We cannot carry a great plant-breeding test to a successful culmination at the end of a long period of years without three things, among many others, that are absolutely essential—sunshine, good air, and nourishing food.
Take the first, both in its literal and figurative sense—sunshine. Surround the children with every possible cheer.
I do not mean to pamper them, to make them weak; they need the winds, just as the plants do, to strengthen them and to make them self-reliant. If you want your child to grow up into a sane, normal man, a good citizen, a support of the state you must keep him in the sunshine. Keep him happy. You cannot do this if you have a sour face yourself. Smiles and laughter cost nothing. Costly clothing, too fine to stand the wear and tear of a tramp in the woods or sliding down a haystack or a cellar door, are a dead weight upon your child. I believe in good clothes, good strong serviceable clothes for young children-clothes that fit and look well; for they tend to mental strength, to self-respect. But there are thousands of parents who, not having studied the tremendous problems of environmental surroundings, and having no conception of the influence of these surroundings, fail to recognize the fact that either an over-dressed or a poorly dressed child is handicapped.
Do not be cross with the child; you cannot afford it. If you are cultivating a plant, developing it into something finer and nobler, you must love it, not hate it; be gentle with it, not abusive; be firm, never harsh. I give the plants upon which I am at work in a test, whether a single one or a hundred thousand, the best possible environment. So should it be with a child, if you want to develop it in right ways. Let the children have music, let them have pictures, let them have laughter, let them have a good time; not an idle time, but one full of cheerful occupation. Surround them with all the beautiful things you can. Plants should be given sun and air and the blue sky; give them to your boys and girls. I do not mean for a day or a month, but for all the years. We cannot treat a plant tenderly one day and harshly the next; they cannot stand it. Remember that you are training not only for to-day, but for all the future, for all posterity.
To develop indoors, under glass, a race of men and women of the type that I believe is coming out of all this marvelous mingling of races in the United States is immeasurably absurd. There must be sunlight, but even more is needed, fresh, pure air. The injury wrought to-day to the race by keeping too young children indoors at school is beyond the power of any one to estimate. The air they breathe even under the best sanitary regulations is far too impure for their lungs. Often it is positively poisonous-a slow poison which never makes itself fully manifest until the child is a wreck. Keep the child outdoors and away from books and study. Much you can teach him, much he will teach himself all gently, without knowing it, of nature and nature's God, just as the child is taught to walk or run or play; but education in the academic sense shun as you would the plague. And the atmosphere must be pure around it in the other sense. It must be free from every kind of indelicacy or coarseness. The most dangerous man in the community is the one who would pollute the stream of a child's life. Whoever was responsible for the saying that "boys will be boys" and a young man "must sow his wild oats" was perhaps guilty of a crime.
It is impossible to apply successfully the principles of cultivation and selection of plants to human life if the human life does not, like the plant life, have proper nourishment. First of all, the child's digestion must be made sound by sufficient, simple, well-balanced food. But, you say, any one should know this. True, and most people do realize it in a certain sense; but how many realize that upon the food the child is fed in these first ten years largely depends its moral future? I once lived near a class of people who, from religious belief, excluded all meat, eggs, and milk from the dietary of their children. They fed them vegetables and the product of cereals. What result followed? The children were anemic, unable to withstand disease, quickly succumbed to illness. There were no signs of vigor; they were always low in vitality. But that was not all. They were frightfully depraved. They were not properly fed; their ration was unbalanced.  Nature rebelled; for she had not sufficient material to perfect her higher development.
What we want in developing a new plant, making it better in all ways than any of its kind that have preceded it, is a splendid norm, not anything abnormal. So we feed it from the soil, and it feeds from the air by the aid of sunlight and thus we make it a powerful aid to man. It is dependent upon good food. Upon good food for the child, well-balanced food, depends good digestion; upon good digestion, with pure air to keep the blood pure, depends the nervous system. If you have the first ten years of a boy's or a girl's life in which to make them strong and sturdy with normal nerves, splendid digestion, and unimpaired lungs, you have a healthy animal, ready for the heavier burdens of study. Preserve beyond all else as the priceless portion of a child the integrity of the nervous system. Upon this depends their success in life. With the nervous system shattered, what is life worth? Suppose you begin the education, so-called, of your child at, say, three or four, if he be unusually bright, in the kindergarten. Keep adding slowly and systematically, with what I think the devil must enjoy as a refined means of torment, to the burden day by day. Keep on "educating" him until he enters the primary school at five, and push him to the uttermost until he is ten. You have now laid broad and deep the foundation; outraged nature may be left to take care of the rest.
The integrity of your child's nervous system, no matter what any so-called educator may say, is thus impaired; he can never again be what he would have been had you taken him as the plant cultivator takes a plant, and for these first ten precious years of his life had fitted him for the future. Nothing else is doing so much to break down the nervous systems of Americans, not even the insane rushing of maturer years, as this over-crowding and cramming of child-life before the age of ten. And the mad haste of maturer years is the legitimate result of the earlier strain.
NEITHER PLANT NOR CHILD TO BE OVERFED
Nor should the child, any more than the plant, be overfed, but more especially should not be given an unbalanced ration. What happens when we overfeed a plant, especially an unbalanced ration? Its root system, its leaf system, its trunk, its whole body, is impaired. It becomes engorged. Following this, comes devitalization. It is open to attacks of disease. It will easily be assailed by fungous diseases and insect pests. It rapidly and abnormally grows onward to its death. So with a child you can easily over-feed it on an unbalanced ration, and the result will be as disastrous as in the case of the plant. The effect of such an unbalanced ration as that fed to the children in the community I have referred to was to shorten life; they developed prematurely, and died early.
Again some one says, But how can the very poor feed their children plenty of nutritious food?
I answer that the nation must protect itself. I mean by this that it is imperative, in order that the nation may rise to its full powers and accomplish its destiny, that the people who comprise this nation must be normal physically. It is imperative, in order that the nation be normal, that the plants of the nation from which it derives its life and without which the nation dies must be sound. All human life is absolutely dependent upon plant life. If the plant life be in any measure lowered through lack of nourishment, with the inevitable lack of ability to produce the best results, the nation suffers. To the extent that any portion of the people are physically mentally or morally unfit, to that extent the nation is weakened.
Do not misunderstand me: I am not advocating paternalism in any sense; far from it. But is not the human race worth as much care as the orchards, the farms, the cattle-ranges? I would so work upon this great blending of races, upon each individual factor in it, that each factor should be called upon to do its very best, be compelled to do its very best, if it was shirking responsibility. But in any great nation there must be a large number who cannot do their best, if I may use a contradictory term, who do not seem able to rise to their opportunities and their possibilities. Already you may see in our larger cities efforts in a small way to help feed the very poor. It can be done nationally as well as municipally, and it can be done so that no loss of self-respect will follow, no encouragement and fostering of poverty or laziness.
Then, too, there are the orphans and the waifs; these must be taken into account. They must have wise, sane, consistent state aid. I am opposed to all sectarian aid. I would do away with all asylums of all types for the indigent under sectarian or private control. The nation, or the commonwealth, should take care of the unfortunate. It must do this in a broad and liberal and sane manner, if we are ever to accomplish the end sought, to make this nation rise to its possibilities. Only through the nation, or State, can this work be done. It must be done for self-protection.
(This is the text version. See the photographed version.)
 The request has often come to me to state what I thought a "well-balanced" food especially for children. We all need food which supplies the elements of growth and repair and all, both old and young, must also have foods which yield warmth and energy. Nearly all foods contain both these elements though in greatly varying proportions and usually far from the right ones for growth and health unless a variety of foods are eaten at each meal. Growing children need a greater proportion of body-building foods, such as lean meats, fish, milk, some vegetables and fruits. They are often fed too great a proportion of sweet and starchy food. A certain proportion of these are absolutely necessary but we all know the "starch babies" by their pale, fat, flabby, characterless faces, lusterless eyes and general lack of vitality. Less starchy foods and some fresh meats with eggs, milk, vegetables and plenty of fruits will give more vitality, a better growth, greater intelligence, better health and a better constitution, notwithstanding the belief of some of my vegetarian friends to the contrary.
Children mostly fed on sweet and farinaceous foods are also starved for the various salts and mineral elements. These must all be supplied especially to children else they will certainly become victims of an unbalanced, unnatural, premature development and a shortening of life simply from starvation. Life, the builder, must have the necessary materials or the structure must be imperfect and incomplete.