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thinking up exciting things to do. She took the boys and
girls to an old barge anchored in the harbor, planned wienie
bakes, taught the young people to give false names and
addresses when confronted. She was generous, affectionate,
large-hearted, in short a personality remarkably well-
adjusted to the needs of her group. She was what we



call an "integrated" personality in marked contrast to Flor-
ence who was ill at ease, retiring, fearful, unhappy, and
"disintegrated." Rose sang well, was an expert swimmer,
possessed an inexhaustible fund of dramatic ability, always
imitating, posing, and caricaturing. Her popularity was
enhanced by her ability to defy adults and by one or two
items of newspaper publicity when she ran away. But the
thing which made her "crowd" grow was the sinister gossip
of the adult neighborhood. A girl who was seen with her
instantly became "tough," and the process of exclusion which
made Rose a stranger to school, work, church and respect-
able recreation groups, operated swiftly against the new-
comer.

Her own group, however, had its equally effective organ
of approval and disapproval, "sissy," "goofy," "teacher's
pet," "mama's darling," or "good sport," "jazz-baby" and
like terms were the overt expressions of a subtle, widespread
language which embraced or rejected the young people in
search of a good time. Many of them discovered they could
not tell the truth and get along with their parents.

Rose's leadership, then, will never be solved by testing
her intelligence quotient, which is normal, or studying her
health, which is perfect, or analyzing her personality, nor
will its effect be ended when Rose goes away to the State
School. The deepest forces of social life and family re-
lationships enter into the simplest case of "bad companion-
ship."

One thing may be said for these delinquent leaders.
Their leadership is careless, nonchalant, and unpremeditated.
They do not want to chairman any meeting for their own




THE CHILD WHO IS A LEADER



aggrandizement nor obstruct committee work because they
cannot reap the glory. They lead because of the drabness
of their surroundings and their own amazing vitality and
play-sense.

Nothing could present a greater surface contrast to the
young people who were summoned to court in Rose's case
than the four thousand students of Y Highschool, in a
typical American neighborhood, neither rich, nor poor. Any-
one who has taken a catastrophic view of modern youth
should meet these students. The neighborhood is stabilized.
Most of the homes are owned. There are small gardens,
parks and playgrounds, trees. The business street is not
very ugly and some open fields can be reached by walking.
The students are sons and daughters of every-day business,
professional and laboring men and women. The student
body activities, the churches and the families utilize almost
all the time of the young people. At Y School they wear
no uniform, follow no cult, but instantly one gains the
impression on the campus that here boys and girls live
wholesomely. There is none of that electrically charged
atmosphere of "just hanging around" so characteristic of
Rose and her crowd. Let us observe the girl leaders of
this group.

BETH is the most popular girl in the school. She has
been vice-president of the student body, president of
the Girls' League, leader in dramatics and athletics. She
is pretty, well dressed with an immaculate freshness and
daintiness (she makes her own clothes), her gait is light,
she is always literally on tiptoe. "Yes, Beth is the sweetest
girl in the school," says Martha, who is a far better stu-
dent.

The boys like her. Beth is no prude but she does not
pet. She considers it something "no self-respecting girl
would do." Beth is fond of using such terms, yet her
diary reveals day-dreams of lovers, and to her grandmother
a music teacher of whom she is fond she addresses
little notes which are placed under a flower-pot and an-
swered in the same fashion by the romantic old lady. Belli
writes: "Bob wants to kiss me and I want him to. What
must I do?" Her grandmother evidently gave her satis-
fying advice for the correspondence continued.

One of the boy athletes of the school says, "I always want
to be at my best when I am with her." Beth's own brother,
Dan, is a year older, and a year more advanced in school.
However, he put off his graduation a year so that he could
get his diploma on the day she would receive hers.

One day Beth noticed that a group of boys and girls
were getting into a borrowed automobile preparatory to
"ditching school." It was driven by a popular young fel-
low whom all the girls sought. She descended upon this
party with flashing eyes, explained the enormity of their
conduct and succeeded in sending them all back to school.
But this identifying herself with the moral standards of
the community did not prevent her from absenting herself
from school one day with a girl friend, and making a trip ten
miles across town to register in a different higiischool, under
an assumed name, gravely assuring the authorities that she
had "just come from the East." One teacher does not like
Beth. She says, "She is extremely temperamental and I
can generally tell when she comes in the room what kind
of mood she is in and how the class will go."

Beth, however, is as happy at school as she is at home.



501

Her teachers usually re-
port a sense of well-being
when she is about. Her
own ambition is to be-
come a teacher. She
writes in her diary, "I
believe that teaching lit-
tle boys and girls how to
become earnest, upright
men and women will be
nerve-wrecking but soul
satisfying. Yet deep in
my heart has always been
the desire to be Oh just
for one short hour a soda
forntain clerk."

Beth's capacity for
hard work is one of her
leading characteristics.
After school she holds a
committee meeting or
two, then goes home to
prepare supper and look
after her little sister,
Mary, for her mother
works away from home.
Mary, aged nine, says,
"I love little mother
[Beth] best because she
raised me, and not big
mother, but she is some-
times stricter than big
mother."

Beth has identified her-
self with the interests of
her family and her fam-
ily has identified itself
with her success and pop-
ularity in school. Beth's
mother, an efficient wom-
an, earns about one hun-
dred and fifty dollars a

month. At fifteen she broke away from her family, changed
her religion, and in a runaway match married a boy of
nineteen. Her husband was never a provider. The most
he ever earned was one hundred and fifteen dollars as
gang foreman of a telephone company. He had tried real
estate but was easily discouraged. He reads poetry and
writes a little. Beth says of her father, "You have to
kinda coax him along." It is clear that he turns to his
daughter for appreciation, for his wife thinks him incapable.
She works from morning till night while he broods, dis-
cusses religion and philosophy, in which he is something of
a mystic. He can never forget the harsh discipline of his
father, a preacher and farmer, who raised six sons and
never willingly let any of them grow up. His wife mis-
understands him, but Beth listens to his poetry, thinks it
is wonderful, and in turn her father is her admirer. He
would rather be with Beth than anyone else. Beth tells
her father everything that happens during the day. Some-
times together they take out David, a child of seven who
is a cripple. They go to the woods and gather wild flowers.
They return and read aloud.




502



THE CHILD WHO IS A LEADER



Beth shares the an-
xiety of her parents for
the doctor bills, for Dan,
aged seventeen, who is
rather effeminate and shy
and wishes- to marry a
girl "just like Beth," for
the upkeep of the home,
the making and hanging
of the new curtains, the
paying of taxes and street
assessments. In a real
sense Beth is the pal of
both father and mother.
She has a latchkey and
can "wrap the whole fam-
ily around her finger."
She plans what they eat
and wear. Yet it is evi-
dent that there are no
behavior patterns laid
down by her parents
which Beth does not re-
gard as sacred. Beth
thinks that her mother's
working away from home
makes her a more ade-
quate parent. There is
certainly no antagonism
in this mother-daughter
relationship. If Beth re-
sents her father's economic
inferiority, she admires
him and turns to him
for her ideals. She works
all the harder to com-
pensate for his lack of
success in business.

In a sense the children
have taken possession of
the home. Both parents
have a whole-hearted ad-
miration of them. They occupy the best bedrooms and their
plans supersede anything the parents have on hand. There
has never been wrangling, jealousy, suspicion. There is
no corporal punishment. Both display consistent affection.
What Beth knows of sex she learned within her family.
They are always talking things over, reading, playing
games, and going out together on picnics and to church.
The rooms are so poorly furnished that Beth does not like
to take her friends home. She keeps making little excuses.
If Beth had fifty dollars to spend she would buy a dress
for her mother, a brace for her little brother, and a cage
for her bird. In short there is nothing remarkable in Beth's
range of ideas nor in her family life.

If we sum it up we note that she has a confident, im-
perious manner, an average intelligence and normal health,
that she possesses the ability to see things through, that she
is witty and light-hearted, a good sport, versatile in her
interests, with an attention rather evenly divided between
books and activities indoor and outdoor, that she has an
intense enjoyment of life, that is in complete harmony with
its behavior codes, has great affection for her brothers and




sisters and feels responsibility for them. She has a concern
for other people and an attitude of protection, a tolerance
beyond her years. As one fellow student puts it, "You can
tell her anything and she understands." She has a definite
plan of life and has known handicaps, and these are stim-
ulating to her.

An unseen margin divides her life from that of Rose.
The economic level is much the same. Beth is in harmony
with the ideas of her community, she is "refined," "lady-
like," and loyal and Rose is tough and a rebel. On the
whole Rose is a more adjusted personality than Beth, but
this has depended largely on the community's definition.

WE must mention one factor, the presence in Beth's
school of a vice-principal, an outstanding personality,
warm and generous, interested in what concerns young peo-
ple, a woman who knows all the girls in her school, who
guides their social life and feels it as a personal sorrow
when a girl drops out of school. She welcomes "problem
girls" and has never expelled one. She visits the court and
interests her Highschool Girls' League in the affairs of the
city.

We must note also that Beth has never known the misery
of a family where one parent is in charge and the other is
divorced divorced emotionally if not legally from the
affairs of the home. Beth has never known a divided fam-
ily allegiance. She has never lived in a neighborhood where
she could gain prestige from her companions and censure
from adults by defying adult standards a censure that
expresses itself in secret admiration, in gossip around card
tables, and a hushed expectancy of some dramatic outbreak.
She has never known what it was to have to impress her-
self upon her companions at all costs, by over-dress, sophis-
tication, daring and newspaper publicity. In her home and
in her school she has found ready-made channels for her
initiative, charm and energy. In her home she has not only
been wanted, she is necessary. She has learned responsibility
in her family group, and while it may have brought her an
over-maturity of outlook, it has provided scope for her full
energy.

Beth is typical of the other girl leaders of the Y High-
school. None is endowed with unusual health, mentality,
or family advantages. All of them are identified with their
community and have that mysterious gift of tolerance, capa-
city, vitality, and concern for the interests of their fellow
man that places them in the position of popular affection
and influence. All of them have faced stimulating handi-
caps working mothers, sick or economically inferior fathers,
ill brothers and sisters, the necessity of careful planning,
the unsatisfied emotional yearning of one parent, the pres-
sure of maintaining respectability. Yet the balance of a
healthy and invigorating family and school life has been
attained.

What is the task of the parent of a gifted child? First
to attend to his health and normal growth, freed from adult
interference or the presence of a selfish goal. Next, un-
mitigated commonsense and sturdiness of outlook, a sense of
humor, and the upholding of a worthwhile task.

One woman whose boy is now in college and whose
relationship to her son is noted for its cordial understand-
ing, writes:

How did I achieve this confidence? By no criticism of
friends, no pressure upon him for a change of view even \\-hen



THE CHILD WHO IS A LEADER



503



it hurt to see him headed wrong. I have felt and acted toward
him as toward some delicately budded plant, the least touch
of which would somehow mar, or retard. I have dug the roots
hard but he never knew that. ... I have never talked to
him nor written him a letter when I was miserable or confused
myself. Just as he has shown courage in dealing with his
own lack of finances or with his college mates or love affairs,
so I have never let him see the times when I, his mother, felt
spiritually bankrupt. There has been utter frankness between
us yet no dependence. Now I feel that he is almost mature.
I take joy in him. He is something to trust, and to lean
upon yet I shall never lean.

Such a parent is no handicap to a child about to become
a leader.

There is often a certain smugness about the child leader
as there is with some club presidents. The leader attains
an articulate formula of what all right-minded people ought
to say and do in certain circumstances. The group' assents
to this, if for no other reason than that they are silenced by
their own feeling of moral inferiority. Adults should
exercise caution when a child displays the ability to dominate
and humiliate other children.

For example Jane, when observed in the nursery school
was four and a half years old, tall and strong for her age.
She \vas described by her teacher as "a leader, a motherly
child, inclined to lead for good." Jane was playing with
a discarded roll of red celluloid film. It was old and had
a few cracks which widened in the wind as Jane flew about
the yard with the film streaming behind her. It fell on
the ground and a boy of three ran to pick it up. His clumsy
fingers tore it a little more but it was evident as he handed
it to Jane that he believed himself helpful.

The teacher came up just then in distress.

"Who did this?" she said, holding up the torn object.
No one minded whether the film was torn or not, but the
teacher believed that this was an opportunity to teach con-
sideration for another's property.

The three-year-old evidently thought she had asked who



picked it up, for he answered, "I did," with promptness
and satisfaction. Jane said nothing. With intense absorption
she watched the teacher take the little boy's hands, pull
his sweater sleeves over them in punishment and say,
"Hands mustn't do that."

THE child was bewildered. He looked at his hands, at
the teacher's face, at Jane and the other children who
crowded around. Suddenly he had become a culprit and in
the subtle way in which human affairs go, Jane, who was
the "guilty party" if anyone was guilty, became aggrandized.

Later in the day all the children were in giggles. One
little boy was convulsed with laughter. Jane said, "It is
not funny, is it?" looking at the teacher. Then with
emphasis, "My father says it is not funny."

Very early children learn that there seem to be two
moralities, the morality of rules where one gains approval
and prestige by observance and also by condemning those
unable or unwilling to follow these rules ; and the morality
of persons, where one enters a realm of values based on
liking, affection and loyalty. Fair-play, the giving of some
service, the avoidance of the infliction of suffering upon
others seem to be of more importance than following the
rules. The reason children feel that the two moralities are
antagonistic is because adults so frequently trample upon
persons in the presence of children. It is a tragic thing for
a child to be in the hands of parents or teachers who permit
him to gain advantage or to win a position of moral
superiority at the cost of the ridicule, humiliation, failure or
degradation of some other child. Constantly we see this
kind of "leadership" sponsored in groups of small children.
We have, in truth, no one but ourselves to blame for the
ruthlessness and smugness of leaders.

The price of leadership is paid by the child no less than
the adult. Sometimes ability to hold a group depends on
behavior acquired through inhibitions growing out of conflict.




504



THE CHILD WHO IS A LEADER



MA J)AW




Isabel was president of a girls' self-government club. She
took it seriously ; no task was too hard or disagreeable. She
worked everything undertaken to a successful issue. She
was punctual, unfailingly loyal to principle, and could not
be swayed by the group. Her first election came easily
because of her quaint, attractive face, her good manners and
adequate vocabulary. Her re-election came grudgingly:
"She sure is goody-goody." "Gosh, how she preaches !"
"Does she believe all that?" "Sure, she does." Isabel had
not the slightest sense of humor. Her pronouncements from
the chair on morals were devoid of the least twinkle or con-
cession. Her low, pleasing voice flowed in didactic,
ministerial rhythm, unbroken by doubt or second thought
or a sudden tug of personal affection for some sinner who
might reasonably enough be considered an exception. Isabel
was completely smug.

IT could not occur to her contemporaries that this "sur-
face" was necessary for her protection as is the bark of
the young tree when sap runs in spring. Her formula of
conduct was based on the very highest principles she knew,
the conventional statements of teachers and social workers.
She tried to identify herself with them because she had
nothing else to belong to.

Her family accused her of "acting superior" to them.
She refused to ride on her father's truck through the center
of town and she wanted to go to highschool and college.
Her delinquencies included running away from home,
truancy, temper-tantrums, and bad company (at the age of
sixteen she had fallen in love with two older men). Her
parents were glad to have her sent away from home. Her
mother was deaf, had bad eyesight, and constant headaches.
The mother's father had nine children, six of whom died
before adolescence. He was a member of the Episcopal
Church, but now his daughter, Isabel's mother, says she
won't hear of Isabel's going to church "It is nonsense.
God is in the radio."

Isabel has always been interested in religion. Her favorite
books are the Bible, Pollyanna, and The Reign of Terror,
the last two, in a sense, being symbolic of her response to life.

Isabel's father comes of a long line of Swedish-Americans



of healthy stock. He was considered the black sheep of a
family of eight. He was a mechanic and ship-carpenter, a
good workman but something possibly the childish sense
of guilt he still retained from the thunderings of his
Lutheran father kept him moving from place to place.
Before Isabel was seven they had moved four times. When
she was nine he brought her and her little brother of seven
to California in an automobile and set up a giant ferris
wheel on one of the pleasure piers in a beach resort. He
built this with his own hands. It was a success. Isabel,
dressed as a chorus girl, sold the tickets from a high plat-
form, and the seven-year-old brother, dressed as her lover,
helped her. When they were "arrested" by some child
welfare agency it was a great shock to Isabel.

Then the mother and Isabel's oldest sister joined the
family and life was more stable. Still they moved seven
times more before Isabel was sixteen. By the time she was
eleven she was working in private homes as nursemaid. She
saw bad temper, drunkenness, and immorality in these homes,
but kept from serious delinquency herself, the reason being
that her oldest sister had been arrested and Isabel made a
resolve "not to be like her."

Isabel had no idea when she fell in love that it was against
the law. The court hearing, and the resulting social treat-
ment at the girls' school, made a deep impression. It was
her first security, yet in conflict with all she had known.
So it is that Isabel regards emotion as a disaster. She
shrinks from "crushes" among the girls, yet she is always
inspiring them, and herself is in the throes of adoration
over a teacher, whose lack of reciprocity is a great sorrow.

WHEN Isabel first went to the school a girl feigned a
suicide attempt over a triangular girl love affair with
Isabel as apex. This so disturbed Isabel that she determined
to have no close friends: "I said to myself, 'I shall work to be
president of this club. I shall make something of myself.
In order to do that I shall be nice to everyone and have no
close friends'." Months passed. Isabel won her presidency.
She starved for affection, yet all that she had known had
ended badly.' Her formula, her articulate grasp of behavior-
codes, was a great help, a comfort, almost a substitute, for



THE CHILD WHO IS A LEADER



505




it brought her approval from adults who could also give
security. But it was neither adequate nor subtle enough
when you were flooded with emotion. Therefore emotion
must be avoided. It was extremely dangerous, yet irre-
sistible. When the psychiatrist requested her to let her
thoughts go where they would in free association and revery,
for the purpose of psycho-analysis, Isabel said, "My mind
does not work that way. I never just drift. I control my
thoughts." It is clear that she wishes to occupy herself with
only those things which she thinks have purpose, will "get
her somewhere," and that she is careful not to let her mind
wander in unguarded regions.

THIS child, then, ignorant of the beneficent process of
"sublimation" and possessed of superior vigor of mind,
warmth of emotion, much energy, an "impossible family
situation," becomes the leader of a turbulent group who
choose her because she best represents their hopes toward
righteousness and their leaning toward adult approval. She
may be smug, but it is because her leadership is based on
the energy of conflict and her victory is still too raw to .vear
with a smile.

Is all "leadership," we wonder, a kind of mysterious
flowering of personality under handicap? There remains
the community and the uses it puts its leaders to, and the
uses it finds for those who would be leaders and are not.
Someone has said, "We gain our place and hold our place
only through the generous praise of the defeated."

Summarizing the results of these studies into leadership
we note that the family like the Juvenile Court must deal,
not with individuals in isolation, but in relation to those
forces in personality which attract, or antagonize. The
home has new responsibilities, chief of which in our modern
age is clearer vision of the purposes of community life.

Parents must take a new attitude toward friends. The
relationship between personalities is a matter of greatest
importance. Whether they become "constructive" or "de-
structive" will depend in large measure upon the treatment
given the individual child in the family. If parents, through
antagonism to friends force loyalty to become fixed to an
unworthy individual, or to a small group employed in war-



fare, such as some gangs, they have only themselves to blame
for the harmful result.

As Forel observed the "greatest enemies of ants are other
ants, just as the greatest enemies of men are other men,"
so we see in the lives of the most anti-social individuals
a warped kind of socialization. They respond to leadership,
all the more damaging because it is in conflict with ac-
cepted gods.

Those leaders, whom we call constructive have been given
something in their family group which makes for the growth



Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 112 of 130)