Humane Education In Early Training
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THERE is much one-sided education in our country to-day. There is much training of the intellect and but little education of the heart. Much is the time spent in our public and private schools, in our colleges and universities, in disciplining the mind, and little is the time spent in disciplining the imagination, the emotions, the higher sympathies, the training of which along with the intellect, constitutes the truly educated man or woman, the neglect of which may make, and many times has made, a man worse off than he was before there was any training of his intellect at all, and indeed a menace to him-self, to his fellow-men, to his country, and to the world at large.
How do we know this ? We know it from the fact that every year numbers of our most, brilliantly educated men become criminals, oppressors of the poor, or vampires upon our municipal, State, and National governments. We know it because notwithstanding the fact that a larger number of people in the United States in proportion to its population take a college course than in any other country in the world, nevertheless there is perpetrated in it each year a greater amount of crime than in any other civilized country in the world, Spain and Italy excepted.
I have been told that in Japan if one picks up a stone to throw at a dog the dog will not run as you will find he will in most every case here in America, because there the dog has never had a stone thrown at him, and consequently he does not know what it means. This spirit of gentleness, kindness and care for the animal world is a characteristic of the Japanese people. It in turn manifests itself in all their relations with their fellow-men, and one of the results is that the amount of crime committed there each year in proportion to its population, is but a very small fraction of that committed in the United States. In India, where the treatment of the entire animal world is something to put to shame our own country with its boasted Christian civilization and power, there with a population of some 300,000,000 there is but one-fourth the amount of crime that there is each year in England with a population of less than 30,000,000, and only a small fraction of what it is in the United States with a population less than one-fourth the population of India. These are most significant facts.
Those mothers who are beginning to understand the powerful molding influences of prenatal conditions will understand that every mental and emotional state lived in by the mother makes its influence felt in the life of the forming child, and she should therefore be careful that during the period she is carrying the child, no thought or emotions of anger or hatred or envy or malice, or unkind thoughts of any kind be entertained by her, but on the contrary, thoughts of tenderness, kindness, compassion and love; these, then, will influence and lead the mind of the child when born, and will in turn externalize their effects in his body, instead of allowing to be externalized the poisoning, destructive effects of their opposites.
Nothing in this world can be truer than that the education of a man's head, without the training of the heart, simply increases his power for crime, while the education of his heart along with the head increases his power for good, and this indeed is the true education.
Clearly we must begin with the child. The lessons learned in childhood are the last to be forgotten. The first principles of conduct instilled into his mind, planted within his heart, take root and grow, and as he grows from childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood, these principles become fixed. They decide his destiny. How important, then, that these principles implanted within the child's heart be lessons of gentleness, kindness, mercy, love and humanity, and not lessons of hatred, envy, selfishness and malice. The former make ultimately our esteemed, law-abiding, law-loving citizens; the latter law-breakers and criminals. Upon the training of the children of to-day depends the condition of our country a generation hence.
It is impossible to overestimate the benefits resulting from judicious, humane instruction. The child who has been taught nothing of mercy, nothing of humanity, who has never been brought to realize the claims that dumb animals have upon him for protection and kindness, will grow up to be thoughtless and cruel toward them, and if he is cruel to them, that same heart, untouched by kindness and mercy, will prompt him to be cruel to his family, to his fellow-men. On the other hand, the child who has been taught to realize the claims that God's lower creatures have upon him, whose heart has been touched by lessons of kindness and mercy, under their sweet influence will grow to be a large-hearted, tender-hearted, manly man.
As a parent, in the first place, I would teach the child the thoughtlessness, the selfishness, the heartlessness, the cruelty of hunting for sport; I would put into his hands no air guns or instruments or weapons by which he can inflict torture upon or take the life of birds or other animals. Instead of encouraging him in torturing or killing the birds I would point out to him the great service they are continually doing for us in the destruction of various worms and insects and small rodents which, if left to themselves, would so multiply as literally to destroy for our use practically all fruit and plant life. I would have him remember how many lives are enriched and beautified by their song. I would point out to him their habits of industry, their marvelous powers of adaptability, their insight and perseverance.
Therefore I would teach him to love, to study, to care for and feed them. Hunting for sport to my mind indicates one of two things-a nature of thoughtlessness as to the almost inexcusable, or a selfishness so deplorable and so contemptible as to be unworthy a normal or even sane human being. No truly manly man or truly womanly woman will engage in it.
Instead of putting into the hands of the child a gun or any weapon that may be instrumental in crippling, torturing or taking the life of even a single animal, I would give him the field glass and the camera, and send him out to be a friend to the animals, to observe and study their characteristics, their habits, to learn from them those wonderful lessons that can be learned, and thus have his whole nature expand in admiration and love and care for them, and become thereby the truly manly and princely type of man, rather than the careless, callous, brutal type.
And now I want to speak for a moment of another excellent opportunity for humane teaching, and one that comes near to every woman. I refer to the thoughtless, cruel and inexcusable practice of wearing the skins and plumage of birds for millinery and other decorative purposes. The enormous proportions of this traffic are something simply appalling. In the course of a single day last year in London and from a single auction store the skins of six hundred thousand birds were sold.
For the people's sakes as well, even more than for the birds', I would urge attention to and action along this line. The tender and humane passion in the human heart is too precious a quality to allow it to be hardened or effaced by practices such as we so often indulge in. Even from an economic standpoint, the service that birds render us every year, so far as vegetation is concerned, is literally beyond computation. • Were they all killed off, the world would soon become practically uninhabitable for man, because vegetation would each year be blighted or consumed by the broods of insects that would infest it. It is but necessary to realize how rapidly even during the past several years insect life has been increasing in some places, so as to tax to the utmost the skill of the farmer, the gardener, and the fruit grower. Instead, then, of schooling the child to be the destroyer of bird life, let it be guided along the lines of being its lover and its protector. Instead of being the arch-enemy of, let the children be taught to become friends to, to care for and protect these, their fellow-creatures. Let them be taught to give them always kind words, and kind thoughts as well. Some animals are most sensitively organized. They sense and are influenced by our thoughts and our emotions far more than many people are. And why should we not recognize and speak to the horse as we pass him the same as we do to a fellow human being? While he may not get my exact words, he nevertheless gets and is influenced by the nature of the thought that is behind and that is the spirit of the words. Let the children be taught to become friends in this way. Let them be taught, even though young, to raise the hand against all misuse, abuse, and cruelty. Let them be taught that the horse, for example, when tired or when its load is heavy, needs encouragement the same as a man or a woman needs it, and that the whip is not necessary, except indeed, in cases where he has not been taught to respond to words, but only to the whip.
Were I an educator, then, my influence along the lines of humane heart-training I would endeavor to make my chief service to my pupils. The rules and principles and even facts that are taught them will, nine-tenths of them at least, by and by be forgotten, but by bringing into their lives this higher influence, at once the root and the flower of all that is worthy of the name education, I would give them something that would place them at once in the ranks of the noblest of the race. I would give not only special attention and time to this humane education, but I would introduce it into, and cause it to permeate all of my work. A teacher with a little insight will be able to find opportunities on every hand.
Then were I a mother, I would infuse this same humane influence into all phases of the child's life and growth. Quietly and indirectly I would make all things speak to him in this language; I would put into his hands books such as "Black Beauty," "Beautiful Joe," and others of a kindred nature. I would form in my own village or part of the city, were there not one there already, a Band of Mercy into which my own and neighbors' children would be called; and thus I would open up another little fountain of. humanity for the healing of our troubled times.
One of the most beautiful and valuable features of the kindergarten education, which to me covers nearer the true education than any we have yet seen, is the constantly recurring lesson of love, sympathy, kindness, and care for the animal world. All fellowship thus fostered and the humane sentiments thus inculcated will, however, return to soften and enrich the child's and later the man's or the woman's life a thousand or a million fold, for we must always bear in mind the fact that every kindness shown, every service done to either a fellow human being or a so-called dumb fellow-creature, does us more good than the one for whom or that for which we do it.