Character Building - Home Study
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
BOYS and girls-and their parents-should never forget that if they would live a full, useful, happy and successful life, they must do serious reading and actual study after their school days are over. Such reading and study, if vigorously and persistently pursued, is more important in the development of capable, successful, and useful men and women, than the lessons and tasks of school-days. The writer knows well a successful man of high standing, about seventy years of age, who has been a member of Congress, was Chairman of the Board of Education of New York City for many years, and is the honored associate of its best citizens. Incidentally, he has made a large fortune in business. This man attended a small country school for less than five years. He had no other school or college training. He began actual work when he was "bound out" to a printer at the age of thirteen. His salary the first year was $30. He boarded with his employer and in the employer's home his washing and mending was done free.
On the witness-stand a cross-examiner once said to him:
"Mr where were you educated?" He answered: "Partly in a district school." "But," said the lawyer, "where was your education completed?" "It is not completed; it is now in progress. It will continue so long as I live," responded this wise, successful man. Home study, and study at odd times, go far in, accounting for his success.
This brief story from real life illustrates the lesson we wish to impress on the boys and girls-and their parents. Benjamin Franklin, by such home study, rose from poverty and ignorance and became great as an author, philosopher, inventor, states-man, and diplomat-one of the three greatest Americans.
In this connection it is unnecessary to mention such names as Abraham Lincoln, Elihu Burritt, Horace Greeley, and Thomas A. Edison. See their life-sketches in the Library, Volume IX.
We commend most heartily studies taught at home by many Correspondence Schools. Through such home-correspondence instruction, thousands of people have increased their efficiency, their usefulness, and their income.
For home study based on the Library, and intended for boys and girls and their parents, we commend the following articles:
The careful reading of the three departments, "Why to Study," "What to Study," "How to Study," in Volume X; and especially the following articles in this volume: "Why Men should Study Shakespeare," by Prof. C. A. Smith; "The Study of Poetry" and the "Study of the Novel," by Prof. F. H. Stoddard of the New York University; "How Shall we Learn to Think?" by Eliza Chester; "Home Study," by the late President Harper of Chicago University; and "The Art of Reading," by Hamilton Wright Mabie.
If the boy or girl is interested in music or art, Volume XII will prove instructive and stimulating. Upward of one hundred and fifty songs are given therein together with articles on piano-playing and singing by Mark Hambourg and Madame Marchesi; the art section contains a succinct account of artists and their works which is liberally illustrated with reproductions of great paintings.
AN honest man's the noblest work of God."
This sentence was written by a famous English poet. Do you believe it? Do you fully understand it? Who wrote it? If it be true, then honesty must be a great and splendid quality. It must mean something more than financial honesty-something more than the avoidance of cheating and the paying of debts.
Boys and girls, will you not carefully consider the meaning of the word "honesty." Think about it and try to recall all you have read about it-then consult your dictionary for the definition of the word. You will find in the definition such words as "sincerity," "honor," "uprightness," "integrity." Honesty means all that is expressed by these words, and more. Perhaps we might profitably consider it along the following lines :
First: The honest man or boy does not cheat. He pays all honest debts. He does not buy things unless he is sure he can pay for them. He practises economy and works faith-fully in order that he may cheat no one.
Second: The honest man or boy does not deceive. He doesn't make believe he is studying when he is not. He doesn't give to his teacher some other boy's solution of a problem pretending that it is his own. He doesn't tell his parents by words or by actions that he is studying faithfully when he is loafing or playing truant. It is possible for him to deceive his teachers and his parents, but if he does he is only laying the foundation for habits of indolence and deception that will retard or pre-vent his success when he becomes a man. An honest man in business or professional life does not deceive. He does not put ground gypsum in flour, or glucose in honey. He doesn't put the largest strawberries on the top of the basket to conceal the green or decaying ones at the bottom. He doesn't wear false plumage by preaching another's sermon or delivering another's speech as his own. He is true to himself and false to no man.
Third: The honest boy is truthful. He neither tells a lie, nor acts a lie. He is upright in all his words and actions. He is not so mean as to impose on any one by a falsehood. He is above practising a cheat in word or deed. Truth he values more than money and neither bribes nor threats can make him depart from it.
Fourth: The honest boy has a conscience and he follows this "inward light." That boy was honest who, when asked why he did not pocket some pears (for nobody was there to see), replied: "Yes, there was. I was there to see myself; and I do not intend ever to see myself do a dishonest thing."
Fifth : The honest boy does not need watching. He studies a little harder and behaves a little better when the teacher is absent from the room than when she is present. He does conscientious work whether the "boss" is present or absent. He puts "high quality" into his work. He remembers not only that "the gods see everywhere" but "he is there to see." Such a boy, when he goes away from home, will not forget the teachings of his mother.
Sixth: The honest boy keeps his promise to himself as well as to others. He doesn't deceive himself. If he does wrong he doesn't try to convince himself that he is doing right. If he resolves to do faithful work, he forces himself to make good his resolution. If he promises himself to take a certain amount of exercise, or to do a specific amount of studying, he does it though it be not a task imposed by parent or teacher. Thus, by force of will, he learns to be honest to himself and at the same time he is learning the great lesson of self-control. Honesty is always right and "honesty is the best policy."
In this connection you might read again the little chapters in this volume on "Work" "Perseverance" and "The Gentle-man," and in the Library the following articles, stories, and poems contain lessons of honesty and faithfulness: "For a' That and a' That," Volume I; "Trial," and "Amendment," Volume III; "Reynard the Fox," Volume IV; and "Political Dishonesty," Volume VII. Several of the biographies of great men, like Washington and Lincoln in Volume IX, should be inspiring.