This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
Here we reach the limit of conservatism. The persons who for a considerable period of time have composed the government of an institution resist change because their own interests are bound up with the existing order of things; their livelihood may depend on it, and some of them are too old to take up another vocation.
But a government, like any other form of social organization, must change when its personnel changes. The brevity of human life insures change, although it may be slow in coming. A particular government at a given time usually takes its character from a single person. When he dies or goes out of office, the new leader brings new policies. A definite term for officers is therefore favorable to change, especially when it is supplemented by "rotation in office," a dogma invented by the frontier politicians of a century ago.
Conflict has always been a fruitful cause of change. It puts a government to the supreme test of calling forth all the resources of the institution to accomplish a definite end. Ross distinguishes something like six different kinds of changes which war brings. The reorganization of Germany, just mentioned, was accompanied by three foreign wars. Nor are its effects restricted to the belligerent nations. The time when the United States changed most rapidly from agriculture to manufactures was during the embargo of 1808 by which we tried to punish the belligerents in Europe for their ill treatment of us.
"... People may be too safe. You see we live at the end of a series of secure generations in which none of the great things of life have changed materially. We've grown up with no sense of . . . responsibility. None of us, none of us - for though I talk my actions belie me - really believe that life can change very fundamentally any more forever. All this" - Mr. Britling waved his arm comprehensively - "looks as though it was bound to go on steadily forever. ... It seems incredible that the system could be smashed. It seems incredible that anything we can do will ever smash the system. . . . And it's just because we are all convinced that we are so safe against a general breakdown that we are able to be so recklessly violent in our special cases. . . .
"... We shall go on - until there is a spark right into the magazine. We have lost any belief we ever had that fundamental things happen. We are everlasting children in an everlasting nursery. ..."
"... Nothing changes in England, because the people who want to change things change their minds before they change anything else. . . ."
"... Unless something tumbles down here, we never think of altering it," the young man remarked. " And even then we just shore it up."
Perhaps mankind tries too much to settle down. Perhaps these stirrings up have to occur to save us from our disposition to stuffy comfort. There's the magic call of the unknown experience, of dangers and hardships. One wants to go. But unless some push comes one does not go. There is a spell that keeps one to the lair and the old familiar ways. ... - Wells, Mr. Britling Sees It Through, pp. 46, 47, 54, 199.
Contests between schools have done wonders in improving the work in athletics, oratory, and debating. Equally useful, doubtless, are the incidental and unintended results. When a delegation of picked students visit an institution similar to their own, they are alert to notice wherein it differs from their own and to pass judgment on the points of difference. Much of what they learn is promptly reported at home and listened to with keen interest.
The triangular debating league between schools is a simple social invention which has come into extensive use within the last few years. A secretary, chosen by one of the schools in rotation, is the only officer needed. He submits three questions to the other two schools, and the question preferred by any two is the subject of the debate for that season. Each school then prepares two teams, one on each side of the question. Three debates occur the same evening. Each affirmative team stays at home and each negative team goes to one of the other schools. The date of the debate and the rules governing it are covered by a permanent agreement.
For the past forty years the colleges of the central states have been organized to hold oratorical contests, state and national. Some of the states are organized for a series of contests between the high schools to select the best declaimer or reader. With the organization of boys' and girls' clubs in rural schools contests between schools became frequent, being arranged first by townships or adjacent neighborhoods, then by counties, and in some cases finishing with a state contest. The activities most frequently contested in are spelling, corn-growing, and breadmaking.
But war, or even contest, is part of a larger concept. Emergency of any kind accomplishes much the same results. For . a school it may be an epidemic, a fire, a fatal accident. Such an event compels the government to put forth unusual effort, and therefore new kinds of activity - new at least to most of the persons engaged in it.
After our building burned, and our equipment went with it, the ingenuity of teachers and pupils was put to the test. We were surprised to see how much we could do without books, maps, or blackboards.