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 two examples just given also illustrate the two kinds of social classes, namely, castes, in which membership is determined by heredity, and open classes in which membership depends on competition. The great example of a caste in this country is the negro race.
A woman came from New Orleans with two children. When she took them to the D. school to be enrolled she asked the principal if there were any colored children in the second and fourth grades - the ones in which her children were to enter. The principal informed her that there was a colored boy in the fourth grade. The children were not enrolled. They then attended the normal training school.
There was a negro in our football team. Every team we played against would play hardest on the negro. In several games he was hurt so badly that he had to be taken from the field.
When I was in the kindergarten two mulatto children came. They were bright and well dressed. For a while they shared our play as fully as any of us. But when our parents learned about it and we heard their remarks, we began to hold aloof from the two children. At last they were left almost alone.
Speaking of race differences, I am reminded of a colored pupil who attended the graded school in which I received my early education. He was bright in his studies and led us all in athletics, though both younger and smaller than the rest of our group. He became quite a favorite with us, especially because he was so good at baseball and football. There was surely no fundamental difference here.
While we cannot deny that there may be fundamental differences between races, these selections remind us that caste is after all, as Cooley says, a psychical organism; the heredity is more social than physical, and therefore children do not observe the caste lines until they catch the spirit of caste from their elders. This truth is more apparent when we deal with a hereditary class which has no obvious physical mark. For instance the country, neighborhood, and family in which an individual grows up leave their traces on his language, manners, and other habits; a stranger meeting him may decide from these whether or not he is desirable company, without waiting to learn his deeper qualities. Such mild forms of caste are found more or less everywhere.
Some farmers about my home have tenant houses in which poor families live. Sometimes Greeks and other immigrants come to weed sugar beets. In every case that I can remember the children were just as bright in school or play as any children.
Near my home is a Bohemian settlement. The very old people came from Bohemia. The next generation took the ways of their parents. They do not seem to care to associate with the people of other nationalities. The children are dressed as their grandparents were. Now, however, I think this will change, for the children are going to the public school and associating with other children and learning their ways.
"Let's show these jays how to do it," said one bright town girl to another as they went at the arrangements for a school reception.
When individuals or families rise to a higher station they sometimes try to cover the traces of their origin by putting on the superficialities of aristocracy. Those with newly acquired wealth most often do this, and women more often than men. Daughters are sent to private schools to learn "certain punctilios of upper-class propriety in manners and customs," to be trained for the "obvious killing of time in aimless and wasteful fatigation." But the ferment of modern life is at work among the women as well as among the men, and the better schools for girls now teach domestic economy and the social sciences so as to prepare for "some other than an invidious purpose in life."1