Allan Hoben.

The Minister and the Boy A Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys' Work online

. (page 6 of 9)
Online LibraryAllan HobenThe Minister and the Boy A Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys' Work → online text (page 6 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

In New York City 42,000 children between fourteen and sixteen years of
age take out their "working papers" every year, and out of 12,000 to
13,000 taking out working papers in Chicago annually about 9,000 are
only fourteen years of age and 1,500 have not yet reached the fifth
grade. Many of these walk the streets and degenerate while in search of
work or because of such fitful employment as only serves to balk the
department of compulsory education, which has the power to insist upon
school attendance for children of this age if not employed.

It is not that work is uniformly bad for these children. Indeed,
idleness would be worse. And it is not that all these children are
forced to turn out bad. But as a matter of fact children under sixteen
are not generally wanted save in positions of monotonous and unpromising
employment, and their early experience, which is quite without reference
to taste and native ability, is likely to turn them against all work as
being an imposition rather than an opportunity. In the long run this
cheap labor is the most expensive in the world, and society cannot
afford to fully release children from school control and training prior
to sixteen years of age. Much less can it permit them at any time to
approach the employment problem blindly and unaided. Nor should it fail
to reduce the hours of labor for such children as fall into permanently
unprogressive toil and to organize their leisure as well as to provide
opportunities whereby some may extricate themselves.

What is this industrial haste which cuts so much of our corn while it is
only in tassel, that drives square pegs into round holes, that
harnesses trotting stock to heavy drays and draughting stock to gigs,
that breaks up the violin to kindle a fire quickly, thoughtless of the
music, that takes telescopes for drain pipes and gets commerce - but not
commerce with the stars? It is the delirium in which strong men seek the
standard American testimonial of genius and ability, namely the
accumulation of great wealth; and in this delirium they see labor as a
commodity and childhood as a commercial factor. They do not think of
people like themselves and of children like their own.

But the minister is the very champion of those higher rights, the
defender of idealism, and as such the best friend of an industrial order
which is perversely making this expensive blunder and reaping the blight
of sullen citizenship and cynical and heartless toil. How can these
thousands who, because of "blind-alley" occupations, come to their
majority tradeless and often depleted, having no ability to build and
own a home - how can these who have no stake in the country aid in making
the republic what it ought to be? Partly they become a public care,
expense, or nuisance, and largely they constitute the material for
bossism and dynamite for the demagogue if he shall come. The economic
breakdown, because of vocational misfit and the exploitation of
childhood, usually results in a corresponding moral breakdown. To be
doomed to inadequacy is almost to be elected to crime.

Now the pastor certainly cannot right all this wrong, neither
will he be so brash as to charge it all up to malicious employers,
ignoring the process through which our vaunted individualism, our
free-field-and-no-favor policy, our doctrine for the strong has
disported itself. But is it not reasonable that the minister inform
himself of this problem in all its fundamental phases and that he both
follow and ardently encourage a public-school policy which aims
increasingly to fit the growing generation for productive and stable
citizenship? Our schools are fundamentally religious if we will have
them so in terms of character building, elemental self-respect, social
service, and accountability to the God of all.

The "godless schools" exist only in the minds of those who for purposes
of dispute and sectarianism decree them so. Furthermore, in every effort
toward vocational training and sorting, the employer will be found
interested and ready to help.

But to come more closely to the place of this problem in church work it
must be recognized that the Sunday schools, clubs, and young people's
societies offer wider opportunity for vocational direction than is now
being used. The curricula in these institutions can be greatly vitalized
and enlarged by the inclusion of this very interest, and life can be
made to seem more broadly, sanely, and specifically religious than is
now the case.

Suppose that to groups of boys beyond middle adolescence competent and
high-minded representatives of various trades and professions present in
series the reasons for their choice, the possible good, individual and
social, which they see in their life-work, the qualifications which they
deem necessary, and the obstacles to be met; and suppose further that
the ethical code of a trade, profession, or business is presented for
honest canvass by the class, must there not result a stimulus and aid to
vocational selection and also a more lively interest in the study of
specific moral problems? In this way teaching clusters about an
inevitable field of interest, about live and often urgent problems, and
there is nothing to prevent the use of all the light which may be
adduced from the Bible and religious experience.

To describe the method more specifically, the lawyer presents his
profession and subsequently the class discusses the code of the bar
association; or the physician presents his work and then follows the
canvass of the ethical problems of medical practice, and so of the
trade-union artisan, the merchant or teacher, the minister, or the
captain of industry. All of this is diffused with religion, it has its
setting and sanction within the church, it supplements for a few, at any
rate, the present lack in public education, and it is real and immediate
rather than theoretical and remote.

Let this be complemented with visits to institutions, offices, plants,
courts, and the marts and centers of commercial, industrial, and
agricultural life; and, best of all, cemented in the personal
friendship, practical interest and sponsorship of an adult and wise
counselor who helps the boy both to the place and in the place; and,
within the limits of the rather small constituency of church boys at
least, there is guaranteed a piece of religious work that is bound to
tell. For surely every legitimate interest of life is religious when
handled by religious persons, and the right moral adjustment of the
whole self to the whole world, with the emotion and idealism inhering in
the process, is the task and content of religion.



The altruism of America is philanthropic rather than civic and in
deliberate disregard of government, the average citizen of the United
States has no equal. However intelligent or capable he may be, he is in
the main a poor citizen. This habit of having no care for the ship of
state and of seeking comfort and self-advantage, regardless of her
future, is exactly the reverse of what one would expect. For by the
manner of her birth and her natural genius the republic would seem to
guarantee forever a high type of efficient public service.

But the capable and typical man of the church, and presumptively the man
of conscience, studiously avoids the hazards of political life. It is
not necessary to rehearse the well-known and deplorable results of this
policy whereby the best men have generally avoided public office,
especially in municipal government. Intelligence of the ills of the body
politic or of the fact that it lies bruised and violated among thieves
serves chiefly to divert the disgusted churchman to the other side of
the road as he hastens to his destination of personal gain. Indeed it is
not an uncommon thing for him to be a past master in circumventing or
debauching government and in thus spreading the virus of political
cynicism throughout the mass of the people.

Such a separation of church and state is hardly to be desired, and the
call to political service is quite as urgent, quite as moral, and far
more exacting than the perfectly just calls to foreign mission support
and to the support of the great philanthropies of the day. Because of
the influx of foreign peoples, the unsolved race problem, tardy economic
reforms, uncertain justice, political corruption, and official
mediocrity, America stands more in need of good citizenship than of
generosity, more in need of statesmen than of clergymen.

No subsequent philanthropy can atone for misgovernment, and furthermore
all social injustice, whether by positive act or simple neglect, tends
to take toll from the defenseless classes. The more efficient extricate
themselves, while the ignorant, the weak, the aged, and chiefly the
little children bear the brunt of governmental folly. It is for this
reason, together with the passing of materialistic standards of pomp
and circumstance and the growing insistence upon human values, that the
women are demanding full citizenship. And this new citizenship,
including both women and men enfranchised upon the same basis, will not
be without the ardor and heroism of those who in former days bore arms
for the honor of their native land. For just behind the ranks are the
unprotected children, the new generation whose opportunity and treatment
constitutes the true measure of statesmanship.

But here as everywhere the only highway leading to that better tomorrow
is thronged with little children upon whose training the issue hangs.
What do the home, school, church, and community tell them as to
citizenship, and, of more importance, what civic attitudes and actions
are evoked?

The home, by picture and story and celebration, by the observance of
birthdays, national and presidential, by the intelligent discussion of
public interests, by respect for constituted authorities, by honest
dealing, and by a constant exercise of public spirit as over against a
selfish and detached aim, may do much to mold the boy's early civic

But most homes will do little of this, and both home and school fall
short in pledging the new life to the common good and in guaranteeing to
the state her just due. Frequently the home provides lavishly and at
sacrifice for the comfort and even luxury of the children and exacts
nothing in return. Mothers slave for sons and neglect, until it is too
late, those just returns of service which make for honor and
self-respect. Graft begins in the home, and it is amazing what pains we
take to produce an ingrate and perforce a poor citizen.

Similarly, the boy attends the "free" schools. Here is further advantage
without the thought of service in return, something for nothing - the
open end of the public crib. But the public schools are not exactly free
schools. Everything, whether at home or school, costs, and someone pays
the bills. The prospective citizen should be made to realize this, and
it would do him no harm actually to compute the cost. Through home and
school, society is making an investment in him. Let him estimate in
dollars and cents his indebtedness for food and clothing and shelter,
travel, medical care, education and recreation, and all the other items
of expense which have entered into his care and training for the
fourteen or seventeen years of his dependency.

Such an exercise, which cannot include those invaluable offices of
parental love and personal interest, may have a sobering effect, as will
also a conscious appreciation of the social institutions and utilities
which are the gift of former and contemporary generations of toilers.

But how can the schoolboy come into the self-respect of partnership?
Probably by building up the consciousness of "our school" and by being
sent from home with the idea of helping teacher and school in every way
to accomplish the most and best for all concerned. Ordinarily the home
supplies the child with no such suggestion and in some cases works even
counter to the school and against good citizenship. The teacher is added
to the ranks of the child's natural enemies, where unfortunately the
policeman has long since been consigned; and the school? - that is
something for which he carries no responsibility. Actual experiment of
the opposite kind has proved most gratifying, and this immediate
attitude toward his first public institution sets the child's will
toward the practice of good citizenship in the years that lie ahead.

The curriculum of the elementary schools of Chicago makes a very
thorough attempt to train the child in good citizenship, an attempt
beginning with the anniversary days of the kindergarten and proceeding
throughout the eight grades. In addition to history, civics of the most
concrete and immediate kind is so presented that the child should be
brought to an appreciation of the city's institutions and organized
forces and of the common responsibility for the health and security of
all the people. The same policy is pursued, unfortunately with
diminishing attention, throughout the high-school course, and yet the
superintendent of schools testifies that public education is failing to
secure civic virtue. The children have not come into partnership with
the school and other agencies of the common life, they have not achieved
a nice sense of the rights of others, they have not been lifted to the
ideal of service as being more noble than that of efficiency alone.

Of course there are many reasons for this: the quizzical temper of the
community at large, the constant revelation of graft, the distorted
school discipline which makes tardiness a more serious offense than
lying or theft; the neglect to organize athletics and play for ethical
ends; the criminal's code with regard to examinations - a code very
prevalent in secondary schools, both public and private - that cheating
is in order if one is not caught; the bitter and damaging personalities
of party politics and the very transient honors of American public life;
and, perhaps chief of all, the very elaborate provision for every child
with the implication that he does the school a favor to use what is
provided rather than the imposition of an obligation upon him both to
help in securing the efficiency and beauty of the school and to
discharge his just debt to society in the measure of his ability as boy
and man.

Another productive cause of poor citizenship is the general contempt in
which immigrants are held, and especially the treatment accorded them by
the police and by most of the minor officials with whom they come in
contact. This primitive disdain of "barbarians" is common among the
school children and tends to make the foreign children more delinquent
and anti-social than they would otherwise be. A very recent case sums up
the situation. A gang of five Polish boys "beat up" a messenger boy,
apparently without provocation. A Juvenile Protective officer visited
the home of one of these young thugs for the purpose of talking with the
mother and getting such information as would aid in keeping the boy from
getting into further trouble.

The mother was found to be a very intelligent woman and explained to
the officer that her boy had been constantly angered and practically
spoiled at school; that it had been ground into him that he was nothing
but a "Polack," and that no good thing was to be expected of him. The
school boys had taken a hand in his education; and by reflecting in
their own merciless way the uncharitable judgment of their elders had
helped to produce this young pariah.

If one will but travel on the street cars in the crowded districts of
our great cities and note the churlish discourtesy and sarcastic
contempt with which "the foreigners" are generally treated, or will take
the pains to ascertain how cruelly they are deceived and fleeced at
almost every turn, one will soon conclude that we are making it very
hard for these people and their children to become grateful and ardent
citizens of the republic.

Looking to the improvement of this condition, while vocational training
promises something by way of an economic basis for good citizenship, too
much must not be expected of it alone. For if vocational efficiency be
created and released in an environment devoid of civic idealism it will
never pass beyond the grub stage. It will merely fatten a low order of
life, and this at the expense of much that would otherwise lend verdure
and freshness, shade, flower, and fruit to the garden of our common
life. The able man or the rich man is not necessarily a good citizen.

That the state, like the home and school, should incessantly give its
benefactions without binding youth to service in return is an egregious
blunder. There should be some formal entrance into full citizenship, not
only for those of us who, coming from other nations, must needs be
"naturalized," but for all whom the years bring from the fair land of
boyhood into the great and sober responsibilities of citizenship.

When a Greek youth took the oath of citizenship,
he stood in the temple of Aglauros overlooking the
city of Athens and the country beyond and said:
"I will never disgrace these sacred arms nor desert
my companions in the ranks. I will fight for temples
and public property, both alone and with many. I
will transmit my fatherland not only not less but
greater and better than it was transmitted to me. I
will obey the magistrates who may at any time be in
power. I will observe both the existing laws and
those which the people may unanimously hereafter
make. And if any person seek to annul the laws or
set them at naught, I will do my best to prevent him
and will defend them both alone and with many. I
will honor the religion of my fathers, and I call to
witness Aglauros, Enyalios, Ares, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo,
and Hegemone."

Now, the minister may think that no great part of the improved training
for citizenship falls to him. He may be content to instill motives of
individual piety, but upon reflection he must know that on nearly every
hand there exist today great and insuperable barriers to his personal
gospel. Behind the walls which imprison them are millions who cannot
hear his message and those walls will not go down except by the creation
of public sentiment which organizes itself and functions as law and
government. The minister's exercise of citizenship should not be
reserved for heaven, where it will not be needed, but should rather get
into action here and now.

This means a pulpit policy which recognizes the great dimensions of the
Kingdom of God, and seeks a moral alignment of church and state that
will draw out the religious energy to vital and immediate issues, and
will necessitate within the church herself clean-cut moral reactions to
existing vital conditions. When the pulpit becomes sufficiently
intelligent and bold to lay bare such issues the youth and manhood of
the country will not in so large measure neglect the pew. Wherever real
issues are drawn men and boys tend to assemble.


In the intricate social life of today a ministry devoted exclusively to
plucking a few brands from the burning is somewhat archaic. The
individual soul in its majestic value is not discounted, but it cannot
be disentangled from the mass as easily as was once the case, or as
easily as was once supposed. It was not so necessary to preach civic
righteousness when "the gospel" was deemed sufficient so to transform
the individual that all external limitations, ungodly conditions, and
social injustices would yield to the regal ability of the child of God.

To recognize the environmental phase of salvation and to undertake this
broader task in addition to the "cure of souls" may be to expose the
minister to the cross-fire of economic sharp-shooters and a fusillade of
sociological field guns. Besides, some of the supporters of the church
will object and many will assert that the minister cannot qualify to
speak with first-rate intelligence and authority upon the complex social
problems of the day. Indeed, by endeavoring to utter a message of
immediate significance in this field, he will discredit his more
important mission as a "spiritual" leader. Again, if he should speak to
the point on social issues no heed would be paid to his deliverances,
and he has plenty to do in routine pastoral work.

The strength of these objections must be granted, and more especially so
in the case of weak men, men of unripe judgment, of hasty and
extravagant utterance, and of inferior training. For undoubtedly
present-day problems of social welfare and such as affect religious
living do lead back, not only into economic considerations, but also
into questions of legislation and government.

But even so, will the minister consent to be without voice or program in
the shaping of social ethics? Will he follow meekly and at a safe
distance in the wake of the modern movement for economic justice and
humane living conditions? Will he allow people to think for a moment
that his job is to coddle a few of the elect and to solace a few of the
victims of preventable hardship and injustice?

Suppose that, with the exception of denouncing the saloon and praising
charity, he omits from his pulpit policy the creation of civic ideals
and the drawing of moral issues in behalf of the higher life of all the
people, will not the male population consider him rather too much
engrossed with the little comforts, sentiments, and futilities of a
religious club?

The entire precedent of the pulpit, both in biblical days and since, is
wholly against such silence. If it is not the minister's business to
know the problems of social ethics, so as to speak confidently to the
situation from the standpoint of Jesus, whose province is it? Must he
dodge the greatest moral problems of the day, all of which are
collective? Has he not time and training so to master his own field that
he will be second to none of his hearers in the possession of the
relevant facts; and does he not presumably know the mind of Christ?

It is idle to say that his hearers will pay no heed, and it is idle to
think that as a champion of justice and a better day he may not get a
scar or so. But the man who has the mind of Christ toward the multitude
and who thinks as highly of little children and their rights as did the
Man of Galilee is going to be significant in making states and cities
what they ought to be; and whatever disturbances may arise in the placid
separatism of the church, the Kingdom itself will go marching on. The
chief ingredient needed by the pulpit of today in order to inspire men
and boys to noble citizenship is courage - moral courage.

But the new citizenship is in training for peace rather than for war,
for world-wide justice rather than for national aggrandizement; and to
this the Christian message lends itself with full force. The rehearsal
of war and strife, the superficial view of history which sees only the
smoke of battles and the monuments of military heroes, give place to an
insight which traces the advancing welfare of the common people. The
minister will inspire his formative citizens with good portrayals of
statesmen, educators, inventors, reformers, discoverers, pioneers, and
philanthropists. He will charm them into greatness at the very time when
a boy's ideals overtop the mountains.

Conducive to the same end will be the rugged and humane ideals and
activities of the Boy Scouts under his control; and all that is well
done in the boys' clubs - the athletics, debates, trials, councils,
literary and historical programs, addresses by respected public
officials, visits to public institutions, the study of social
conditions, especially in the young men's classes of the Sunday
school - will make for the same good citizenship.

If the Men's Brotherhood is of significance in the community it is quite
possible to bring political candidates before it for the statement of
their claims and of the issues involved in any given campaign, and boys
of fifteen years and over might well be invited to such meetings.

Then, too, such activities for community betterment as are outlined in
the closing chapter of this book should be of some benefit, since the
boy is to become a good citizen, not by hearing only but by doing; and
the great success attending "Boy-City" organizations should inspire the
pastor to attempt by this and other means the training of a new

In fact, the matter is of sufficient importance to have a definite place

1 2 3 4 6 8 9

Online LibraryAllan HobenThe Minister and the Boy A Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys' Work → online text (page 6 of 9)