Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/115

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STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.
STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.

XII. — UNDER LAW.

By JAMES SULLY, M. A., LL. D.,

GROTE PROFESSOR OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND LOGIC AT THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON.

(a) THE STRUGGLE WITH LAW.

IN the last chapter we tried to get at those tendencies of child-nature which, though they have a certain moral significance, may in a manner be called spontaneous and independent of the institution of moral training. We will now examine the child's attitude toward the moral government with which he finds himself confronted.

Here, again, we meet with opposite views. Children, say some, are essentially disobedient and lawbreaking. A child as such is a rebel, delighting in nothing so much as in evading and dodging the rule which he finds imposed by others.

The view that children are instinctively obedient and law-abiding has not, I think, been very boldly insisted on. A follower of Rousseau at least, who sees only clumsy interference with natural development in our attempts to govern children, would say that child-nature must resist the artificial and cramping system which the disciplinarian imposes.

It seems, however, to be allowed by some that a certain number of children are docile and disposed to accept authority with its commands. According to them, children are either obedient or disobedient. This is probably the view of many mothers and pedagogues.

Here, too, it is probable that we try to make nature too simple. Even the latter view, in spite of its apparent wish to be discriminating, does not allow for the many-sidedness of the child and for the many different ways in which the instincts of child-nature may vary.

Now it is worth asking whether, if the child were naturally disposed to look on authority as something wholly hostile, he would get morally trained at all. Physically mastered and morally cowed he might, of course, become; but this is not the same thing as being morally induced into a habit of accepting law and obeying it.

In inquiring into this matter we must begin by drawing a distinction. There is first the attitude of a child toward the governor, the parent, or other ruler, and there is his attitude toward law as such. These are by no means the same thing, and a child of three or four begins to illustrate the distinction. He may seem to be lawless, opposed to the very idea of government, when, in