--Reading Activity - The Children’s Era by Margaret Sanger--

Below is an excerpt of a speech by Margaret Sanger. Read closely and try to understand what she is saying. See if you can answer the questions that follow the excerpt. Post your answers in a comment for some feedback.

The Children’s Era

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: My subject is "The Children's Era." The Children's Era! This makes me think of Ellen Key's book -- The Century of the Child. Ellen Key hoped that this twentieth century was to be the century of the child. The twentieth century, she said, would see this old world of ours converted into a beautiful garden of children. Well, we have already lived through a quarter of this twentieth century. What steps have we taken toward making it the century of the child? So far, very, very few.

Why does the Children's Era still remain a dream of the dim and the distant future? Why has so little been accomplished? -- in spite of all our acknowledged love of children, all our generosity, all our good-will, all the enormous spending of millions on philanthropy and charities, all our warm-hearted sentiment, all our incessant activity and social consciousness? Why?

Before you can cultivate a garden, you must know something about gardening. You have got to give your seeds a proper soil in which to grow. You have got to give them sunlight and fresh air. You have got to give them space and the opportunity (if they are to lift their flowers to the sun), to strike their roots deep into that soil. And always -- do not forget this -- you have got to fight weeds. You cannot have a garden, if you let weeds overrun it. So, if we want to make this world a garden for children, we must first of all learn the lesson of the gardener.

So far we have not been gardeners. We have only been a sort of silly reception committee, a reception committee at the Grand Central Station of life. Trainload after trainload of children are coming in, day and night -- nameless refugees arriving out of the Nowhere into the Here. Trainload after trainload -- many unwelcome, unwanted, unprepared for, unknown, without baggage, without passports, most of them without pedigrees. These unlimited hordes of refugees arrive in such numbers that the reception committee is thrown into a panic -- a panic of activity. The reception committee arouses itself heroically, establishes emergency measures: milk stations

, maternity centers, settlement houses, playgrounds, orphanages, welfare leagues, and every conceivable kind of charitable effort. But still trainloads of children keep on coming -- human weed crop up that spread so fast in this sinister struggle for existence, that the overworked committee becomes exhausted, inefficient, and can think of no way out.

  1. What is the subject of the speech?
  2. What does she mean when she says “this old world of ours converted into a beautiful garden of children”?
  3. According to the author has much positive change occurred in this century?
  4. What do the weeds of the garden represent in our society?
  5. Do we sound prepared to make changes and help our children?




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