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Child workers for profit lose the land of dreams. Christianity must prolong still further the period of childhood, that its joys and delights may contribute a larger portion of life. How are overworked, undeveloped children to be emancipated ? How much can be done by law, how much by the development in every community of a powerful sentiment based on the Christian ideal?
None of our surveys have yet disclosed any kind of community which protects all its youth against the contagion of evil. In the small community it is often the contact with vicious adults that destroys purity. How shall the boy on the farm be protected from the evil stories of the hired man? In the city, commercialism advertises the road to vice with rosy colors and corrupts and degrades the spirit of youth. The community for the most part still permits the natural sex curiosity of childhood to be answered by evil-minded adults, or to be stimulated by posters and motion pictures, by amusement parks, dance halls, and suggestive plays. In India the family system puts vile language on infant lips and the Moslem harem surrounds with pollution the children of the wealthy and powerful.
But it is in the contact of play and in the satisfaction of the recreational need that the contagion of evil most persistently touches child life. Every lawful amusement for childhood indoor and outdoor has been made a means of profit, and to all of them harmful features have been added as a result. This is the second unpardonable sin of the community against its children, that it permits not only its work but its play to be a means of profit, that it prostitutes for gain the joyous energies of youth needed for its own revitalizing. The abuses of commercial recreation must be fought, but the energy which is necessary to maintain constant regulation and restriction ought to be set free for a truly constructive community program. The community must be led to see that play is the great vocation of childhood and the universal avocation of later life. The modern recreation movement, with its parks and playgrounds, its pageants and festivals, its boy scouts and camp fire girls, its municipal centers with their baseball parks and their lively games for children, its amateur dramatics and holiday celebrationsthese express our growing sense of the sacredness of childhood.
In Shanghai there is a playground provided by foreigners for their children, and carefully fenced about. The playhungry Chinese children crowd about to watch the foreign children enjoy that which they themselves are denied. Yet this denial is not forever. The recreation movement is becoming a world movement. Demonstration playgrounds under American auspices are being conducted in Calcutta. Uruguay is appropriating thousands of dollars for a nation-wide plan under American guidance. A demonstration playground in Manila is growing into a complete Filipino system, with baseball displacing cock fighting and gambling. No more welcome work is being done by the Christian Associations in foreign lands than their development of organized recreation.
There is yet a gigantic battle to be fought before all childhood everywhere can have a normal, free chance to play. There are ancient prejudices to remove. There is the senseless conception, that life is for work alone, to be overthrown. The community must see not simply the educational value, but the character value of play. If evil controls recreation, the community cannot save its children. If the community puts its hand upon this greatest force in the life of youth and uses it for their highest development, there will be no question about its future. Here is the natural path to community service for college men and women, most of whom have been trained in the discipline of recreation, and who are in some way fitted for play leadership. They know how play leadership opens up great values for any life; how it brings order and cooperation, discipline and endurance, self control and manly growth. They have found for their own lives the religious values in recreation. In what ways can they pass them on to their community?
V The coming of a child into a home means a spiritual transformation. It brings new responsibilities, new visions, new outlooks. The determination to develop the spiritual possibilities of a child's life unfolds new and higher possibilities in the lives of parents. In like manner, whenever the community will consider its children solely as material for spiritual development, it will itself come into a higher life. This is the path that leads to the Commonwealth of God.
SUGGESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND ACTION
What forces are working actively against child welfare? Observe street influences, home conditions, physical dangers, moral temptations, forms of children's work and play
What conditions are working for child welfare? Observe parental care, play spaces, guided recreation, educational advantages, moral influences.
3. Estimate the probability of a child's growing up physically and morally sound under such conditions.
4. Compare conditions working for and against child welfare in the most favored sections with those in poorer sections.
5. What are the conditions of child life in Africa ? China ? Moslem lands? Compare the chances of a child in these countries with his chances in America.
6. In what ways do our communities most outrage the social principles of Jesus in their treatment of child life?
II. Responsibility for Neglect of Children
Trace out in given families as accurately as you can how far the parents are directly responsible for bad conditions, and how far these grow out of forces for which the community is responsible.
III. Improving Conditions
1. What is the worst condition for which the community is primarily responsible?
(a) Is it communicable disease, and a high death rate? If so, can we locate the chief causes? How about the milk supply? How improve it? Is it contagious diseases of children? How can we help to get rid of them? Do the dirtiest sections of our town have the highest death rate? How can we get the proper officials to clean them up?
(b) Is it child labor? If so, how can we bring to parents and employers a new conscience on the value of life, and of schooling ?
(c) Is it conditions of play? Where do the children play? What forms of amusement for our children are run for profit? How large do these bulk in the total play life of the community ? What is the worst form of children's amusement run for profit in our community ? Enumerate the evil effects which this is having upon children. How shall we secure proper regulation of commercial amusement enterprises? How work for free recreation? What free play spaces are available ? Why are they so often vacant while commercial places are crowded? What unwholesome influences exist in unguided play? How can we help to secure and carry out a recreation program?
2. What is the worst condition in our town for which deficient homes are primarily responsible? How can the community insure the proper care of children in such homes ? Under what conditions should children be removed from such homes ? How may children without homes and homes without children be brought together?
3. What is being done by the missionaries in Japan, India, and the Philippines to deal with the death rate, the child labor situation, and the conditions of play among children? What is being done by the governments themselves ?
4. What transformations would take place in our community if child welfare were really given first place?
TRAINING FOR FULL EFFICIENCY
The Christian values in personality are potential; they have to be realized. Development is one of the natural rights. But how many today get full development? Vast numbers of people are conscious that they might be greater than they are, if their powers were only fully developed. What changes might not be wrought out in our communities if all the personalities that compose them were developed to their full capacity! The endeavor to create a Christian community involves new values and responsibilities in education.
FIRST DAY: Fractional Personalities
And he also that had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou didst not sow, and gathering where thou didst not scatter; and I was afraid, and went away and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, thou hast thine own. But his lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I did not scatter; thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back mine own with interest.—Matt. 25: 24-27.
Recall the parable of the talents.—Matt. 25: 14-30.
Arrested development is a universal community fact. Observe the corner loafers interested in nothing but cigarettes and smut. Out of this crowd are developed the vagrants and the criminals. Of the men applying for work at one muni