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 social mind presents various degrees of intensity. Most attention has been given to the brief but extreme exhibits in the form of mobs, which usually are the result of an encounter between a homogeneous crowd and persons of some different social mind. School life affords plenty of examples.
A teacher of mine once punished a cripple severely. The whole gang of boys were waiting outside to meet the teacher. He was angry and spoke against the cripple. The boys mobbed him before any help could arrive, and he left on the earliest train the next day.
The teacher punished a naughty boy. The boy needed the punishment, no doubt, but the teacher lost control of himself and gave the punishment too severely. The boy's parents were aroused. They called on the school board and scattered the information about the small town. In less than twelve hours the whole place was aroused: mob indications could be seen and felt. The affair could not be settled until the teacher had resigned his position.
A boy in the junior class in high school had some trouble with his Latin teacher. It lasted about two weeks, and then the teacher thought she would end it by suspending the boy from the class. The whole Latin class rose in arms and refused to come to recitation unless the boy was readmitted. When this did not work, the whole junior class - it was a large one, so large that some of its members were not even speaking acquaintances of the boy in question - went on a strike. The principal expelled the whole class from school. The parents then interfered and the board of education said that the class would have to be taken back to school. A year from the day they were expelled they celebrated the anniversary with a party and invited the Latin teacher to chaperone them.
Mob phenomena are becoming less frequent among adults as people become more accustomed to live in close intercourse with their fellows and as their interests become more diversified. Modern communication puts each person in connection with so many others in whom he comes to have a vital interest, though they may be far removed from him in space or time, that the crowd about him can less easily carry him away. In a complex society, too, mobs are seen to be dangerous. A sentiment is cultivated that is unfavorable to the mob spirit, regarding it as a mark of a low state of culture. When the city man finds himself in a throng he braces himself against any mob spirit which he may see arising. Persons experienced in dealing with crowds, like policemen and ushers, know how to handle them. Direct opposition to a unified group, as in the above illustrations, only intensifies their attitude; while self-possession, good nature, and sympathy with them favor peaceful adjustment. A crowd is saved from becoming a mob if it is turned into a deliberative body - has a chairman to keep order and committees to plan its action, all in accordance with the rules for parliamentary procedure which are generally known among adults. But children are only in the process of learning the ways of civilized society, and so every teacher, especially every principal, needs to understand crowds and mobs.
I saw a mob two years ago composed of high school and normal boys. Though the feeling ran high over a game that had just been played, yet when two of the boys began to fight, the others tried to stop it instead of encouraging it or joining in it themselves.
A new principal came to open the high school. The boys were already in possession of the room, and were raising a great uproar. After vainly trying to get order, the principal telephoned to the superintendent. When the superintendent arrived, he took the situation good-naturedly. He began talking to the boys on the front seats and got their attention. Then those farther back listened to hear what was being said. Soon the room was quiet.