Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Piece of History

While in Washington state visiting relatives, my grandmother gave me a book which her mother-in-law gave her. It is The Child Welfare Manual: A Handbook of Child Nature and Nurture for Parents and Teachers, copyright 1915 and 1919. I admit, I expected the information in it to be laughably outdated, old-fashioned in the worst sense. I expect that to some, it would be, but I am finding that some of the opinions and information are as timely now as they were nearly a century ago.

I find the first few paragraphs in the chapter titled "Home Equipment" and subtitled "A Call to Parenthood" especially appropriate in light of current political trends:

" . . . the relationship of the family to the nation is both dynamic and passive. It, too, is changing as it is affected by the forces that are making tomorrow. But it is itself also the source of change. A disintegrating home means a disintegrating society. A new generation will carry out into the world ideals or vulgarity which it has learned at home. The most superficial observer will not deny that the family as exemplified in American homes is passing through a transformation, which, although not beyond control, is full of portent for American society.

"It is this double fact of a transformation of the family which is both in process and yet not beyond control, and of a direct influence of the family upon social transformation, that constitutes the call to American parents. The call, in brief, is one to an increased realization of the responsibilities of parenthood in a social order that has changed the conditions in which parental responsibilities were once exercised and yet needs parental influence as an aid in the maintenance of social ideals. As to what these changed conditions may be that set new problems to American fathers and mothers, it is not necessary to discuss in detail. It must suffice to describe briefly some of the most important."

It goes on to list concerns as the change from parental authority to parental comradeship, from parental responsibility to state responsibility, home occupation to industrial employment for women, obligation to individual interest in the case of divorced parents. In 1915, I imagine that these problems were on the horizon, barely seeded trends that have, ninety years later, born some very rotten fruit indeed. The good news, as the paragraphs point out, is that parents have influence on society because we have influence on our children. imagine the influence on society of the Duggar family, who live their faith and have passed it, strong and pure, to nineteen children.

Definitely more to come from this book, though it may take me a few years to post all my thoughts on it.

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