Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/421

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407
COBBESPONDENCE.

CORRESPONDENCE.
 

INDIVIDUAL ECONOMICS.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

IT has been again and again stated, by good authorities, that the American people are the most wasteful upon the face of the earth; they do not utilize to any extent their health, strength, money, or talents. To any thoughtful mind there is evidence of this on every hand.

We might naturally suppose that our many excellent modes of teaching, from pulpit and teacher's desk, would eradicate this evil; but, on the contrary, the accessories of our churches and schools become more extravagant every year, and there is less to be hoped from them. There are many ill-balanced minds among the youth attending our schools. These, with their intellectual tastes aroused, leave school very poorly equipped to battle with the exigencies of modern life; consequently, many of our so-called educated youth become stranded as embezzlers in State prisons or patients in insane asylums.

When we study the causes which lead to the great amount of wretchedness, poverty, and crime in our land, it is evident that good effects would result to our people if every child could be taught to see the wisdom of properly economizing health, strength, money, and talents. In order to do this, public opinion must first be converted. People must realize that such men as George Bancroft, the historian; Robert C. Winthrop, the statesman; and William W. Corcoran, the philanthropist, and other noble octogenarians, could never have attained their great age and to such positions of honor among their fellow-men save by great self-denial and economy. To be sure, the law of heredity comes in to aid some persons; but do you not think, if the principles prevailed which governed the early life of Whittier and the frugal homes of New England, that each succeeding generation would reach a higher plane in social life? We expect certain intellectual results from public-school methods; why not expect moral benefits to the child's character as well? There are many teachers who strive for this, like wise Mark Hopkins; but the field of education is so extensive, and the attention of educators is so absorbed in other matters, that little attention is given to individual economics. Do not understand me to desire the inculcation of penuriousness among our young people, but simply wisdom and moderation in all our affairs. It has been customary at some boarding schools to have printed upon the plates from which the pupils eat such sentences as "Waste not, want not." Such are not the means that I would urge for teaching economy, but that our leaders in society, on the press, in the pulpit, and all teachers, should unite to enforce the great principles of economy and moderation by example and throughout all their teachings. Even teachers of natural history can bring their instruction to bear upon this point, from the innumerable instances of economy in nature.

When a colored girl in Washington replied to a reprimand for being late at school that the cook was absent and her mother was sick, and of course she could not get the breakfast, it showed the lack of thrift and right management in that household. She would have been ashamed to make that reply if the influence of her home and her school had not left her blind to the dignity of labor and the honor to be derived from doing one's duty.

We very well know that college life is the hot-bed of extravagance, and that no great and united effort has been made to repress this wasteful tendency. It is to be hoped that when our great institutions of learning have become financially endowed so that they are perfectly independent, they may be able to take some means to turn the tide and set a fashion of economy and moderation.

Investigation shows that our poorest classes are the most extravagant. On market-days we find that those persons who carry their entire fortunes in their hands will purchase the highest-priced provisions, which are often the least nourishing. If we could have savings-banks in our schools, as in England, our people who earn good wages could learn to accumulate. Millionaires tell us that it is the first thousand dollars which is the hardest to earn—interest then increases of itself. Have we not all had the experience of helping people who would not help themselves, but would, by lack of self-denial or even moderation, keep open some leak by which their misfortunes were continually on the increase?

Would there be so much temptation to anarchism and crime if our working classes understood the right principles of living?—if they understood that fortune and success are generally to be obtained only through systematic living and often great self-denial?

It is probable that our workingmen would not spend so much time and money in restaurants if they could obtain well-cooked food at home; therefore, cooking schools are a great help to economy.

That early training in thrift and mod-