LETTER TO A TEACHER
We are both sons of the same Lithuanian nation, both of us bound not only by blood, language, and cultural heritage but also by our concern for the future of our nation. And our nation's future is our children. We both look to them with hope, concern, and with love. I to my children—you to yours, to mine, and to those of many others, who gather in your classroom each school day. It is from what we shall present to these children and from how we shall prepare them for life, into what sort of people we shall mold them—that is what the future of our nation depends on. A great responsibility for their future therefore rests upon our shoulders.
Being aware of this great responsibility and knowing well the duties of a parent, I try to instill in my children from their very infancy those principles which would aid them throughout their lives to be honest, decent, and persons of character. I acquired these principles from my parents, and having tested and confirmed them by my own experience, having examined and pondered them in my own mind, I have committed myself to them according to my conscience. I am conscience-bound to pass on to my children what I consider good and necessary. On the other hand, I have the right to do so. We parents brought our children into this world. We rear them, dress and feed them, and nurse them when they are sick. No one forbids me to clothe my children in one way or another; no one hinders my feeding them the food which, in my opinion, they need. Therefore, no one has the right to forbid, to hamper, or to prevent me from transmitting to my children those intellectual or moral values which, I am convinced, are essential for a human being! I know that one should not lie, or steal, or cheat, or murder. I endeavor to instill these convictions also in my children. I know that it is good to behave decently, to be honest, to love one's neighbor—I want to convince my children of this also. I know further that to persevere as an honorable person, one must strive against one's weaknesses, one's faults, and against worldly temptations. I am preparing my children for this struggle. From my own experience, I am convinced that such a struggle is most successful when a person feels responsible not only to people, but also to God; when he is convinced that his actions and conduct have not only a temporary, a passing, but also an eternal worth; when he heeds not only the laws but also the voice of his conscience. Therefore, I consider it my essential duty to bring my children up religiously, and I do not want anyone to interfere in my performance of this parental obligation. Besides, you, the teacher, have also affirmed that parents have the duty of nurturing their children.
I do not educate my children alone. I send them to school. There I entrust you with their education.
But I want you to continue my work at the school and not to attempt to destroy it. I want you to arm my children's minds with learning, want you to teach them to use their knowledge. In my opinion, that should be the purpose of the school. Yet it is very distressing to me that you try to demolish rather than build. Instead of objectively providing educational information, the basics of its various areas, you begin to belittle mine and my children's convictions. You call my beliefs religious superstition and my nurturing, coercion; but the atheism you forcibly thrust upon children, you consider to be the way of freedom and normality. You do not value my convictions—leave them in peace, the way I neither attack nor ridicule yours. Teach my children to read and write, explain the principles of mathematics and the laws of physics but do not slant these subjects tendentiously against those principles which I and my child respect. I am not afraid of the objective facts of education, but I do not want you to present them in a distorted and tendentious way solely for the purpose of inducing a foreign world view within my child. When you attack mine and my child's convictions, you do not content yourself with the use of only purposely slanted subject matter; even in extracurricular activities you search for the means to uproot from my child's consciousness that which I have instilled there. Disregarding my wishes, you force him to join the Pioneers or the Young Communist League, or an atheistic group. You ridicule his beliefs in newsletters posted on bulletin boards, in showcases, and during atheistic affairs and lectures. You compel him to answer various questionnaires and intrude upon his conscience.
Should my child be weak, or should I have been unable to harden him in every way, you will warp his mind, teaching him to be a hypocrite and to disbelieve his parents or his teachers, most likely both. Will not my child begin to lose his equilibrium? Will he not begin deceiving you and me? Will he not seek out suspect pastimes and shallow pleasures and end up where neither you nor I want him to go? Will he cherish noble ideals? Will the future of his nation concern him? The good of his people? Perhaps he will simply turn into an egoist, without any lofty aims, without any higher goals, concerned only with his personal pleasure? Will there then be much joy for you and for me from such a youth? Will this benefit the nation and its people? Our nation is small, so each member is precious and needed, especially each youth. Each unfolding bud of the nation should be healty and beautiful!
Yes, dear Teacher, our children are our future, the future of our nation, and we should seriously consider how we are dealing with this future. True, you will try to excuse yourself by saying that such are the orders, that you are carrying out someone's directives, someone's will. Perhaps you yourself are against it and wouldn't be doing this if it were up to you. I can well believe that. But still, remember that the child is mine and does not belong to those who have ordered you to educate him contrary to my teachings. Keep in mind your great responsibility to your nation. Its future, its existence should also impose a duty upon you. Would you be unafraid to stand before a tribunal of the nation? Would you be able to testify with a clear conscience that you never exchanged the matters most sacred to man and nation for higher wages and a secure tranquility?
Finally, money. The money which you receive for your work has been earned by me and the parents of other pupils. Yet you do not want to consider the parents' wishes concerning the education of their children.
I do not want to be telling you, a teacher, how to do your job. That is your task as an educator. Truly, working with the young is not a simple matter. To educate a child or a youth, to mold his character is indeed a great responsibility and a difficult task. That is why in this work there should be no place or time for tearing down what I have already accomplished. Rather, we should both cooperate in this work, helping each other and working together very closely. This is demanded of us by our duty—that of father, teacher, and the duty of both of us as sons of the small Lithuanian nation!
The father of one of your students