DOES HIGHER EDUCATION UNFIT WOMEN FOR MOTHERHOOD?
In a very interesting article in the March number of the Popular Science Monthly, Dr. Smith discusses a subject which is vital to the well-being of our nation. The evils which he deplores are real and serious, but they are caused, I would submit, not by excess of education, as Dr. Smith has it, but by excess of luxury and indolence. I am inclined to agree with him that too many of our young people have the higher education bestowed on them, but my reason for thinking so is, not that their intellectuality and spirituality are too highly cultivated and that their ideals are consequently too high, but that they are unworthy of the great boon offered them and, not knowing how to use it aright, are injured instead of benefited: they leave college without having become cultured or intellectual.
There can be no greater mistake than to believe that intellectuality promotes extravagance. Are our college professors and men of science the extravagant members of society? Literature, botany, entomology—even music and art—are inexpensive and healthful pursuits as compared with balls, receptions, dinners and the whole round of social functions.
The most serious enemy to American family life is society—in the narrower meaning of the word. Not only among the wealthier classes do its functions absorb enormous amounts of money and time, but among the middle classes also. Let any of our middle class women who dare, sit down with paper and pencil and write on one side the amount of time given to calls, teas, clubs, golf, dinners and the dress necessary for these functions, and in a column opposite the time given to the intellectual and spiritual welfare of her children. Most of them would not like to show, or look at, the balance sheet. Many of them would say, if they were frank, 'Oh, school takes care of my children's intellects and Sunday-school of their religion.' Too true. And here lies one of the great evils of our modern primary education, to which I will
I just allude in passing, as it is too vast a subject to introduce here. The school is trying to do mothers' work and necessarily failing, but, owing to the time devoted to this failure, the school is prevented from doing the work which it. should and could do and used to do. I will just give one example and pass to a more direct consideration of the subject in hand. For twenty years or more our schools have been trying to instill a love of English literature into their pupils. Can any one who knows the results doubt the failure? They are just launching out on what many of us believe will be a similar futile effort in regard to nature study. A walk in the woods with a mother or father who has an enthusiasm for botany, entomology or mineralogy is worth ten lessons in the class room or even in the woods with a teacher and forty other children. The book or the poem that mother and child read together because they love it and each other, even if they do not know much about the unities or the functions of the various parts, is more likely to stimulate a love of reading than the most exhaustive and exhausting study in the class room.
Now, how are we to produce mothers who will love this work and hug it to themselves as their greatest blessing?