SOME INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ABOUT PARENTS
An observation often made by philosophic observers of our social organization is that the tremendous importance of primary teachers is ridiculously underestimated. The success or failure of the teachers of little children determines to a considerable extent the character of the next generation, and character determines practically everything worth considering in the world of men. Yet the mind of the average community admits this but haltingly. The teachers of small children are still regarded by the unenlightened majority as insignificant compared to those who impart information to older children and adolescents, a class of pupils who are vastly more able to protect their own individuality from the character of the teacher.
But is there a thoughtful parent living who has not quailed at the haphazard way in which Fate has pitchforked him into a profession greatly more important and enormously more difficult ? For it is not quite fair to us to say that we chose the profession of parent with our eyes open when we repeated the words of the marriage service. Every pair of fiancés know that probably they will have children, but this knowledge has about the same degree of first-hand vividness in their minds that the knowledge of ultimate certain death has in the mind of the average healthy young person : there is as little conscious preparation for the coming event in the one case as in the other. We might conceivably have undertaken to build railway bridges, even though the lives of multitudes depended on them ; we might have become lawyers and settled people’s material affairs for them or even, as doctors, settled the matter of their physical life or death ; but to be responsible for the health, happiness, and moral growth of a human soul, what reflective parent has not had moments of heartsick terror at the realization of what he has been set to do ?
I say “ moments ” advisedly, for it must be admitted that most of us manage to forget pretty continually the alarming possibilities of our situation. Parents as a class are singularly blind to their obligations, and oddly difficult to move to any serious, continued consideration of the task before them. This attitude bears a close relation to the axiom, “ We would rather lie down and die than think ! ” We cannot, as a rule, be forced to think really, seriously, connectedly, logically about the form of our government, about our social organization, about how we spend our lives, even about the sort of clothes we wear or the food we eat,—questions affecting our comfort so cruelly that they would make us reflect if anything could. But we ourselves are the only ones to suffer from our refusal to use our minds fully and freely on such subjects. It is intolerable that our callous indifference and incurable triviality should wreak themselves upon the helpless children committed to our care. The least we can do, if we will not do our own thinking, is to accept, with gratitude, the thinking that someone else has done for us.
We will not, apparently we cannot, do the hard, consecutive, logical, investigating thinking which is the only thing necessary in many cases to better the conditions of our daily life ; but we are not entirely impervious to reason, inasmuch as the world has seen us following the teachings of those who have thought for us. The milk-bottles in by far the majority of American homes are being scalded to-day ; and “ cholera morbus,” “ second summers,” “ teething fevers,” and the like are becoming as out-of-date as “ fever ’n’ ague,” “ galloping consumption,” and the like.
This revolution in the care of infants under a year of age has taken place in less than a generation. If scientific methods of physical hygiene in the care of children can be thus quickly inculcated, it is certainly worth while to storm the age-old redoubts sheltering the no less hoary abuses of their intellectual and spiritual treatment.
A scientist, taking advantage of the works of the other investigators along the same line, laboring in a laboratory of her own invention, has been doing our hard, consecutive, logical, investigating thinking for us. Let us take advantage of her discoveries, many of which have been stumbled upon from time to time in a haphazard, unformulated way, but the synthesis of which into a coherent, usable system, with a consistent philosophical foundation, has been left to a scientific investigator.
A Montessori Mother by Dorothy Canfield Fisher