To promote soundness and vigor of mind measures should be adopted and habits formed analogous to those recommended for supplying the body with fresh air and change of air, and securing to it the advantage of free ventilation. We often, and very intelligibly to all, speak of the “atmosphere” in which a person lives; meaning by the term the moral and intellectual influences to which he is constantly subjected, in the family or in society.
And we as often, and most justly, attribute to these influences the improvement or deterioration of his character. Above all things it is essential to a good education that the sentiments and principles, the demeanor and habits, of those with whom a child is in daily intercourse, should be such as, by the force of example and the necessity of conforming to circumstances, may contribute to the repression of the evil and the development of the good instincts of our nature. These are advantages which it is very difficult to secure; impossible, perhaps, to secure to entire satisfaction. Especially it is found impracticable, in most cases, to select for a child such juvenile associates as may merely do him no harm, to say nothing of such as may promote his progress in intelligence and virtue.
We must be contented, and thankful, if we can effect an approximation to the best state of things, by keeping or placing our children under guardianship which shelters from the assault of the open and grosser forms of evil, and under such a system of association with their fellows as shall insure the minimum of corrupting communication, and the maximum of respect for the principles of honor, justice, and truth. It may be considered, in some respects, a counterpoise to the difficulty of preserving the mind in an altogether pure atmosphere, that much good is to be expected from what may be termed mental ventilation.
But, although the practice of frequenting general and promiscuous society may be recommended, for the purpose of airing the mind and giving it holiday excursions into various regions of thought and sentiment, it is impossible to insist too strongly upon the importance to its health and soundness of a calm, pure atmosphere at home, and the selection of a limited number of habitual and intimate associates, in whose communications we may be perfectly assured there will be nothing unprofitable or evil.
Source: Godeys Ladys Book, August 1866
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