Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 1914. JUVENItE MORALS.
Though it > may- be suggested that liis Honour the Chief Justice had a double purpose in view in remarking, in his address to the G rand Jury at the Keelson . Su^ preine Court on Monday, on the gratifying • decrease,, in ; juvenile .crime in New Zealand, it cannot be seriously,, disputed that the figures he quoted disclose a;: verysatisfactory state of affairs. A decrease,of nearly 50 per cent, in 27 years argues the existence of some very • powerful factor vt for good, and ■ possibly Sir Robert Stout is correct in attributing /to the 'present', national school: system a great portion of the credrfc for diverting the youthiul mindj' into healthier moral channels 11 than their predecessors of a quarter. of a century ago followed. '" The figures quoted," said his Honour, " showed that the youths of the present-day were far better than their fathers were, and wf p less criminal and less imniora/." From which it might be>' deducted that heredity ; is, after all, a matter of environment, and thai^ the problem of eugenics is much simpler than its disciples, consider it to be. Given the ' necessary surroundings— plenty of freedom of speech and action^ abundant opportunities for play and amusement,'and a well-ordered community •pompaya;tif'ely '.isolated •; front contact with the; ciimiiials of ; older lands—there is of, pourse no reason . y^hy even 29 per cent, of every 1000 of "the population should " stray from the path of rectitude. There has during the past decade been a distinct advance in prosperity amongst, all classes of the people in the Dominion,,arid this has undoubtedly, had: a* two-fold effect upon their habits: .it has tended to; make the conditions of life more pleasant for the" children as well as for the parents, and has .thereby lessened the need 1 or the desire ' for 1 adventitious.; and 'doubtful aids to the easy life _that invariably : ends in _ the prison Avernus. The, school influence which Sir Robert stressed so 'strongly as a moulder of -national ;character is due almost as largely to the spirit of emulation/fostered by the teachers and pride ml the alma mater as to the character of the subjects taught. The message, of. the school-book toc^y is full of virility, appealing .to grille bf" ; race and spurring to high'and. noble ideals., The boy who'is not thrilled by the recital of -the glorious achievements of the heroes who figure in his ;country's history must have some quality in him that will help to maintain the percentage of juvenile' criminals • and the .stirring,, essays on historic subjects that! figure so largely in the scheme of instruction cannot fail to have a beneficial effect in shaping! thoughts and actions. A gathering of educational authorities in Auckland some weeks ago deplored the fact that the average of intelligence amongst pupils in the schools of the Dominion was less t : haii it was a decade ago. But if they'have gained in wisdom what the professors seem ; to think they have lost in knowledge, there is liothing much to worry about, after all. Whilst we'.al'6 congratulating ourselves ok .the remarkable decrease in the liumber of juvenile criminals, the problem of an alarming increase is.just nbw troubling the French authorities: In a book published recently by Maitre Henri Robert, the famous French advocate, he sa y S •i^^f'The, increase in the list of tjii|se*jcrimes is, in my opinion, due', to the 'disunion in families, the abuse of divorce, the fact that boys: are no ' longer apprenticed regularly to' Ruy; useful ti'tidey ;to a false instructi6]i and loose education, and. to the absence of religion, in the. bringing up of youth. ; Drunkenness is also an eSfiential';'. factor, as well as /the reckless publicity given to crimes of all kinds. We must not forget, either, that. the cinematograph, a cheap public amusement, may be dangerous, especially when the police, are represented as powerless in the presence of crime." This candid comment on the, lack of the training of juveniles in France comes as a shock, because one of the objects of the late Max O'Rell's pilgrimage to the Antipodes was
to endeavour to persuade the benighted colonials to fashion their home life and the training of their children on the French model.