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.
The earliest training of a child comes from his home and neighborhood, with the school supplementing these agencies a little later. The experience that will reveal his talents to himself may come in connection with any one of these. If the child fives in a good home, any noble impulse within him will receive stimulus however bad his neighborhood and school may be. A good school, even a single good teacher, will stimulate him in many directions and stands a good chance of hitting the right one, no matter how inferior the family and other surroundings may be. A good neighborhood, even a neighborhood with only one or two families in it of the right kind, may reveal the possibilities of life to the child of an inferior family who attends an inferior school. But if all of these helpful circumstances are lacking, then the entire community is backward; human talents go to waste for lack of development; the exceptional young person who rises above the surroundings soon gets out of them and leaves the entire population to live on a low level. Such communities still exist in the older portions of the country in spite of modern means of communication.
A backward community is a mine of material for the artist. The human interests are more genuine there than where society is up to standard. Artificiality may exist there, but not so much of it. The artist can find people who are different from the prevailing type, and who will therefore interest the public when properly exploited. Cooper idealized the early frontiersman. Washington Irving humorously portrayed the New York Dutch. Edward Eggleston, in the Hoosier Schoolmaster, represented the crudity of society in southern Indiana. But we should remember that the artist does not represent the community with photographic accuracy; he interprets it; he selects the interesting features of it for vivid portraiture with just enough of other things to make a background. If the picture is humorous, the members of the community will pronounce it a caricature and feel that the artist is merely raising a laugh at their expense. If the picture is beautiful or sublime, the informed person knows that it is untruthful because the prevailing sordidness or narrowness has been left out. Even the scientific analysis of social inferiority is resented by the persons used as specimens if they chance to discover that they are so used. A friend of one writer mentioned in this chapter says of him: "The people of X. recognized their picture and were much incensed. I doubt if he would be welcomed should he revisit the scene of his investigations."
Although no picture can tell the whole truth, yet the conscientious artist makes the impression which he conveys true as far as it goes. Teachers of history, geography, and literature need to keep this principle in mind. Furthermore, the teacher or other social worker who goes into a backward community must, in order to be successful, get into sympathetic relations with the people; and this he cannot do if he either assumes patronizing airs or is known to be exploiting their backwardness for his own advantage.
What lends special importance to the segregation of the poor, the vicious, the criminal, and exceptional persons generally, which is so characteristic a feature of city life, is the fact that social contagion tends to stimulate in divergent types the common temperamental differences, and to suppress characters which unite them with the normal types about them. Association with others of their own ilk provides also not merely a stimulus, but a moral support for the traits they have in common which they would not find in a less select society. . . .
. . . The city, in short, shows the good and evil in human nature in excess. It is this fact, perhaps, more than any other which justifies the view that would make of the city a laboratory or clinic in which human nature and social processes may be most conveniently and profitably studied. - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 20, pp. 611, 612, R. E. Park, "Human Behavior in the City Environment."
Communities of immigrants may be backward, but for quite different reasons. The members have come with Old-World ideas, but they cannot continue to live the Old-World life. Neither can they enter fully into the life of this country: their communication is imperfect, their participation in industry is usually only as unskilled laborers, no matter how much Old-World skill and education they may have.
Even an imaginative American, I suppose, must find it very hard to form anything like a just idea of the tremendous adventure involved in the act of immigration. The alien in our midst is too elusive an object for satisfactory study. He changes too rapidly. But yesterday he was a solid citizen ... in his ancestral background, surrounded by friends and kindred, apparently rooted in his native soil. To-day he is adrift in a foreign world, mute and helpless and tragically ridiculous - a soul in purgatory, a human creature cut from its moorings, the most pitiable sight to be met on this earth. . . . - M. E. Ravage, An American in the Making, p. 3.
I know a Greek who had been a school teacher in Asia Minor. He came from there in 1912 to avoid conscription in the Turkish army. He joined the colony of two hundred Greeks in our city, but the best work he could get was tending a wood-working machine in one of our factories. I made an appointment with him and one of his companions to take supper with me. The hour passed and my two Greeks did not come. Inquiry revealed that my friend was in the hospital, having had his arm drawn into the machine the day before he was to come to my house. The two Greeks came later, however, and they were such perfect gentlemen as I had never entertained before.
A purely class-conscious strike with dollars-and-cents bargaining is hardly a factor. It is not an attack on the companies. It is direct warfare against the institutions of society. The strike leaders are idealists. They dream of a cooperative commonwealth. But they limit its benefits to workers alone. . . .
Why did the strikers walk out? They, themselves, could not give clear-cut, definite reasons. It is not forced humor or current jest to say it was a "psychological strike," for that is just what it was. Months before, a little group of men who had been reading de Leon, Trautmann, and others caught fire from the glowing dream of the "workers' cooperative commonwealth" to be brought about by "one big union."
. . . For twenty years socialistic propaganda had been working there. Socialists were gaining numerically until local municipalities elected their tickets. Furthermore, nineteen nationalities could be counted among the Westinghouse workers. These were no sodden peasants, dumb and stupid. They were highly literate. Many wrote in two languages. No plant in the country had a higher type of employees.
The only personal grievances the leaders may have had were unconscious. In these days of business organization of huge size, these men were left in the ranks. They had no outlet for their energies that was big enough to use up their force. In simpler days they would have worked into the ranks of "bosses" or been active in politics. Events proved that they were born leaders; untrained, impracticable and not masters of men, yet leaders. - The Survey, Vol. 32, pp. 463, 464, George V. S. Michaelis, "The Westinghouse Strike."
. . . The accepted facts are that there was an outbreak of civil war in East Youngstown; that in the gun-fire at least four men were killed; and that the conflict was between an organization of American employers and a mob of unintelligent and in some respects ignorant alien workmen. . . .
The town is a suburb, in the Mahoning Valley, of Youngstown, and has a population of 9700, mostly Poles, Lithuanians, and Serbs; but actual registered voters, we learn, number only 462! Those who really vote range from two hundred to three hundred.
So much for actual citizenship. How about education? The total school enrollment in this population of 9700 is reported as 1102. Of the 1102 only nine are reported to be in the high school and only twenty in the eighth or top grammar grade; there are 825 in the first, second, and third grades.
There are no kindergartens and there are no night schools.
When the Superintendent of Education was reproached with this last fact, he replied, so we learn, that "the Board of Education had refused a dollar for teaching foreigners." Nor had the Mayor of Youngstown, we are told, any plan to bring the dense masses of foreigners under Americanizing influences.
There are nineteen saloons, however, and in its thirst for drink the mob looted them. . . .
. . . Incredible as it may seem, there is no church whatever - Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, or Protestant - in East Youngstown.
. . . We Americans must arise to our responsibilities. We must develop without delay some comprehensive plan to handle the aliens who daily come to our shores. This is not a matter for an individual employer nor a single community, but for the whole country. These people from the countries of southern Europe must be taught our language, methods of sanitation, and clean living. They must be taught our laws and our customs. They must be encouraged to take an interest in the communities in which they live, and finally to love and honor this United States as their United States. - The Outlook, Vol. 112, pp. 168, 483.
In 1915 Frederic C. Howe, commissioner of immigration at New York, urged that July 4 be observed as Americanization Day, with exercises designed to foster patriotism in the hearts of our newly naturalized citizens. Evening or continuation schools teach language, history, civics, and geography to a small proportion of the men, but the great majority of them wait to learn the few essentials of these subjects from the hard knocks of daily life. The women resist Americanization longer because they are able to live more closely within the community. They rarely come to evening schools, though they much need instruction in American foods, household utensils, and ready-made apparel, and knowledge of English would make them better able to do a mother's duty toward their children. The danger of neglecting such unassimilated elements in the population became suddenly apparent when the United States entered the war in 1917.
In this matter of bringing a backward community up to standard the schools do not accomplish what they might because they are often managed locally, perhaps by the backward community itself. The foreign ward in a city may have schools provided by the city, as good as those for any ward, but a backward county or town is at liberty to have backward schools if it chooses, though the state may offer inducements for improvement. The federal government can do little for a backward state which it does not also offer to the most advanced. Philanthropy can give financial aid; the Carnegie Foundation, for example, is bringing the backward colleges up to standard, while the General Education Board is bringing up the secondary schools of the South.