« ForrigeFortsæt »
pare for yourselves regrets by taking from them the few moments which nature has given them. As soon as they can feel the pleasures of existence, allow them to enjoy it and at whatever hour God may summon them, see to it that they do not die before they have tasted life." Make childhood a happy time is the burden of each. Yes a happy useful character building time. Not as Rousseau would have it, a return to nature, but by rational training along the lines where we have advanced from and gone beyond nature, let us develop the child's moral character. We could not return to nature if we would because by heredity we are born in advance of nature. How wittily Voltaire criticized Rousseau's appeal to nature, when he wrote to him, "I have received your new book against the human race, and I thank you for it. Never has anyone employed as much genius to make us beasts. When one reads your book he is seized with a desire to go down on all fours." We must help the children to form a good moral character. The three great factors that enter into the question of character building are heredity, environment and education. We see the struggle of these in the child emigration problem, a question which is becoming more perplexing every day. We are coming to see that environment and education are not strong enough to overcome heredity in respect to many forms of vice. There is no shadow of a doubt that, as some one has said, a child's moral education should be begun a hundred years before it was born. We might go even further back than that. What are we the better by being born Canadians, an offshot of the great English race? What does Emerson mean by his English traits? What are we to understand by national traits of character? We mean those peculiarities of character that have been passed in from father to son, from generation to generation, accentuated in the first instance by environment and education and receiving additional force from the same causes as time passed on, until these characteristics of the individual become the traits of the nation. Offshoots from the English race as Americans and Canadians have acquired new traits or modifications of old traits-for better or for worse. Let us cherish the English traits that have made England such a nation as she is. We are Canadians and have a magnificent environment. Let us advance along the lines that have made our parent country great and crush out the faults that
have been and still are a drag upon the old land. Let us as Canadians seek the ability and solidity of the English character, be truthful in living as in speaking, scorn the false in dress and appointments, aim at truth in public as in private life, cultivate the qualities that give the Englishman his frank and manly bearing. Let us not, following the example of many another race, be swamped by one phase of our environment.
What a child's moral character will be is as surely determined before its birth as what the shape of its head and color of its eye will be. By education we modify the former, but the latter very little, in this country at least. Just as we do not expect a kinky woolley negro child as the offspring of white parents, so we do not expect to see a noble high-spirited child the offspring of a craven coward. We do not know the governing laws, but we do know that the moral nature with which the child starts in life is the sum of all the moral forces that have preceded it in its own natural line. Through addition and subtraction this summation is obtained. The problem is too complex for solution, because many of the data are unknown to us. But we see the results of the working together of the various moral forces. What is "a chip off the old block" but a child bearing a remarkable resemblance in character to his father? How often we hear "how like his grandfather." Take these two expressions cut of the language and you make null and void one-quarter of the novels in existence.
The little blue-eyed, sweet-faced cooing baby has wrapped up within a hereditary moral outfit. We cannot call it the child's character, as character is formed by the successive acts of the child itself, and the new-born child has as yet made no mark of any kind. How varied is the inheritance of children even in the same household! They are born cowardly or brave, generous or selfish, truthful or untruthful, sunny or gloomy dispositioned. We cannot choose our antecedents! The child is seriously hampered or materially helped in the race of life at the very start. He has not only, by successive moral selections, to build up a character for himself, but he has constantly to fight against inherited evil propensities. It may be that his fighting of evil toughens the moral fibre. Indeed, I am inclined to think that the boy of dullest moral perceptions and greatest tendency to evil turns out best in the long run, if he really
enters the race for good; for his parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, relatives of all degrees keep up a perpetual nagging at him, until he is compelled out of sheer self-defence to become better or worse. In dealing with children we must take these facts into account.
Environment is the second important factor, but time forbids our considering this question. Fouillée has an interesting article along this line in a recent number of the "Revue des Deux Mondes."
With regard to education, the question that the parent and teacher have to face is, "How may the child's character be developed so that the good qualities may be made strong and the evil qualities starved to death." The parent and teacher, having advanced along the moral path ahead of the child, should lead him on, not drag or push him. How is this leading done first by the parent, in the second place by the teacher ?
This is not a paper on Moral Philosophy. While rival schools are trying to settle the question of "The Freedom of the Will," "The Education of the Conscience" and "The Basis of Moral Distinctions, whether Intuitional or Developed," the parent and teacher must act and on the assumption that the will of the child is free, that his conscience or something just as valuable can be educated and that he may be very much assisted in making moral distinctions. If philosophers would only adopt a common nomenclature, we poor would be philosophers, would have a better opportunity of getting beyond the rudiments. Nevertheless, we must go back to the beginnings of things in the child's life. The new-born child is a bundle of sensations. These increase in intensity and extension as the child grows. Froebel very rightly draws attention to the fact that good sensations should be brought to bear upon the child from the very beginning, whether the lower or higher forms of sensation. Pictures should be good, sounds should be harmonious and odors should be pleasant. When a child defines a sensation in time and space, he has his first perception. When he can trace the couse of his perception, an idea has dawned upon him. Ideas are the material of thought. How important, therefore, are sensations! The first successful imitative movement is the sign that will, the most important of all factors in character development, has passed the germinal stage. Dr. Murray, at the late Teachers' Convention, ably
discussed for us the part that the will plays in the child problem. The will of the child should be neither broken nor bent, but helped to grow up strong, straight and beautiful. Without will, we should not be moral beings. God gave the child the desire to express itself through its own activity. Harm is often done to a child even before it is a year old by the parent meddling too much and later on the child suffers for this. The next important step in the moral life of the child is when he exercises the first act of selfcontrol,-when he puts the break on desire and will. At about three years of age, the child comes to a knowledge of himself. This is a critical period in the child's life, and one who did not understand children might be very much mistaken in his estimate of the child, when judging from this narrow point of view. This period is characterized in many children by great restlessness, peevishness and impatience of control. It is heralded by the child beginning to use the various pronouns rightly. I said to a little girl of three, one day, "Now, I am sure you want to be a nice, good little girl while mamma is sick." To which she replied, "No, I'm not going to be a good girl, I'm going to be a very bad girl," skipping and dancing along in great glee. This same little girl was very fond of flowers. We picked some, had a talk about the beautiful coloring and regular shape, etc., without a word more about her conduct. She went home in a happy contented, obedient frame of mind. This little girl is now in many respects a model child. Her seemingly rebellious spirit was only her effort to give expression to her newlyfound self. A thousand difficulties in government may be overcome by distracting the attention of the child from the subject about which you seem to differ. When the child's knowledge of self is so developed that he knows what he himself does, we can make him responsible for his acts, and gradually train him to conformity with the moral law. Conscience, or whatever name you please to give it, is the child's knowledge with respect to his actions. The other day a lady said to a four-year-old kindergartner, "Do you go to the kindergarten?" "No," she said with a mischievous smile on her face. She had been asked that question before and knew the train of questions following in its wake. Why!" her mother said, "you do go to the kindergarten. Why do you say that?" "Oh!" I was just making petend," she said. Her conscience wanted educating. She wanted
help in making moral distinctions. The most sacred thing on earth is the child's tender conscience. The Bible says, "Who so shall offend one of these little ones, who believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Has it any reference to those who deceive children and call them liars before they are able to distinguish truth. and falsehood.
The method applied to the development of the moral character should be the inductive method. Rules of conduct should be framed from the facts observed by the child, the rule broadening as the number of facts observed increases. All moral instructions should be graded as to difficultiesthat is progressive and continuous; and the instruction at any stage, generally speaking, will depend upon the child's relation to life. Truth, for example, should be taught at all periods, but very differently at different periods. The child must early learn that it cannot dream itself into a character, but must "hammer and forge itself one," as Fronde puts it. With Ruskin, we believe that "the home of the child should be the place of peace, the shelter from all harm, terror, doubt and division." A father and mother have been chosen of God as the best instruments for the upbringing of children, and when children are orphaned, in respect to either, there is a serious loss in moral discipline-the one represents love and mercy, the other law and justice, while the teacher stands for both. The teacher must try to keep track of these little waifs and strays. We must not put too great a strain upon the moral courage of children. We are sometimes stupid to a degree in insisting upon answers to our questions. Read what Wardsworth says about that: Many children are brought up so harshly and unreasonably that they have formed the habit of lying before they have learned the value of truth. "Overwhelming fear creates liars and hypocrites, lack of proper control induces waywardness and self-confidence." We have no right to place upon children moral responsibility too great to be borne at their stage of advancement. Thus liars and thieves are made. Never ask a child to report on its own conduct, when punishment is to follow. Put yourself in the place of the child. Moral strength is acquired by moral practice. If we do put too great a strain upon a child we must be very careful to point out to him why he has failed, the evil that has ensued and other ills