April 11, 2012

Letter to the Editor about Raising Children, 1912

From The Washington Herald, Washington, D.C., on February 19, 1912, in the "Topics of Interest to Every Woman" section:




Teach Children To Do Things.

Editor The Washington Herald:

"In your issue of February 12 you published an article entitled 'Let the Child Play,' which contains the argument given only by parents who have been and are a failure in the rearing of children.

"It has been my observation that the child that knows how to do things is the one that gets the most pleasure and joy out of life.  He gains such a delightful feeling of power in being able to do some useful thing, and doing it well; and especially is this true when he is able to create something.

"To create is primarily the object of industrial training; not necessarily that the child may become a wage-earner, as insinuated by the writer of the aforementioned article, but that he may learn something of his inherent ability and godlike powers.  This training is just as valuable to the child of the rich as to the child of the middle or poorer classes of all races and creeds.  We are turning out of our schools children who are utterly helpless in the world.  They have been given a lot of book instruction that has been entirely beyond their grasp, and has left them floundering in an unknown element, with nothing practical to take hold of.

"The conclusion of our practical educators of today is that manual training assists mental development.  That pupils who are dull in book learning may take more readily to manual training, and by the development of the hands and the mind is gradually awakened, and in the time the book which was so incomprehensible becomes easily mastered.  It is simply another application of the theory of leading from the concrete to the abstract.

Another Refutation.

"But there is another equally important refutation in the article.

"In this day and age, when evolution is no longer a theory, but a generally accepted fact, we must bear in mind that each child has had many childhoods back of it.  Is he always to remain a child?  Is it not time that he is getting a boost toward manhood?  If he be allowed to spend his childhood and youth in idleness and irresponsibility, how may you hope to change him when he has reached man's yearns? But if the training is begun in childhood it may be done so gradually that no strain is felt, and yet when maturity is reached one will be surprised at the ability which has been attained.  It is not a sad commentary upon our present system of education that there are so many men and women who are not able to help themselves, much less to contribute anything to the welfare of their fellow-men?

"After all, I believe that it is within the experience of each of us that our greatest pleasure and enjoyment has come through the performance of something really useful, instead of sitting around in idleness trying to be happy, which usually results in a deadly ennui, leading to sin and degradation, a menace to society and civilization.

Advocates Practical Training.

"This argument is by no means to advocate 'all work and no play,' for such is not the purpose of industrial training as advocated for the schoolroom, but only to use a small portion of his so-called working time in giving a concrete and practical training, which leads normally to the desire for more abstract knowledge.  Nor need we fear that the finer arts and higher sciences will be neglected, for they will be sought by those who are ready for them, only there will be fewer unprepared students 'forced' into a higher education, as is so often the case now.

"In connection with this I should like to put myself on record as being heartily in favor of using the Lincoln memorial fun for a technical school, which shall be complete in every respect and open to the pupils from all over the United States.

"There is a great need for something along this line, and yet at the same time it would be one of the grandest monuments to the  memory of our illustrious Lincoln.

"Mrs. DAN V. STEPHENS."

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