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.
Classes grow inevitably out of conditions, often undesired by statesmen, usually unperceived by them at the beginning. Each individual, in following his own inclinations or trying to make the most of himself, assisted by his education and inherited property, takes a place in the social organization. Whether he rises to a higher class or sinks to a lower, depends chiefly on his own character, though circumstances beyond his own control may help or hinder. The farmer without education, and without sons to go away for it and bring it home, is at a disadvantage which only exceptional ability can overcome, because farming is now a complicated business requiring much technical knowledge which can best be learned in school. There is always the cleavage between the prosperous and the unprosperous classes which runs across all of the occupational classes and begins the separation between the rich and the poor. Yet no one plans it or wishes it; it comes by natural selection. The members of an upper caste, once it is established, are more or less shielded from competition with the rest of the population; but all open classes are recruited by means of it, the occupational classes most of all, especially in a country where vocational education is provided free at public expense.
There are several ways in which an occupational class is competitive, (a) In the first place each person chooses his occupation, which means that various occupations compete for the favor of the young person whose career is before him. (b) Once in the occupation the person competes with others doing like work. This phase never entirely passes away, though it is most in evidence near the beginning, (c) Finally, the class as a whole must compete with other classes for public favor and patronage. This is the phase which brings the competing individuals into cooperation and develops a class consciousness.
When one occupation is compared with another they show differences in the prominence of these three phases. Public school teachers make the third phase very prominent, the first fairly so, while the second is rarely mentioned among them, though of course it is there all the time. Teachers in private schools, on the other hand, probably make the second most prominent, the third much less so, while the first is sometimes non-existent. In proportion as the hereditary principle enters, the first phase of competition disappears, while the second and third continue to vary inversely to each other according to the scale on which the work is organized.
A boy interested in baseball tried to start a team. He told a group of boys about it and invited them to his house. But he was not popular and few came. Nothing more was done that summer. The next summer another boy started it. On a Sunday the group met for a game and elected a captain. Having thus tried out the leaders they next tried out the members for the various positions on the team. An enthusiastic season of ball-playing followed.
"Survival often depends not on wisdom and goodness but on ruthless force." I have a high school in mind in which the older boys ruled; the school was going to ruin in spite of its lovable and sympathetic teachers and principal. One year a new principal came who was tall and square shouldered, but stern and unsympathetic. The first day he thrashed three of the larger boys and pulled another's ear. After that there was no more trouble.
A superintendent was removed because his discipline was poor, though the teachers favored him. The next one tried to please all parties, and the discipline was poorer still. The next one looked like a retired pugilist, and acted like one. He used corporal punishment even in the high school. He was removed after a year. The board then consulted the authorities at the University and hired a quiet young man. He came a week before school opened and asked all high school pupils whose records were low to come for a conference. He made few reforms the first year, but the schools improved, and the next year he made more. The third year he was well established, and remained for several years more. When he resigned the next man carried on his policy.
I have in mind a man who tried to teach after finishing college. He made a complete failure. He then tried to run an employment agency. He failed in this. He tried a number of other things only to fail in all. At last he went to an agricultural college in a western state. When he finished this be became editor of an agricultural paper and made good.
I know of another man who finished college, and tried to teach and failed. Then he went back to his father's farm and is now a successful farmer.
A girl finished college, tried teaching three different times and failed. Then she took a business course and went into an office. She did well there. Then she went into the office of a large real estate agency in Canada. She did so well there that she was sent to England on business for the firm.