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The Training of the Human Plant


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FRONT
INTRODUCTION
DEDICATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
CHAPTER II
CHAPTER III
CHAPTER IV
CHAPTER V
CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER VII
CHAPTER VIII
CHAPTER IX
CHAPTER X
CHAPTER XI
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INTRODUCTION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I
CHAPTER II
CHAPTER III
CHAPTER IV
CHAPTER V
CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER VII
CHAPTER VIII
CHAPTER IX
CHAPTER X
CHAPTER XI

 

   
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V
DANGERS

In the immediate future, possibly within your life and mine, unquestionably within the life of this generation, what have we most to fear in America from this vast crossing of races? Not in the vicious adults who are now with us, for they can be controlled by law and force, but in the children of these adults, when they have grown and been trained to responsible age in vice and crime, lies the danger. We must begin now, to-day, the work of training these children as they come.

Grant that it were possible that every boy and girl born in the United States during the next thirty years should be kept in an atmosphere of crime to the age of ten. The result would be too appalling to contemplate. As they came to adult years, vice would be rampant, crime would go unpunished, all evil would thrive, the nation would be destroyed. Now, to the extent that we leave the children of the poor and these other unfortunates,-waifs and foundlings, -to themselves and their evil surroundings, to that extent we breed peril for ourselves.

The only way to obviate this is absolutely to cut loose from all precedent and begin systematic State and National aid, not next year, or a decade from now, but to-day. Begin training these outcasts, begin the cultivation of them, if YOU will, much as we cultivate the plants, in order that their lives may be turned into right ways, in order that the integrity of the state may be maintained. Rightly cultivated, these children may be made a blessing to the race; trained in the wrong way, or neglected entirely, they will become a curse to the state.

ENVIRONMENT

Let us bring the application still nearer home. There is not a single desirable attribute which, lacking in a plant, may not be bred into it. Choose what improvement you wish in a flower, a fruit, or a tree, and by crossing, selection, cultivation, and persistence you can fix this desirable trait irrevocably. Pick out any trait you want in your child, granted that he is a normal child,-I shall speak of the abnormal later,-be it honesty, fairness, purity, lovableness, industry, thrift, what not. By surrounding this child with sunshine from the sky and your own heart, by giving the closest communion with nature, by feeding this child well-balanced, nutritious food, by giving it all that is implied in healthful environmental influences, and by doing all in love, you can thus cultivate in the child and fix there for all its life all of these traits. Naturally not always to the full in all cases at the begin-fling of the work, for heredity will make itself felt first, and, as in the plant under improvement, there will be certain strong tendencies to reversion to former ancestral traits; but, in the main, with the normal child, you can give him all these traits by patiently, persistently, guiding him in these early formative years. And, on the other side, give him foul air to breathe, keep him in a dusty factory or an unwholesome school-room or a crowded tenement up under the hot roof; keep him away from the sunshine, take away from him music and laughter and happy faces; cram his little brains with so-called knowledge, all the more deceptive and dangerous because made so apparently adaptable to his young mind; let him have vicious associates in his hours out of school, and at the age of ten you have fixed in him the opposite traits. He is on his way to the gallows. You have perhaps seen a prairie fire sweep through the tall grass across a plain. Nothing can stand before it, it must burn itself out. That is what happens when you let the weeds grow up in a child's life, and then set fire to them by wrong environment.

THE ABNORMAL

But, some one asks, What will you do with those who are abnormal? First, I must repeat that the end will not be reached at a bound. It will take years, centuries, perhaps, to erect on this great foundation we now have in America the structure which I believe is to be built. So we must begin to-day in our own commonwealth, in our own city or town, in our own family, with ourselves. Here appears a child plainly not normal, what shall we do with him? Shall we, as some have advocated, even from Spartan days, hold that the weaklings should be destroyed? No. In cultivating plant life, while we destroy much that is unfit, we are constantly on the lookout for what has been called the abnormal, that which springs apart in new lines. How many plants are there in the world to-day that were not in one sense once abnormalities? No; it is the influence of cultivation, of selection, of surroundings, of environment, that makes the change from the abnormal to the normal. From the children we are led to call abnormal may come, under wise cultivation and training, splendid normal natures. A great force is sometimes needed to change the aspect of minerals and metals. Powerful acids, great heat, electricity, mechanical force, or some such influence, must be brought to bear upon them. Less potent influences will work a complete change in plant-life. Mild heat, sunshine, the atmosphere, and greatly diluted chemicals, will all directly affect the growth of the plant and the production of fruits and flowers. And when we come to animal life, especially in man, we find that the force or influence necessary to affect a transformation is extremely slight. This is why environment plays such an important part in the development of man.

In child-rearing, environment is equally essential with heredity. Mind you, I do not say that heredity is of no consequence. It is the great factor, and often makes environment almost powerless. When certain hereditary tendencies are almost indelibly ingrained, environment will have a hard battle to effect a change in the child; but that a change can be wrought by the surroundings we all know. The particular subject may at first be stubborn against these influences, but repeated application of the same modifying forces in succeeding generations will at last accomplish the desired object in the child as it does in the plant.

No one shall say what great results for the good of the race may not be attained in the cultivation of abnormal children, transforming them into normal ones.

THE PHYSICALLY WEAK

So also of the physically weak. I have a plant in which I see wonderful possibilities, but it is weak. Simply because it is weak do I become discouraged and say it can never be made strong, that it would better be destroyed? Not at all; it may possess other qualities of superlative value. Even if it never becomes as robust as its fellows, it may have a tremendous influence. Because a child is a weakling, should it be put out of the way? Such a principle is monstrous. Look over the long line of the great men of the world, those who have changed history and made history, those who have helped the race upward,-poets, painters, statesmen, scientists, leaders of thought in every department,-and you will find that many of them have been physically weak. No, the theory of the ancients that the good of the state demanded the elimination of the physically weak was, perhaps, unwise. What we should do is to strengthen the weak, cultivate them as we cultivate plants, build them up, make them the very best they are capable of becoming.

THE MENTALLY DEFECTIVE

But with those who are mentally defectiveah, here is the hardest question of all !what shall be done with them? Apparently fatally deficient, can they ever be other than a burden? In the case of plants in which all tendencies are absolutely vicious there is only one coursethey must be destroyed. In the case of human beings in whom the light of reason does not burn, those who, apparently, can never be other than a burden, shall they be eliminated from the race? Go to the mother of an imbecile child and get your answer. No; here the analogy must cease. I shall not say that in the ideal state general citizenship would not gain by the absence of such classes, but where is the man who would deal with such Spartan rigor with the race? Besides all this, in the light of the great progress flow being made in medical and surgical skill, who shall say what now apparently impossible cures may not be effected?

But it is as clear as sunlight that here, as in the case of plants, constant cultivation and selection will do away with all this, so that in the grander race of the future these defectives will have become permanently eliminated from the race heredity. For these helpless unfortunates, as with those who are merely unfortunate from environment, I should enlist the best and broadest state aid.

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(This is the text version. See the photographed version.)

Footnotes

 



chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

chapter 5

Luther Burbank

 

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By surrounding this child with sunshine from the sky and your own heart, by giving the closest communion with nature... and by doing all in love, you can thus cultivate in the child and fix there for all its life all of these traits.  more...
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