EDUCATE THE CHILDREN
BEFORE reaching the age of reason, the child's needs are purely animal;
it requires to be fed, clothed and provided with the general
necessities of life. Every child has a natural right that its young
life be fostered and protected; the giver must preserve his gift,
otherwise his gift is vain. To neglect this duty is a sin, not
precisely against the fourth, but rather against the fifth, commandment
which treats of killing and kindred acts.
When the mind begins to open and the reasoning faculties to develop,
the duty of educating the child becomes incumbent on the parent. As its
physical, so its intellectual, being must be trained and nourished. And
by education is here meant the training of the young mind, the bringing
out of its mental powers and the acquisition of useful knowledge,
without reference to anything moral or religious. This latter feature--
the most important of all deserves especial attention.
Concerning the culture of the mind, it is a fact, recognized by all,
that in this era of popular rights and liberties, no man can expect to
make anything but a meagre success of life, if he does that much,
without at least a modicum of knowledge and intellectual training. This
is an age in which brains are at a high premium; and although brains
are by no means the monopoly of the cultured class, they must be
considered as non-existent if they are not brought out by education.
Knowledge is what counts nowadays. Even in the most common walks of
life advancement is impossible without it. This is one reason why
parents, who have at heart the future success and well-being of their
children, should strive to give them as good an education as their
Their happiness here is also concerned. If he be ignorant and untaught,
a man will be frowned at, laughed at, and be made in many ways, in
contact with his fellow-men, to feel the overwhelming inferiority of
his position. He will be made unhappy, unless he chooses to keep out of
the way of those who know something and associate with those who know
nothing--in which case he is very liable to feel lonesome.
He is moreover deprived of the positive comforts and happiness that
education affords. Neither books nor public questions will interest
him; his leisure moments will be a time of idleness and unbearable
tedium; a whole world--the world of the mind--will be closed to him,
with its joys, pleasures and comforts which are many.
Add to this the fact that the Maker never intended that the noble
faculty of the intelligence should remain an inert element in the life
of His creature, that this precious talent should remain buried in the
flesh of animal nature. Intelligence alone distinguishes us from the
brute; we are under obligation to perfect our humanity. And since
education is a means of doing this, we owe it to our nature that we
educate ourselves and have educated those who are under our care.
How long should the child be kept at school? The law provides that
every child attend school until it reaches the age of fourteen. This
law appears to be reasonable and just, and we think that in ordinary
circumstances it has the power to bind in conscience. The parent
therefore who neglects to keep children at school we account guilty of
sin, and of grievous sin, if the neglect be notable.
Outside this provision of the law, we think children should be kept at
school as long as it is possible and prudent to do so. This depends, of
course, on the means and resources of the parents. They are under no
obligation to give to their children an education above what their
means allow. Then, the aptitudes, physical and mental, of the child are
a factor to be considered. Poor health or inherited weakness may forbid
a too close application to studies, while it may be a pure waste of
time and money to keep at school a child that will not profit by the
advantage offered. It is better to put such a child at work as soon as
possible. As says the philosopher of Archey Road: "You may lead a young
man to the university, but you cannot make him learn."
Outside these contingencies, we think every child has a right to a
common school education, such as is given in our system under the high
school, whether it be fourteen years of age or over. Reading and
writing, grammar and arithmetic, history and geography, these are the
fundamental and essential elements of a common school education; and in
our time and country, a modicum of information on these subjects is
necessary for the future well-being, success and happiness of our
children. And since parents are bound to care for the future of their
children, we consider them likewise bound to give them such an
education as will insure these blessings.
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