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except in the foreign quarters of our great cities where, in conformity
to a better taste, it becomes classic and valuable.

But to describe a typical film of the better sort and to indicate its
practical use may have some suggestive value for wide-awake ministers
who wish to turn to good account every legitimate social agency. During
the Christmas season of 1911 the following film story was set forth to
vast audiences of people with telling effect: In a wretched hovel you
see a lame mother with three pale children. The rich young landlord
comes to collect rent and is implored to improve the place. This he
refuses to do because of his small returns on the property. He departs.
The father of the family returns from work. They eat the bread of the
desolate.

The landlord marries and sets out on an ocean voyage with his bride. On
the same ship the father of the tubercular family, working as stoker or
deck hand, reaches the last stages of the disease and in his dying hours
is mercifully attended by the bride. She contracts the disease and later
appears weak and fading. The husband, ascertaining the real nature of
her malady, brings her home with the purpose of placing her in the
private sanitarium. There is no room in this institution, but good
accommodations are found in the public sanitarium to which she goes and
where she finds the children from their tenement.

The facts have now been put in such juxtaposition that the husband has a
change of heart. The patients recover and the landlord endows a great
sanitarium for the tuberculous. One may easily criticize the crudeness
of the plot and the improbabilities with which it bristles. But it sets
forth love and death and conversion and an appeal to rescue those who
suffer from the great white plague: and this was sufficient for the
crowd, for all are children when beholding the elemental things of life.
At any rate the women who stood at the exits of the theater selling the
Christmas stamps of the anti-tuberculosis society will tell you that the
purse strings as well as the heart strings of the crowd relaxed to the
crude but deep melody of mercy.

The social hunger also, turning its back upon the meager home and
heightened by the monotony and semi-independence of early toil, takes to
the street. The quest is quickly commercialized and debauched by the
public dance halls which are controlled by the liquor interests. A
recent thorough investigation of 328 of these halls in Chicago showed a
nightly attendance of some 86,000 young people, the average age of the
boys being sixteen to eighteen years and of the girls fourteen to
sixteen years. Liquor was sold in 240 halls, 190 had saloons opening
into them, in 178 immoral dancing went on unhindered. The worst halls
had the least dancing and the longest intermissions. Everything was
conducted so as to increase the sale of liquor, and between the hours of
one and three A.M. the toughest element from the saloons, which close
at one o'clock, poured into the halls to complete the debauch and to
make full use of the special liquor license which is good until the
later hour.[5]

The quest of fun and social adventure can be traced also through other
commercialized channels, in public poolrooms where minors waste time and
money - gamble, smoke, tell unclean stories and plan mischief; in great
amusement parks where the boy and girl on pleasure bent meet as
strangers to each other and without social sponsor, where the deluded
girl not only accepts but often invites a generosity which will tend to
compromise if not break down the morality of both; on excursion boats
which, if neglected, tend to become floating palaces of shame; and in
many ways that lead from the inadequate home to sorrow and disaster.

It is to be doubted whether the average pastor or parent has an adequate
conception of the tremendous odds against which the moral forces contend
for the conservation of the city's childhood and youth, and whether we
have as yet begun to solve the problems that arise from the city's
sinister treatment of the home. Public parks, field-houses, libraries,
and social settlements graciously mitigate the evil, but are far from
curing it.

To turn to the public schools with the expectation that they can
immediately, or at length, make good the injury done the home by
industrial usurpation is to expect more than is fair or possible. They
are doing valiantly and well, they are becoming social centers and in
due time they will have more adequately in hand both the vocational and
recreational interests of youth. With this accession of educational
territory will come a proportionate increase in the number of male
teachers, and a further diminution of the fallacy that the only kind of
order is silence and the prime condition of mental concentration
inaction. The system will become less and the boy more important.

But the whole community is the master educator; the best home is not
exempt from its influence nor the best school greatly superior to its
morality. In fact the school, even as the place of amusement and all
places of congregation, serves to diffuse the moral problems of boyhood
throughout the whole mass. Moral sanitation is more difficult than
physical sanitation, and the spoiled boy is a good conductor of various
forms of moral virus. The moral training involved in the ordinary
working of the public school is considerable and is none the less
valuable because it is indirect. With more attention to physical
condition, corrective exercise, and organized play, and with the
motivating of a larger area of school work, the moral value of the
institution will be still further enhanced.

The church addresses itself to the problem in ways both general and
specific, positive and negative. In its stimulation of public
conscience, in its inspiration of those who work directly for improved
conditions, and in Sunday schools and young people's societies, a
contribution of no small value is continually made. A rather negative,
or at best, concessive attitude toward recreation and a disposition to
rest satisfied with the denunciation of harmful institutions and
activities militates against her greatest usefulness. She must rather
compensate for home shortages and compete with the doubtful allurements
of the city. This she may do in part within her own plant and in part by
encouraging and supporting all wholesome outlets for the athletic zest,
social adventure, worthy ambition, and vocational quest of youth. Those
segments of the church which believe in bringing every legitimate human
interest within the scope and sanction of religion will in the nature of
things offer a more immediate and telling competition to the harmful
devices of the city.

But with the exception of a few boys' clubs and scout patrols, for whose
direction there is always a shameful shortage of willing and able lay
leadership, the church has not as yet grasped the problem; and this
remains true when one grants further the value of organized boys'
classes in the Sunday school and of the "socials" and parties of young
people's societies. To be sure, the Protestant church, expressing itself
through the Young Men's Christian Association, has laid hold of the more
respectable edge of the problem. But with few exceptions this work is
not as yet missionary, militant, or diffused to the communities of
greatest need. A few experiments are now being made, but probably the
Y.M.C.A., more than the individual church, is under the necessity of
treating the underlying economic evils with a very safe degree of
caution; and in both there is the ever-recurrent need of an unsparing
analysis of motive for the purpose of ascertaining which, after all, is
paramount - human welfare or institutional glory.

The tendency ever is to cultivate profitable and self-supporting fields
and sound business policies. But the case of thousands upon thousands of
boys living in localities that are socially impoverished, unfortunate,
and debasing constitutes a call to the missionary spirit and method. If
the impulse which is so ready and generous in the exportation of
religion and so wise in adaptation to the interests and abilities of the
foreign group could but lay hold of our most difficult communities with
like devotion and with scientific care there would be developed in due
time advanced and adequate methods, which in turn would take their
rightful place as a part of civic or educational administration.

As is illustrated in both education and philanthropy, the function of
the church in social development has been of this order, and the mistake
of short-sighted religious leaders has been to desert these children
when once they have found an abode within the civil structure. The
pastoral spirit of the new era claims again the entire parish, however
organized, and guards its children still. The pioneer is needed at home
just as he is needed abroad, and the pioneering agency must have the
same zeal and freedom in order to mark out the way of salvation for
hordes of wild city boys who are the menacing product of blind economic
haste.

[Illustration: WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH ME?]

The church should see this big problem and accept the challenge. Society
should awaken to the fact that in our large cities there is growing up a
generation of boys who morally "cannot discern between their right hand
and their left hand" - this through no fault of theirs, for they are but
a product. If they are unlovely, "smart," sophisticated, ungrateful, and
predatory, what has made them so? Who has inverted the prophetic promise
and given them ashes for beauty and the spirit of heaviness for the
garment of praise? As matters now stand it is not the ninety and nine
who are safe and the one in peril. That ratio tends to be reversed, and
will be unless right-minded people accept individually and in their
organized relations a just responsibility for the new life that is
committed for shaping and destiny to the evolving modern city.





CHAPTER V

THE ETHICAL VALUE OF ORGANIZED PLAY[6]


The value of work as a prime factor in character building must not be
overlooked. In the revival of play that is sweeping over our American
cities and in the tendency to eliminate effort from modern education
there is danger of erecting a superficial and mere pleasure-seeking
ideal of life. It is upon the background of the sacred value of work
that the equally legitimate moral factor of play is here considered.
Further, the value of _undirected_ play in cultivating initiative,
resourcefulness, and imagination, especially in young children, is worth
bearing in mind. One must grant also that play is not always enlisted in
the service of morality. But neither is religion. Both may be. At any
rate it is evident that when boy nature is subjected to city conditions
we must either provide proper outlet and guidance for the boy's play
instincts or be guilty of forcing him into the position of a law-breaker
and a nuisance.

Reduced to its lowest terms, organized play is thus recognized as a
convenient substitute for misconduct. Even the property owner and
peace-loving citizen, if moved by no higher motive, will agree to the
adage that "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do," and
will welcome the endeavor to safeguard property rights and promote the
peace of the community by drawing off the adventurous and
mischief-making energies of the boys into the less expensive channels of
play. Practical men are quite agreed that it is better for "gangs" to
release their energy and ingenuity against one another in a series of
athletic games than to seek similar adventure and satisfaction in
conflict with established property rights and the recognized agencies of
peace and order.

Nevertheless there persists in the church, however unconsciously, a sort
of piety that disregards the body, and the conventional Christian ideal
has certainly been anemic and negative in the matter of recreation. The
Young Men's Christian Associations with their reproduction of the Greek
ideal of physical well-being have served to temper the other-worldly
type of Christianity with the idea of a well-rounded and physically
competent life as being consonant with the will of God.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century Francke of Halle, an
educational organizer and philanthropist of no mean proportion, said,
"Play must be forbidden in any and all of its forms. The children shall
be instructed in this matter in such a way as to show them, through the
presentation of religious principles, the wastefulness and folly of all
play. They shall be led to see that play will distract their hearts and
minds from God, the Eternal Good, and will work nothing but harm to
their spiritual lives."

Only gradually does "the-world-as-a-vale-of tears" and
"the-remnant-that-shall-be-saved" idea give place to a faith that claims
for God the entire world with its present life as well as individual
immortality in future felicity. Miracle and cataclysm and postmortem
glory - the ever-ready recourse of baffled hope and persecuted
Christianity - are giving place more and more to a Christian conquest
that is orderly and inclusive of the whole sweep of human life. The
church is but dimly conscious, as yet, that through the aid of science
she has attained this magnificent optimism; much less does she realize
its full implication for social service and the saving of the
individual, both body and soul.

The minister as the herald and exemplar of such an imperial salvation
cannot ignore the exceptional opportunities which the play interests of
boyhood offer. He whose task has been to reconcile men to God, to bring
them into harmony with the universe in its ultimate content, cannot
neglect those activities which more than anything else in the life of
the boy secure the happy co-ordination of his powers, the placing of
himself in right relation with others and in obedience to law. These are
the moral and religious accomplishments aimed at in the teaching of
reconciliation which bulks so large in Christian doctrine; and by
whatever means this right adjustment to self, to others, and to the will
of God is brought about, it always produces the sure harvest of service
and joy.

To some undoubtedly it will seem sacrilegious to suggest that play can
have anything to do in a transaction so deeply moral and so
fundamentally religious. Yet a psychological analysis of both play and
worship at their best will reveal marked similarities in spontaneity, in
self-expression for its own sake and free from ulterior ends, in
symbolism, semi-intoxication and rhythm, in extension and enrichment of
the self, and in preparation for the largest and most effective living.
That such a claim is not altogether extravagant may be demonstrated in
part by canvassing the moral reactions of a well-organized group engaged
in some specific game. For in merely discussing the play attitude, which
is applicable to every interest of life, there is the danger of so
sublimating the value of play that its importance, while readily
granted, will not affect pastoral or educational methods. This mistake
is only comparable with another which dwells upon the religious life of
the boy as dependent upon the use of some inherent religious faculty
that is quite detached from the normal physical and mental processes.
Such an attitude favors an easy escape from both the labor of character
building and the obligations of environmental salvation. Recognizing
these dangers and remembering that morality and religion are most valid
when acquired and incorporated in actual conduct, one may analyze a
standard game in search of its ethical worth.

Baseball, our most popular and distinctively national game, constitutes
a fair field for this inquiry. In order to evaluate this form of play
as an agency in moral training it is necessary to presume that one has a
company of nine or more boys grouped together on the basis of loyalty to
a common neighborhood, school, club, church, or the like. They elect a
manager who acts for the team in arranging a schedule of games with
their various rivals and who serves in general as their business agent;
also a captain, usually chosen because of his ability to play the game
and his quality of natural leadership. He directs his players in their
contests and in case of dispute speaks for his team.

The boys should also have in every case a trainer older than themselves,
a player of well-known ability and exemplary character. It is usually
through neglect of supervision of this sort that the ethical value of
baseball for boys of from twelve to fifteen years of age is forfeited.
Without the trainer to direct their practice games, and as a recognized
expert to try out the players for the various positions, the
possibilities of forming a team are few and those of unjust and harmful
conduct many.

If at the outset, the group, coming together in park or vacant lot,
cannot speedily agree upon a _modus operandi_, their energy is turned
into profane disputing about the chief positions, and usually a game
cannot be organized, or, if it is, lack of agreement as to put-outs,
runs, fouls, and debatable points soon ruins the attempt, with little
left to most of the boys except resentment of the might-makes-right
policy. On the other hand, whether one has in mind a team or a chance
group of players, the presence of a capable adult as an immediate and
final court of appeal guarantees fair play for all, prevents personal
animosities, and inspires each one to do his best in the presence of a
competent judge.

Wherever the team with proper supervision is a possibility the moral
value of the game will be at its maximum. Uniforms are not to be
despised. Loyalty to the school represented is but boyhood's form of
what in later life becomes ability to espouse a cause and to assume a
degree of social responsibility in keeping with that attitude.

Because of this loyalty the boy who expected to play in the prominent
position of pitcher takes his less conspicuous place in right field, if
by fair trials under the trainer another boy has demonstrated his
superior fitness to fill the much-coveted position. For the credit of
the community or school which he has the honor to represent, the match
game must be won; hence he surrenders his personal glory to the common
good. He does more. Under the excitement of the contest and with the
consequent strengthening of the team spirit, he encourages the very boy,
who would otherwise have been only his personal rival, to do his level
best, forgetting utterly any mean individual comparisons and all
anti-social self-consciousness, in what he has enthusiastically accepted
as the greater common good.

He goes to bat at a critical juncture in the game. The score is close.
He as much as anyone would like to have runs to his credit. But for the
sake of the team his chief concern must be to advance the base runner.
So he plays carefully rather than spectacularly, and makes a bunt or a
sacrifice hit, with the practical certainty that he will be put out at
first base, but with a good probability that he will thus have advanced
his fellow one base and so have contributed to the team's success.

The religious value of the principle here involved receives no little
attention in sermon and Sunday-school class, but how tame and formal is
its verbal presentation as compared with its registration in the very
will and muscles of a boy at play! Wherever a state has become great or
a cause victorious, wherever a hero - a Socrates or a Christ - has
appeared among men, there has been the willingness, when necessary, to
make the "sacrifice hit." The loyalty that has held itself ready so to
serve on moral demand has to its credit all the higher attainments of
humanity.

In the great American experiment of democracy, where the welfare of the
people is so often bartered for gold, and where public office is
frequently prostituted to private gain, there is a proportionately great
need of teaching in every possible way this fundamental virtue of
loyalty. Our future will be secure only in the degree in which
intelligent and strong men are devoted to the welfare of city and state
after the fashion of the boy to his team. It is because war, with all
its horrors, has stimulated and exhibited this virtue that its glory
persists far into our industrial age; and the hope of a lofty
patriotism, that shall be equal to the enervating influences of peace,
lies in an educated and self-denying type of loyalty.

The use of this loyalty in the reformation of boy criminals has been
remarkably demonstrated in the well-known work of Judge Ben B. Lindsey,
of Denver. In a particularly difficult case he says:

I decided to put my influence over him to the
test. I told him of the fight I was making for him,
showed him how I had been spending all my spare
time "trying to straighten things out" for him and
Heimel, and warned him that the police did not believe
I could succeed. "Now, Lee," I said, "you can run
away if you want to, and prove me a liar to the cops.
But I want to help you and I want you to stand by
me. I want you to trust me, and I want you to go
back to the jail there, and let me do the best I can."
He went, and he went alone - unguarded.

Here is a striking example of the team work of two with the play upon
loyalty and the spirit of contest.

Another lesson about boys I learned from little
"Mickey" when I was investigating his charge that
the jailer had beaten him. The jailer said: "Some
o' those kids broke a window in there, and when I
asked Mickey who it was, he said he didn't know. Of
course he knew. D'yu think I'm goin' to have kids
lie to me?" A police commissioner who was present
turned to Mickey. "Mickey," he said, "why did you
lie?" Mickey faced us in his rags. "Say," he asked,
"Do yoh t'ink a fullah ought to snitch on a kid?"
And the way he asked made me ashamed of myself.
Here was a quality of loyalty that we should be fostering
in him instead of trying to crush out of him. It was
the beginning in the boy of that feeling of responsibility
to his fellows on which society is founded. Thereafter,

no child brought before our court was ever urged
to turn state's evidence against his partners in crime - much
less rewarded for doing so or punished for refusing.
Each was encouraged to "snitch" on himself,
and himself only.

Another interview with a boy under sentence to the industrial school
emphasizes the same point:

"I can _help_ you, Harry," I said. "But you've
got to carry yourself. If I let boys go when they do
bad things, I'll lose my job. The people 'll get another
judge in my place to punish boys, if _I_ don't do it. I
can't let you go." We went over it and over it; and
at last I thought I had him feeling more resigned and
cheerful, and I got up to leave him. But when I
turned to the door he fell on his knees before me
and, stretching out his little arms to me, his face distorted
with tears, he cried: "Judge! Judge! If you let
me go, _I'll never get you into trouble again_!"

I had him! It was the voice of loyalty.... This
time he "stuck." "Judge," the mother told me
long afterward, "I asked Harry the other day, how it
was he was so good for _you_, when he wouldn't do it for
me or the policeman. And he says: 'Well, Maw, you
see if I gets bad ag'in the Judge he'll lose his job. I've
got to stay with him, 'cause he stayed with me.'"
I have used that appeal to loyalty hundreds of times
since in our work with the boys, and it is almost
infallibly successful.

In eight years, out of 507 cases of boys put upon their honor to take
themselves from Denver to the Industrial School at Golden, to which the
court had sentenced them, Judge Lindsey had but five failures. In view
of such facts, who will think for a moment that we have so much as begun
to turn the latent loyalty of boyhood to its highest ethical use?

No doubt much can be said against football, which ranks second in
popularity among American athletic games. For some years the elements of
hazard and rough treatment have been unhappily too prominent, so that
the suspicion is warranted that players have been sacrificed to the
bloodthirsty demands of the vast throng of spectators. The tension of
playing in the presence of thousands of partisan enthusiasts shows
itself in a reckless disregard of physical injury. Furthermore, for boys


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Online LibraryAllan HobenThe Minister and the Boy A Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys' Work → online text (page 4 of 9)