Facts And Emotions Should Be Dealt With Together
( Originally Published 1923 )
Facts and Emotions Should be Dealt with Together. -The phenomena of reproduction and sex, as part of the child's environment, exert an important influence in the development of his behavior, for he must constantly adjust himself to what is going on around him, to what people say and think, to what people expect of him and of each other. At the same time the growth and development of the individual include the emergence of physiological, mental, and emotional phenomena of sex, which are going to influence his qualities and character, and these internal developments must be combined with the influences of the environment into a harmonious whole. It is necessary that the child's ideas or information be somehow unified with the purposes and ideals which he is required to develop.
On the one hand we wish to avoid an emphasis upon sex either through secretiveness or evasion, or through hysterical or emotional coloring. On the other hand we wish to have sound attitudes and sentiments associated from the first with all thoughts concerning sex. The solution is to be found in treating sex topics, when dealt with explicitly or didactically, in an objective, matter-of-fact manner, and in preserving at the same time wholesome attitudes to the facts of life as a continuous background for the child's sentiments. There should be no divorcement between sex ideas and the other experiences of life; but it is not necessary to attach a little sermon to every reference that may be made to the subject.
The emotional states we wish the child to associate with his consideration of the phenomena of reproduction and sex are to arise not from our telling him that he must feel thus and so, but from our actually feeling thus and so as a matter of course, every day. He will absorb the spirit from our feelings, not from our words.
As the child grows older, occasions will be found for making more clear what our ideals and purposes are, not in a preachy manner, but by way of interpreting what he has already learned of parenthood and infancy, by stressing now the health aspects of human behavior, at another time the pride in family or race, or by calling attention to the facts of heredity—without any elaboration whatever as to the mechanism or as to theory. Gradually, information includes more and more of explanation or interpretation, and interpretation means more and more the combining of facts with their significance in individual and social life. It is in this way that the various phases of the child's experience—intellectual, physiological, impulsive, social—come in the end to be unified.
This unification is most readily attained in the earlier years because there is as yet no true sexual desire to counteract. The establishment of high ideals is of prime importance at this time. It adds to the ease and certainty with which control is to be attained later. It reduces the likelihood that the contemplation of physical and biological facts of sex will later be made to minister to passion and desire. And it makes more likely the acceptance of the need for placing these desires in their right relation to the whole of life. The information must carry with it associations that will inhibit gross and untimely sexual imagination, feeling, and conduct; and these associations are to be derived from the tone, atmosphere, sentiment, and ideas, in which the parents have constantly presented information concerning the big facts of life, including sex.
Because of the need for the synthesis between thoughts and feelings, "information" comes to be a deliberate co-ordination between knowledge of physical and biological facts with the idealism of the social, moral, and esthetic experiences. To make the education consist of information alone or of idealistic formulas alone is both unscientific and ineffective.