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Rural Problems of Today
by Ernest R. Groves
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RURAL PROBLEMS OF TODAY



RURAL PROBLEMS OF TODAY



ERNEST R. GROVES

Author of "Moral Sanitation," "Using the Resources of the Country Church," etc.



ASSOCIATION PRESS NEW YORK: 124 EAST 28TH STREET 1918



COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATIONS



TO

GLADYS HOAGLAND

WHOSE UNSELFISH AND INTELLIGENT CARE OF

CATHERINE AND ERNESTINE

HAS JUSTIFIED THE ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE

OF THEIR MOTHER



PREFACE

This book is written for the men and women who love the country and are interested in its social welfare. Fortunately there are many such, and each year their number is increasing.

Rural life has as many sides as there are human interests. This book looks out upon country-life conditions from a viewpoint comparatively neglected. It attempts to approach rural social life from the psychological angle. The purpose of the book forces it from the well-beaten pathways, but this effort to give emphasis to the mental side of rural problems is not an attempt to discount the other significant aspects of the rural environment. The field of rural service is large enough to contain all who desire by serious study to advance at some point the happiness, prosperity, and wholesomeness that belong by social right to those who live and work in the country.

The author desires to thank the following for the privilege of using material previously published: American Sociological Society, American Journal of Sociology, National Conference of Social Work, Association Press, and Rural Manhood.

E. R. G.

Durham, N. H. April 1, 1918.



CONTENTS

PAGE

PREFACE vii

I. THE RURAL WORKER AND THE COUNTRY HOME 1

II. THE FAMILY IN OUR COUNTRY LIFE 15

III. THE RURAL WORKER AND THE COUNTRY SCHOOLS 41

IV. THE COUNTRY CHURCH AND THE RURAL WORKER 53

V. MENTAL HYGIENE IN RURAL DISTRICTS 71

VI. THE SOCIAL VALUE OF RURAL EXPERIENCE 89

VII. RURAL VS. URBAN ENVIRONMENT 103

VIII. THE MIND OF THE FARMER 117

IX. PSYCHIC CAUSES OF RURAL MIGRATION 135

X. RURAL SOCIALIZING AGENCIES 149

XI. THE WORLD-WAR AND RURAL LIFE 169



THE RURAL WORKER AND THE COUNTRY HOME



I

THE RURAL WORKER AND THE COUNTRY HOME

With reference to the care of children, faulty homes may be divided into two classes. There are homes that give the children too little care and there are homes that give them too much. The failure of the first type of home is obvious. Children need a great deal of wise, patient, and kindly care. Even the lower animals require, when domesticated, considerable care from their owners, if they are to be successfully brought from infancy to maturity. Of course children need greater care. No one doubts this. And yet it is certainly true that there are, even in these days of widespread intelligence, many homes where the children obtain too little care and in one way or another are seriously neglected.

The harmfulness of the homes that give their children too much care is not so generally realized as is the danger of the careless and selfish home, although, in a general way, everyone acknowledges that children may be given too much attention. The difficulty is to determine when a particular child is being given too much adult supervision and too little freedom. No one would question the fact that a child can become an adult only by a decrease of adult control and an increase of personal responsibility. Nevertheless, in spite of a general belief that a child needs an opportunity to win self-government, there are parents not a few who, from love and anxiety, run into the danger of protecting and controlling their children too much. The father or mother spends too much time with the children. The children are pampered. Too many indulgences are permitted them. Children in these over-careful homes are likely to grow up neurotic, conceited, timid, babyish, daydreaming men and women, who are of little use in the world and are often a serious problem for normal people. Probably this second type of a deficient home is more dangerous than the first, for children without sufficient home care often discover a substitute for their loss, but the over-protected children can obtain no antidote for their misfortune.

Everyone knows that attacks are increasingly being made upon the home in its present form by people who regard it as inefficient or as an anachronism. It is usually thought, however, that these attacks come mostly from agitators who set themselves more or less in opposition to all the institutions established by the present social order. Perhaps for this reason many do not believe that the family is receiving any serious criticism and its satisfactory functioning is therefore taken for granted. Such an easy-going optimism is not justified, for criticism of the home is coming from science as well as from the agitators. For example read "The Deforming Influences of the Home," by Dr. Helen W. Brown, which appeared in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology for April, 1917. She writes in one place as follows:

"Small wonder, then, if we begin to see that many of the mental ills that afflict men are not due, as has been commonly supposed, to lack of home training and the deteriorating influence of the world, but to too much home, to a narrow environment which has often deformed his mind at the start and given him a bias that can only be overcome through painful adjustments and bitter experience."

The psychoanalysts and the clinic psychologists are gathering material all the time that illustrates the bad results of home influences, and soon the agitator will be using this as proof of the harmfulness of the home as an institution. Some of us believe that no skepticism can be more dangerous socially than that relating to the value of the home. The best protection of the home must come from its moral efficiency and this cannot be obtained if people are unwilling to face reasonable and constructive criticism of the present working of the home. It is natural for the adult looking backward to his childhood to assume too much for the home, and then to transfer his emotion and his sense of the value of his home experience to the present family as an institution. With this enormous prejudice he refuses to see how often the family influence is morally and socially bad. It would surprise such a person at least to read an article like Emerson's "The Psychopathology of the Family" which recently appeared in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Material showing the unhappy results of inefficient family influences may be found in nearly any number of the Psychoanalytic Review.

There appear to be three causes of the unwholesomeness of home influences: lack of competition between homes, insufficient science regarding the home problems, and the pleasure basis of family organization.

First: There is no competition between homes. This is a most strikingly peculiar situation. The home is competed against by other institutions, such as the saloon, the moving picture, and the like, but as between homes there is no competition whatever. Home life is a private affair. Public opinion rules that it remain private. Nothing is sooner or more seriously resented than interference with or criticism of the home life of the individual. Professional men, such as doctors, lawyers, and ministers, and business men compete with one another, and from this competition comes constant, sane change and progress. But in the home, there being no competition, methods of home management, however bad, go on without change. Parents never realize their habitual carelessness in home life. The scientists are seeking to bring some sort of competition into home life, but they are under a very heavy handicap. In fact this handicap is greater now than formerly, for our forefathers made long visits with each other, sometimes staying for weeks in one home, thus giving ample opportunity for valuable criticisms and suggestions from guest to host.

Second: Bringing up children is really a scientific task and requires scientific information. But to obtain scientific information of practical value relating to the home is a baffling proposition. Human instincts and child development have been studied very little. We have theorized a great deal about such problems, but we have a remarkably small fund of actual accurate information. Such knowledge as we have recorded has been mostly obtained by parents, who have, of course, been prejudiced. In such cases we seldom know the later history of the child or the character of the home management and the actual contribution that the home made as compared with other influences. Men who have had to consider the entire history of an individual, who comes to the mind specialist for treatment because of some abnormality of mental or moral character, are gathering a great deal of valuable material regarding family influences, but much of this is in regard to men and women who in one way or another have been social failures. We have no material at present of equal value in regard to the persons who in a popular sense are "normal individuals." Such valuable information as we already have, we are not very seriously trying to distribute. Yet, fortunately, a beginning has been made and the entire problem is receiving an attention that it has never before had.

Third: People are finding it difficult to accept the responsibilities that belong to family life. Modern men and women more and more are basing the home upon pleasure and comfort and personal advantages in a narrow and thoughtless sense. When the crucial tests of family fitness come with the children, the parents fail. They have had little specific training for their greatest obligation and under such circumstances it is strange only that so often they do not greatly fail. Children are often unwelcome when they come into the home. Their coming disturbs the easy-going pleasure regime of the household and as they become somewhat of a burden to the father and mother, their interests are compromised, that their parents may continue to have some of the freedom which they enjoyed before the children came. Imagination cannot prepare for experience in such a degree as to make it possible for those who marry to realize the possible responsibilities of their choice. Because of this they often are found to have undertaken tasks against which in their heart of hearts they protest. It is natural for them, with such an internal dissatisfaction, not to commit themselves fully or sufficiently to the needs of their children.

Of one fact there is no doubt. Modern science is all the time illustrating that early childhood, the period when the influence of parents counts most, is the most significant of all the life of the individual. Diseases and weaknesses of a physical character that originate in early life bring about physical results that show in later life. The same fact is true, but not so easily seen, with reference to mental, moral, and social characteristics. The influence of the parents upon the thinking of the child is particularly important. A child must be trained to think rightly early in life. He should be saved from a fanciful, dreamy life. He should be made to face real conditions, for only as he tussles with reality is he prepared to enter the relationships later demanded of mature adults. In all this he is much influenced by his parents. At times real ability in the child to meet his tasks with childish heroism is crushed by his parents and his entire life spoiled.

The county worker, the minister, and the social leader in the country must in their work consider seriously the needs of the home. The great war will surely put a new strain upon the family. One result is likely to be a freer relation between the sexes. Women now in new occupations, because of the demands for labor due to war conditions, are likely to remain in considerable numbers. This will influence the home status. Schools are becoming more and more efficient and are taking over more of the home functions. Good social service in the country will encourage the home to use more fully its opportunities, to accept all its possible functions. It is well not to be in a hurry to take as our work that which the home fails to accomplish. The bad families, on the other hand, should be stripped of all functions possible. Such homes cannot be "eaten up" too soon.

Training should be provided for parents in the country. Some of this type of social service is already being carried on in the cities. It is equally needed in the country. Put on work for parents and get them to come. Bring in men who have practical messages of real value to parents. Don't seek to get a crowd. Lead country idealism to concrete problems. For example, attempt to lower the death rate by making information regarding health more popular. Drive the patent medicines from their stronghold. Introduce the more thoughtful people to the work of the Life Extension Institute.

Do not forget the human need of inspiration. People know more now than they use. Get speakers who can inspire parents to activity. Only keep the inspiration from being dissipated. Connect with actual problems the interest awakened by good speakers. Insist upon enriching and encouraging the home through the contributions of earnest talks upon home problems. Don't expect cold science to accomplish with country people what it is unable to do in the city. Inspiration and instruction are both required.



THE FAMILY IN OUR COUNTRY LIFE



II

THE FAMILY IN OUR COUNTRY LIFE[1]

There is in our modern life nothing more significant than the increasing social discontent regarding the present status of the home. Criticism of our family conditions comes both from the enemies and from the friends of the home. A radical and vigorous school of thought finds in the family of today a mere social and moral anachronism, to be pushed aside as quickly as possible. Another group of thinkers, on the other hand, sees in the changes that are already taking place in the conditions of family life, a hopeless deterioration. In such a turmoil of social controversy there is at least unmistakable evidence that the home is passing through a period of readjustment. This much is clear: changes in our manner of life have placed a strain upon the family that it cannot successfully withstand without greater efficiency.

Any effort to determine the value and obligations of the family, whether urban or rural, requires first of all a clear statement of the significant places of irritation, where at present the family is meeting strain that makes readjustment necessary. These may be classified as difficulties created by changes in:

1. The equipment or environment of the family.

2. The function of the family.

3. The internal adjustment of the family.

Regarding the family equipment, the situation in the city is certainly radically different from what it was. The usual dwelling place of the home was, in former times, a house which the family occupied exclusively. It made home seclusion and family fellowship easy and gave the family group a sense of responsibility for its place of living. For an increasing number of people, this type of dwelling place no longer exists. In its place we have the flat, the hotel, and the apartment house. The new conditions do not provide the present family with a favorable equipment. The seclusion of the family is largely removed. The fellowship within the family circle is greatly decreased because of the limitations of the place of abode, and the increased attraction of places of amusement outside, made necessary because of the failure of the home to give satisfactory recreation. Of course, the sense of personal responsibility for the place of habitation is almost entirely destroyed. Such is the equipment furnished the family by modern city life. In the country, however, the family has had little significant change in its equipment.

The largest function of the family is its moral training. It is this service which has made the family the most important element in our past civilization. Were the family of the future to fail morally, it would be hard to imagine how its existence could be justified. Without doubt this moral function of the family has centered about the children. The conditions of modern urban life, however, tend to make the moral training of the child by the home increasingly difficult. The city dwelling does not offer the child a normal opportunity for his play. The school and other institutions have to take over service formerly rendered the child in the home. In a large number of cases the urban home regards the child as merely a burden and therefore in such homes every effort is made to have no children born. This prevents the home from attempting the moral service for which it exists. Instead, the futile attempt is made to build up an enduring, satisfying home life upon the basis of the mere personal pleasure of husband and wife. In the country we find the home, for the most part, attempting to carry out its former function as an educational and moral institution.

The most serious difficulty in our present family appears to be internal. Economic changes have brought women, to a very great degree, into industry as wage earners. Women are at present earning a livelihood in almost every form of occupation. New ethical and political ideas, in addition to this great economic change in woman's life, have influenced her status. She no longer has to marry in order to obtain the necessities of life. She can become a wage earner. If she marries, she brings into her new state of living the sense of independence that has come to her from her experiences as a wage earner. In many cases, after marriage she continues to work away from the home for wages. Marriage, as it used to be, made no provision for the new status of woman. It assumed a dependence, a subordination, and a limitation to which in these days many women refuse to assent. This internal change in the conditions of home life brings about a host of difficulties that require satisfactory adjustment if the living together of the husband and wife is to be a happy one.

In the country the demand for this new adjustment is less serious, for there, to a greater degree than in the city, there are women who have not claimed their new status.

The rural home with reference to its equipment, function, and internal adjustment appears superior to the city home. When this conclusion is reached, many students of rural problems are content to drop the discussion of the rural family. Such an attitude of satisfaction concerning the country home is neither logical nor safe. It may well be that the country family will meet the strain due to modern changes later than the urban family, but sooner or later it will have to face the need of new adjustment. Only time itself can disclose whether the country home will find serious difficulties in the way of its final adjustment to the significant changes of modern life. There is certainly little security in the fact that numerous country families have as yet been insensible to the matrimonial unrest so characteristic of urban people. What has come first to the urban centers must, sooner or later, to a greater or less degree, enter country life. Indeed, it is impossible to doubt that family discontent is growing in the country.

The important question, however, to the moral and social worker is whether the country is obtaining all that it should from its superior family opportunity. Assuming that it is healthier than the city, with reference to the equipment, function, and adjustment of the family, it is reasonable to ask, "What are the obstacles that keep the country home from making its largest moral contribution to society?"

One fault with some country homes stands out on the surface. The wife is too much a drudge. Her life is too narrow and too hard. This type of home is passing, no doubt, but it has by no means passed. This kind of woman may be little influenced by new thought, and may think her situation as natural for her as it was for her mother. Whatever her personal attitude, however, from the very nature of things she is unable to make a significant moral contribution through her family duties. There will be striking exceptions, of course, but the general rule will stand—in modern life the woman drudge makes a poor mother. The fact that she is less likely to rebel against her hard condition than her urban sister, does not remove the dangers of her situation. And it is well for the lover of country welfare to remember that even when the wife accepts with no complaint the hardness of her lot, she often blames her husband's occupation, farming, for her misfortune, and becomes a rural pessimist, urging her children neither to farm nor to marry farmers. Her deep, instinctive protest appears through suggestion in the cravings of her children for urban life and urban occupation.

The housekeeping problem is for the woman on the farm seldom an easy one, but, nevertheless, conditions that make of the farmer's wife an overworked house slave are in these days of labor-saving devices without excuse. In any case, such a family situation in the country, whatever its cause, must be regarded as pathological.

Sex has too large a place in the construction of the rural family. One of the advantages of the country family of which we hear much is the general tendency toward earlier marriages than in the city. Without doubt marriages, as a rule, do occur earlier among country people. This fact is significant in more ways than most writers recognize. A very thoughtful student of the American family, Mrs. Parsons, has called attention to the social importance of the fact that after maturity mental and moral traits are more likely to influence the choice than merely physical traits. In other words, the earlier marriages are more likely to be influenced by sex interests—using the term in a narrow sense—than are the later marriages. This brings no social problem to the minds of those who see in marriage, for the most part, merely physical attraction and relations. The movement of human experience seems, however, on the whole, to be away from such a conception of marriage. Although the postponement of marriage requires for social welfare a greater moral self-control, we have every reason to suppose that we must gain social health by a higher moral idealism rather than by a return to the earlier marriage of former generations. In that case, to a considerable degree, the earlier marrying of the country people discloses that they have not as yet felt the full force of the modern causes that make for later marriages. Earlier marriages may be indeed happier, but they are often narrower.

A recent writer tells us that the vices of the country are the vices of isolation. Sex difficulties arise spontaneously and require no commercial exploitation when young people live a barren and narrow life without ideals. This emphasis of sex is expressed not merely in immorality and illegitimacy, but also in a precocious interest in sex and in a precocious courtship. Early marriage, therefore, often represents the reaction from an uninteresting and empty environment and, however fortunate in itself, certainly does not demonstrate a socially wholesome situation.

To contrast the divorce situation in the country with that in the city also fails to give the basis for social optimism that the facts are often used to prove. Public opinion has more to do with actions than law, and at present the general attitude toward the granting of divorce is more conservative in the country than in the city. The reason for this difference is, in large measure, the fact that once again the country shows itself less sensitive to the changes that are taking place with reference to the conditions of marriage. It certainly is not safe to assume that the unhappy marriages in the country are in proportion to the number of divorces. It is more likely that unless the urban attitude changes, in time the country will come to feel toward divorces much as city people do at present.

It is important to notice that, although legal divorce is frowned upon, there is often a considerable social indifference to the loose living together of men and women. Two clergymen at work in a rural community of about a thousand people recently stated that there were in the community at least forty unmarried people living together as husband and wife. Later, I was informed by another resident of the town that the clergymen had not exaggerated the situation. And yet I doubt not that the community had a rather low divorce record. It is very interesting how the moral code of a community may be strict at one point, while lenient at another. In some rural communities, at least, one may find an inconsistent public opinion that expresses very rigid hostility to divorce and little practical opposition to lax sex relations. The low attitude toward the sex element in marriage and the coarse viewpoint disclosed by conversation often surprise the country visitor who is not acquainted with the occasional inconsistency of rural ethics. Judging the standing of married life by infrequent divorces and rather early marriage, he is painfully disconcerted to discover that the marriage ideal is nevertheless mean and lacking in social inspiration.

A third criticism is deserved by the rural family, namely, its failure to make use of its social opportunity. It is easy to demonstrate the greater normality of the rural family as compared with the urban family, with respect to the family conditions that make possible an efficient home life. It is not always true, however, that these superior family opportunities are of social value. It is true that children are generally valued in the rural home. This is, at times, for the supposed economic help the children are expected to be to the parents, rather than because of an unselfish regard for the children, as a moral opportunity. It is true that the home generally counts for more in the life of the country child than in that of the city child. This by no means proves that the greater home influence is always a social asset. The home may penetrate the child's life deeply and yet affect it badly. If the home means more, the character of the home comes to have a larger meaning; what the significance of the home influence may be, is determined by the type of the home. A greater opportunity for family fellowship is naturally offered by the rural home, but this fellowship opportunity works both ways. The closer contact of all the members of the family often results in bringing all of them down to a low level of culture. The base attitude of one or of both parents toward life may poison each child's aspiration as he advances into maturity. The neighborhood relation, which brings several families into close contact, often permits a vicious child of one family to initiate many children from various homes into sex experiences in such an unwholesome way that purity of mind becomes very difficult later on, whether the illicit intercourse comes to an end or not.

Rural people are too likely to be content with their superior family conditions. There is real need for an emphasis upon the proper use of these opportunities. The conscientious urban parent is stimulated to his best by the rivalry of other attractions that attempt to exploit his child. The rural parent has no security in the greater natural advantages of the country home. Everything depends upon the way the rural home makes use of its opportunity. The rural church, especially, should take to heart this remarkably significant fact.

No institution in the country has the importance of the family. Good moral strategy requires, therefore, that effort be made to make the rural home happy and wholesome. The needs of rural people are indeed many, but there is no need greater than the fullest development of the opportunities for moral progress provided by the conditions of family life in the country. It would seem as if one principle should always be observed—no effort is wholly good that looks toward a substitution for family responsibility. It is also true that the family will not again have the moral monopoly of the child. Necessary as it may be, in certain cases, to allow the family to farm out its important functions to some other institution, this condition ought always to be recognized as unfortunate. The better way of making permanent progress is effort that encourages the family to make better use of its neglected opportunities.

First of all, the rural home needs to be spiritualized. Of course, there is equal need of spiritualizing the urban home, but that problem does not concern us now. Objections are sure to be raised against any rural program that bases itself upon an attempt to emphasize idealism and a spiritual interpretation of experiences. There is, however, no other way. Material progress will neither content nor elevate country life. Contact with nature is so close and constant that when spiritual insight is lacking there is bound to be a fatalistic and brutalizing tendency. Religion that does not enter intimately into everyday life and enrich the baffling experiences of daily labor with great spiritual interpretations, gives little of value to country people. The rural home awakens to its opportunities only when it is invigorated by vital spiritual inspiration. A materialistic philosophy of life will eat the heart out of the country and leave it in despair. Country people seldom have wide choice; they must either penetrate common experience with the eye of confident idealism, or they must dig the earth, bent down with the oppressing burden of dissatisfied toil. Whatever the philosophy of life, it will command the spirit of the home.

Parents also need training if they are to make successful use of the opportunities placed in their hands. This training needs especially to give the parents a right point of view respecting sex and sex-instruction. At present there is a powerful taboo in most country places regarding any constructive attempt to give helpful sex information, although, as a matter of practice, conversation often gravitates toward sex in a most unwholesome fashion. The taboo is fixed for the most part upon any public recognition of sex, while privately, interest in matters of sex is taken for granted. We have gossip and scandal, but little right-minded attention to sexual knowledge. This condition must change before many families will be fit to win the full confidence of the children and to influence them toward a high-minded outlook upon life.

We must appreciate the very valuable efforts that are already being put forth to make the rural homes more efficient with reference to sanitation, hygiene, and proper food. This instruction promises to decrease much human suffering, discontent, and poverty. In some respects such constructive service is more needed in the country than in the city. Certainly, good results are already appearing as a result of the efforts that institutions and people interested in the country have put forth.

The rural family must be made to realize the consequential character of childhood experience. The alienist especially has demonstrated the significant influence of childhood upon adult motives and conduct. Recent studies of human conduct have greatly magnified the importance of early experience and have disclosed how often it is the first cause of morbid thinking and anti-social actions. The conclusion is not to be doubted—a still greater effort must be made to conserve human character by a wiser control of the influences of childhood. One may discover for himself how interested conscientious parents are in detailed illustrations of childhood influence upon adult life and how impressed they are with the seriousness of such facts. Rural families must be taught more generally this impressive contribution of modern science.

A much greater effort must be made in many localities to lift from the rural family the burden of the feeble-minded. The possible harm that may be caused by a high-grade feeble-minded boy or girl in the country can be appreciated only by one who has come in contact with such a problem. The close contact, free association, and common interests of rural folk, with the added difficulty of segregating one's child, even when the menace of a feeble-minded associate is fully recognized, make the presence of feeble-minded boys and girls in the country a more difficult and more serious matter than is the case at present in the city. The school and the state, that is, the state by means of the opportunity provided by the schools, must take more effective measures to handle this problem. Until this has been brought about by public education and agitation, many rural families will be required to encounter serious moral dangers and problems for which society is itself responsible.

The rural family needs to be taught to be more just and more generous in regard to other families. The clannish spirit ought to pass, for it is without excuse in these days. The family interests a generation ago were altogether too narrowly conceived to make a wholesome social life possible. Greater cooperation is necessary if rural people are to make progress, and this cooperation is impossible when families are jealous and suspicious. This obstacle in the way of wholesome rural culture, made by selfish and petty family motives, it is useless to ignore. Unless the obstacle can be pushed aside, other efforts to inspire country people to a realization of their social opportunities must surely fail. Family life in the country can be saved from its besetting sin when rural leadership undertakes this task with the seriousness its importance justifies.

The rural family must be led to adopt a positive morality. This is imperative. The age of prohibition as an expression of ideals has passed. Emphasis must be placed upon what we should do, and must be removed from a trivial and legalized code of "Don'ts." Here and there in the country we find a firmly entrenched negative interpretation of moral obligation. Nothing is so dangerous morally as this. Nothing can so certainly drive out of the community the broad-minded, fine-spirited youth. The family must interpret morality with good sense and with a full regard for the proportions of things. The parents must teach a better moral standard than they themselves were taught. The home morality must have the flavor of kindliness and sweet reasonableness. Morality, to be true to its essence, does not require that it be made disagreeable. Goodness is beauty expressed in human conduct and, therefore, deserves freedom to disclose its winsome charm as well as its stern pre-eminence.

This program for constructive social service in the country is largely based upon the conservation of the moral and spiritual resources of the country. The deepest need of the country can be satisfied by no smaller propaganda. The instruments for such service we already have. The country school, the country church, neighborhood fellowship, and the Young Men's Christian Association provide the means for a moral and spiritual renaissance in the country. There is no easier way to obtain a healthy rural family life than by a skilful, serious, and large-hearted use of our moral institutions in concrete, courageous, and modern instruction, and in persuasive inspiration.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] Published as a part of the report of the fifth Country Life Conference by Association Press under the title, "The Home of The Countryside."



THE RURAL WORKER AND THE COUNTRY SCHOOLS



III

THE RURAL WORKER AND THE COUNTRY SCHOOLS

Of late the rural schools have been receiving much attention. Educators and others interested in rural welfare have seriously studied the needs and opportunities of our country schools and the good results of this interest are already revealing themselves. It is true, of course, that much of this contribution to the rapidly increasing literature devoted to rural educational problems has come from men who live in urban communities and who for the most part have expert knowledge concerning the administration of urban schools.

It is easy, without doubt, to give too much emphasis to the peculiar needs of the rural schools and to forget that urban and rural schools have much in common. Without forgetting that many of our school problems are fundamental and present in all schools regardless of the environment in which they attempt to function, it is reasonable to regret that a larger part in the discussions relating to rural education has not been taken by people living in the country and familiar with the rural life of the present time. It is only just to add, however, that both urban and rural education suffer because so little influence comes into school theory and practice from those who stand outside the profession of teaching. The teacher is not likely to know life so widely or so accurately as do those men and women who have won success by meeting actual situations that test practical judgment and sound self-control. Every one subscribes to the statement that the business of education is the preparation of pupils for life, every one knows that the value of such a preparation can be made certain only by being brought under the acid test of the actual conditions of social life, but few there are that realize that one of the ever-present problems of educational efficiency is due to the fact that the thinking that influences the purposes and methods of teachers mostly originates within the profession itself. The significance of this would be apparent were it true that all of one's education for life comes from the schools; happily, this is not true, and most pupils obtain valuable experiences from actual contact with problems of life that impress them more deeply than the preparation which at the same time the school is trying to give.

The rural worker needs to feel a responsibility for the making of some contribution to the rural school's social program. He cannot help having some advantages, in judging the results of school training, over the teacher who is busy with the process of instruction itself. Without doubt the rural worker has felt incompetent to enter much into educational discussion, thinking that such matters are sacred to those who have pedagogic training, but a moment's thought convinces one that, since the teacher has more to do with the preparation for life than the living of life, it is socially unsafe for the teacher to have a complete monopoly of educational discussion and to obtain no help from those who test the product of his schools.

The rural school has at present needs that stand out. First, it needs to be socialized. This is true also of the urban school, but it is not equally true. Urban schools have to some degree responded to the pressure of modern life and have assumed in increasing measure a social function. There has been no such pressure from rural communities. Often the educational ideals for which country people have enthusiasm are composed of experiences in a school-spirit less social than that usually found in the rural school of the present time. This means that the pressure of public opinion often pushes backward, while the urban school is being forced forward.

Neither country school nor city school can obtain much success in its socializing program until it really ministers to the physical needs of its pupils. Theory to the contrary, the school system still forgets that the chief business of the child is the making of a body, and that for the sake of future personal and social welfare the needs of the body must have right of way. Until this fact of nature is given its full worth and the mental side of the school work is subordinated, public education can never be a complete success. So long as the body needs of the growing child are exploited for the purpose of obtaining mental results that appear to the adult outside of the teaching profession both trivial and premature, there can be no hope that the school will maintain a perfectly wholesome social program. This problem is certainly as serious in the country school as in the city school. This matter is no by-product. When the schools fail to conserve human possibilities by ignoring the regulations imposed by natural law upon the operation of their educational processes, the schools are socially negligent. They are faulty in the purpose for which they have been created.

The second difficulty comes from the first. The rural school still needs a larger program. When it seriously undertakes to assume its function as the most effective of our social institutions, it will make radical changes in its program. To affirm this one need not forget or undervalue the changes already made. Additions have been made to the program. The spirit of the program has not been radically changed. We still provide an individualistic preparation—hopelessly inadequate though it is—rather than the social training which can be the only safe foundation for social progress. We still overvalue ancient knowledge and former educational values. We still refuse to admit into our schools occupations and interests that belong there because they are consistent with the instincts of the child. The country school has been stupidly indifferent to the wealth of its resources and has forced upon its pupils a meager and lifeless program. When a country high school, for example, attempts to minister to the needs of its students with a program of study that includes no science of any kind, the people of that community ought to be told, as recently in one case they were, that they are enforcing an educational policy that prophesies community suicide.

The third difficulty of the rural school system is its institutionalism. No effective organization can be developed without creating in it the danger of too great institutional concern. Those who are connected with the schools very easily come to regard its problems from the point of view of the welfare of the organization rather than that of the best interests of the children. Of course this mistake is nearly always unconscious and those who are really influenced by the professional instinct to protect the immediate interests of the school as an institution come to believe that they are also doing the best that can be done for the people. It is, however, the clear teaching of human history that effort to maintain the welfare of any social organization is likely to decrease the attention given to its efficiency. The attitude of institutional self-protection leads to uncritical methods, easy-going content, and rigid, unprogressive habits of thought. In our public school system the vital influences are always in conflict with the constructive endeavor of those who, because of their desire for professional repose, insist that the institution keep its attention upon itself and continue as it happens to be. In the country this attitude is likely to receive less criticism than in the city and for that reason those who wish progress in the country must assume an unending struggle against it.

Whatever its faults, the rural school in its influence upon country youth has only one possible rival—the home. At present the school is obtaining more and more opportunity to influence young life; the home is losing more and more of the opportunities it once had. It behooves, therefore, any one who serves young life in the country, to appreciate what a power for good or for evil, for progress or for regression, the schools are. Every effort should be made to understand the schools. With the teachers sympathetic relationships should be maintained, but without even a tinge of subserviency. An unbiased judgment of the social value of the schools, known only to himself, should be constructed by the rural worker and then every effort should be made to cooperate with the striving of the school for better results and to supplement with generous spirit the necessary limitations of public school service. Indirectly and quietly the rural worker may wisely try to invest as much as possible of himself in the school's social service by working through those who control the public education of the community. No rural worker can expect a greater ally than an efficient, socially-minded country school.



THE COUNTRY CHURCH AND THE RURAL WORKER



IV

THE COUNTRY CHURCH AND THE RURAL WORKER

The difference between the urban and the rural church may easily be exaggerated. There are differences, of course, and it is natural that the rural worker and the student of country life should make too much of what is characteristic of the church ministering to country people. At bottom, however, the two types of churches share the same experiences. Therefore, what may be said in regard to one will prove also to be largely true of the other. For the purpose of giving emphasis to the work of the rural church, nevertheless, we are justified in forgetting for the moment how common to both forms of church life are the fundamental needs, resources, and possibilities.

Those who carry the burdens of church administration are generous in listening as they do to the criticism and counsels of those who stand outside. Indeed, so much has been said and is still being said in regard to the work of the country church, especially by those who are not clergymen and not responsible for the directing of church activity, that one may well hesitate to express another opinion. And yet the tolerance of those who have in charge the policy of the country church is in itself significant and invites additional suggestions regarding the function of the Christian Church in country places. It is significant because it discloses that the church leaders know that the rural churches have serious problems. It invites suggestions because it reveals that the leaders are in some measure perplexed as to what is required in our day of the country church, and are therefore not hostile to any contribution that has a constructive purpose.

Institutions tend to be self-satisfied and self-protecting. A religious institution especially is in danger of becoming content and resentful of criticism because, by its nature, it deals with matters that seem beyond the investigation that man prescribes for ordinary things, and therefore secure from the scrutiny and criticism given to common, everyday interests. Of course the Church has no right to protect itself from criticism with respect to its efficiency of service by asking that it be treated as if it were itself religion.

The fact that the leaders of the rural church are not taking this attitude is of all things most helpful. It proves that their eyes are directed outward toward their responsibilities and that the rural churches are not in danger of the greatest evil that ever befalls a religious institution—a blind leadership which cannot distinguish between success and failure and is therefore well content when it ought to be most dissatisfied.

Whether rural church leadership is willing to consider radical changes in methods of social and moral service is a question time alone can answer. The test has not yet been made; whether serious changes should be considered can at present be only a matter of opinion. At present the usual attitude seems to be that the rural church needs more skill—new methods—in the doing of what it has always been doing. There appears as yet to be little disposition to ask whether modern life requires of the rural church that it change in large measure its form of service.

With its history of past success by the use of present methods deep in its consciousness, it is certainly difficult for the rural church to consider without prejudice the possibility of its needing to change its manner of functioning. It is, however, possible that life has been so changed, so fundamentally changed, that the Church to meet its present duties and to use its present resources must make profound changes in its method of service. When the situation advances to the point where such changes receive serious consideration, some of us believe that the following questions will be asked and finally answered on the basis of experiment and experience:

1. Must not the rural church give less attention to preaching? The theological student is still taught by many of our Protestant seminaries, just as he was a decade ago, that the minister's chief function is preaching. There can be no doubt concerning the supreme importance of preaching in the past. Is not, however, its effectiveness decreasing? If the Church were starting its work at the present time, in the light of the methods of other organizations, would we expect it to put the stress upon preaching that it does at present? There are two reasons why preaching ought not to have the emphasis it has had in the past. Much of its former importance was due to influences that are now exerted by the newspaper, the magazine, the library, the public lecture, and even by the theater. The sermon no longer has the monopoly it once had in the bringing of moral truth to the attention of the people. Many people are more deeply impressed by the methods of presenting truth exercised by some of the Church's rivals for popular attention. It is also true that, since religion has tried to function more in social life and the Church has not so much tried to build up an experience of dogma within the life of the individual, the sermon has, as a means of public influence, suffered some handicap. It is largely because of this that the Church has undertaken so much new work in addition to the preaching.

There is, of course, a limit in the process of taking on new forms of service and eliminating nothing. The minister is human and he simply can not do so much as is asked of him. Charles M. Sheldon, in a very interesting essay in regard to the work of the minister,[2] says that the man does not live who can produce two good, new sermons each week. In the long run the rural church must decrease the emphasis upon preaching, if it is successfully to carry on the new work that from time to time it is adding. And the new activities come with all the momentum that belongs to service that seems to fulfil real needs.

When the Church devotes less attention to preaching, it will certainly give more consideration to its function as a leader of worship. Protestantism has never exaggerated this part of the Church's activity; it usually still undervalues the importance of the esthetic element in religion. Worship tends to emphasize the common elements; preaching necessarily brings out the differences between religious people. When there is less importance given to preaching and more to worship, there will be a decrease in sectarianism.

Of course there are orators who preach and who enjoy the influence and popularity that oratory always will have. These men, however, are outstanding and their success illustrates the continuing power of oratory, but it gives no argument for the effectiveness of preaching in general. As a person having an instinctive bias for the spoken word, I have slowly been driven to the opinion that a great multitude of people feel differently and are more sincerely and more easily influenced by other means of bringing truth home to the hearts of men and women.

Less attention to preaching will permit the rural minister to undertake the other work given in the following parts of the program here presented.

2. There is a second question that we may expect the rural church some time to consider—must not the Church make more of modern science as a means of developing social and individual character? This question is likely to reveal different ideas as to what religion is. One who thinks of the spiritual as the flower of complete living, who wishes every possible wholesome condition provided for character-formation, will naturally regard science as the friend of religion and the basis for moral progress. There is no one who does not wish the Church in some degree to take advantage of the means for its wider service provided by discovery and invention. Must not the rural church undertake to distribute to the community life the helpful information science has, unless it is willing to give to some other institution a great moral service that at present it can best perform? Until it assumes in a greater degree and in a more conscious manner the distribution of science in the small community life, can we expect any amount of exhortation to make the community life what it should be? The people need, to meet their problems, concrete information that furnishes specific answers to their difficulties.

At present the average minister realizes that his training has been philosophic rather than scientific. His outlook upon life is from a different viewpoint than that from which most men face experience. He often builds his service for men upon a basis which no other professional man except the lawyer—and he in a smaller and decreasing degree—is attempting to use in practical effort. If the minister had been given more science in his preparation for life, there is little doubt that the Church would have accepted, especially in small towns and villages, its opportunity to popularize science by bringing men and women skilful in presenting useful information into the community and by this time would have been regarded as socially the most valuable instrument for the distribution of science.

3. Another question the rural church must soon face. Must there not be less emphasis given to individualism and more to social control? This is a question the schools are already facing. A philosophic outlook naturally tends toward an emphasis upon individual responsibility in a way science does not justify. Science (medicine, abnormal psychology, and the social sciences especially) is showing more and more why men act as they do. One's very personality is social in origin. The pressure of early influences and of later public opinion is very great. Moral results follow influences that belong to diseases, abnormal experiences, unfortunate suggestions, defective inheritance, and a multitude of causes understood by science. If religion is the supreme experience of a wholesome, normal individual, there can be no doubt that increasingly we must regard our moral problems as social more deeply than individual. This will force the rural church to give up its present unreasonable emphasis upon individual conduct and lead it to assume a much larger social responsibility.

4. Finally, do not the currents of modern thought and feeling appear to lead to a greater emphasis upon Christianity as a service rather than as a system of thought? Will not the rural church consider whether it must not put more emphasis upon itself as a function and less upon itself as an interpreter of doctrine? This is the big question. At present the Church wishes to increase its service, but it has only slight inclination to reduce the attention it gives to doctrine. The essential element in Christianity, service—largely as a result of the work of the churches—has now widespread acceptance, but many are not captivated by the doctrinal side of church activity. Such men must understand the meaning of faith to Paul by the meaning of religion to Jesus. They respond to the appeal of service; they do not take interest in matters of doctrine. To such the Church is a function, not an interpreter of dogma. What represents religious sanity in such a movement it is for time to reveal, but the current now flows toward service and away from a system of doctrine.

Service brings religious people together; doctrine separates them. It is therefore natural that with the present tendency toward making religion an activity, there should go a profound movement toward religious consolidation. The reaction from narrower and narrower division, smaller and smaller groups, within Protestantism is very determined. What a blessing this is proving for the rural people! The burden of sectarianism is hardest for them to endure. Someone has said that every argument for the consolidated school is equally strong for the consolidated church. If activity proves a working basis for the fellowship of Christian people, we may in time have the community church attempting to serve all the people in every possible way, and in association with other churches assuming the same function. At present this appears very distant and we are satisfied when we find churches federating, while still assuming the seriousness of doctrinal differences.

Our entire social life seems in a state of flux. It is commonplace thought that changes are taking place. We are too closely related to the movement to know just what is to be the outcome. A more stable condition must some time come. It now appears that rural life is entering upon the period of flux which heretofore has been more characteristic of the cities. It is folly to suppose that church life will not at all change during such a social experience as that upon which we have entered. The rural worker must in every way possible help the Church in the work it is now doing. He has no right, however, to be content with merely doing this. He also should seriously think over and over the problems of possible changes in church activity, that new social demands may not be ignored. Since he knows the work of many churches, he has a basis for wide-minded thought. This will prepare him to serve those churches that attempt new service. In other words, the best type of rural worker will not merely assist the Church that now is; he will also have sympathy and understanding for the Church that is coming to be. This second task is more difficult than the first. It will require critical thought, vision, patience, courage, and good judgment.

Perhaps a sufficient criticism of this program is contained in the question, "Why doesn't the author try to put his program in practice?" The force of this challenge has been felt, even by one who is imbedded in a different occupation and who has peculiar obligations that would seem to forbid entering a new field of service. This much is certain, were I a minister in any degree successful, I would be unlikely to feel the need of any radical change in the program of the rural church; were I a failure, I would have no courage to suggest the change. As an outsider I have come to think that some change of program is sure to come, but not quickly. Meanwhile it is wisdom for us all to remember that the mission of the Church is a larger matter than its methods.

FOOTNOTE:

[2] "Man or Superman," Atlantic Monthly, January, 1917.



MENTAL HYGIENE IN RURAL DISTRICTS



V

MENTAL HYGIENE IN RURAL DISTRICTS

Nervous diseases, insanity, and feeble-mindedness are a grievous burden for modern society. Every form of social ill roots itself in these mind disorders. Since this great burden seems to be increasing as a result of the conditions of present-day living, it is not strange that those most familiar with the situation are seriously alarmed. This concern is expressing itself in movements that attempt to educate the public to the need of conserving the mind in every possible way. Interest is being aroused in mental hygiene and this fact promises great social relief. It is indeed fortunate that philanthropic effort has thus become welded with science and is eager to get at one of the most serious sources of poverty, alcoholism, prostitution, crime, and physical suffering. The student of any of these great social problems knows that the roots of the difficulty usually run down into human weaknesses such as the mental hygiene movement is attempting to correct and prevent.

The mental hygiene propaganda has been up to the present time largely confined to the urban centers, but it is very important that our rural districts receive the benefits that come from attention to the problems of mental health. Not that rural people have greater need of mental hygiene than have those who live in the cities. Many alienists, on the contrary, believe the city more in need of mind-conserving activities, and, although there is no satisfactory basis for comparison, it would seem as a result of the data gathered by the last census[3] that their conclusion is reasonable in light of the evidence we have at present regarding conditions in this country. The country needs emphasis because it can be more easily neglected than the city.

People in the country are less likely to realize the needs of mental hygiene. As a rule, rural conditions that should challenge the attention of the leaders of the communities are not spectacular and appear in isolation. In urban life, on the other hand, thoughtful social workers are bound to see many individual cases that belong to the defective group as a mass, and thereby to realize the seriousness of the problem. If the rural leaders could put together the cases of social maladjustment present in many different communities, there is no doubt that the great need of mental hygiene in the country would be easily recognized.

It is also true that mental hygiene propaganda is somewhat more difficult in the country, partly because of the temper of mind of rural leadership and partly because of the lack of means for the reaching of popular attention. People are not likely to be spontaneously interested in the mental hygiene movement. They require the instruction and inspiration that come through the personality of the alienist. Fortunately our daily and weekly papers realize the seriousness of the mental hygiene propaganda and they circulate both in the country and in the city. This fact is making many of the leading people in the country nearly as familiar with the problem of mental hygiene as are city leaders.

Even though we know less than we should like concerning the amount and the significance of mental deficiency in the country, we already have information that reveals the need of mental hygiene effort among rural folk. The report of the New Hampshire Children's Commission made in 1915 contains a significant conclusion in regard to the feeble-mindedness in the rural section of that state. "One of the most significant studies that can be made in the survey of these counties is the geographic distribution of the feeble-minded and the proportion of the entire state population that falls within this defective class. Since there has been a report from every town in the state, either by questionnaire or personal canvass, this proportion may be considered fairly correct, even though many cases have not been reported. One of the most significant revelations of this table is the range of feeble-mindedness gradually ascending from the smallest percentage, in the most populous county of the state, to the largest percentages, in the two most remote and thinly populated counties. It speaks volumes for the need of improving rural conditions, of bringing the people in the remote farm and hill districts into closer touch with the currents of healthy, active life in the great centers. It shows that a campaign should begin at once—this very month—for the improvement of rural living conditions, and especially for the improvement of the rural schools, so that the children now growing up may receive the education that is their birthright." We also have two recent government reports that disclose the need of mental hygiene among rural people.[4]

The first report, based upon a survey made in Newcastle County, Delaware, contains among the conclusions these that are of special interest to the student of rural life:

"Five-tenths of 1 per cent of 3,793 rural school children examined in New Castle County are definitely feeble-minded and in need of institutional treatment.

An additional 1.3 per cent of the total number were so retarded mentally as to be considered probable mental defectives and in need of institutional care.

A number of mentally defective children were encountered who exhibited symptoms similar to those which are observed in the adult insane.

It is believed, as a result of this survey, that epilepsy is a more prevalent disease than it has heretofore been thought to be."

The other report gives the following information:

"Of the 1,087 girls and 1,098 boys examined in the rural schools, 93 of the former and 100 of the latter were below the average mentally, or 8.7 per cent of the whole number.

Of the total school population, 0.9 per cent were mental defectives.

The undue number of one-room rural schools in the county which were of faulty construction, with poor equipment, and with imperfect teaching facilities, were largely responsible for the retardation found in the county.

The average loss of grade by 193 children, as recorded by teachers, was 1.28 years for girls and 1.5 years for boys, a total of 269 school years.

No special classes for the instruction of retarded children were found in any of the rural schools of the county.

In addition to the 214 children who were retarded and exceptionally retarded, three epileptics and two constitutionally inferior children were found among the school children of the county."

These interesting investigations do not, of course, disclose the full amount of mental defectiveness in the localities studied, because they are based on a survey of the children at school and because they especially take up the matter of retardation and feeble-mindedness. It is no uncommon thing in the small rural community to find the more troublesome feeble-minded child withdrawn from the school. The reports suggest that a wider investigation would increase the number of defective children, for the method chosen could hardly be expected to discern all the seriously neurotic children. The information gathered indicates that epilepsy and the neurotic predisposition to insanity need to be investigated as well as amentia,[5] and that the epileptics and neurotics, even among rural children, are more numerous than is usually supposed. Of course an investigation of the adults would still more increase the amount of mental abnormality.

The sociologist is familiar with the social menace of the degenerate family in the country. Most of the members of the families thus far studied have lived in the country or small village. It is reasonable to suppose that on the whole such families find it easier to survive in the country than in the city. The country offers occupation for the high grades during the busy season and yet does not require steady employment all through the year. The social penalties of mental inferiority are not likely to be so oppressive; certainly there is much less danger of coming into collision with the law. Our institutions find from experience that the feeble-minded take kindly to rough, out-door work and from this it is natural to assume that a large number of the feeble-minded, free to choose their environment, prefer the country to the city. They are probably more often handicapped by the competition of city life than by the conditions of life in the rural community.

It is probably true also that the feeble-minded family is more likely to renew its vitality by the mixing in of new, normal blood in the country than in the city. Illegitimacy holds in the problem of rural feeble-mindedness the same position that prostitution occupies in urban amentia. The attractive feeble-minded girl—and of course many of these girls are physically attractive to many men—does not find it difficult in the country to have sex relations with mentally normal men. Indeed it is often not realized that the girl is mentally abnormal, and all too frequently we have a marriage in the country between a woman of unsound mind and a man who is mentally sound. Illegitimacy is, however, the larger problem in rural amentia. The same type of girl that in the country becomes the mother of several children, often by different men, in the city, unless protected, enters prostitution. The city prostitute, because of the sterilizing effects of venereal diseases, is less likely to become the mother of children, but, on the other hand, she scatters about syphilis, which has so much to do with causing mental abnormalities. It may be a matter of opinion which of the two social evils, illegitimacy in the country or prostitution in the city, has the larger influence upon the spread of mental abnormalities, but there can be no doubt that the rural difficulty deserves the attention of all interested in mental hygiene.

It is unfortunate that rural people do not realize more often the serious meaning of feeble-mindedness. The close contact between neighbors and the familiarity of community life tend in the country to develop an indifference to the variations from normal standard that the high-grade ament expresses. People, as a rule, take the social failures of the feeble-minded for granted and do not specially regard them as evidences of mental inferiority. This condition makes the limited segregation possible in the country very difficult indeed. The thoughtful parent hardly knows how to keep his child from associating with the deficient child of his neighbor when they live near together and attend the same school.

At school also the feeble-minded child is likely to have advantages over his city brother, which keep him from exhibiting to the full his inherent mental weakness. A conversation with almost any rural teacher will impress upon one the fact that the teacher is loath to declare feeble-minded a child whose records give unmistakable evidence of amentia and that she generally regards the child as merely dull. Fortunately this is likely not to be so true in the future, as a result of the recent instruction that candidates for teaching are now receiving in our normal schools.

There is, however, the greatest need of clinic work being carried on in our rural schools. The problem cannot safely be left with local authority. The demand is for some state-wide method of mental examination of school children. This service, which in most states could be given over to the superintendent of public instruction, ought to be given wider scope than merely the mental measurement of school children. The problem requires the service of the alienist. Only by this more fundamental treatment of the problem can we expect to obtain the full social relief that the preventive side of mental hygiene promises. As a matter of fact, however, it is likely that the problem will be considered first from the viewpoint of retardation in our rural schools. It will be unwise to force the mental hygiene movement into our rural school administration more rapidly than the need of it can be made clear to our rural leadership.

It is an unhappy fact that we are at present doing so little. The state certainly must try in some way to provide, for the country children who need it, the special class instruction now given backward children in the cities. This will give relief by providing a basis for the separation of the curable and the incurable defective children. At present the defective child who requires treatment and improves in the special class suffers a great handicap by being in the country rather than in the city.

Without doubt epilepsy and psychopathic cases, as well as feeble-mindedness, receive relatively less attention in the country than in the city. This situation certainly hinders rural progress and adds to the social burdens of rural communities. Any one familiar with the life of a typical rural town will know of peculiarities of conduct and strange attitudes of non-social persons which indicate mental unsoundness. These abnormalities express themselves in various forms and I happen to know of some New England communities that have been hopelessly separated into two hostile parts as a result of the influence of persons whose subsequent careers have proven that the originators of the difficulties were socially irresponsible. One such case was a church quarrel that finally had to receive a state-wide recognition because of the serious situation that finally resulted. The later suicide of the individual, who first started the dispute, a suicide that had little objective explanation, seems to have demonstrated that the whole difficulty originated because of the influence of a psychopathic character. In this case had the community known a very little about mental aberration the history of the difficulty would have been very different. Even as it was, a very few of the more thoughtful people believed the man insane.

The chief reason, however, for mental hygiene propaganda in the country is the influence it will have in preventing human suffering. The problem of mind health is a humane one and this fact removes the distinction between rural and urban need. Urban fields offer more inducements at present for the worker, but the rural need is also great. The rural districts are less conscious of their distress and perhaps respond less readily to whatever instruction is given them, but they certainly must be given the benefits of the mental hygiene movement by a patient and persistent propaganda.

FOOTNOTES:

[3] "Insane and Feebleminded in Institutions," Washington, D. C., 1914, pp. 50 and 54.

[4] "Mental Status of Rural School Children," by E. H. Mullan, Public Health Reports, Nov. 17, 1916, and "The Mental Status of Rural School Children of Porter County, Indiana," by T. Clark and W. L. Treadway, Public Health Bulletin No. 77.

[5] Amentia is used as a technical term for feeble-mindedness.



THE SOCIAL VALUE OF RURAL EXPERIENCE



VI

THE SOCIAL VALUE OF RURAL EXPERIENCE

Our social ideas, the expression of what the psychologists define as the social mind, are influenced too much by the thinking of urban people, too little by that of people who live in the country and small villages. There are many reasons for this undesirable social situation. One is the outstanding fact that the city has the prestige that belongs to political and commercial leadership. The urban leaders have for the most part obtained their position by their possession of the means of control of industries and of the channels of communication, or because of their skill in winning public attention. They have become successful by exercising capabilities that naturally give them social influence. They are victors in contests that are decided largely upon the basis of superior ability in manipulating men. Their advance has meant an increasing opportunity to influence the thought of their fellows. In many cases they have deliberately studied the methods of influencing public opinion and have worked to obtain control of the modern equipment necessary to direct it. One of the great engines for moving the public mind is the newspaper and this is always in the hands of urban leadership and a share of its power can usually be had by those who have the necessary "pull" or cash.

Socially the successful farmer belongs to the opposite class. His success has been obtained for the most part by his skill in handling natural law. His struggle has been largely with the obstacles that arise when one attempts to furnish a share of the food supply required by a hungry world. The farmer's experience with the means of social influence is limited and in his business there is no need of his impressing himself upon his fellows. On the other hand it is natural that he should overvalue the thinking of those who, unlike himself, have developed the art of making social and political impression. This tendency to discount his own social contribution in practice—even though in theory he may often insist upon his paramount social function—makes the farmer a good follower and a poor leader.

And yet in the nature of things there is nothing to demonstrate that socially those who have the machinery that is required for the influencing of public opinion or who have learned the art of impressing themselves upon their fellows are the most fit to direct the social mind. The struggle with Nature teaches as much that is of lasting value for a philosophy of personal or national conduct as comes from competition between people. Even if the population stimulus of urban centers brings forth men of great ability who do large things, it by no means follows that these men are wise merely because they are powerful. And even if they were justified in claiming superiority at every point over the successful men of the country, it would not be for the social good that they be given a monopoly of social prestige.

Contact with men who occupy high places in city commerce will often convince any one of a neutral and discriminating mind that these men of social power have suffered loss at some points in their developing personality as a result of the struggle that has made possible their success. The present serious discord between capital and labor is fundamentally born of the belief of some that wealth is as socially right in all important matters as it is socially powerful and the faith of others that the social problems that vex men and women would pass with the destruction of wealth's artificial social advantages. Each group confines itself to the territory of experience where everything has to do with matters of human relationship, and each group insists that only one point in that territory can have value as a position for the observing and estimating of what happens there.

The extreme representatives of each group disclose that they have been forced to a narrow view of human motives and interests by their environmental experiences. They agree in their elevation of the power of money to the supreme place socially—one defending the power as belonging of right to wealth, the other regarding the social situation as due to the unjust privileges of the few who prey upon the many.

The typical farmer is both a capitalist and a laborer and has a saner attitude toward the difficulty than one can have who belongs exclusively to either group. He is likely to accumulate his capital by slow savings, which represent in some degree real sacrifice, and he cannot have sympathy with those who refuse to credit capital with legitimate social function. He also earns his bread by the sweat of his brow and has therefore a first-hand knowledge of the burden of human toil. This gives him an understanding of the discontent of exploited labor, but also a deep contempt for those who have no interest in the work they do. His thinking in regard to the differences between capital and labor is born of experiences that are elemental in the human struggle for life and comfort and therefore cannot be safely turned aside. His sympathies swing toward one or the other of the conflicting groups according to his most recent economic experiences. If he has been robbed by some commission merchant, he joins the protest against the unjust power of capital; if he has had a hired man who has worked indifferently and with no respect for his vocation, he understands what is meant by the unreasonable and impossible demands of labor.

The unchanging element in his thinking, however, comes from his personal concern with reference to both capital and labor. In other words, he lives closer to an earlier economic experience of man, when the present great gulf between those who furnish capital and those who furnish labor for industry had not been fixed. Neither the representatives of the capital nor of the labor group, when they undertake what seem to him extreme measures, can count upon his support.

The abiding fact that denies to urban thinking the right to enjoy a monopoly of social influence is this: men cannot safely build up their social thinking from experiences gathered merely from the field of human association. Nature also has lessons to teach and lessons that do not always agree with the inferences that are naturally made when one thinks only of the experiences of men in their associations. It is socially foolish and socially unsafe to disregard, or at least to forget, the value of thinking that functions, as the farmer's does, in the effort to control Nature for a livelihood that directly contributes to human welfare. If such thinking is often prosaic and rigid, it is also close to reality and insistent upon practicality. Narrow it may be at times, as a result of lack of opportunity to have wide contact, but it is substantial and born of knowledge of the necessary limitations that Nature places upon the wishes of men and women. The farmer by his vocation is taught to be suspicious of easy solutions. He stands aloof from men who claim to have found the panacea and regards men of such abounding enthusiasm as belonging to the same group of the pathetically deluded as the believers in the machine of perpetual motion. The farmer keeps the greatest distance from day dreaming and can never have charged against him as a characteristic fault that menace of self-supporting fancy which is so insidious in its attack upon the mental wholesomeness of a multitude of people.

It becomes, therefore, as a result of a constant and clear-minded attention to the actual working of forces of Nature that seem at times friendly and at times hostile to man's purposes, difficult for the farmer to regard money, even with all its recognized power, as able to do everything, or the one thing to be desired. This does not mean, of course, that the farmer is indifferent to money. No one who knows him at all would claim that he is unconcerned in regard to finances. He is always interested in money, and, like other men, works to make it. For want of money he is often troubled. He knows how much money will do in the sphere of human association. His everyday philosophy reveals this in ways that one cannot mistake. He also knows, however, that even money has its limits and that these are seen in man's relations with Nature.

How different it is in the experience of the city-dweller! He finds that money will do nearly anything. With money he can have the fruits gathered from the ends of the earth. Without money he is helpless. His protection from disease, from vice, from countless forms of discomfort, disrespect, and exploitation depends upon his ability to pay the necessary rent for safe and pleasant surroundings. How much of suffering, both physical and mental, the want of a "safe" income brings to the urban-dweller one may discover by merely walking along the crowded streets of any city. Without the necessary money he even fears loss of a respectable funeral and burial place in case of death.

The urban wealthy keep close to more and more wonderful forms of luxury by money. The urban poor keep out of the breadline by money. The middle-class know that with a little more money they may expect to join the first class and with a little less they may be forced into the second. Money seems the one thing of power. Newspapers, street discussions, and public opinion, for the most part, encourage the belief in the omnipotence of money. Only in rare instances, as for example when there is a death in the family, does the city person from his own experience discover that money, which has so much of power among men, cannot fully usurp Nature's control over the desires of men. Having so often seen great natural obstacles overcome by bridges, tunnels, and immense buildings, the urban person's final mental assumption is that, given enough money, anything can be done. It is hardly strange that the political philosophy which is distinctively urban should be built upon the supreme value of money and the problem of its distribution.

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