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Problems of Humanity - Chapter II - The Problem of the Children of the World
The Present Problem of Youth

The world, as known to people over forty years of age, has crumbled and is fast disappearing The old values are fading out and what we call "civilization" (that civilization we have thought so wonderful) is vanishing. Some of us are thankful it is so. Others regard it as a disaster. All of us are distressed that the means of its dissolution have brought so much agony and suffering to humanity everywhere.

Civilization might be defined as the reaction of humanity to the purpose and the activities of a particular world period and its type of thinking. In each age, some idea functions and expresses itself in both racial and national idealisms. Its basic trend down the centuries has produced our modern world and this has been materialistic. The aim has been physical comfort; science and the arts have been prostituted to the task of giving man a comfortable and if possible a beautiful [37] environment; all the products of nature have been subordinated to giving humanity things. The aim of education, generally speaking, has been to equip the child to compete with his fellow citizens in "making a living", in accumulating possessions and in being as comfortable and successful as possible.

This education has also been primarily competitive, nationalistic and, therefore, separative. It has trained the child to regard the material values as of major importance, to believe that his particular nation is also of major importance and that every other nation is secondary; it has fed pride and fostered the belief that he, his group and his nation are infinitely superior to other people and peoples. He is taught consequently to be a one-sided person with his world values wrongly adjusted and his attitudes to life distinguished by bias and prejudice. The rudiments of the arts are taught him in order to enable him to function with the needed efficiency in a competitive setting and in his particular vocational environment. Reading, writing and elementary arithmetic are regarded as minimum requirements, plus some knowledge of historical and geographical events. Some of the literature of the world is also brought to his attention. The general level of civilized information is relatively high, but it is biased and influenced by religious and national prejudices which are instilled into the child from his earliest years, but which are not innate. World citizenship is not emphasized; his responsibility to his fellowmen is systematically ignored; his memory is developed through the impartation of uncorrelated facts - most of them unrelated to daily living.

Our present civilization will go down in history as grossly materialistic. There have been many material epochs in history but none so generally widespread as the present or which have involved such untold millions. [38] We are constantly told that the cause of this war is economic; that is surely so but the reason is that we have demanded so much of comfort and of "things" in order to live "reasonably well". We require so much more than our forefathers needed; we prefer a soft and relatively easy life; the pioneering spirit (which is the background of all nations) has faded, in most cases, into a soft civilization. This is particularly true of the Western hemisphere. Our standard of civilized living is far too high from the standpoint of possessions and far too low from the angle of the spiritual values, or when subjected to an intelligent sense of proportion. Our modern civilization will not stand up to the acid test of value. A nation is today regarded as civilized when it sets a value on mental development, when it puts a premium on analysis and criticism and when all its resources are directed towards the satisfying of physical desire, towards the production of material things and towards the implementing of material purposes as well as towards dominating competitively in the world, towards the amassing of riches, the acquiring of property, the achievement of a high standard of material living and towards the cornering of the produce of the earth - largely for the benefit of certain groups of ambitious and wealthy men.

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