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may be, for some of the leading facts of sex are of quite recent discovery1; and anthropology reveals past stages of ever deeper human ignorance about sex, till we reach a time when it was not even generally known that the sexual act and conception are related as cause and effect.
Some people think they can get knowledge, especially sex knowledge, without the help of books. It may be so; of course, books themselves rest ultimately on facts and actual life. But books give, with more or less of clearness and conciseness, the results of other people's observation and thought on the subject that one is dealing with. Books on sex reflect life, and should be welcomed as interpreting it; only we must remember in connection with them, and with books in general, that it is for us to master them, not the other way about.2
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit and judgment equal or superior,
Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
Deep versed in books, and shallow in himself."
But the power to instruct is made up of other things besides intellectual equipment. There is a factor of feeling in it, a sympathy with the subject and its practical applications, over and above the know-ledge which gives mastery of it. If this factor is important generally, it is more than ever important in connection with the aspect of sex education which is our primary consideration in this article.
Experts differ considerably in regard to general methods of sex instruction. Some are for and some against collective instruction; some favour, and some disapprove of the practice of giving books on sex subjects; and there are differences of opinion in regard to the age at which the subject may be broached. The truth is that underlying these questions of method are questions of expediency which cannot be settled on paper. The choice of method depends largely on tact, that true and delicate "feel" of the subject which is hardly, if at all, reducible to verbal definition, the principle of reverence for the young which moves the teacher, now to seize an opportunity and say something helpful, something that, being new to the taught and unthought
1 The discovery of the mechanism of conception is of quite modern date. See Geddes and Thomson, "The Evolution of Sex," revised edition, p. 117.
2 There is a bibliography of books on sex appended to Geddes and Thomson's work, "Sex" in the Home University Library, and reviews of new works on sex education are given from time to time in the pages of this journal.
of before, will presumably awaken interest and stick in the mind; or again, to reserve knowledge, to see when the moment has come for saying, "That is as far as we can go into it just now"; and above all to leave with either boy or girl the sense of genuineness, the conviction that, though there may be reserve, there is no element of falsity in the information given.
There is no fundamental difference between juvenile and adult human nature, so that there is no conclusive argument against the collective teaching of the young, any more than there is against purity sermons and lectures to adults. The effect of such teaching depends on the conditions just described. Broadly speaking, it is the quality of the work, not the method adopted, that matters. If we have made the point, whatever it is, clear in our own thought, whether it relates to checking a bad habit or forming a good one, we shall certainly find that there are more ways than one of getting it home.
It is beyond the scope of this article to consider the content of sex teaching in anything like full detail. It is perhaps seldom or never necessary for the adult to take the initiative in enlightening quite young children before they have in any appreciable way begun to "go out into the world." The teaching suitable to them is negative rather than positive it is only when they "begin an offensive," to use military language, with their naive inquiries, that it might be possible to give a gentle and delicate hint of facts, not more; such as, perhaps, instead of telling them that storks, or trees, or doctors, bring the babies, to say that babies come from near the hearts of their mothers-which is why they are so fond of them. Physical sex relations cannot, of course, be explained to young children; but they can begin to understand what Bloch has called the categorical imperative of the sex life, the principle of responsibility in parentage. There must be a father who ought to help the mother constantly and regularly in caring for the children. That is why the mother is married and called Mrs.; it would be wrong to have children without getting married first, and so both father and mother promising together to take care of them.
When it is a question of older children going out into a wider environment the case is different. Then they require to know more about sex matters. The masculine mind is instinctively more ready
1 In the first edition of my work, "Christianity and Sex Problems" there was included a letter written to a boy friend, whose father had not been able to find a book of instruction suitable for him. The letter contained the sort of things that in my judgment one would tell a boy on his first going to school. I withdrew it from the second edition, because it seemed misplaced in a philosophical and theological book, and I am keeping it for possible future publication.
than the feminine to look ahead. Hence, where it is a question of averting or curing bad habits, reasons based on prudential considerations would appeal specially to boys--that they must refrain from indulgence if they want to make the best of themselves physically. I believe æsthetic and religious considerations would probably have more weight with girls.
The possibility that sex, like any other subject, and more than a great many, may get interesting for itself, must be taken into account. Those elements of knowledge which we are giving to the child may prove the determining impulse of a life's work of research or thought or social activity.
There are few subjects in which the teacher cannot derive help from pictures, scientific diagrams, art models, specimens, and other object lessons. Doubtless there is also room in the teaching of sex for such methods. Some societies already employ them more extensively than the British sense of fitness admits. The principle of such methods of instruction is sound. Sex psychologists tell us that what stimulates passion and morbid desire is rather the concealment or half concealment of sexual features than familiar acquaintance with their appearance. It is the unknown that excites. But caution is advisable in employing such illustrations. The least error of judgment in the use of them awakens disproportionate criticism, and the instructor finds himself in a false position. I have known cases in point.
Be that as it may, the science of sex is progressing and extending its boundaries. Coming generations will be able to draw on a rich heritage of tested and digested knowledge. They will more and more effectively condense and dispose it for the enlightenment and benefit of their young people. And if they keep the right relation between knowledge and the other principal factor in progress, faith, they will make the march of intellect serve the crowning end of human evolution, the formation of unselfish purpose and character. Perhaps even among the small children whom we now do our best to guard, and tentatively and gradually instruct, there are some who as adults, rich in knowledge and strong in faith, will reach general solutions—some of them too seemingly bold and simple for present acceptance of the harder social questions presented by sex.
35, rue Tour Notre Dame,
THE CHILD AND THE CINEMA.
By MISS MARY HORNE.
THE findings of the Cinema Commission has undoubtedly awakened the conscience of the public to the possibility of the pernicious effect of the cinema on the morals of young people.1
Certain features deserving of attention were, however, but lightly treated. It did not come within the scope of the inquiry to deal with the question of the cinema in relation to children of the upper and middle classes, and those attending educational centres other than elementary schools. This will probably be more fully considered by the Expert Committee now dealing with the educational value of the cinema. The artistic side of cinema productions, and the great scope they give for cultivating taste and style, in such things as dress, furnishing, architecture, &c., and, along with these, the psychological effect on the morals and manners of adults, were more or less ignored, because the main object of the inquiry was to find out how far the serious charges brought against the cinema could be justified.
Quite apart from the question of incitement to crime, and to more or less serious misconduct as a result of "seeing the pictures," the subject of the psychological effect on the child's mind is of importance in itself, and not as seen in conduct easily and logically traced to the films.
Some people forget that they were once children. It is well sometimes to recall the needless, and often unexpressed, sufferings of childhood. I will give my own experience of what happened recently. I have no doubt as to the cause of the night terror-it was scarcely nightmare-for the latter has usually a physical cause. This was a mental one of which I could trace the origin.
One night I suffered much in a dream. I thought I was implicated in, and a consenting party to, a gruesome murder, in which a mutilated body was wrapped up in a sack and hidden, and the secret of where it was, was in a book which I hid in a drawer. Oh, the relief of waking and finding that the arrest, the ruin, absolute and irretrievable disgrace
1 The Report of the Cinema Commission has been published by Messrs. Williams and Norgate, under the title of "The Cinema: Its Present Position and Future Possibilities."
confronting me, was "only a dream"! I attribute it to the effects of lurid dramas seen on the screen, and can only compare it to the night terrors I suffered when a child, after listening to sermons depicting the tortures of the damned, and the certainty of the near approach of the last day, with the intolerable burden of having to give an account of every sermon I had ever heard! (What a fiendish device that was, resorted to by cruel slanderers of a loving Father, by his so-called servants, in order to keep restless children awed into quietness and attention!)
Why do I dilate on these childish terrors? Simply to impress on the thoughtless guardians of childhood the irreparable wrong that may be inflicted on sensitive children, by careless indifference as to the psychological effect of lurid or too realistic drama on a child's mind. This is a very strong plea for children's cinemas, or, where they are not possible because of the expense, then a children's matinée once a week.
Probably not one child in five in the British Isles is now outside the influence of the cinema. For good or for evil it is helping to form the child's mind. What may be quite harmless for adults is often full of danger for children. If special performances are not provided, then the children, in hundreds and thousands, see things and draw inferences which ought not to be possible at a tender age.
But it may be said: "Many of these children see and hear things far worse in the streets." The more true this is, the more the pity, and the greater scandal in our so-called Christian country, and our advanced civilization. And we must remember that it does not render a poison harmless, or its administration immune from blame and punishment, because the same poison is growing wild in the hedgerows where children play. A child will take a cup from its mother's hand in confidence that it will contain nothing harmful. How will that same child sit in judgment, in after years, on the mother who permitted her to see things of which the meaning was not understood at the time, but which later gave birth to many evils-thoughts, desires, actionswhich appeared to be countenanced or encouraged by the fact that "mother or father knew I went there and saw those pictures"? The responsibility for the standard set rests upon those in authorityparents or teachers.
We do not sufficiently recognize the power of the cinema in its effects on the tastes and manners, as well as the morals, of children and young people. What are the children learning from these mixed,