Social Ethics: Sociology and the Future of Society

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman; Michael R. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
THE TRAINING OF THE CHILD

WITH EACH of us, individually, our initial confusion in ethics begins in imperfect child-culture.

In place of a dawning perception of natural law we have a forced recognition of authority.

In place of social relation we are confronted only with personality.

In place of the continuing pleasure of learning how to do things we are given the continuing pain of being prevented from doing things.

In each new infancy we repeat the primal lesson of the animal world— inhibition. Our religious, moral and civil laws are so overwhelmingly prohibitive, strong, condemnatory and punitive as to what we should not do; extremely feeble and unconvincing as to what we should do.

This begins in the nursery. It begins with our primitive inchoate motherhood, a motherhood based almost wholly upon instinct, and as such lacking in the qualities of organized humanity.

With the animals below us conduct springs from inherited impulses plus the immediate stimulus of the environment, and is only subject to conscious control when some present danger makes the creature stop what it wants to do, or when one desire overcomes another.

All the pausing and waiting and lying low, the careful control of action, the sudden silence, which makes for safety and efficiency in the adult animal, the mother tries to teach her young.

She also teaches it, by example mainly, the simple arts of its range of life, as anyone may see by watching a cat-mother educate her kittens.

-77-

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