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her best work, and when a wise and sympathetic teacher will see that
it is better for her to do comparatively little. And yet these slack
times are just those in which there is the greatest danger of a girl
indulging in daydreams, and when her thoughts need to be more than
usually under control. These times may be utilised for lighter
subjects and for such manual work as does not need great physical
exertion. It is not a good time for exercises, for games, for dancing,
and for gardening, nor are they the days on which mathematics should
be pressed, but they are days in which much supervision is needed, and
when time should not be permitted to hang heavily on hand.

Just as there are days in which consideration should be shown, so too
there are longer periods of time in which it is unwise for a girl to
be pressed to prepare for or to undergo a strenuous examination. The
brain of the girl appears to be as good as that of the boy, while her
application, industry, and emulation are far in advance of his, but
she has these physiological peculiarities, and if they are disregarded
there will not only be an occasional disastrous failure in bodily or
mental health, but girls as a class will fail to do the best work of
which they are capable, and will fail to reap the fullest advantage
from an education which is costly in money, time, and strength. It
follows that the curriculum for girls presents greater difficulties
than the curriculum for boys, and that those ladies who are
responsible for the organisation of a school for girls need to be
women of great resource, great patience, and endowed with much
sympathetic insight. The adolescent girl will generally do little to
help her teachers in this matter. She is incapable of recognising her
own limitations, she is full of emulation, and is desirous of
attaining and keeping a good position not only in her school but also
in the University or in any other public body for whose examination
she may present herself. The young girl most emphatically needs to be
saved from herself, and she has to learn the lessons of obedience and
of cheerful acquiescence in restrictions that certainly appear to her
simply vexatious.

One of the difficulties in private schools arises from the necessity
of providing occupation for every hour of the waking day, while
avoiding the danger of overwork with its accompanying exhaustion. In
the solution of this problem such subjects as gymnastics, games,
dancing, needlework, cooking, and domestic economy will come in as a
welcome relief from the more directly intellectual studies, and
equally as a relief to the conscientious but hard-pressed woman who is
trying to save her pupils from the evils of unoccupied time on the one
hand and undue mental pressure on the other.

Boys, and to a less extent girls, attending elementary schools who
leave at fourteen are not likely to suffer in the same way or from the
same causes. One of the difficulties in their case is that they leave
school just when work is becoming interesting and before habits of
study have been formed, indeed before the subjects taught have been
thoroughly assimilated, and that therefore in the course of a few
years little may be left of their painfully acquired and too scanty
knowledge. Free education has been given to the children of the poor
for nearly fifty years, and yet the mothers who were schoolgirls in
the seventies and eighties appear to have saved but little from the
wreck of their knowledge except the power to sign their names and to
read in an imperfect and blundering manner.

Here, too, there are many problems to be solved, one among them being
the great necessity of endeavouring to correlate the lessons given in
school to the work that the individual will have to perform in after
life. It would appear as if the girls of the elementary schools, in
addition to reading, writing, and simple arithmetic, sufficient to
enable them to write letters, to read books, and to keep simple
household accounts, ought to be taught the rudiments of cookery, the
cutting out and making of garments, and the best methods of cleansing
as applied to houses, household utensils and clothing. In addition,
and as serious subjects, not merely as a recreation, they should be
taught gymnastics, part singing and mother-craft. No doubt in
individual schools much of this modification of the curriculum has
been accomplished, but more remains to be done before we can be
satisfied that we have done the best in our power to fit the children
of the country for their life's work.

Another of the great problems connected with the children in
elementary schools, a problem which, indeed, arises out of their
leaving at fourteen, is that of the Continuation School or Evening
School, and the system which is known as "half-timing." It is well
known that although young people from fourteen to sixteen years of age
are well able to profit by continued instruction, they are, with very
few exceptions, not at all well adapted for commencing their life's
work as industrials. The general incoherency and restlessness peculiar
to that age frequently lead to a change of employment every few
months, while their general irresponsibility and want of self-control
lead to frequent disputes with foremen and other officials in
factories and shops, in consequence of which the unfortunate child is
constantly out of work. In proportion to the joy and pride caused by
the realised capacity to earn money and by the sense of independence
that employment brings, is the unhappiness, and in many cases the
misery, due to unemployment, and to repeated failures to obtain and to
keep an independent position. The boy or girl out of work has an
uneasy feeling that he or she has not earned the just and expected
share towards household expenses. The feeling of dependence and
well-nigh of disgrace causes a rapid deterioration in health and
spirits, and it is only too likely that in many instances where
unemployment is continuous or frequently repeated, the unemployed
will quickly become the unemployable.

So far as the young people themselves are concerned, it would be
nearly always an unmixed benefit that they should pass at fourteen
into a Technical School or Continuation School, as the case may be.
Among the great difficulties to the solution of this problem is the
fact that in many working-class households the few weekly shillings
brought into the family store by the elder children are of very real
importance, and although the raising of the age of possible employment
and independence would enable the next generation to work better and
to earn higher and more continuous wages, it is difficult for the
parents to acquiesce in the present deprivation involved, even though
it represents so much clear gain in the not distant future.

At the present time there are Evening Schools, but this system does
not work well. All busy people are well aware that after a hard day's
work neither brain nor body is in the best possible condition for two
or three hours of serious mental effort. The child who has spent the
day in factory or shop has really pretty nearly used up all his or her
available mental energy, and after the evening meal is naturally
heavy, stupid, irritable, and altogether in a bad condition for
further effort. The evenings ought to be reserved for recreation, for
the gymnasium, the singing class, the swimming bath, and even for the
concert and the theatre.

The system of "half-timing" during ordinary school life does not work
well, and it would be a great pity should a similar system be
introduced in the hope of furthering the education of boys and girls
who are just entering industrial life. There is reason to hope that a
great improvement in education will be secured by Mr. Hayes Fisher's

Another subject to which the attention of patriots and philanthropists
ought to be turned is the sort of employment open to children at
school-leaving age. The greatest care should be taken to diminish the
number of those who endeavour to achieve quasi-independence in those
occupations which are well known as "blind alleys." In England it is
rare that girls should seek these employments, but in Scotland there
is far too large a number of girl messengers. In this particular, the
case of the girl is superior to that of the boy. The "tweeny" develops
into housemaid or cook; the young girls employed in superior shops to
wait on the elder shopwomen hope to develop into their successors, and
the girls who nurse babies on the doorsteps are, after all, acquiring
knowledge and dexterity that may fit them for domestic service or for
the management of their own families a few years later.

The girls of the richer classes have not the same difficulties as
their poorer sisters. They generally remain at school until a much
later age, and subsequently have the joy and stimulus of college life,
of foreign travel, of social engagements, or of philanthropic
enterprise. Still, a residue remains even of girls of this class whose
own inclinations, or whose family circumstances, lead to an aimless,
purposeless existence, productive of much injury to both body and
mind, and only too likely to end in hopeless ennui and nervous
troubles. It should be thoroughly understood by parents and guardians
that no matter what the girl's circumstances may be, she ought always
to have an abundance of employment. The ideas of obligation and of
duty should not be discarded when school and college life cease. The
well-to-do girl should be encouraged to take up some definite
employment which would fill her life and provide her with interests
and duties. Any other arrangement tends to make the time between
leaving school or college and a possible marriage not only a wasted
time but also a seed-time during which a crop is sown of bad habits,
laziness of body, and slackness of mind, that subsequently bear bitter
fruit. It is quite time for us to recognise that unemployment and
absence of duties is as great a disadvantage to the rich as it is to
the poor; the sort of employment must necessarily differ, but the
spirit in which it is to be done is the same.

One point that one would wish to emphasise with regard to all
adolescents is that although occupation for the whole day is most
desirable, hard work should occupy but a certain proportion of the
waking hours. For any adolescent, or indeed for any of us to attempt
to work hard for twelve or fourteen hours out of the twenty-four is to
store up trouble. It is not possible to lay down any hard and fast
rule as to the length of hours of work, because the other factors in
the problem vary so greatly. One person may be exhausted by four
hours of intellectual effort, whereas another is less fatigued by
eight; and further, the daily occupations vary greatly in the demand
that they make on attention and on such qualities as reason, judgment,
and power of initiation. Those who teach or learn such subjects as
mathematics, or those who are engaged in such occupations as
portrait-painting and the higher forms of musical effort, must
necessarily take more out of themselves than those who are employed in
feeding a machine, in nursing a baby, or in gardening operations.



The great problem before those who have the responsibility for the
training of the young is that of preparing them to take their place in
the world as fathers, mothers, and citizens, and among the fundamental
duties connected with this responsibility must come the placing before
the eyes of the young people high ideals, attractive examples, and the
securing to them the means of adequate preparation. As a nation it
seems to be with us at present as it was with the people of Israel in
the days of Eli: "the word of the Lord was precious (or scarce) in
those days; there was no open vision." We seem to have come to a time
of civilisation in which there is much surface refinement and a
widespread veneer of superficial knowledge, but in which there is
little enthusiasm and in which the great aim and object of teaching
and of training is but too little realised. In the endeavour to know a
little of all things we seem to have lost the capacity for true and
exhaustive knowledge of anything. It would appear as if the remedy for
this most unsatisfactory state of things has to commence long before
the years of adolescence, even while the child is yet in its cradle.
The old-fashioned ideas of duty, obedience, and discipline must be
once more household words and living entities before the race can
enter on a period of regeneration. We want a poet with the logic of
Browning, the sweetness of Tennyson, and the force of Rudyard Kipling,
to sing a song that would penetrate through indifference, sloth, and
love of pleasure, and make of us the nation that we might be, and of
which the England of bygone years had the promise.

Speaking specially with regard to girls, let us first remember that
the highest earthly ideal for a woman is that she should be a good
wife and a good mother. It is not necessary to say this in direct
words to every small girl, but she ought to be so educated, so guided,
as to instinctively realise that wifehood and motherhood is the flower
and perfection of her being. This is the hope and ideal that should
sanctify her lessons and sweeten the right and proper discipline of
life. All learning, all handicraft, and all artistic training should
take their place as a preparation to this end. Each generation that
comes on to the stage of life is the product of that which preceded
it. It is the flower of the present national life and the seed of that
which is to come. We ought to recognise that all educational aims and
methods are really subordinate to this great end; if this were
properly realised by adolescents it would be of the greatest service
and help in their training. The deep primal instinct of fatherhood and
motherhood would help them more than anything else to seek earnestly
and successfully for the highest attainable degree of perfection of
their own bodies, their own minds, and their own souls. It is,
however, impossible to aim at an ideal that is unseen and even
unknown, and although the primal instinct exists in us all, its
fruition is greatly hindered by the way in which it is steadily
ignored, and by the fact that any proclamation of its existence is
considered indiscreet and even indelicate. How are children to develop
a holy reverence for their own bodies unless they know of their
wonderful destiny? If they do not recognise that at least in one
respect God has confided to them in some measure His own creative
function, how can they jealously guard against all that would injure
their bodies and spoil their hopes for the exercise of this function?
There is, even at the present time, a division of opinion as to when
and in what manner children are to be made aware of their august
destiny. We are indeed only now beginning to realise that ignorance is
not necessarily innocence, and that knowledge of these matters may be
sanctified and blessed. It is, however, certain that the conspiracy of
silence which lasted so many years has brought forth nothing but evil.
If a girl remains ignorant of physiological facts, the shock of the
eternal realities of life that come to her on marriage is always
pernicious and sometimes disastrous. If, on the other hand, such
knowledge is obtained from servants and depraved playfellows, her
purity of mind must be smirched and injured.

Even among those who hold that children ought to be instructed, there
is a division of opinion as to when this instruction is to begin. Some
say at puberty, others a few years later, perhaps on the eve of
marriage, and yet others think that the knowledge will come with less
shock, with less personal application, and therefore in a more natural
and useful manner from the very beginning of conscious life. These
last would argue - why put the facts of reproduction on a different
footing from those of digestion and respiration? As facts in the
physical life they hold a precisely similar position. Upon the due
performance of bodily functions depends the welfare of the whole
organism, and although reproduction, unlike the functions of
respiration and digestion, is not essential to the life of the
individual, it is essential to the life of the nation.

The facts of physiology are best taught to little children by a
perfectly simple recognition of the phenomena of life around them - the
cat with her kittens, the bird with its fledgelings, and still more
the mother with her infant, are all common facts and beautiful types
of motherhood. Instead of inventing silly and untrue stories as to the
origin of the kitten and the fledgeling, it is better and wiser to
answer the child's question by a direct statement of fact, that God
has given the power to His creatures to perpetuate themselves, that
the gift of Life is one of His good gifts bestowed in mercy on all His
creatures. The mother's share in this gift and duty can be observed
by, and simply explained to, the child from its earliest years; it
comes then with no shock, no sense of shame, but as a type of joy and
gladness, an image of that holiest of all relations, the Eternal
Mother and the Heavenly Child.

Somewhat later in life, probably immediately before puberty in boys
and shortly after puberty in girls, the father's share in this mystery
may naturally come up for explanation. The physiological facts
connected with this are not so constantly in evidence before children,
and therefore do not press for explanation in the same way as do those
of motherhood, but the time comes soon in the schoolboy's life when
the special care of his own body has to be urged on him, and this
knowledge ought to come protected by the sanction that unless he is
faithful to his trust he cannot look to the reward of a happy home
life with wife and children. In the case of the girl the question as
to fatherhood is more likely to arise out of the reading of the Bible
or other literature, or by her realisation that at any rate in the
case of human parenthood there is evidently the intermediation of a
father. The details of this knowledge need not necessarily be pressed
on the adolescent girl, but it is a positive cruelty to allow the
young woman to marry without knowing the facts on which her happiness

Another way in which the mystery of parenthood can be simply and
comfortably taught is through the study of vegetable physiology. The
fertilisation of the ovules by pollen which falls directly from the
anthers on to the stigma can be used as a representation of similar
facts in animal physiology. It is very desirable, however, that this
study of the vegetable should succeed and not precede that of the
domestic animals in the teaching of boys and girls.

Viewed from this standpoint there is surely no difficulty to the
parent in imparting to the child this necessary knowledge. We have to
remember that children have to know the mysteries of life. They cannot
live in the world without seeing the great drama constantly displayed
to them in family life and in the lives of domesticated animals. They
cannot read the literature of Greece and Rome, nay, they cannot study
the Book of Books, without these facts being constantly brought to
mind. A child's thirst for the interpretation of this knowledge is
imperative and unsatiable - not from prurience nor from evil-mindedness,
but in obedience to a law of our nature, the child demands this
knowledge - and will get it. It is for fathers and mothers to say
whether these sublime and beautiful mysteries shall be lovingly
and reverently unveiled by themselves or whether the child's mind
shall be poisoned and all beauty and reverence destroyed by depraved
school-fellows and vulgar companions.

In the hope of securing the purity, reverence and piety of our
children, in the hope that they may grow up worthy of their high
destiny, let us do what we may to keep their honour unsmirched, to
preserve their innocence, and to lead them on from the unconscious
goodness of childhood to the clear-eyed, fully conscious dignity of
maturity, that our sons may grow up as young plants, and our daughters
as the polished corners of the temple.




My contribution to this little book was originally intended for the
eyes of parents, scoutmasters, and other adults. Since 1913, when the
book was first published, it has been my privilege to receive from
these so many letters of warm appreciation that it seems needless to
retain the apologetic preface which I then wrote. The object which I
had in view at that time was the hastening of a supremely important
reform. I have to-day the very deep joy of knowing that my words have
carried conviction to many adults and have given help to countless

One result of this publication was entirely unlooked for. It did not
occur to me, as I wrote, that the book would be read by boys and young
men. It was not written at all for this purpose. In some respects its
influence over them has, however, been increased by this obvious fact.
In this book boys have, as it were, overheard a confidential
conversation about themselves carried on by adults anxious for their
welfare, and some at least are evidently more impressed by this
conversation than by a direct appeal - in which they are liable to
suspect exaggeration.

I have received hundreds of letters from boys and young men. These
confirm in _every_ way the conclusions set forth in this book, and
prove that the need for guidance in sex matters is acute and
universal. The relief and assistance which many boys have experienced
from correspondence with me, and the interest which I find in their
letters have caused me - spite of the extreme preoccupation of a
strenuous life - to issue a special invitation to those who may feel
inclined to write to me.

Great diversity of opinion exists as to the best method of giving sex
instruction, and those who have had experience of one method are
curiously blind to the merits of other methods, which they usually
strongly denounce. While I have my own views as to the best method to
adopt, I am quite sure that each one of very many methods can, in
suitable hands, produce great good, and that the very poorest method
is infinitely superior to no method at all.

Some are for oral teaching, some for the use of a pamphlet, some
favour confidential individual teaching, others collective public
teaching. Some would try to make sex a sacred subject; some would
prefer to keep the emotional element out and treat reproduction as a
matter-of-fact science subject. Some wish the parent to give the
teaching, some the teacher, some the doctor, some a lecturer specially
trained for this purpose. Good results have been obtained by every
one of these methods.

During recent years much additional evidence has accumulated in my
hands of the beneficent results of such teaching as I advocate in
these pages, and I am confident that of boys who have been wisely
guided and trained, few fail to lead clean lives even when associated
with those who are generally and openly corrupt. I must, however,
emphasise my belief that the cleanliness of a boy's life depends
ultimately not upon his knowledge of good and evil but upon his
devotion to the Right.

"Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,
These three alone lead life to sovereign power."

Where these are not, it is idle to inculcate the rarest and most
difficult of all virtues.


_September 1918._


The term puberty will so often be used in the following chapters that
a brief account of the phenomena of puberty may appropriately be given
at the outset of this work. Puberty is a name given to the age at
which a boy becomes capable of being a father. In temperate climates
this age is reached at about fifteen years, though some boys attain it
at twelve and some not until seventeen. The one obvious and invariable
sign of puberty is a change of pitch in the voice, which assumes its
bass character after an embarrassing period of squeaky alternations
between the high and low tones.

The age is a critical one, as several important changes take place in
body and in mind. The reproductive organs undergo considerable
development and become sensitive to any stimulus, physical or mental.
The seminal fluid, which in normal cases has hitherto been secreted
little, if at all, is now elaborated by the testicles, and contains

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Online LibraryMary ScharliebYouth and Sex → online text (page 3 of 7)