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AMBROZI, MY

EDUCATIONAL REVIEW

NOVEMBER, 1909

I

THE BOY WHO GOES TO WORK

Life is found in the fulfilment of those relations to the world that are prophesied in our spiritual constitution ;—as in the relation to work, to the family, to outside nature, and to the state. In most respects there exists at least the possibility of such fulfilment,—that which the world offers corresponding approximately to what nature has foreseen. The mother's love and appreciation meet the child's need as he feels it. She is much the sort of mother he would have made if the matter had been left to him. So plants and animals and younger children meet the fostering instinct that is in every child. So the stars, the sea, the land, the infinitely varied phenomena of nature, seem made to arouse and satisfy our instincts of awe and curiosity. Nature furnishes material suited to our hand and mind. Her water is very good to swim in, her land to run upon, her trees to climb, her mysteries to solve.

In the matter of self-support, also, nature's original provision was equally germane. Hunting, fishing, fighting; striking and throwing; running, dodging, lying in wait—the forms of activity which her industrial system required were exactly those prophesied, clearly enough, in our instinctive impulses. The adjustment, here as elsewhere, was once sufficiently exact. But it is not so now. We can not any longer live by hunting and war and foray, but must, in order to be self-supporting, content ourselves with tying threads, selling ribbons, digging holes, or other even less apposite pursuits. Civilization has stept in and so altered the rules of the game that it is no longer our game as whispered to us in our inner consciousness. Nature is still aiming us as she did before, but life has side-stept. Some of our deepest instincts are thus left hanging in the air, calling for a fulfilment that does not exist, reaching out to do things that can not be done and will get us into trouble if we attempt to do them.

It is this side-stepping of industrial life that is responsible for a great part of the active trouble, and what is worse, for much of the dreary emptiness and waste of life to which civilization has given rise. The dislocation is especially abrupt and its results, accordingly, especially acute in the case of the boy who goes to work. I wish to speak especially of the boy of fourteen—the age at which the great majority now leave school and seek employment; but what I have to say applies in some degree to all who do so before they are twenty-one, and to the general problem of fitting human nature to industrial life.

To appreciate what this dislocation means we must bring before ourselves as vividly as we can what the boy of this age really is, and what are the dominant impulses of his life. Paul Sabbatier says it is impossible for grown-up people to recollect what it is to be twenty years old, and I do not think that remembrance of the immediately preceding period is much easier. But this matter of education is one in which we have to act, and some sort of appreciation of the creature we are dealing with is therefore necessary. We must, accordingly, recollect as best we can—try to get back in imagination to the mind we bore during that previous incarnation—even tho we have to admit that our recollection will always remain imperfect, and that our solution must be more or less tentative in consequence. What, then, is the boy in his teens?

Some difficulty arises at the outset from the fact that owing to the great and fortunate variety in human nature no two boys are alike, and that we can not even say that any one set of instincts is dominant in all. There is, for instance, the boy who apparently never wants to play, whose enthusiasm is all for birds and bugs, or haply for electricity, or for mixing and producing smells of varied types—that which the wise call chemistry. And there is the boy with an exclusive, though it may be shortlived, passion for postage stamps, and the not uncomnion one—tho nowadays in danger of being overlookt —who manifests a disconcerting affinity for books. Still, it remains true that boys (upon the whole, fortunately for the world) are extremely liable to be boys; that there is such a thing as the typical boy, capable of being described; and that the great majority are, upon the whole, fairly true to type.

I take it we shall all agree that in the typical boy in his teens (or at least in the boy who has reached the physiological age of adolescence) the gang or team impulse is both dominant and pervasive. Such a boy produces the gang almost as inevitably as bees swarm or birds build their nests. He is not merely gregarious—seeking the society of other boys of his age—but his gregariousness focuses upon one particular crowd whom he feels it desirable to meet every day, and as nearly all day as circumstances will permit. And when the chieftains are gathered there are usually matters of high concern to be considered, enterprises of great pith and moment to be undertaken, not individually, but by the whole crowd together in a more or less organized way. The games of this period are the great team games :—baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and the like. There is evident bias toward chasing, striking, throwing at a mark, toward the elements and the combinations of tribal war. Many other occupations, however, find team expression of some sort. Even swimming becomes water polo.

Rowing at this period is preferably in an eight-oar as soon as boats for the purpose can be got. Rhythm is an added attraction in this case, and is a characteristic expression, or at least an ally, of the gang. There is no such fusing of souls as under its influence; and no gang—any more than an army or church or nation-fully exists without it. The roaring of young men together in college yells or songs (the distinction is not always clearly marked) is of the same lineage as the war songs of Tyrtæus or the Marseillaise, and not wholly unrelated to religious music.

In short, the boy at this age is predominantly under the tutelage of the great human instinct to belong. He wants to share in a corporate personality, to act not as an individual, but as the expression of a social whole; and the preferred expressions of this desire are of the physical and warlike sort.

But the gang has laws for its members individually as well as for itself as a whole, its domestic policy as well as its foreign affairs. And especially it has a standard to which each member is required, not only by the other members, but by his own conscience, to conform. Every gang, like every college society and every club or association of every sort, has some sort of initiation, whether conscious or unconscious, to determine whether the neophyte measures up. This standard, in a boys' gang, has to do largely, like its external politics, with fighting; only here it is partly single combat that is in question. The gang spirit in this case—as in other cases, such as those of the striking and throwing instincts—is dealing with an antecedent impulse. The instinct of single combat is older than society, and, in each generation of boys, older than the gang. But the gang impulse takes it up and standardizes it, and adds its own peculiar sanction. The obligation upon the boy to fight upon due occasion, and to hold his own in the hundred forms of individual competition, is owed not merely to himself, but to the gang. He must in this respect be true to the crowd and uphold its colors. The definitely gang activities also impose their standard on the individual. Are you the stone of which this arch can be built? The general law, as it lives in each member, makes its requirements of him, implies an obligation to make good.

Now the essential thing to be considered in dealing with the boy of this age is the moral standing of these leading impulses, -of this great gang impulse especially, with its bias toward war and foray, and its sanction of individual contest. And whe leading moral characteristic of these instincts is that they are of the sort to which men may safely devote their lives, to which their lives indeed must be devoted if they are to amount to anything. For these are of the outputting instincts whose issue is in achievement, whose satisfaction increases with their

use, and to whose permissible service there are no apparent bounds—the expressive instincts, as distinguished from the appetites whose end and appropriate limit is in the supplying of physical need. In our nature as active beings, they are the leading part, to which the rest is ancillary; the dictators of our accomplishment, the avenues of our total discharge. They are of the stuff of which our lives are made, not secondary like the hungers, not separable from ourselves, nor to be neglected without mutilation and defeat. They are of the same order and authority as the instinct of creation, father of all the arts, as the instinct of curiosity which all science exists to gratify, or as the nurture instinct, in obedience to which the mother loves and nourishes her child. The gang instinct, indeed, so far from being lawless, has this superiority, even to the other achieving instincts, that it is not merely lawful, but actually itself the very source from which all laws are sprung, the parent of law, the thing which all nations and all governments express.

It is not indeed to be maintained that obedience to these, or any set of instincts, constitutes of itself the moral life. Morality, I take it, involves looking at life as a whole and acting for the promotion of the best and most abundant life in ourselves and others. But these instincts do constitute the spiritual substance, the raw material, out of which the lives of all of us are built. They are of that antecedent ethics of those aboriginal, constituent interests which it is the business of the moral life to serve.

And the gang instinct is not toward self-indulgence, but toward self-discipline and subordination. The gang is more strict as well as more strenuous in its requirements than any grown-up society; and its ethics incline to the ascetic rather than to the hedonistic school. It is not for the love of pleasure, but rather—so far as his action is not purely instinctivefor self-conquest and the joy of defying pain that the boy seeks these peripatetic groups of the youthful philosophers of his neighborhood. He turns to the gang for the same reason that the English father sends his son to boarding school, or that the Spartans subjected their young men to such a

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