fear either that the young person will become a superficial dabbler or will fail to settle down to something serious. But much is to be said in favor of letting every girl and boy do as near to everything he or she wants to do as possible. Expertness can come later when a choice of a specialty has been made. Now is the time for touching life at as many points as possible, for acquiring breadth of outlook and range of sympathy and interest. Now especially is the time for trying out the individual's capacities— which may lie quite beyond the range of the conventional pursuits of the family or the neighborhood. It is the time for self-discovery, and to this end every bit of help that can come from the home and from the church, from the school and from the community, from direct experience and from literature, should be utilized.
The danger of early specialization is shown to us when we contemplate men and women who have no interests beyond their rather narrow routine occupations, who have no sympathies beyond their rather narrow set of intimates, who have no appreciation of human character and human service beyond the small circle into which they settled in their teens, and from which they can by no possibility be drawn. It is because the formation of new habits becomes increasingly difficult after the sixteenth or seventeenth year that narrow prejudices and biased opinions should be avoided by participation in the broadest variety of activities and associations. Before the conflicting moods and tendencies are finally welded into a consistent whole the girl or boy should make a part of his personality as many sources of enthusiasm, as many kinds of interest, as many lines of sympathy as possible. In a few years the character begins to "set," and the size of the character will be in large part determined by the number and variety of emotional, intellectual, sensory, and muscular elements that have been developed during this adolescent period.
One of the characteristics of this age is the tendency to hero worship. It is so difficult to know in advance what types of heroes our children are going to select that we are inclined to feel quite helpless in the matter. But it is safe to say that earlier training is sure to have its effects, although we cannot always measure the effect. A boy in whom a keen sense of honor shows itself before adolescence is not likely to adopt a hero in whom there is a suspicion of anything sneaky. The new flood of emotions brings with it a host of new aspirations and new ideals; and some of these are likely enough to conflict with the older childish ideals. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the reading—which is perhaps the chief source of model heroes for most children—should be of a wholesome kind. This does not mean that the stories must be about paragons of virtue; the villains of fiction and history have their value in teaching life and character, and we need not fear that they will contaminate the minds of the young, for in most children the instincts may be relied upon to reject the allurement of the base character. But fiction that is false in its sentiment, that does not present truthful pictures of life, is likely to give perverted ideas of human relations and false standards of value. City children who have access to the theatre often get their heroes from the stage; and the same thing may be said about the drama as about fiction. It is only the too highly colored and exaggerated melodrama that is likely to be objectionable for the impressionable youth. The moving-picture shows, which are coming to supply so many of the children with their chief opportunity to learn life, have been, on the whole, fairly wholesome; and the movement to secure more adequate censorship of the films will probably leave these sources of instruction perfectly safe, from a moral point of view, so far as concerns the knowledge of life that the adolescent gets. The only real danger from the "movies" and the theatres is likely to be the cultivation of the habit of passive entertainment.
And this suggests another source of puzzles of adolescence. In the alternating moods of excessive exertion and indolence there is the possibility of girls and boys learning the value of alternation of work and play and rest. But there is also the danger of acquiring the habit of resting all the time, and leaving not only the work for others, but also the activity of play. It is much better for children to rest because they are tired than because they are lazy. And, while it is true that the instincts are all for activity, it is easy enough for the growing individual to acquire the habit of passive absorption of whatever amusement is provided. It is better, then, for the young people to get their entertainment out of theatricals than out of the theatre, out of playing games than out of watching games, out of having adventures in the woods and in the water than out of reading about them. And, in every way, the most reliable safety-valve of the period is constant activity, as this is the best outlet for the many and conflicting emotions which are the source of the chief difficulties. When Arthur shows signs of getting restless it is a great comfort to be able to send him off on some errand, or to give him a definite task to do. But it is also a great service to the boy, for while he is at the work there is being used up the nervous energy that would otherwise appear at the surface as another "spell." And this principle is just as true for girls as it is for boys. Only you cannot send the girl to a piece of work requiring great bodily exertion—nor does she need this so much.
Work is not only a satisfactory safety-valve for the emotions in general, but it is especially valuable as a means of diverting the thoughts and feelings from the growing consciousness of sex.
One of the reasons why it now becomes more difficult for even thoughtful and considerate parents to keep in close sympathy with the boy or girl is this outburst of new and varied interests, which clamor for movement and color and quick changes. The parent has in the course of years settled down to a relatively small group of activities and interests, most of which offer no appeal to the growing individual. For instance, you would like to come close to the thoughts and feelings of your growing son or daughter; you suggest that you take a walk together. Now, it is very nice for a middle-aged person to take a walk, alone or with a companion; but the girl or boy sees no sense in taking a walk unless you wish to get somewhere. The ordinary conversation and gossip that a girl is likely to hear when you take her to visit a friend is apt to be very stupid—to the girl. Even where the parents have watched the expanding soul closely on the one hand, and have kept themselves in touch with a variety of activities rich in human interests on the other, they often find that the intimacy with their children is for a time weakened, and fully restored only after the latter have passed through these trying years.
What is likely to be the greatest source of grief on the part of the parent is the apparent lapse of the growing boy or girl from standards of honesty and truthfulness with which she has so solicitously tried to imbue him or her. But this lapse during the critical growing period is so widespread, so common among boys and girls who afterward become fine men and women, that special students of the problem have come to believe that semi-criminality is quite normal, at least for boys, at this age. Now, while some children are perhaps by nature incapable of attaining to a satisfactory moral level, most children will, under suitable surroundings, grow away from this state of lying and stealing; but under adverse conditions these distressing features of their behavior may become habitual. Suitable surroundings and treatment would here consist of the presence of good models and high ideals, sympathetic help in resisting temptation, and not in a harsh denunciation of each unapproved act as evidence of turpitude and perversion. You need not assume that there is perversion until that is demonstrated beyond any doubt. For, if the child is morally redeemable, he should be treated like one who is weak and who needs help until the difficulties are mastered; otherwise you are likely to encourage in him the feeling that he is hopeless, and he will relax all effort for his own self-mastery.
Along with the emotions related to romantic love there is a rapid development of the religious side of the nature, of a consciousness of the race as a whole, of a spirit of chivalry and disinterestedness— all emotions that bear a tremendous motive power which needs to be guided into suitable channels. Never before and never again has the individual the endurance and the energy for such self-sacrifice, for such devotion, for such exertion in behalf of the purest of ideals. At the same time, the increased sensitiveness shrinks from every sneer and every evidence of misunderstanding or unsympathetic reproof. It is therefore unwise to tease the girl or boy about the "friend" of the opposite sex; it is cruel to sneer at their ambitions, and it may be positively demoralizing to ridicule their ideals.
A mother of unusual intelligence, who had devoted herself not only to the routine work connected with her household and the care of her children, but had made special efforts to keep informed on what was going on in the world of thought and practical affairs, and who had a busy life of varied activities, was walking along a city street with her youngest son—just fifteen. The adolescent, who was rather free in his comments on what went on around him, made this pretty little speech to his mother:
"Mother, I think you have a very petty mind. Here you fuss around trying to help out that poor V—— family by getting together clothing for the children, and an odd job for the old man once in a while. And you have been trying to raise a fund to complete the education of the W—— boy, and all things of that kind. But all you have done does not help to solve the problem of poverty."
The mother, who had indeed been carrying on these various good works, alongside of many other activities, naturally resented the criticism of her son. But what she minded most was the "inconsistency" of the boy when, a few minutes later, they passed a street preacher with a crowd about him. They could not hear what the man was saying, but the wise young adolescent remarked, "I wish I had some money to help that fellow with."
Now, thinks the mother, what do you know about this man's purposes; what is he working for?
The boy did not know; but he wanted to do something "to help the cause." What cause, he did not know—and did not care; for him it was enough that here a man is devoting himself to a cause.
And this incident illustrates nearly everything that makes the adolescent so puzzling and so exasperating to older people.
First of all, he had gotten hold of a large idea, which he could not by any possibility understand in all its bearings; and on the basis of this he criticises the charitable efforts of his mother and, indeed, of her whole generation. Not only does he criticise the prevailing, modes of philanthropic effort, but he condemns these good people as having "petty" minds—because they do not all see what he has seen, perhaps for as long as a day or two. His attitude is not reasoned out, but arises from the deepest feelings of sympathy for the great tragedy of poverty, which he takes in at one sweep without patience for the details of individual poor people. Then the preacher on the street corner, exposing himself to the gibes and sneers of the unsympathetic crowd, appeals to him instantly as a self-sacrificing champion of some "cause." It is his religious feelings, his chivalric feelings, that are reached; he would himself become a missionary, and the missionary is a hero that appeals especially to the adolescent. There is no inconsistency between his disapproval of specific acts of charity and his approval of the preacher of an unknown cause. In both instances he gives voice to his feelings for the larger, comprehensive ideals that are just surging to the surface of his consciousness.
This is the period in which you will one day complain that the young person is giving altogether too much time and thought to details of dress and fashion, only to remonstrate a few days later about his careless or even slovenly appearance. On the whole, however, the interest in dress and appearance will grow, because as the adolescent boy or girl becomes conscious of his own personality he thinks more and more of the appearance of his person, and especially of how it appears to others. There is even the danger that the boy will become a fop or a dandy, and that the girl will take to overdressing. Argument is of little avail in such cases. The association with persons of good taste who will arouse the admiration or affection of the growing child will do more than hours of sermons. If the boy can realize that one may be a fine man without wearing the latest style in collars, or if the girl finds a thoroughly admirable and lovable woman who does not observe the customs of fashion too much, neither ridicule nor protest will be necessary.
In general, the adolescent will give us exercise in patience and in imagination and in ingenuity. He will puzzle us and perplex us as well as exasperate us. But if we cannot remember back to our own golden age, we must try as best we can to believe that even this will pass away.
HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT
With special assistance from BENJAMIN CHARLES GRUENBERG, Ph.D.
The frequent appearance of the "black sheep" in a flock of tolerably white sheep, the frequent failure of the best efforts of parents and teachers to make a fairly decent man out of a promising boy, have led many to question whether, after all, the pains and effort are worth while. We have come to question the wisdom of bothering about "environment"; just as we sometimes question the existence of a principle called "heredity." Every day some one asks the question, "Do you believe in heredity?" And many times a day people discuss, "Which is more important, heredity or environment?"
These are certainly practical questions for parents, since the answers we receive must influence our practice or conduct in relation to the children. If we felt quite sure that heredity was everything and environment nothing, we should reduce our school appropriations and build larger jails and asylums, or we should resign ourselves as best we could to letting "nature take her course." On the other hand, if we felt sure that heredity was nothing and environment everything, we should proceed at once to double our school equipment, raise the teachers' salaries, convert our penal institutions into reformatories and our armories into recreation centres, and advance the age of compulsory education just as far as we thought we could afford to.
Those who place the emphasis upon heredity, in the attempt to discredit the value of thoughtful and painstaking control of the environment of the developing child, usually remind us that a man like Lincoln achieved power and distinction in spite of what we would ordinarily consider serious obstacles to complete development, whereas thousands of college graduates who have had all the advantages that trained tutors and guarded surroundings can give have developed into mediocre men and women—have even developed into vicious and criminal men and women. They will remind us that from a class of children that had the same teachers for many years has emerged a group of very distinct men and women; they will remind us that brothers and sisters with the identical "environment" turn out to be so different.
On the other hand, those who see nothing in "heredity" will point to the same Lincoln and ask confidently why his ancestors and his descendants do not show the same degree of power and achievement. They will point to the same family of brothers and sisters who had the same "heredity" and ask why they all turned out so differently. The black sheep proves just as much—and just as little—for one side of the argument as it does for the other.
There are, it is true, many people who say that they "do not believe" in either heredity or environment. Such people see the difficulties of the disputants and reject both alternatives. They prefer to say frankly that they do not understand the situation; that life is too complex to be solved by puny human intellects. Or they resort to some equally unintelligible explanation, such as "Fate" or "Nature"—which is but another way of saying that we never can understand. On the other side stands the scientist who refuses to shut his eyes to any established facts, and insists upon trying to understand as much as possible, though he may never hope to understand all.
But no one is prepared to say authoritatively that either heredity or environment is the exclusive or even the predominant factor in determining the character of the individual. Indeed, the voice of the scientist, which is the only authoritative voice we have in such matters, is telling us very plainly that the whole question of "heredity or environment" is not a real question at all: we are confronted in every child with a case of heredity and environment, and the practical question is how to control the latter so as to get the most from the former.
To begin, then, in a modest way to understand what is understandable, in the faith that understanding will grow with thought and observation, is the first duty of those who are not content to fold their hands in resignation or despair. We know that we can control wherever we have real knowledge. The cook knows that she cannot make roast duck out of pork chops; but she knows also that she can make palatable and digestible pork chops by proceeding in one way, and that she can make tough and sickening pork chops out of the same materials by changing her procedure. In the same way the scientific approach to the problem of child training teaches us that, while we cannot make a "swan out of a goose," we can make the gosling into a better goose or a poorer goose by the treatment we apply to it.
A frequent source of doubt and misunderstanding is the universal occurrence of such distinct types among brothers and sisters. The query at once arises, "Have not these children the same heredity?" Brothers and sisters have the same ancestors, but not the same heredity. Recent biological discoveries teach us that the individual develops from a bundle of units derived from the two parents, but the units supplied by a parent never represent the totality of the parents' composition, nor do all the units that are passed on come to manifest themselves as parts of the character. The parent passes on sample units from her or his own inheritance, so that no two combinations are ever exactly alike. It is a commonplace observation that Johnny may have his maternal grandmother's chin, his paternal grandmother's eyes, his father's walk, his Uncle George's lips, his Aunt Mary's sharp tongue, his grandfather's alertness, and his mother's good judgment. Of course, he has not his grandmother's eyes or his uncle's lips: these relatives still retain their respective facial organs, and his father still has his quick temper. What Johnny has inherited is a something, perhaps in the nature of a ferment, which determines the color of his eyes, a certain something that makes his lips develop into that particular shape, a certain something that causes his brain to respond to annoyance in the same manner as that of his Aunt Mary's. And the various ancestors and relatives have received from their parents similar determining factors that have manifested themselves in similar peculiarities. We do not inherit from our relatives, or even from our parents: we are built up of the same elements as those of which our relatives are built, but each one of us has received his individual combination of factors. Hence, no two brothers or sisters are exactly alike, although they have the same parents and the same ancestors.
While it is universally recognized that no two individuals are exactly alike, we are not at all clear in our minds as to whether the important differences arise from differences in experience or nurture, or from essential differences in nature. We know that children of the same parents are essentially different from birth, and that no matter how similar the treatment they receive afterward they will always remain different, or even become more different as they become older. It is becoming more clear every day, as a result of scientific study, that every individual is absolutely unique, excepting only "true" twins.
If we accept this individuality of the person as a fact, what, then, is the importance of training or environment? Does not this admission settle at once the contention of those who see no value at all in a carefully-controlled environment? If this child is born without mathematical ability, what is the use of drumming arithmetic into his head; or, if he is born with musical genius, why should we bother about teaching him music?—he will "take" to it naturally.
The answer to these and similar questions is to be found in the answer to another question, namely, "What is it precisely that the child is born with?" Surely no child is ever born with the ability to dance or sing or to do sums in algebra. When we say that a child has musical genius we mean merely that as he develops we may notice in him a certain capacity to acquire musical knowledge more readily than most other children do, or a certain disposition to express himself in melody, or a certain liking for music in some form, or a certain readiness to acquire control of musical instruments. In other words, the child is born with a capacity for acquiring certain things, from the outside, that is, from the environment—he is born with certain possibilities, which can become actualities only if the suitable conditions are provided. In the same way one child is born with a capacity for exceptional muscular development, and another for exceptional self-mastery. But in every case practice makes perfect, the muscles must be properly nourished and exercised, the will must be trained—and that means suitable environment.
Now, while every individual is unique, not every child is a born genius. The distinctiveness of each child lies in the fact that he consists of a combination of capacities and tendencies, each of which varies in degree when compared with other individuals. For example, Evelyn has about the same capacity for physical work as Annie, but she stands lower than the latter in arithmetic and higher in language work. John shows about the same physical power as Henry, when measured by running and jumping and chinning; but John can hit the ball with his bat more times out of a hundred than Henry can, whereas Henry can hit the bull's-eye with his rifle more times out of a hundred than John can. In a thousand details any two children differ from each other, one excelling in nearly half of the points, the other excelling perhaps in about as many, and the two standing almost exactly alike in some matters.
A child that excels most of his colleagues in one or a few points is said to have marked ability in that direction—as the exceptional athlete, or the child with exceptional literary or moral feeling. On the other hand, a child that seems to measure well up to the average in most points, and even to excel in a few, may fall far short in some matters,—that is, may be deficient. Thus a perfectly good child in every other way may be unable to master the ordinary requirements in arithmetic, or a child may have an entirely satisfactory development in every way and be deficient in musical discrimination.
Another kind of difference is to be found in what may be called general capacity. Some children show higher capacity than the average along nearly every line that can be measured or tested, without showing a preponderance in any one direction. Such children are said to be of high grade, or of high "vitality." In the same way many children are below the average in nearly every line, without being particularly defective along any one line. They can do one thing about as well as another, just as the high-grade boys and girls can do one thing about as well as another; but in the former there is a limit to the possible development which is exceeded in the latter. Among both classes of children the full development depends upon suitable environment, but what is suitable for one may not be suitable for the other.
From a consideration of these differences in degree and difference in kind we may see that there is no course of training or treatment, no method of instruction, no trick for the mother or for the teacher that will be usable for all children under all circumstances, to make them all come up to some preconceived uniform standard. On the other hand, if we consider the differences as worth developing, and even emphasizing, it must be obvious that the training and the treatment should be adapted to the individual child so far as possible. Starting out with essentially different human beings, uniform treatment will not make them all alike, nor will any treatment make them all alike. But starting out with a particular human being, we can learn to treat him in such a way as to make him develop into a more desirable person than he would become if he were neglected or if he were treated differently. And that is the main problem, after all.
The relation between heredity and environment may perhaps be made clear by an extreme illustration from the physical side. Here are two full-grown men, both five feet and four inches tall. We observe that they are both short. Now, the shortness of one of them turns out to be the result of heredity,—that is, he belongs to a strain of short people. No amount of feeding or of exercise or of special rgime could have made him more than a quarter or half an inch taller. The other man, however, belongs to a race of rather taller men and women: his shortness of stature may be traced to undernutrition, or to overwork, or to sickness during his childhood. It is quite certain that a different kind of environment would have resulted in his being as tall as his brothers and sisters.
Now, the problem of training concerns itself practically not so much with the person who is particularly "long" by nature, nor so much with the person who is unusually "short" by nature—and we may apply "long" and "short" to every other trait as well as to stature. The problem with these extremes is simply to keep the child in good health. The special efforts of the teacher and of the parent are devoted to giving the child who appears somewhat below the average in some particular those special stimulations and exercises and feedings that will bring him up to the average. We find the extremely short too discouraging, and the extremely long do not clamor for our attention; but it is those near the middle-point that we want to help over to the other side of the dividing line. And this is just as true of an undesirable character as it is of a desirable one. We take no trouble to teach honesty to the child that seems instinctively honest; and we give up in despair with the child that convinces us of his utter lack of a moral sense: we concentrate our efforts upon the delinquents whom we catch early, or upon those who are in danger of sliding down if they are not helped along.
Perhaps one reason for the great confusion on this subject arises out of the fact that we have become accustomed to making a sharp distinction between physical characters on the one hand and so-called mental and moral qualities on the other. Every one recognizes family resemblances in physical features. A particular shape of nose or a peculiarity of the hand appears in every member of the family, sometimes for several successive generations. Facts like these we accept as evidence of "heredity" without any question. We also recognize that the Joneses of Centerville always take the measles "hard," whereas with the Andersons vaccination never "takes." But when it comes to mental qualities, which we are not accustomed to measure or to recognize with the same degree of discrimination, most of us fail to see that heredity is just as common for these as for physical traits. Moreover, mental qualities take on such a great variety of forms that their recognition is made doubly difficult. Thus it may be the same mental traits that make of a certain man a successful lawyer, of his brother an able scientist, and of their cousin a clever criminal. No doubt each of these three men has qualities in a degree lacking in the others; but the point is that they have many qualities in common which are obscured by the different lines of development they have followed.
The old parable of the wheat cast upon the ground may help us. That which falls upon stony ground fails of germination; that which falls upon poor soil will germinate, but will die of drought or be scorched by the sun; that which falls upon good soil will develop into a good plant. The kind of plant that may develop is determined by the seed, by heredity; how the plant will develop is determined by the surrounding conditions, by the environment. On the physical side these facts are so familiar to us that we never question the connection between development and food, or between development and exercise, or between development and other physical conditions. Of course, we say, an undernourished child will never be strong; of course, an overworked child will never be strong, of course, drinking and smoking and other dissipation will prevent healthy development. And yet, do we not know that of two underfed children, one will show the ill effects more than the other; that of two overworked children, one will survive abuse with less permanent injury than the other.
We must, then, have clear in our minds the idea that everything that happens to a child and that may produce a reaction or an effect is worth considering from the point of view of its influence upon his development. Indeed, instead of discussing heredity versus environment, we should try to conceive of the personality of the child as made up of the effect of a certain heredity responding to a certain environment. For example, the child inherits the instinct to handle things. At a certain age this instinct will take the form of handling objects within reach, and of breaking them. We cannot say that the child has an instinct for breaking vases or tearing books; he has simply the instinct to do something with material that he can handle. Now, it is possible for the child to exercise this instinct only on material that can be broken or torn; it is also possible for the child to exercise it on material that can be manipulated constructively—as blocks for building, clay for shaping, or, later, tools of various kinds. In one case the child establishes habits of tearing or breaking; in the other the same instincts—the same "heredity," that is—issues in habits of making. Or we may take the instinct of curiosity, which every normal child will manifest at an early stage. This instinct may find exercise in wondering what is in parcels or closed cupboards; or it may exercise itself in wondering about the thunder and the flowers and the things under the earth; or it may be quite suppressed by discouragement or by unsatisfying indulgence. Thus the same instinct may lead under different treatments to different results. This does not mean that every child has the making of an investigator; it means that a perfectly healthy instinct capable of being turned to good use is often perverted or crushed out because we have not learned to cultivate it profitably through control of the growing child's development.
There is abundant evidence that the mental and moral capacities are inherited in the same way as the purely physical or physiological ones. We have, however, much more to learn about how to control the development of the former than about the control of the latter. Yet this point should be clear to every parent and teacher; whatever the child's inheritance may be, the full development of his capacities is possible only under suitable external conditions. What these conditions are depends upon the combination of capacities that the particular child possesses. But to find out what these capacities are we must give the child an opportunity to show "what's in him." This we can do by placing him in an environment simple enough for him to adjust himself to readily, and at the same time complex enough to give every side of his nature a chance to respond. This is the significance of modern educational movements that seek to leave the child untrammelled in his responses to what goes on around him. We have learned that some children will become tall and that others will never reach beyond a certain height; we seek merely to keep them healthy by suitable feeding, exercise, rest, bathing, etc. But in the matter of mental development we have not yet learned that it is impossible for all children to reach the same degree of linguistic or mathematical or artistic development, and we try to bring all of them up to our preconceived standard of what a child should do in each line. The thing that we need to find out is what a particular child can do; and then we must give him the opportunity and the encouragement to do his best. The things we encourage him to do will be the basis for the habits which he will form, for the skill which he will acquire—and so for the activities that will yield him satisfaction and determine his behavior in relation to others. That is, the things the child learns to do well will determine what kind of a person he will be when he grows up.
But it would be a mistake to suppose that every child is born with a set of special aptitudes that fit him for some particular occupation. Many children do indeed have rather special types of native ability, as the child of artistic proclivities, or the "natural born" preacher. And, on the other hand, many children are born with marked shortcomings in their makeup, although these "deficiencies" need not always interfere with their developing into excellent men and women. For example, a child may be color-blind, or incapable of mastering a foreign language in school, or awkward in doing work requiring great skill—and yet capable of doing high-grade work in other lines. Those children that have strongly-marked proclivities—which usually show themselves early in life and which are commonly associated with strong likes and dislikes—will no doubt do the most effective work along the lines of their native talents. And those with marked deficiencies should certainly not be directed into occupations wherein the lacking talents are essential for success. But the great mass of children vary from each other not so much in the directions along which their special abilities lie as in the degree to which they are capable of developing the ordinary abilities which they do have. For such children the choice of an occupation cannot wisely be made very early in life, nor should a very special choice be made until there has been an opportunity to try out a large variety of activities and processes. Indeed, even for the child of decided genius it is desirable that there be a chance to try out many kinds of activities, both physical and mental. This is desirable not so much in the hope of counteracting his special bent on the theory of supplying exercise for the functions that are not to his liking as for the purpose of giving him an opportunity to find out all he can do, and to give us a chance to find out all he can do well.
Even children who pass as "average" children, however, may be divided into classes according to the variations in their native capacities. That is to say, some children, although not exhibiting any special talents or special deficiencies, are nevertheless more easily adjusted to doing muscular work than others; some are more happy in the manipulation of numbers; some show greater patience; some are more easily fatigued by the repetition of a process; some cannot stand on their feet for long periods without suffering, and so on. These differences should certainly be taken into consideration, first of all, in the treatment accorded them in the school and at home, in what is required of them, in the selection of studies, etc. And, in the second place, these facts should be considered in the choice of general fields of occupation. It would be the height of cruelty and of injustice to insist upon Walter's preparing for and entering his father's business—just to keep up the family tradition—when a little attention to the boy's work in school and to his play and to his personal preferences and tastes would show that he was eminently unsuited for the business, and at the same time well suited for some technical pursuit such as engineering. Untold misery and failure spring from our negligence in these matters, no less than from our direction of the child's development in accordance with the parents' ambitions rather than in accordance with the child's discoverable abilities and disabilities.