Any one can take paint and daub a canvas. It requires a painstaking artist to produce a work of art. Mind and skill must be mixed with the paint. Any book can build a chicken-coop. It requires a skilled, painstaking mechanic to build a cabinet. Brass and glass may be melted together to produce slag by any half-wit. Skill and intelligence are required to convert these into a microscope. If you do not put your mind into your work, you can never do good work. If you do not take care to do the work right, it will not be done right.
It is the same with life. We get out of life all that we put into it. "As ye give so shall ye receive," as the Master declared. If we are to live in the highest, we must live intelligently. We should comprehend the sacredness of life and cease to hold its creative functions in contempt. The inception of life should not be regarded with contempt or indifference. Parents should not permit their children to grow up in ignorance of life and sex. The old policy of lettting children "find out for themselves" is ruinous.
It is not "how long" but "how well" we live that counts. To live well requires knowledge and intelligence. Any boob can stumble along through life in a haphazard manner. Even a fool can drift with the tide or sink into the gutter. An ignoramus can wreck his life. This is no acomplishment. This requires neither effort, skill nor intelligence.
No training or enlightenment is required to daub the canvas of life with vari-colored paints. Training for life should be the highest form of education. It should be the first thought in the minds of parents and educators. Too often, indeed, it is their last thought. How often do they fail to think of this highest of the higher educations, until it is too late.
After life has been wrecked on the shoals of ignorance and misunderstanding, parents and educators sometimes awaken to the realization that what now passes for education is a miserable distortion of what it should be. The most vital facts of life are concealed and distorted. The most important forces of being are treated as though they have no existence. Each generation is forced to repeat the mistakes of the past, because it is left in ignorance of the vital facts and forces of life. When are we going to really begin to educate our children?
Between the ages of fifteen to twenty-one is a critical period in the life of girls, as well as young men. It has been found that a large majority of the girls who go wrong take the first step in wrong doing during this period. It is a period of transition. She is passing from girlhood to womanhood. New forces are becoming active. New powers and desires manifest. It is a dangerous period. It is dangerous because of lack of experience. Temptations arise which she has never met before. The fall of most girls, who tread the pathway of vice, is due to seduction. Pitfalls surround her on every hand during this period and mistakes are often made. It is a dangerous period, due to ignorance. Ignorance of sex is a poor protection against temptation. Halftruths or distorted knowledge, gained from questionable sources, are often worse than no knowledge at all. To be fully informed is to be forearmed.
Many still object to teaching children the truths of sex. But we do not have to settle the question: Shall they be taught? That question is settled. The knowledge will be given them. The only question we must decide is who shall teach them. Shall parents tell their children the truth in all reverence; or shall they be permitted to get vulgar half-truths, from their acquiantances, where a sacred subject is tinged with vulgar significance?
This is a dangerous period due to lack of self-control. Girls at these ages have not learned to control themselves. They have not learned the meaning of their new emotions and desires. Often, in their ignorance, they cultivate these for their own sakes. Such emotions and desires are often easily aroused. Erotic novels, plays, pictures, thoughts and conversations are effective means of arousing them. But most fruitful of all means is physical contact or association with persons of the opposite sex. This method is now in general use. Petting parties are indulged in for no other reason. They arouse emotions, awaken desire. New sensations are experienced. This is what makes petting a dangerous pastime.
Girls are given more liberty today than ever. They should be fully armed with knowledge. Today we blindfold them and head them towards the cliff. Our girls are above temptation. They are innocent and can do no wrong. This is our attitude. But it is usually the innocent girl that goes wrong. And the descent from virtue into vice is gradual. One step leads easily to another. Petting parties will break down a girl's natural reserve. They may arouse emotions that get beyond control. At any rate, ignorance is never a safeguard. These dangers should be avoided, by supplying the vital facts of life to every maturing mind.
Knowledge is power. Both girls and boys should be thoroughly armed with this protective force.
Modern life is a great source of danger to the adolescent boy or girl. Adolescence is the period of mental and physical unfoldment. Boys become men. Girls become women. New mental and emotional powers are unfolded. New functions become active Boys and girls find themselves in a new world. An ardent emotional life develops. The social qualities of the child unfold and blossom out. The old landmarks of boyhood and girlhood disappear. They no longer serve. A new attitude towards life appears. Life takes on now force, new meaning. The desire to get "behind the scenes" and learn the how and why of things, springs into existence. New companions are sought. New forms of amusement and indulgences are desired and found. New likes and dislikes develop. Life at this time is potent with great possibilities. It is reaching upwards towards its highest goal. Life is unfolding itself. The bud is opening into a beautiful blossom. Nature is producing her masterpiece. All this is natural and as it should be.
In a state of nature the natural tendency of life towards the highest and best would carry the adolescent safely into manhood and womanhood of the highest type. But we do not live in a state of nature. The groping boys and girls of today are thrown into an environment that, is wholly out of harmony with their inner natures. Their instincts relate them to a state of simple nature--their environment is largely artificial and highly complex. With their changing tastes and bewildered instincts they often form habits that lead to their undoing. Often they develop a passionate fondness for stimulants and narcotics. Due to increased nervous tension and an innate fondness for new and novel experiences, which naturally develop at this period, the adolescent experiments with life. In a state of simple nature no danger would accompany this. The normal instincts of life would guide the adolescent safely manward and womanward; and what psychologists wrongly term "troublesome vital energy" and "troublesome tendencies" would be seen to be beautiful and good. The trouble lies not in the normal energies and tendencies of adolescence, but in the vicious artificial environment in which the unfolding man or woman is forced to grow up. Some day our educational system will be fitted to the needs of the child and not to those of the adult, as now.
"Love and marriage can't possibly be clean when childhood is dirty." Thus declares Prof. Schmalhausen in HUMANIZING EDUCATION. He says: "The dirty and distorted notions about life and love," "which little children pick up in gangs on street corners, in bed, by hearsay, on the school premises, in adult society, in all the twilight alleys of gossip and scandal, are the chameleon 'damaged goods' later refurnished for show and barter at the Bargain Counters of Life, Love and Marrlage."
Children are a constant source of wonderment and awe. The wonder is that they ever do as well as they do. They come into a world that is reeking with moral filth and mental nastiness. There is an adult "conspiracy of silence," which denies them the protective truth and helpful knowledge with which they should be armed. They are forced to gather up bits of information--misinformation and half-truths--from any source they may be able to get it. The frank curiosity of childhood is regarded as indecent. Its constant reaching out for more knowledge is considered an evidence of depravity. Honest questions are answered with myths, fairly tales, lies. What wonder there are so many shipwrecked children! The only wonder is that there are not many times more.
Armed with ignorance, and what is worse, misinformation, they are left to fight life's battles. Bewildered, filled with doubts and fears, not knowing where to turn, nor whom to go to for advice, they flounder and stagger along. From all sides and from a thousand sources there pours in upon them the ever increasing stream of filth and nastiness. That any of them ever survive it, forever gives the lie to the hideous doctrine of total depravity.
Life to such children is a nightmare--a terror. It is a constant round of mistakes and regrets. They grow up and get married. And what marriages! "Love and marriage can't possibly be clean when childhood is dirty." Society is an Augean stable full of lewd filth. Only by turning the waters of truth from the river of knowledge into it, can society be purged of its filth and childhood be given a fair chance and an even break. A moral Hercules, who can arouse this nation to a realization that its prudery, pruriency and hypocrisy are dragging its children down to ruin, is the crying need of the times. The children are demanding the truth. They insist on having the knowledge they have hitherto been denied. Why are we not co-operating with them in getting it?