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

The Problem of the Children of the World

This problem is, without exception, the most urgent confronting humanity today. The future of the race lies in the hands of the young people everywhere. They are the parents of the coming generations and the engineers who must implement the new civilization. What we do with them and for them is momentous in its implications; our responsibility is great and our opportunity unique.

This chapter deals with the children and adolescents, under sixteen years old. These two groups are the most hopeful element in a world which has fallen to pieces before our eyes. They are the guarantee that our world can be rebuilt and - if we have learned anything from past history and its dire consequences in our lifetime - rebuilt along different lines, with different objectives and incentives and with well-defined goals and carefully considered ideals.

Let us remember, however, that visionary, mystical hopes and dreams, wishful thinking and the formulation of highly organized plans upon paper are useful as far as they indicate interest, a sense of responsibility and possible objectives but they are of small importance in any effective, transitional enterprise unless there is a grasp of the immediate problem and of the immediate possibilities, plus a willingness to effect those compromises which will lay the ground for later successful work. This work is largely that of education. Hitherto, there has been little effort to bring about a bridging between the needs of the future and the present forms of education. These forms have apparently failed to equip [33] humanity for successful and cooperative living and the newer aspects of mental training; no scientific bridging has been done and little attempt has been made to correlate the best of the present methods (and not all are bad) with future ways of developing the youth of the world so that it can cope with a new civilization which is inevitably upon its way. The visionary idealist has hitherto held the field against the established modes of teaching; his impracticality and his refusal to compromise has thus slowed up the process and humanity has paid the price. The day has now come when the practical mystic and the man of high mental development as well as of spiritual vision will take his place, thus providing a training which will enable the youth of any nation to integrate successfully into the world picture.

We start with the realization that our educational systems have not been adequate; they have failed to train children for right living; they have not inculcated those methods of thinking and acting which will lead to right human relations - those relations which are so essential to happiness, to success and to a full experience in any chosen sphere of human enterprise.

The best minds and the clearest thinkers in the educational field are constantly endorsing these ideas; the progressive movements in education have done something to remove old abuses and to instill new techniques, but they still constitute so small a minority that they are relatively ineffectual. It is well to bear in mind that had the teaching given to the young during the past few hundred years been of a different nature, the world war might never have happened.

Many and differing reasons have been given for the total war which engulfed us. This has raised the question whether the failure of our educational systems or the ineptitude of the churches may not be the basic [34] causes behind the others. But - the war happened. Our old civilization has been swept away. There are those who would like to see that civilization return and the old structure again rebuilt; they yearn for a peaceful return to the situation before the war. They must not be allowed to rebuild along the old lines or to use the old blueprints, even though necessarily we must build upon the old foundations. It is the task of the educators to prevent this.

Let us be willing to recognize that those countries in which the old mode of education is still peacefully practiced may be not only dangerous to themselves because they are perpetuating the bad old ways, but that they also constitute a menace to those countries which are in the happy position of being able to change their educational institutions and thus inaugurate a better way of preparing their youth for total living. Education is a deeply spiritual enterprise. It concerns the whole man and that includes his divine spirit.

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