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Problems of Humanity - Chapter II - The Problem of the Children of the World
One of our immediate educational objectives must be the elimination of the competitive spirit and the [47] substitution of the cooperative consciousness. Here the question at once arises: How can one achieve this and at the same time bring about a high level of individual attainment? Is not competition a major spur to all endeavor? This has hitherto been so, but it need not be. The development of an atmosphere which will foster the child's sense of responsibility and set him free from the inhibitions which fear generates, will enable him to attain even higher results. From the standpoint of the educator, this will entail the creation of the correct atmosphere around the child and in this atmosphere certain qualities will flourish and certain characteristics of responsibility and of goodwill will emerge. What is the nature of this atmosphere?

1. An atmosphere of love wherein fear is cast out and the child realizes that he has no cause for timidity. It is an atmosphere wherein he will receive courteous treatment and will be expected to be equally courteous to others. This is rare indeed to find in schoolrooms or in homes, for that matter. This atmosphere of love is not an emotional, sentimental form of love but is based upon a realization of the potentialities of the child as an individual, upon freedom from prejudice and racial antagonism and upon a true compassionate tenderness. This compassionate attitude will be founded upon the recognition of the difficulty of daily living, upon sensitivity to a child's normally affectionate response, and upon the conviction that love always draws forth what is best in anyone.

2. An atmosphere of patience. It is in such an atmosphere that the child can learn the first rudiments of responsibility. The children being born in this period and who are now to be found everywhere are of high grade intelligence; without knowing it, they are spiritually alive and the first indication of this aliveness is a sense of responsibility. They know they are their [48] brother's keeper. The patient inculcation of this quality, the effort to make them shoulder small duties and to share responsibility will call for much patience on the part of the teacher but it is fundamental in determining a child's character for good and his future usefulness in the world.

3. An atmosphere of understanding. So few teachers or parents explain to a child the reasons for the activities and the demands that are made upon him. But this explanation will inevitably evoke response, for a child thinks more than is realized and the process will inculcate in him a consideration of motives. Many of the things which an average child does are not wrong in themselves; they are prompted by a thwarted, inquiring spirit, by the impulse to retaliate for injustice (based on the adult's lack of understanding his motivation), by an inability to employ time correctly and usefully and by an urge to attract attention. These are simply the initial gestures of the emerging individual.

Older people are apt to foster in a child an early and unnecessary sense of wrongdoing; they lay emphasis upon petty little things which should be ignored but which are annoying. A correct sense of wrong action, based upon failure to preserve right group relations, is not developed but if a child is handled with understanding, then the truly wrong things, the infringements upon the rights of others, the encroachments of individual desire upon group requirements for personal gain, will emerge in right perspective and at the right time. Educators will need to remember   that thousands of children have looked on constantly at evil deeds perpetrated by older people; this will have perverted their outlook, given them wrong standards and undermined right senior authority. A child is apt to become anti-social when he is not understood or when circumstances demand too much of him. [49]

A right atmosphere, the imparting of a few correct principles, and much loving understanding are the prune requirements in the most difficult transitional period with which we are faced. An organized way of living will help much but the children we are considering have known little discipline. The work of sheer survival has been the prime preoccupation of their elders and of the children. It will be hard for them at first to react correctly to an imposed rhythm of living. Discipline will be needed but it must be the discipline of love and one which is carefully and exhaustively explained so that the child understands the reasons lying behind this mysterious new order of carrying on. The fatigue, inertia and lack of interest, incident to war and malnutrition, present definite difficulties at first. Educators and teachers will need to impose upon themselves a discipline of patience, understanding and love which will not be easy, for it will be paralleled by a profound sense of the difficulties to be overcome and the problems to be faced.

Men and women of vision in every country must be found and mobilized and they are there; they must have the equipment they need and the backing of those whom they can trust. Too much must not be demanded at first, for the immediate need is not the impartation of facts but the dissipation of fear, the demonstration that love does exist in the world and the inculcation of a sense of security. Then and only then will it be possible to proceed with those more definite processes which will make the long range plan which some of us have visioned a possibility.

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