Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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Don't Fool with the Children.
 Dear Madam--Please give your opinion on the following:
At the closing exercises of a school, a minister of the Gos-
pel addressed the school, stating that he had been present at
a number of entertainments of the same kind at other
schools of late, but this was the best school in every respect
which he had visited up to date, and proceeded to congratulate
parents, teachers, and pupils.  The next speaker proceeded
to explain that he had been present with the gentleman
who had just spoken in other schools, and had heard him
make the same statement in nearly all of them.  This cre-
ated a great laugh among the learned men on the platform,
which was taken up by the audience, and some of the chil-
dren were tempted to join in.
   The next speaker, who should have spoken before, but
was late (had heard the last two speakers), began his address
by saying that he proposed to tell a story about the American
flag.  It was not the first story, however, that had been told
on this platform and referred to the minister before
mentioned, and said that he himself had heard Mr. -----
make the same statement he had made here before several
schools.  At this the building resounded with laughter.
Some of the parents present had come to see their children
receive honors at the hands of gentlemen.  I was a little sur-
prised at first, but since then the thought has occurred to me
that those people who have more education than I have, and
also a better knowledge of the higher walks of life, were per-
haps right.
   Their object may have been the opening of the eyes of
their pupils to the fact that there is no truth, religion, honor
nor honesty to be found in the world, and that the church and
school, their entertainments and teachers, like the rest of the
world, are all a farce.  This, perhaps, is a useful lesson
to inculcate into their minds on entering the struggle for exist-
ence, but why the waste of moral training up to this date?
The unpardonable crime is to lower the ideals
of a child, and to sow the seed of distrust of
humanity in its mind.
   The clergyman who lies to children, and who
makes a jest of the fact that he has lied in their
presence, should have his vestments torn off in the
market place, and should be jeered and hooted from
the pulpit.
   Children have small conception of a Creator.
Their ideal of a God begins with their love and
respect for parents, teachers, and prominent adults
who attract their attention and inspire their admira-
tion by occupying public offices.
   Almost every child secretly worships and tries to
emulate some person of superior years.
   It is of the utmost importance to guard our utter-
ances and watch our conduct in the presence of chil-
dren.  We may jest lightly and lay aside our dignity
for a time with our adult associates, and do no
harm; we cannot always remain strung up to con-
cert pitch, and a man, like a violin, is the better for
sometimes loosening his strings.
   Our companions understand us when we jest even
broadly, and we do not lower our moral standing by
a little levity.
   But children have no sense of humor, and make
no allowance for us when we jest about a falsehood
and make light of a principle.
   Incalculable evil has resulted to the human race
by the thoughtless words of adults in the hearing
of little children.
   Children do not need to be preached to or
harangued to form high ideals so much as they need
to listen to the right kind of conversation be-
tween adults.
   The whole tenor of the remarks and jests made
upon the occasion referred to in Mr. N's letter was
demoralizing and immoral.  It will do more harm
to impressionable young minds than the clergyman
can undo in a lifetime.
   He has no right to call himself a man of God, and
his "friend" who exposed him in order to make his
audience laugh, must be wholly devoid of moral
perception not to realize the harmful influence of
his words.
Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.
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