In a certain Western university the president receives a salary of ten thousand dollars a year for training young men and young women, while not many miles distant from that university is a stock-farm the superintendent of which receives a salary of twelve thousand dollars for training high-bred colts. That colt-trainer is at hand when the colt is foaled, and before it rises to its feet has rubbed down its head and put a halter upon it, so that from birth it shall be accustomed to the feeling of the halter.
From that time the training of the colt is not suspended for a moment. If in training it to travel in harness a piece of paper should blow across the training-course, causing the colt to shy, an assistant holds the paper on the opposite side of the road, so that the animal shall have the kink taken out of its nervous system and its tendency to shy again in the same direction be at once corrected.
The old method was to allow a colt to run wild until two or three years of age, then “break it in.” The result was apt to be either a “cowed” animal or a nervous horse.
Would that we were manifesting as much wisdom in the religious training of our children as that horse-trainer. But unfortunately we are pursuing largely the old method, allowing our children to get full of all sorts of mental kinks up through those first plastic three or four years, and then handing them over to the church kindergarten-teacher for one hour a week, expecting her to straighten out all these aberrations and give back to the parents a normally religious child.
Many parents seem to assume that the child’s brain is lying dormant during those first few years, when, as a matter of fact, the child’s mind during these years is most receptive, and expanding at a rate never after equalled. The nervous system is receiving impressions which, though in after-years the child has no conscious memory of it, are yet indelibly chiselled there for good or ill.
It is high time that parents and religious teachers took more cognizance than they do of this fact.
There are other parents who deliberately refuse to give their children any religious training during this period for fear of “unduly influencing” them from the religious standpoint. This point of view is stated, whether seriously or not, in the following quotation from a recent writer: “I think it is a bad thing to be what is known as ‘brought up,’ don’t you? Why should we—poor, helpless little children, all soft and resistless—be squeezed and jammed into the iron bands of parental points of view? Why should we have points of view at all? Why not for those few divine years when we are still so near God, leave us just to wonder? We are not given a chance. On our pulpy little minds our parents carve their opinions, and the mass slowly hardens, and all those deep, narrow, up-and-down