Already communities are awakening to the need of perfect sanitary and hygienic conditions, and clean town contests are the order of the day; this is one of the most hopeful signs of better times, but there ought to be a moral and mental awakening and contests for civic righteousness should be inaugurated. Any community that can say: “In this town no influence is permitted that could in any way corrupt the morals or ideals of children,” should receive the highest award in the gift of the people and its praises should be commemorated in song and story.
In ancient Greece every citizen regarded himself as a parent or guardian of every child, and if any youth was seen in public to violate any of the customs or ideals of the nation, it was the duty of the citizen to chastise the boy and to otherwise instruct him in the duties of citizenship. At the same time the citizen was careful himself to set an example worthy of emulation. The result was the most perfect and harmonious education that the world has ever seen—at once the inspiration and the despair of all succeeding civilizations. Why should we not adopt some of the Grecian methods suited to our needs? In Greece no citizen would think of doing in public, or permitting to be done, anything which was not desirable for the child to do either in public or private. Why should any man who walks upright, with his head pointing to the stars, be permitted to profane the name of Deity, to stagger under the influence of liquor, to puff at a cigar, to gamble, to run a disorderly resort or show, to enrich himself through the manufacture and sale of poisons, or to do anything else that corrupts the community and destroys her children? Surely in our feeble attempts at free government, the right hand knows not what the left is doing.
But the remedy, as I have said, is in the hands of the citizens. While it is true that certain reforms to be most effective must be national rather than local, such, for example, as prohibiting the manufacture and sale of poisonous drugs, tobacco and alcohol, it is, nevertheless, evident that the initiative must be taken by the individual. His first duty is to convert himself and then his neighbors before any nation-wide reform can be undertaken.
It is one of the chief glories of a democracy that any desired good may be obtained through conversion and co-operation. But since in most communities 90 per cent, or more of the citizens are law-abiding and would not consciously do anything to destroy the children of the commonwealth, it ought to be a simple matter to restrain the few that are lawless and unsocial. There can be no possible doubt that any community that is fully alive to its needs and responsibilities can bring about just such civic and social conditions as it may desire. To help accomplish these purposes, it is necessary that efficient officers are elected who will enforce the laws and that public sentiment be aroused in support of these officials; in some communities sympathy for law-breakers is so easily awakened that justice cannot be enforced and law and order are placed in contempt.