Symmetry In The Cultural Development Of The Sexes
( Originally Published 1907 )
As Mr. Eaton entered the library on Friday evening, a few minutes after the usual time, he found the other members of the little circle in an expectant attitude.
"Mr. Eaton," said Mr. O'Brien, "the members of this club have just gone over the minutes of our last meeting and have decided that, as this is a Christian club, you should clear yourself of the charge of materialism of which you stood convicted at the close of our last meeting."
"I hope that accusation by Dr. Studevan does not amount to conviction by this club. Moreover, if we exclude from membership in the Christian church all those who agree with me in thinking that marriage should be reserved for men and women who have reached their full development and who are in a position to build homes and support them without relying on parental aid, I am afraid that the falling off in the number of Christians will be greater than even our pessimists would lead us to believe.
"Dr. Studevan's dream of youths and maidens seeking the rosy bowers of love beneath the classic shades of Alma Mater and the resulting complications of valedictories and graduating exercises with bridal veils and wedding marches is too fantastic to find acceptance by practical men in these practical days. Life has become too complex and the struggle for existence too severe to admit of such pastorals in real life. Miss Ruth gave the argument a fine turn when she called in Professor Münsterberg's to prove that coeducation is the new institution destined by Divine Providence to keep the boys and girls from seeking marriage until they have grown to years of discretion."
"Professor Münsterberg's argument," said Miss Geddes, "is not likely to be accepted as final. His ideal may perhaps suffice for the average German girl, who, he says, will marry any one that she thinks will not make her unhappy, but this ideal is not destined to find acceptance in this country. The American girl has tasted freedom and will not again allow the chains of ignorance to be fastened on her soul, nor will she allow any one else to choose for her a partner for life. The malice of his whole argument is too near the surface: woman must not be allowed to attend coeducational institutions lest in this way she should gain such a clear insight into man's dullness and coarseness as would make her refuse to rescue him from his forlorn bachelor condition. The American girl very rightly refuses to be led blindfolded into marriage bonds. She insists that man shall render himself worthy of her before she accepts him."
"Doesn't it seem about time," said Professor Shannon, "that some one came to Dr. Studevan's rescue? He has been strenuously op-posing coeducation and advocating the higher education of woman, and at the last meeting of this club he appeared as the champion of early marriage. Now, if Münsterberg proves anything in his article, it is that the chief obstacle to early marriage in this country is the higher education of woman. Since you have all taken to quoting Münsterberg, you will not, I suppose, object to my reading a passage from him.
" ' Coeducation means only equality; but the so-called higher education for girls means, under the conditions of American life of to-day, decidedly not the equality, but the superiority of women. In Germany, even the best educated woman—with the exception once more of the few rare and ambitious scholars feels her education inferior to that of the young man of the same set, and thus inferior to the mental training of her probable husband. The foundations of his knowledge lie deeper, and the whole structure is built up in a more systematic way. This is true of every one who has passed through a gymnasium, and how much more is it true of those who have gone through the university ! Law, Cultural Development of the Sexes Ss medicine, divinity, engineering, and the academic studies of the prospective teacher are in Germany all based essentially upon a scholarly training, and are thus, first of all, factors of general education, powers to widen the horizon of the intellect. All this is less true in America; the lawyer, the physician, the teacher, the engineer, obtain excellent preparation for the profession : but in a lower degree his studies continue his general culture and education; and the elective system allows him to anticipate the professional training even in college. And, on the other side, as for the business man who may have gone through college with a general education in view how much, or better, how little of his culture can be kept alive? Commerce and industry, finance and politics absorb him, and the beautiful college time becomes a dream; the intellectual energies, the factors of general culture become rusty from disuse; while she, the fortunate college girl, remains in that atmosphere of mental interests and inspiration where the power she has gained remains fresh through contact with books. The men read newspapers, and, after a while, just when the time for marriage approaches, she is his superior, through and through, in intellectual refinement and spiritual standards. And all this we claim in the case of the man who has had a college education; but the probability is very great that he has not had even that. The result is a marriage in which the woman looks down upon the culture of her husband; and, as the girl instinctively feels that it is torture to be the wife of a man whom she does not respect, she hesitates, and waits, and shrinks before the thought of entering upon a union that has so few charms.'
"It seems quite clear that the higher education of woman is the one great menace to our social existence. It prevents marriage until people are too old to enjoy each other, to found permanent homes, or to raise families; and to those who will not heed the warning, and rashly enter the marriage state, it brings misery for which the divorce court seems to be the only relief. Labor troubles, mergers and frenzied finance compared with this are but symptoms of transitory social disorders. They bring to the surface evils that may be remedied. by proper legislation, but the higher education of woman seems to portend the rapid extinction of the race itself."
"One is hardly prepared for a flippant treatment of so serious a subject as this from a sociologist," remarked Miss Ruth.
"During all the long ages of our growing civilization," said Dr. Studevan, "man monopolized higher education, nor did he seem to find in this inequality of equals any cause for delaying marriage until the fires of youth were covered by the ashes of two score years. The undisputed superiority of man in the fields of culture and of higher education does not seem to have loomed up largely as a source of wedded infelicity. Even if the future should witness a reversal of this condition and woman should become man's superior from a cultural point of view, it is not easy to find in this any good and sufficient reason why we should not possess our souls in peace. Since education in all its phases develops and refines natural instincts, the higher the education and culture of woman are carried, the more worthy they will render her of marriage and of motherhood."
"As I understand it," said Mr. O'Brien, "higher education makes a woman a better wife and mother, provided she is married to the right kind of man. `Aye, there's the rub' —to find the right husband for her. During many years after the termination of his school life the young man is kept so busy down on earth, looking after the substantials, getting together the brick and mortar, and lining the nest, that when at last he turns to look for his mate it is not consoling to him to be told that the companions of his childhood have soared on the wings of education into the higher regions of culture where he may never hope to follow. If he should ever succeed in capturing one of them, he mustn't hope to domesticate her in the home that he has labored so long to build. She will either pine for the freedom that she has lost and die of a broken heart, or fly away with him into her own native element. It is not surprising that there are so few college men who are willing to run the risk of being domesticated to a superior woman. In her willingness to sacrifice herself she will coach him for an hour or two in the evening before going out into society so that she may keep him from making 'breaks' and disgracing her in the eyes of her cultured companions. It is quite angelic of her to condescend to write his speeches for him and to help him form his opinions on matters of current interest, but somehow man doesn't thrive under these conditions. Mr. Smith was a very different man from Mrs. Smith's husband."
"College graduates," said Mr. Eaton, "are not the only men who are suffering from the higher education of women. The rural population amongst whom I spent my boy-hood days suffered very severely from the over-education of the young women. Very few of the young men enjoyed the opportunity of getting a college education; while, with the first wave of prosperity that reached the neighborhood, the mothers sent their daughters off to convent schools. The boys were kept at home to work the farms. Of course it would have been unreasonable to expect the young ladies to go back to the country and be-come farmers' wives. They made acquaintances in the cities and married young clerks who knew how to dress and wax their mustaches. The young men, confronted with the necessity of finding wives in the lower ranks of society or remaining bachelors, sought consolation in the village saloon and ended, in too many cases, by drifting into the cities and increasing the army of the unemployed."
"It seems to me," said Dr. Studevan, "that one may admit the evils which are said to flow from the present inequality in the distribution of culture without becoming quite hopeless of the ultimate salvation of our race. Symmetry is a fundamental law of life and all violations of it entail severe penalties. The individual who misses symmetry in his development need never hope to reach the highest planes of life. The whole man must grow simultaneously. An over-development of any one faculty is likely to interfere seriously with the health and happiness of the individual. This law of symmetrical development is as rigid in its application to the development of society as it is to the development of the individual life. It was decreed from the beginning that man and wife should no longer be two separate units, but two in one flesh. It is evident, therefore, that all unbalanced tendencies in the development of this dual unity must lead to suffering and limit growth.
"The history of all the great civilizations of the past gives us a picture of man and wife laboring under this difficulty. Man held the ascendancy and attempted to lift himself to the highest plane of culture, while, for the most part, he neglected the cultural development of his wife. When we come to under-stand more thoroughly the causes of the rise and fall of nations and of empires, we will probably realize that this want of symmetry in the mental and moral development of the sexes has played no inconsiderable part in the extinction of antique civilizations. One of the strongest elements in Christian civilization has resulted from the position which Christianity accords to woman. Christian marriage recognizes the equality of man and woman. And if Christian civilization has failed to develop man as rapidly as might have been expected from the purity and elevation of its teaching, the explanation is to be found in the strength of inherited tendencies. One of the slowest of these tendencies to yield to the influence of Christian teaching was that deeply ingrained masculine conceit which refused to recognize in woman a capacity for cultural development equal to that of man."
"Now you seem to be talking sensibly," said Professor Shannon, "but the inevitable conclusion of your argument is the best possible refutation of the position that you have maintained all along on the question of coeducation. If symmetry and balance in the cultural development of the sexes are the ideals toward which we must strive, then coeducation, not segregation, must be the line along which we should travel.
"From your own admission, the development of the race has been retarded during all these centuries of Christian civilization by the fact that the cultural development of man was superior to that of woman; and the present tendency, which is lifting the cultural development of woman above that of man, is generally conceded to be a prolific source of social evil of the gravest character. In the face of truths like these it is somewhat difficult to understand how you can take the position that you do in opposition to coeducation, which would tend to keep the sexes on the same plane, and in support of segregation, which during all the long centuries of race development has militated against the progress of the race."
"That is the difficulty with you sociologists," said Dr. Studevan. "Perhaps it is due to the embryonic condition of your science; but, whatever be the cause, you seem to run off with half-baked conclusions. My opposition to coeducation was in no instance based on a desire for inequality in the education of the sexes. In all our conversations I have steadfastly maintained that the aim of true education should be the fullest development of all the powers and faculties of the individual.
"A sociologist might reasonably be expected to understand that men and women were not designed by nature to be the duplicates of each other. They differ from each other profoundly in nature, in developmental tendencies and in social functions. I oppose coeducation because it seems to me to be based on ignorance of these elemental truths. It means for the most part the subjecting of our girls to educational methods which were devised to meet the needs of men, and which, as a consequence, fail to develop the best that is in woman.
"If the scene of coeducation were shifted from the schools which were designed primarily to meet man's needs into convent schools and academies, whose courses and methods grew out of the needs of women, how long do you suppose our young men would tolerate the situation? They would not submit to methods, however well adapted to meet women's needs, which failed so completely to harmonize with the forces in their own natures. 'Whatever other results may be produced by subjecting our girls to the curriculum and methods which were devised to meet the needs of the masculine nature, it is perfectly certain that equality in the development of the sexes cannot be obtained in this way.
"Would the advocates of coeducation have us believe that the reason for the superiority of man's education in the past is to be found in the long prevalence of segregation? Do they imply that women's schools are incapable of improvement or of further development? Can woman find in herself no elements of progress? And must she forever turn to man and beg him to carry her forward over every step of the way? The prevalence of such views is a further evidence of the general need of biological training. Adjustment of internal to external relations is an inalienable right and a primal function of all living beings. Whenever an external agency is introduced to bring about this adjustment, degeneracy is the inevitable result. Woman must work out her own salvation in her own way. All that man should be expected to do all that he can do without injury to her is to provide the external means and conditions; the actual adjustment must come from woman herself."
"Studevan must have had a training at the bar," said Professor Shannon; "he has evidently learned to talk all around a subject when the evidence is against him. It is admitted on all sides that during the long ages when segregation prevailed the result was an unbalancing of the education of the sexes, which, even he was constrained to admit, played an important rôle in retarding the development of the race. And now, under similar conditions, there has resulted an unbalancing in which the superiority of woman's education threatens the very existence of the race. Segregation seems to lead to very poor team work.
"The Doctor has been very careful to avoid pointing out any way by which equality may be preserved in the education of men and women who are segregated during the whole period of individual development. And he makes a beautiful play for the support of the ladies by advocating the higher education of woman at a time when this same higher education of woman is causing the gravest alarm to all those who are interested in the welfare of the race."
"Professor Munsterberg is quite right," said Miss Ruth, "when he insists that a marriage in which the woman looks down upon the culture of her husband is not a success. Every refined woman must feel it torture to be the wife of a man whom she does not respect, and this consideration, without doubt, is no inconsiderable factor, at present, in delaying marriage and in rendering it less frequent among our highly educated women; but the remedy for this is surely not to be found in retarding the cultural development of woman.
"On the contrary, this state of things should act as a spur to man and thus help to keep him from being submerged in commercialism and in the gross materialism of the day. Our young men are surely not so dead to all the higher things of life that they will cease to strive to become more worthy of the esteem and love of cultured women."
"I hope," said Dr. Studevan, "that the ladies do not take it for granted that Shannon reflects the sentiments of all our young men. In the progress of civilization there may always be discerned two parties. One of these opposes, on some pretext or other, every advance, every progressive movement of society. The members of this group never seem to understand that life in all its phases is governed by an inexorable law which inflicts the death penalty on all who do not move forward. The saints and the great masters of the spiritual life never ceased to urge this truth upon their followers. Over and over again they warned them that not to go forward on the path of holiness is to enter upon the downward way. And the biologist traces the beginnings of degeneracy in every form of life to the moment when the species ceased to advance.
"Our Lord is the great leader of the progressive party. 'Lift up your eyes, for the kingdom of God is at hand.' 'Follow Me and let the dead bury their dead.' 'dead."Those who put their hand to the plow and look back are not worthy of Me.' 'I have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now.' 'To what is the kingdom of God like and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like unto a grain of mustard seed which a man took and cast into his garden and it grew and became a great tree.' All His teaching bade Israel go forward into the newness of life, into the freedom of love and into the peace of the king-dom. 'You have heard . . . but I say to you . . .' and again, 'The letter killeth, it is the spirit that giveth life.' The Scribe and the Pharisee, with their eyes turned to the past, were unable to see the beauty which He pointed out; and, with their ears filled with the voice of the Prophets, they failed to hear the great truths which He spoke to them and their hate went out to Him and nailed Him to the cross.
"We do not wonder that those who came after Him met with similar treatment. 'Therefore, behold, I send to you Prophets and wise men and Scribes : and some of them you will put to death and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come the blood of all the just that has been shed upon the earth from the blood of Abel the just to the blood of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar.' The leaders in the way of life have ever been the victims of the malice and the hatred of the ignorant and the sluggard in their own generation, and they have been the saints and martyrs of all subsequent generations.
"In the history of Christian civilization we occasionally find a woman in the van of some progressive movement; nor is Jeanne d'Arc a solitary instance of the penalty which such women pay for the privilege of serving their people. No one need therefore be surprised that a heavy penalty is being inflicted upon woman in our day for her rashness in assuming a position in the forefront of the cultural development of our time. But her courage will not fail her. The ignorant and the reactionaire, with the whole company of those who are so much exercised over the New Woman and the Higher Education of Woman and Woman's Rights, will disappear, and the future will bless woman's memory and record how she lifted man up from earth by the beauty of her life and the example of her noble courage in holding fast to that which is good."
"Won't some one please pass round the hat?" said Mr. Eaton.