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WILAT SHALL BE TAUGHT THE CHILDREN?
ABSTRACT BY MARY H. HUNT, NATIONAL SUPERINTENDENT OF SCIEN
TIFIC INSTRUCTION OF THE W. C. T. U. In accordance with recent legislation, thirty-two States and Territories now have temperance education laws.
What is the true, and therefore, the best scientific temperance teaching for these schools becomes a vital question. The story of the battle of the contending knights over the two-sided shield is a fair illustration of the injustice sometiines unconsciously done each other by thoroughly honest contestants over this question.
Prior to recent discoveries of modern science concerning its nature and effects, “ the abuse and not the use of alcohol” was the evil temperance advocates sought to reform. They denounced drunkenness, but said nothing against the drink itself. The example of abstinence for the sake of the weaker brother was urged upon moderate or occasional drinkers. That there is a danger, per se, lurking in the first or occasional glass itself, because of the nature of the drink, was not then understood; and men were urged to control, rather than warned against forming the drink appetite.
A text-book on this subject, from this standpoint, would
1st. Denounce drunkenness, its consequences, and the drunkard in vivid terms (“the abuse.") But it would not describe alcohol as a poison.
2d. It might tell of “discords in families, quarrels, murders, sickness, pauperism, insanity, and misery, as some of the results of the action of alcohol on the nervous system” (“the abuse.") But it would not enlarge upon the unchanged and poisonous presence of alcohol in beer, wine, and cider, and would not put strong and emphatic emphasis upon the warning against the use of these liquors.
3d. It might teach that “the man who indulges freely in drink is likely to pay for it the next day with headaches," etc., ("the abuse.") But it would not emphasize the fact that, used as a beverage, alcohol always endangers the drinker in proportion to the amount taken.
4th. It might teach that “the appetite for alcohol keeps growing, and a moderate drinker is in some danger of becoming a drunkard," (" the abuse.") But it would not teach that in beginning to drink at all lies the danger of forming the imperious appetite that leals to ruin, and that the moderate drinker is always in danger of becoming a drunkard.
A person from “the abuse” side of the shield, and perhaps some total abstainers in principle and practice, who have not thought much on this phase of the subject, would look favorably upon such a text-book.
Its strong outcry against drunkenness, its warning concerning the growth of the alcohol appetite, its vivid portrayal of the consequences of the habits of the old toper to the various organs of the body, all this to them would seem like good temperance teaching.
The student of modern research on this question sees in the omissions and qualified statements of such a book, the trace, at every point, of the old falacies that have been the cause of a large share of the drunkenness that blights modern society. In the light of modern science alcohol is a poison. Its use as a beverage at all is an abuse of the human system in proportion to the ainount taken, and it is the nature of a little to create the appetite for more.
To the critic from this side of the shield, no denunciation of drunkenness can make up for the lack of warning against the drink itself. The brewers and saloon-keepers will all join in a vehement condemnation of drunkenness, but they want nothing said against the drink. The majority of the children in our public schools are not drunkards or moderate drinkers needing to be reformed, but they do need to be taught the treacherous and dangerous character of alcohol itself, especially as it appears in such lighter liquors (wine, beer, and cider), as they will be tempted to take. Instruction for them should put the greatest stress upon the insidious connection between beginning to drink and the condition into which the old toper is ultimately plunged. They need to be warned against the formation of appetite more than of the danger of increasing it when once formed. A description of the "joy and comfort of taking a little liquor” that fails in the context to describe the danger of that little, and only tells in that connection of the consequences of "taking enough to get slightly intoxicated,” is perilous teaching against which our friends on this side of the shield cry out. That the contestants looking from the other side should misunderstand and sometimes misrepresent this cry is only a new phase of the often repeated experience of pioneers for truth.
If this new education is to give to the world a coming generation of intelligent total abstainers, as we expect, its manuals of instruction must teach with no uncertain sound the proven fiudings of science, viz.:
1st. That alcohol is a dangerous and seductive poison.
2d. That beer, wine, and cider contain this same alcohol, thus making them dangerous drinks, to be avoided.
3d. That it is the nature of a little of any liquor containing alcohol to create an uucontrollable appetite for more, and therefore the strongest warning should be urged against taking that little, and thus forming the appetite.
4th. This instruction must be as well graded to the capacities of each class of pupils as the modern school readers are. A book fit for high schools, put into primary or intermediate classes, will make the study a failure there.
5th. This is not a physiological but a temperance movement. In all grades below the high school this instruction should contain only physiology enough to make the hygiene of temperance and other laws of health intelligible. Temperance should be the chief and not the subordinate topic.
Lacking in any of these five points, a text-book on scientific temperance is incomplete, and the use in the schools of such a book will not result in a strong temperance sentiment among the pupils using it.