A child is the father of man

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readJun 2, 2018


Synopsis : A child is the father of the future generation and is responsible to pass on the values he has learned from his father. The values he teaches the nest generation determines the upliftment or the decline of the society so he has a serious responsibility.

A child is the father of man

Source : Google photo

When we were students in high school, a favorite essay topic was The child as the father of man. Our teachers did not really explain what it all meant and expected us to write an essay on a topic that we did not understand well so we avoided such topic and wrote essay on something else like favorite national hero or something else. Essay writing was a part of our curriculum in High School so we prepared on a few popular topics that were the favorites of the examiners so often students hit the jackpot if the topics turned out to be the ones they prepared for.

After all the years I look back and start thinking what it really meant and why we failed to understand the deeper meaning of such innocuous words when were so young. The fault lies with our teachers who did not teach us the deeper meaning perhaps because they did not take the topic seriously enough to warrant a thorough analysis but expected us to write an essay on it. We were only 15 years old and had just crossed the threshold of childhood into early adolescence and did not know deep philosophical meanings of words at that time.

A child one day grows up to be the father of the future generation of mankind so what he brings forth as knowledge that he passes onto the next generation is of paramount importance to the future of us all.

A society is built upon the learned values, experience and morals that we learn from our ancestors who have learned them from theirs. This tradition of passing on the knowledge, values, morality, the power of discernment and the ability to separate right from wrong and follow the path of virtue is what makes the foundation of a moral and just society. Those who fail to learn from the child of yesterday all the knowledge and values he has to offer often end up in a generation that does not value education and develops no ability to discern right from wrong. This leads to the decay of moral values that we see almost everywhere now. With the decay of moral values comes the immorality and dishonesty those later degenerates into moral, ethical and spiritual corruption.

Recently I read the news that in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India; more than 900000 students abandoned their high school exams which is a Board exam. A few million students all over the state take the same exam given by the State under strict rules that punishes cheaters and expels them from the exam centers.

This time the State authorities installed CCTV cameras in all exam centers to catch the cheaters so more than 900000 would be cheaters were discouraged to take part who decided to stay away rather than getting caught. The scale of this sort of corruption in students so young was very shocking although I knew that during our time there were a few cheaters as well but not so many.

The success rate of passing the High School Board Exam then was about 35% meaning 65% examinees failed so they tried again the following year. We were happy to pass it in our first attempt because we had prepared ourselves well and coached by our teachers intensively on how to write legibly and how to answer a question in 30 minutes or less including all the sub questions. Many questions had sub questions that we were drilled into paying great attention to.

Now due to the high tech cell phones, many students can send the questions to someone outside and get the answers so cell phones are strictly banned in all examination rooms. I knew that girls were as good at cheating as boys and often were caught doing so and expelled so this sort of corruption is spreading among very young people causing alarm making us wonder what sort of families they come from. What have their parents taught them? Are they also corrupt? Girls who cheated in exams were caught looking at the underside of the hem of their saris where they had glued some answers.

As we pass the high school, the exams get tougher in college but with the help of good teachers, we learn our subjects and pass them too. It is known that the non-cheaters who pass their high school exams in one shot rarely fail later on in college exams because they are diligent in their studies so they prepare themselves well. Many students graduates with honors and go on to higher studies like I did and keep an impeccable record of honesty and hard work to achieve success.

This quality of honesty, diligence and hard work becomes their ticket to success in life. Some become great teachers, scientists and scholars who then teach the next generation to be honest, diligent and hard working.

So the child is the father of man because it is from him the man of the next generation comes and learns everything from. He learns honesty, truthfulness, compassion, fearlessness, empathy, hard work, diligence, bravery, justice, fairness, dignity, self-respect etc. You will notice that I mentioned honesty first because I believe that this trait is the foundation on which a good person can build his life. An honest person is a good person who easily learns all other things I mentioned above so he can’t go wrong in his life.

He earns respect from everyone and people from all walks of life come to help him when he needs it because everyone values an honest person even if he is poor and struggling especially if he is poor and struggling. But a dishonest person is tainted for life because people know that he cannot be depended upon and will let people down.

Now we see so many dishonest and immoral people who attain high offices through cheating, lying and outright fraud that makes us wonder what has happened to all the good values and why so many abandon them and choose to be bad. If 900000 students were ready to cheat in their exams in order to pass it then what sort of people they would become later in their lives and what they will teach their children?

A civilization rises and falls due to its values so when the values are corrupted then it speeds up the process of decay and eventual decline of their society. The history books are full of such stories but we are poor in remembering history or learning from it.

Yesterday I read that the most valuable passport in the world is that of Japan because its citizens can visit 187 countries without visa so what has made Japan so respected? Not too long ago it was a country that was devastated by the war where people had lost so much and had very little resources to fall back on except one. It is called the national character of Japan that is based on honesty, hard work and diligence that helped it rebuild the country and became the second most industrialized country in the world raising their living standard high.

Dishonesty, cheating and immoral values did not get them to where they are now so here is the lesson we can all learn from them. Someone came the other day after visiting Japan and said that he was so impressed that Japanese were so clean and their cities, towns and villages are so clean. It is a part of their national character so no one throws garbage anywhere or spits out chewing gums on the street or banana peels that people may slip and fall on.

I saw it myself that every morning people came out of their houses and scrubbed the sidewalks in front of their house with soapy water so the entire block was thus cleaned in no time at all. Have you ever seen it anywhere in the world and wonder how Japan has risen so fast while others are mired in poverty, corruption and decay? It is called the national character that was not built in one day or year or few years. It has taken them thousands of years of hard work and learning from each passing generation their values that they proudly pass on to the next.

So the child is the father of the next generation and is responsible for what he teaches them. If he teaches them all the wrong things then you will have many more than 900000 students who will cheat in their exams and will become dishonest citizens who will speed up the decline of their society.

I often think of the Roman Empire that once stood at the pinnacle of power and prosperity where people enjoyed a quality of life and a pride in being a Roman and being the master of the world. If you visit Italy, you will see what remains of their glorious past in the ruins of coliseums and the Roman forum, in the massive ruins of the bath of Caracalla, in their arches and overhead aqueducts.

So why Roman Empire declined and why the present day Italy is in the sorry state it is now? I found the answers in the ancient Rome where corruption and immorality became widespread destroying the empire from within like termites eating away at the woodwork until nothing remained except the ruins for the stupid tourists to gawk at.

There was a fellow in ancient Rome who had several fire trucks or chariots that he used to put out fires but he always negotiated a high price for his services while the houses burned and people with it. No cry for help or pleadings to save the lives of people trapped inside a burning house made any impression on him until he exacted his price and only then allowed his workers to put the fire out.

He became very rich thus extorting money from desperate people because like Shylock he always wanted his pound of flesh so he was roundly hated and condemned but he did not care until he was transferred to a distant province by the Caesar who saw him as an embarrassment and got rid of him this way.

But his so called fame for his greed had spread far and wide in the Empire so one day people caught him doing the same, tied him up and poured red hot liquid gold down his throat because he loved gold above anything else. The rot in the Empire had already set in that eventually brought it down.

Now the same country with such glorious past is home to ruthless mafia that controls almost every aspect of their life. The amount of corruption it breeds is beyond anything Romans had ever dreamed of. People at the FAO commissary down at the basement of their office walk out with huge bottles of tax free liquors and promptly sell them in the black market and reap enormous profits. They laughed at me because I was buying only some chocolates.

They say that more than 60% of the economy is underground meaning they do not pay any taxes. Young beautiful girls sell horrid pornographic magazines in their tobacco shops everywhere and prostitutes are numerous in many places. Most of the young men wear gold cross dangling from the thick gold chains on their necks while they pimp for the girls or sell fake Ray Bans and Gucci bags.

The decline sets in because their moral and ethical values have degenerated to a level that has gone past recovery. One friend told me recently that vendors of watermelons in India are injecting red colored water into the melons to make them look red inside but they source the water from canals full of e coli and other bacteria that spoils the melon quickly. They mix water in milk, cheat in weights and measures, mix cheaper and poor quality grains with more expensive ones , extract oil from nuts like cashews and almonds and then sell the nuts to unsuspecting buyers, remove crème from milk to sell separately and then sell the milk without the crème to make double profit.. The list of corruption is very long so where did it come from in a country like India that had such a glorious past?

It all comes down to values they have lost just like the Romans and the Egyptians so the child who was the father of man did not do his job well hence 900000 cheaters in the exams.

Are you the child now who will one day become the man? What sort of man you will be when you grow up and what will you teach the next generation? Will you become responsible citizens who will collectively pull up your country by its boot straps like the Japanese or will you be the one that will bring it down with your corruption and immorality? The choice and the legacy are yours.

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