In theory, every child is “good for something”; in practice, all efforts to discover for what some children are good prove unavailing. The napkin may be shaken never so vigorously, but the talent remains hidden. In every school there are many honest fellows who seem to have no decided bent in any direction, and who would probably do equally well, or equally badly, in any one of half-a-dozen different employments. Some of these boys are steady, reliable, not unduly averse from labour, willing—even anxious—to be guided and to carry out instructions, yet are quite unable to manifest a preference for any one kind of work.
Others, again, show real enthusiasm for a business or profession, but do not possess those qualities which are essential to success therein; yet they are allowed to follow their supposed bent, and spend the priceless years of adolescence in the achievement of costly failure. Many a promising mechanic has been spoiled by the ill-considered attempts to make a passable engineer; and the annals of every profession abound in parallel instances of misdirected zeal. In saying this, however, one would not wish to undervalue enthusiasm, nor to deny that it sometimes reveals or develops latent and unsuspected talents.
The life-work of many is determined largely, if not entirely, by what may be termed family considerations. There is room for a boy in the business of his father or some other relative. The fitness of the boy for the particular employment is not, as a rule, seriously considered; it is held, perhaps, to be sufficiently proved by the fact that he is his father’s son. He is more likely to be called upon to recognise the special dispensations of a beneficent Providence on his behalf. It is natural that a man should wish the fruits of his labour to benefit his family in the first instance, at any rate; and the desire to set his children well on the road of life’s journey seems entirely laudable. It is easy to hold what others have won, to build on foundations which others have laid, and to do this with all their experience and goodwill to aid him. Hence when the father retires he has the solid satisfaction of knowing that
Resigned unto the Heavenly Will,
His son keeps on the business still.
It cannot be denied that this policy is often successful; but it is equally undeniable that it is directly responsible for the presence of many incompetent men in positions which none but the most competent should occupy. There are many long-established firms hastening to decay because even they are not strong enough to withstand the disastrous consequences of successive infusions of new (and young) blood.