If the child was intended to grow into a man of family, merely, family training might be sufficient for him, but since he must grow into a member of society, social training is as necessary for him as family training. Failure to recognize this truth is at the bottom of the current misconceptions of the Kindergarten. There are still thousands of persons who suppose it is only a superior sort of day-nursery where children may be safely kept and innocently employed while the mother gets the housework done.
[Sidenote: The Kindergarten]
While this might be a laudable enough function to perform, it is by no means the function of the Kindergarten. This method of instruction aims at much more. It aims to lay foundations for a complete later education, and especially to make firm in the child those virtues and aptitudes which, when they are held by the majority of men, constitute the safety and welfare of society. For this reason no home, however well ordered, can supply to the child what the Kindergarten supplies. For the home is necessarily limited to the members of one family, while the Kindergarten, on the contrary, makes plain to the child the claims upon him of society not made up of his kinsfolk. It is the wide world in miniature, and if it is a properly organized Kindergarten, it will contain within itself a wide variety of children—children of wealth and of poverty, of ignorance and of gentle breeding—and will bring them all under one just rule. For only by this commingling of many characters upon a common level and under the strict reign of justice can the child be fitted practically, and by means of a series of progressive experiments, for citizenship in a genuine democracy.
[Sidenote: Exclusive Associates]
Parents sometimes so far miss the aim of the Kindergarten as to desire that instead of such a commingling there shall be a narrow limit set; that in the Kindergarten shall be only such children as the child is accustomed to associate with. But if the Kindergarten acceded to this demand, as it seldom does, it would lose much of its usefulness, for every one knows that children cannot be permanently sheltered from contact with the outside world, nor can they be always reared in an atmosphere of exclusiveness. A wisdom greater than the mother’s has ordered that no child shall be so narrowly nourished. If he has any freedom whatever, any naturalness of life, he must and will enlarge his circle of acquaintances beyond the limit of his mother’s calling list.