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[The substance of an Address delivered before the South-Eastern Ohio Teach
ers' Association.] The events of the past few years have demonstrated the importance of two subjects that have hitherto not received much direct attention in our schools : I mean morality and citizenship. The former has begun to attract a good degree of attention; the latter, while in a certain sense a part of it, is in itself not less essential and has for some unaccountable reason been strangely overlooked. Yet the reason is not wholly inexplicable; there seemed to be no need of such instruction. We know better now; though I fear few of us realize the urgency of the demand.
Teachers may well ask themselves whether it is possible to strive for a nobler purpose than to make good citizens of their pupils. Their efforts in this direction will not bring them into conflict with any religious creed or any political party.
No one will deny that patriotism is a prime virtue and that the sincere patriot is to be ranked among the noblest of men.
But a man may be sincerely patriotic, if he is ignorantly so, his zeal to benefit his country is quite as likely to lead him to do her harm as good. What
we need, what every country needs, is not so much patriotic citizens as citizens who are both patriotic and enlightened. Many men imagine themselves patriots when they are only partisans. They see very clearly that which they are looking at, but there are other things of equal importance which they do not see, either because they cannot, or because they will not. Just as no man liveth to himself, so no great and abiding principle of good government exists in itself alone. It is the inability to recognize this fact that is so apt to inake men partisans, when wider information or less selfishness would make patriots. They desire only the success of their clique or party when they ought to desire the good of the whole country without regard to party.
In attaching the high importance that I do to a proper training for citizenship, I am far from regarding man as a mere political animal, yet I cannot shut my eyes to that patent fact that his chief glory arises out of what I may call his political relations. Archbishop Whately truly says: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the human body is fearfully and wonderfully made; but man considered not merely as an organized being, but as a rational agent and as a member of society, is perhaps the most wonderfully combined, and to us the most interesting specimen of divine wisdom, that we have any knowledge of.” Long before him Bishop Berkeley had said: “Man is an animal formidable both for his passions and his reason; his passions often urging him to great evils, and his reason furnishing him means to achieve them. To train this animal and make him amenable to order, to inure him to a sense of justice and virtue, to withhold him from ill courses by fear and encourage him in his duty by hopes; in short, to fashion and model him for society, hath been the aim of civil and religious institutions; and in all times the endeavor of good and wise men. The aptest method for attaining this end hath always been judged a proper education.”
Our age has given up that notion held by many in the last century, that man is by nature good and society corrupts him ; that in order to attain the greatest happiness we must seek some sort of an indefinable and never realized state in the past. On the other hand, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that many of the ills from which we suffer are the outgrowth of our social system. A society in which the social relations are less complex, may in some regards be more conducive to happiness, yet it is equally true that the greater part of those possessions which give the highest value to life are the product of society. It is important then to know how it can be made to yield the largest number of blessings and the smallest number of evils. Our young people occupy a unique position. Their privileges are great, but their
responsibilities are greater. No one can predict what happy social conditions the next generation might enjoy if the present rising generation were educated to a proper understanding of its power and influence. How many of the ills that now afflict society, it is in their power to remove, if they could be led to realize the fact! In mature minds, it is not easy to make a change for the better, while change toward the worse is by no means uncommon, but the influence of a favorable environment upon the minds of the young is almost unlimited, certainly incalculable. Let us consider how rapidly the proper and adequate enlightenment of incoming voters might banish those evils that find more or less support from existing laws. In the older countries of the world children grow up inheriting the opinions and traditions of their parents much more than is the case with us. While there is a good side to this there is a broader bad side. We need but look around to realize how true this is. Customs, opinions, beliefs, habits, are apt to be held by men as a part of themselves, and are adhered to from no other motive when they can not be justified by reason. How often do we hear people excuse an absurd or foolish practice, or even a bad or disagreeable habit, with the remark, “I was raised that way," as if no further justification were needed.
It can not be too often repeated that the most civilized nations of the earth are and always have been those which are most distinguished for their obedience to law. The Romans became great and long maintained their greatness by their obedience to law. Though their laws were often oppressive they were better than those of any other nation of their time. Intelligent citizenship leads to the enactment of wise laws and these in their turn conduce more than anything else to real and permanent social progress. We need to cultivate no sentiment more assiduously in the minds of our citizens than faith in the possibility of a peaceful remedy for every legalized oppression under which they suffer or imagine they suffer. The defeated party in any political contest should feel in duty bound to submit for the time being, but if it has abiding confidence in the justness of its cause, its adherents must feel in honor bound to agitate peacefully and persistently, until the change desired in the body politic has been effected. Truth is mighty and will prevail, and tho' the kingdom of truth cometh not always with observation, I am persuaded that it cometh none the less.
Why do some of the Central and South American States advance so slowly along the line of civilization ? Because the defeated party has generally refused to submit peaceably to defeat. For every peaceful revolution there is usually a counter-revolution more or less bloody. The proud Spaniard can not endure the idea of defeat even through a peaceable election, and so proceeds at once to oust his successful competitor by foul means, without waiting for the time when fair means are likely to accomplish the same end a thousand times better. Under such circumstances the 'ins' have all they can do to maintain themselves against the 'ouls' and have neither time nor energy left to be devoted to the good of the whole country. We hear a good deal said and say not a little about the intelligence and public spirit of our people. Much of this is true. But on the other hand a great deal of what we imagine to be intelligence is nothing more than smartness-a kind of mental acumen in one or two directions which enables us to get money without earning it and without knowing how to use it wisely when we have it. We need to recognize that we owe a duty of giving, to the body politic as well as a duty of getting, to ourselves. Are we as patriotic, as self-sacrificing as were our Revolutionary forefathers ? Would we be willing to make the sacrifices they made, for a similar cause?
Nearly all the governments of Europe demand the services of their able-bodied citizens for one, two, and even three years. This service is rendered generally without serious complaint and almost without compensation because the general sentiment of the people recognizes its necessity. Fortunately such service is not required of us, but an equally important one is imperatively demanded. Every citizen ought to realize that he owes a part of his time to the State whether he is paid directly for it or not. The improved social conditions under which he will live ought to constitute a sufficient recompense. I do not, of course, maintain that persons elected to fill offices for stated periods and demanding all their time ought to serve without pay. I do maintain that our young people should be thoroughly indoctrinated in the belief that they owe a certain amount of service to the commonwealth for which they should expect no direct compensation. and women will serve their church-why not with equal willingness the entire community ?
The experience of the last ten years has taught us that free as our government is, and however liberal our laws may be, there is still much discontent among us. To many liberty has no value except as it is a license to do evil. To these same persons freedom is worth nothing if it does not afford the opportunity to plunder a richer neighbor. It has become evident that while dissatisfaction with the existing order of things is to some extent justifiable under all circumstances, social discontent arises quite as frequently under the most favored conditions as under the opposite. Because it is not possible under any system of laws to prevent injustice entirely, we are told by some tha
all government is an evil and that anarchy alone is a fit condition for reasonable men and women.
It is not here contended that a man has no duties except those growing out of his relation to the state. To be a good citizen is a sort of relative goodness which varies with times and countries. It is possible to be a good citizen, that is to observe all laws, and yet not be a good man, In many things the standard of right is fixed by law and is simply the rule of expediency. There is often a higher law which men very properly feel bound to obey, of which the state takes no account, or if it does, it is in the attitude of opposition. But that need not concern us here. Our bad and indifferent citizens are not those who have conceived a high ideal of their personal worth and who feel that the state asks them to do what they can not conscientiously do.
It is an ugly fact that as a class, those of our citizens who are least concerned about good government, are the most punctual in the performance of their political duties. No, I will not say in performing their duties; it is only in performing acts that have a political significance. The man who is willing to sell his vote never fails to go to the polls, while the man who will not do so is often not found there when he ought to be.
It will perhaps be said that it is not easy to teach civics in the public school without trenching upon the dangerous domain of politics. It may not be altogether easy, but it is I think quite possible. All political parties claim to be seeking the welfare of the country, and I believe they do so honestly. I know of nothing more absurd than the too common practice of charging a political party with deliberately try. ing to bring ruin upon the country; unless it be to believe it. Our young people should be provided with data, so far as may be, that will enable them to examine the principles and professions of parties, and be taught to use them. Such a judicial habit of mind is valuable in many directions. It is not to a man's credit to have it said of him that he belongs to such and such a party because his father and grandfather did. I know of nothing that is likely to do us more harm than the too common custom of trying to form the political opinions of children before they are old enough to understand the merits of the case. Doubtless there are communities in which it would be prejudicial to teach that certain political questions have more than one side, just as there are some where it is heresy to teach that the earth is round.
But do we for that reason say the doctrine should not be taught ? A teacher is sometimes more honored by a dismissal than by retention or reengagement. Every man who has firm convictions and is not afraid to express them will make enemies, no matter what sphere of life he