Which has the greater influence in the making of character, heredity or training?—the influences before birth, or those after? The question has been asked of scores of persons. It is surprising how often it has been met with hesitancy, as though a thing not thought into. And surprising, too, how indecisive the replies usually are.
Yet careful thought makes it plain, and then plainer, that while heredity is great beyond any power of calculation, training is infinitely greater. Or it would be better said thus: training may be made infinitely greater. Training can be made the greater, yet with the vast majority, as a matter of fact, it isn't. The bent before birth, and the chance, weedy growth after, actually make up the character of the great crowd, with training, properly so called, playing no part, because it has no chance.
Training is by far the greater in its possible power. Heredity, with the chance environment it has stumbled across, has actually been the most potent factor, and is. If the start be early enough, heredity can be wholly overcome by training, though it rarely is. In many instances it is partially overcome. With the vast crowd, the child runs wild like an unkempt vine, or rank weed, and so heredity plus whatever is absorbed by mere chance decides the life.
Bad blood is bad. Bad training is yet worse. Good blood is good, but good training is better. It is easier to train where there is good blood. But then most blood is good, though the pedigree is not recorded. It is rather startling to remember that good training with bad or not-good blood, if you can begin early enough, will give a better life than the best of blood with bad training, or with the shiftless, weedy no-training.