CHAPTER IX THE DEMOCRATIC REGIME IN THE HOME-Woodmam

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The parental-filial relation is almost the only institution of society that has not consciously come under the sway of the democratic regime or rather influences. Within a century, the world has passed from the imperial to the monarchical and from the monarchical to the democratic order—save in two rather important fields of life, industry and the home. In these two realms the transformation to the democratic modus remains to be effected,—I mean of course the conscious, however reluctant, acceptance thereof. True it is that many children and fewer parents have made and will continue to make it for themselves, but the process is one which the concerted thought and co-operative action of parents and children can far better bring to consummation. The difficulty of the transformation is increased almost indefinitely by the microscopic character of the family unit. It is not easy to keep the open processes of the State up to the standards of democracy,—how much more difficult the covert content of the inaccessible home!

In all that parents do with respect to the home, assuming their acceptance of the democratic order and its requirements, they may not forget that the home, like every educational agency of our time, must "train the man and the citizen." Milton's insistence is not less binding today than it was when first uttered nearly three centuries ago. A man cannot be half slave and half free. He cannot be fettered by an autocratic regime within the home and at the same time be a free and effective partner in the working out of the processes of democracy. Democracy and discipline are never contradictory and the discipline of democracy can alone be self-discipline. Professor Patten in his volume, "Product and Climax," hints at a real difficulty: "We want our children to retain the plasticity of youth, and yet we believe in a disciplinary education and love to put them at difficult tasks, having no end but rigidity of action and a narrower viewpoint. At the same breath we ask for heroes and demand more democracy."

What is really involved when the matter is reduced to its simplest terms, is seen to be a new conception of the home. For many centuries, it has been a world or realm wherein parents filled a number of roles or parts,—chief among these regents on thrones, dispensers of bounty, teachers of the infant mind. Any survey of the home today that surveys more than surface things must take into account one other figure,—or set of figures,—the figure of a child. And the child not as the subject of the parental regent, however wise, nor yet as the unquestioning pupil of the parental tutor, however infallible! The home can no longer remain, amid the crescent sway of the democratic ideal, a kingdom with one or two or even more thrones, nor yet a debating society. Shall we say parliament, seeing that in Parliament and Congress it is reputed to be the habit of men to plead for truth rather than for victory?

The home must become a school wherein parents and children alike sit as eager learners and humble teachers, a school for parents in the latter days in the arts of renunciation and for children in the fine arts of outward courtesy and inward chivalry. In such a classroom the child will learn to think non-filially for itself, though it will not cease to feel filially. Under such auspices, the child will be neither a manageable nor an unmanageable thing but a person bent upon self-direction and self-determination through the arts of self-discipline. In the interest of that self-discipline which parental example can do most to foster, let it be remembered by parents that no rule is as effective with children as self-mastery, that the only convincing and irrefutable authority is inner authoritativeness. Spencer has laid down the ideal for the home: "to produce a self-governing being; not to produce a being to be governed by others." If parents are so unwise as to postpone and deny the right of children to live their lives until after their parents are dead, it may be that these will die too late for their own comfort. Parents who rely upon parental authority, whatever that may mean, in dealing with children ought to be quietly chloroformed or peacefully deposited in the Museum of Natural History by the side of the almost equally antique Diplodoccus.

The teacherless classroom, the school which is without direction and without dogma ex cathedra, is a peculiarly fitting metaphor to invoke. It may serve to remind children that the newly achieved equivalence of the home is not to result in parental subjection or subordination, that the inviolable rights of personality are not exactly a filial monopoly,—crescent filial tyranny being little less intolerable than obsolescent parental despotism—that the passing of the years does not make it exactly easier to abandon or to forswear personality. It were little gain to substitute King Log of filial rule for King Stork of parental command. Filial domination, in other words, is not less odious because of its novelty. In a recent number of The Outlook, E. M. Place, writing on "Democracy in the Home," puts it well: "There are two kinds of despotism in the home that are alike and equally intolerable: One is parental and the other is filial."

Bernard Shaw is quite unparadoxical and almost commonplace in his fear that there is a possibility of home life oppressing its inmates. The peril is not of revolt against the oppressions of home life by its inmates but of unrevolting submission which were far worse on their part. From such oppressions there is but one escape, the deliberate introduction of a democratic regime. "It is admitted that a democracy develops and trains the individual while an autocracy dwarfs and represses the possibilities within. The parent who is autocratic, who says do this and do that because I say so without appealing to the reason and judgment of the child, can never create the real home, the one in which good citizens are made. The democratic home where the individual welfare and the general welfare are given due consideration, where conduct is the result of the appeal to reason, is as much the right of the child as a voice in his own government is the right of an adult."

And one thing more! Some marriages are intolerable and the only way of peace, not of cowardice or of evasion, is the way out. Without at this time entering into the question whether the multiplicity of divorces is imperilling the social order, I make bold to say that it ought not be considered an enormity on the part of children nor an indictment of parents, if parents and adult children conclude to live apart, unharassed and untortured by the conditions of propinquity. Fewer children would enter into obviously fatal marriages if marriage were not regarded as the only decent and respectable way out of the home for a daughter. Who does not know of young people marrying in order to escape from the home? I do not mean to imply that all young people who desire to escape from the home are the victims of domestic repression and parental tyranny, but I have often deemed it lamentable that, for some young people as I have known them, marriage offered the only excuse or pretext for taking oneself out of the home. Such self-exile from home by the avenue of marriage often leads to tragedy graver than any from which it was sought to take refuge. But a democratic regime in the home must include the possibility of honorable and peaceable withdrawal therefrom.

It should be said by way of parenthesis that marriage is not always a secure refuge from the undemocratically ordered home. For parental intervention in the life of married children is not unimaginable. Under my observation there came some months ago the story of parents, who quite forcibly withdrew the person of their daughter and her infant child from her and her husband's home because the latter was unwilling or unable to expend a grotesquely large sum for its maintenance. This is merely an exaggerated example of the insistence on the part of parents on the unlessened exercise of that power of control over children, which is the very negation of democracy.

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