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.
It often happens that hard cases of discipline have their roots in the deliberately chosen policy of congenial groups - "gangs" as they are then called. It is the group that must be dealt with, though it may sometimes be reached through its leader. A requirement that would seem arbitrary when imposed on an individual may seem entirely just when imposed on a group. The promise of a group can be trusted more than the promise of an individual, because the members will look after one another.
A gang of youngsters were transferred to our school from a school where they had had their own way. They started in to run things, even making use of knives to overawe the others. Two of them told me in the most amiable way how they had held up a b6y before coming to us. They had the idea that such conduct was honorable. They yielded slowly and reluctantly to better training, but finally became as good boys as any we had.
Twelve girls, sixteen to eighteen years of age, developed the spirit of the clan. They called themselves the "Batty Bunch," and wore as a badge a pin in the shape of a bat with spread wings about three inches in width. They studied just enough to avoid serious consequences, but always made something better than the passing mark. Their favorite enterprise was to go out in the evening on some kind of an excursion, perhaps an automobile ride into the country. The president of the school reproved them, singly and in groups. He finally exacted from them the promise that they would stay in their rooms and study until ten o'clock. They obeyed the letter of the law, but broke the spirit of it by studying until ten o'clock and then going to the street to have a good time. When the president found this out he prepared to take severe measures. But an elderly man of the faculty, who had a keen insight into human nature, offered to take charge of the "Bunch" and guaranteed their good behavior. The president at once handed him a list of the twelve names and wished him success in his undertaking. Their new sponsor called the girls into his office, read their names, and set the situation before them. They accepted it with pleasure and promised to behave. He insisted on just one thing: each member of the twelve must report to him every morning what she did during the evening before.
Thereafter the "Bats" caused no special trouble. They kept the spirit as well as the letter of the promise to their sponsor. They graduated from the normal school in due time and took positions as teachers, and every one was pronounced a success by the superintendent with whom she worked. In a few years some married and made good homes. All of the others graduated from some university or college. The teacher who took the responsibility for the conduct of the girls testifies that he was helped in a large measure by his wife; she gave the girls a kindly welcome to her home and never preached to them.
The child in question is a boy about ten years old, of foreign parentage, nervous and rather passionate in disposition. He was late in entering school, and was therefore looked upon as an outsider by the groups already formed. This made him lonely and discontented, though at first he seemed to find pleasure in the school work itself. In a few days, how-I ever, his attitude underwent a marked change. He became inattentive and kept close track of the clock in the rear of the room. It was apparent that his thought was becoming centered on something separate from the school and its work. The question, of course, was, What was he doing and where was he going? A little inquiring and watching brought out the fact that, through selling newspapers, blacking shoes, etc., he had gotten in with a gang of boys who were notorious for bad behavior of various kinds, and that he was being made over into one of them about as rapidly as possible. His craving for companionship was being satisfied.
I said very little to the boy himself, but by watching him on the streets whenever possible and consulting others who knew him I decided that his original motive in going with those boys was to get money. Then I undertook to meet him on his own ground. We were making raffia baskets about that time and I offered to buy his basket from him. He became interested immediately. He worked before and after school and at many odd times in order to finish his basket. Some other boys were also hard at work on baskets, and naturally a friendship sprang up between them all. Our boy discovered that these boys knew something, that they liked to do things, and above all that they could do things as well as those outside fellows. An outdoor picnic helped things along, and soon he was one of this - to him - absolutely new group. The effect was evident in his entire attitude toward his work.
I have in mind a lad of eleven years. His teacher said he was a chronic case of sulks. He was the only child of a prominent city physician, and could have had all the things that ordinarily delight a boy's heart. Other well-dressed and good-mannered boys in his grade in school possessed no attractions for him. He did not respond to their friendly advances, but kept out of their games and by himself.
One winter's night he came in late wearing a dirty, ragged suit of clothes. He was made to change them, but gave no reason for his strange appearance. Again the same thing happened. A teacher of large soul and detective characteristics followed this clew and discovered the keynote of D.'s character. Over on the other side of the city was a group of boys who were ragged, unkempt, the gamins of the streets, boys who slept in ash-barrels and doorways. To these boys D. was wont to go, using his money for food for them, giving them his choicest books, and occasionally wearing home their clothes that they might have his. To these boys he was a young prince and to him they were the real thing. Here there was no outside coat of fine manners to annoy him, no rivalry in studies, no snobbishness. He found them self-reliant, fearing nothing, and selfsupporting, though by means often questionable. In short, D. had found his primary group. They needed him but he also needed them. He loved reality and not pretense. So were the cravings of his boy heart ministered unto, while his sense of brotherhood found expression.