Michael Vincent O'Shea.

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WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS 97

posite to those of tlie first two girls mentioned.
She is a "tom-boy." She can run as fast as any
of the boys. She orders them around, and she
will not give in to them on any occasion. She can
talk as loud as they can, and can use as dynamic
expressions as they do. She is good at all sorts
of games; and she really has a boy's traits with
respect to physical skill and endurance. But she
gets on J.'s nerves. While he likes a girl who
can play games and not whimper over rough
treatment, at the same time he cannot endure
one who is as much of a boy as he is himself, and
especially one who plays the role of a boy. So he
has uncomplimentary things to say about this
latter girl too. He says, — "She thinks she owns
everything; she wants to 'lord it over everybody';
she thinks she is the Svhole shooting match' ";
and he has command of a very choice lot of expres-
sive figures of speech designed to convey the idea
that she feels she can do better than the rest of
them in whatever she undertakes, and she intends
to be at the head of the ''gang."

There are still other girls in J.'s room who
come in between the extremes mentioned above.
They can play games fairly well, and they do not
break up the group when they play together be-
cause they do not object to the rough ways of the
boys. They do not '' tell tales out of school," and
so the boys feel they can be trusted to be loyal to
the group. This is not at all true of the first girls



98 THE TREND OF THE TEENS

described. But while the boys in J.'s group do
frequently play with some of the girls who har-
monize with the group quite well, nevertheless
the boys would rather play by themselves; they
do not spontaneously choose to take the girls into
their games. It is only when they need them to
fill out a game that they invite them. They
hardly ever go over to join the girl groups ; they
always bring the girls into the games which they
initiate themselves.

The Beginning of the Sentimental Relation. —
'V\'Tien these boys reach the age of fifteen they will
assume an altogether different attitude toward
girls. The latter will no longer be regarded as
playfellows simply. A particular girl will not be
selected or discarded on the basis of her capacity
to endure pain or her ability to play games. After
the age of seven, boys go on developing team
spirit and perfecting themselves in games and
plays. On the other hand, girls as they develop
do not take so much interest in games. They do
not to any large extent develop the team spirit.
At fifteen they are not interested in competitive
games as the boys are. As they grow up they
become more personal and individual in their
feelings and activities, while the boys develop
the group instinct more fully. A boy of fifteen
w^ould not expect a girl to be a good associate or
competitor in games. If he would play with her
it would be to please her rather than to exercise



WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS 99

his own abilities and powers in an interesting
way.

What is the relation of the boy to the girl at
this time? Mainly a sentimental one. He is
interested in girls now on account of their per-
sonal characteristics, their appearance, and their
liveliness of manner. A girl is not chosen as a
favorite primarily on account of her intellectual
or ethical qualities. But the point to be impressed
is that the girl attracts the boy primarily because
of outward characteristics. The boy will show
favors to the '^ pretty" girl, whereas he may
neglect altogether one of plain features and gen-
eral appearance but who is intellectually and so-
cially superior to the "handsome" girl.

The Kind of Boy Who Attracts the Girl. —
What qualities in the boy will attract the girl at
this time? The good, scholarly boy usually makes
but little impression upon her. It is the boy on
the football team or on some other athletic team
who appeals to her imagination. She likes the
hero type of boy, one who is physically vigorous.
A quiet, studious fellow is not spectacular enough
to win her regard. She is not drawn toward the
scholar; but she may be drawn toward the other
fellow, though he may be a dullard in books, and
though he may be skating on thin ice ethically and
morally. But he possesses certain marked mascu-
line qualities which make a strong appeal to the
girl.



100 THE TREND OF THE TEENS

It should be remarked in passing that in the
management of any school in which there are boys
and girls from twelve up to sixteen or seventeen,
it is important to bring the leaders among the
girls and among the boys into sympathy with the
spirit of the school. A girl who strongly attracts
boys can raise Cain in a school if she sets herself
against the teacher. She will have the boys on
her side in eveiy contest, and she can induce
them, without ever asking them so to do, to make
life a burden for the teachers. To a less extent
the hero among the boys can turn the sympathy
of a school against the teacher if he so tries.
It will always be a hard role for a teacher if he
cannot make the most attractive girl and the most
vigorous and dynamic boy his friends, or at least
induce them to work in harmony with him. It will
be impossible for a teacher to hold out for a long
period against the general sentiment of his school.
In the end the group will triumph if it is fairly
well unified, and takes every opportunity to hector
the teacher and oppose his authority.

Amorousness in a School. — A principal of a
grammar school writes that the relations between
the boys and the girls in his school are unwhole-
some. Even as early as the sixth grade every
boy and girl has a "steady." The talk of the
school relates quite largely to amorous and even
lewd attachments. Boys and girls go off together
all hours of the day and night, and the principal



WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS 101

thinks they go beyond proper limits in their rela-
tions with each other. The work of the school is
low because so much of the attention of pupils is
given to amorous matters. The people in the
community do not seem to mind it. They say it
has ''always been so," and it is not different in
that school from what it is in others. The prin-
cipal is new in this position and he says he does
not think such conditions exist in schools else-
where.

This is an unusual case. The explanation is
that it "has always been so." If one could un-
ravel the history of the thing he would probably
find that the adults of the community really
started it. In some communities the chief topic
of conversation is amorous relations. Many of
the people are morbid on the subject. Young per-
sons growing up in such a community have amor-
ousness suggested to them on every occasion. It
is no wonder that they become sophisticated too
early in respect to this matter.

Suggestion plays the chief role in the develop-
ment of sex feeling. If boys and girls could be
brought up in a community where there was little
or no suggestion of amorousness they would not
develop this feeling early, and it would not be
intense at any time. This is directly contrary to
the popular belief that in the course of develop-
ment this feeling will develop wholly from within,
and that it is not at all under the control of out-



102 THE TREND OF THE TEENS

side influences. The popular belief is fundamen-
tally wrong on this point.

In some schools most of the traditions and talk
relate to amorous matters. One generation of
pupils passes it on to the next. It requires posi-
tive, dynamic, constructive measures to divert the
attention of pupils in such a school into non-sex
channels. There is no solution of the problem
except substitution of more wholesome interests
for the morbid amorous ones, and especially is it
necessary to control the suggestions in the school,
on the street, in the moving picture theatre, and
so on, that play upon the young so that they will
not relate to sex matters.

The aim of parent, teacher, and custodian of
morals in every place must be to eliminate un-
wholesome suggestion. Where this has been ac-
complished successfully amorousness is not a
serious problem. Boys and girls grow up practic-
ally to maturity looking upon one another as
friends, companions, comrades, playfellows, be-
cause their relations have been along these lines.
The writer has been able to observe the develop-
ment of a number of boys and girls who afford
proof of this principle. In the same community
are other boys and girls who have been subjected
to lewd suggestion in conversation, in burlesque
theatres, in their reading, etc., and they have been
influenced unwholesomely by it. The boys and
girls who have retained the relation of comrade-



WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS 103

ship up through the teens are more vigorous and
dynamic in every way than those whose thoughts
and energies have run off into the amorous route
early in the teens, so that they have not developed
vigorous intellectual, athletic and social interests.

The problem of the reformer is to keep out of
sight and out of hearing all matters that incite the
amorous tendencies. Nature will not develop
them in the early teens in a dominating way un-
less they are excited from without.

Comradeship Rather Than Amorousness in the
Early Teens. — Most parents have sooner or later
to meet the problem presented in the following
letter :

** There are a number of parents in our com-
munity who let their young boys and girls go to
evening parties that are not chaperoned by adult
persons. The ages of the boys and girls are from
twelve to fifteen. Each boy takes a girl to the
party and takes her home again. At the parties
they play games, dance, have a lunch and then
go home at about half-past eleven. Is this a
wholesome situation ? ' '

Boys and girls ought not to be greatly con-
cerned about one another at the age of twelve,
thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen. At sixteen or sev-
enteen it is inevitable that sex attraction should
begin to play a prominent role in the relations of
boys and girls, and proper provision should be
made for indulging this interest. It would be



104 THE TREND OF THE TEENS

better if boys and girls could go on hikes and
picnics frequently rather than to spend much
time in dancing as they often do. Also it would
be better if they would be together prmcipally
during the day-time rather than during the night-
time. They should learn how to cooperate m
their plays and in their work. They should be
good companions and playfellows at sixteen or
seventeen. Dancing does not cultivate comrade-
ship so much as it arouses intense feeling. Un-
fortunately in many places, boys and girls seem
to be ill-at-ease in one another's presence unless
they are dancing. But when groups of boys and
girls go off on picnics or on nature-study trips,
or when they work together in the laboratories in
the school, they need no chaperoning. There is
little likelihood of improper relations developmg
when boys and girls are together in groups and
engaged in wholesome activities. But it is rather
different with dancing. This activity is over-
exciting to many boys and girls, and it occurs un-
der conditions which tend to weaken self-restraint.
When Chaperoning is Necessary.— ¥ot this
reason, chaperons are necessary at dances, and it
would be beneficial if boys and girls . could be
chaperoned on their way home too. They really
need chaperones more on the way from the dance
than they do at the dance itself. At the same time
too much chaperonage is likely to develop the
very evils which it is designed to correct. Boys



WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS 105

and girls should not be given the impression that
they are being spied upon. The best way would
be to arrange it so that they should go directly
home after a dance. There should be no loitering,
no visiting ice-cream parlors, no joy riding, no
strolling. "Straight home" should be the invari-
able rule. If this could be carried out, it would
be advisable to get along with a miminum of
chaperonage.

In dealing with the problem under considera-
tion it should be kept in mind that the typical boy
or girl in the teens prefers the allurements of the
ballroom to almost everything else. The dance
seems to be attracting young people more and
more strongly every year. And once a youth
comes under the influence of the dance, he never
knows when to stop. In many places there is con-
stant conflict between teachers and parents on the
one side and boys and girls on the other in regard
to the hour when their dancing parties must term-
inate. There is the same struggle between fac-
ulty and students in the college and the univer-
sity. Young people, if left to themselves, lose
their sense of proportion completely under the
seductive influence of the ballroom.

There is a fascination, too, for both sexes in
promenading the streets at night. Usually there
is color and stir and novelty on the streets. There
is also adventure. Generally the life of the streets
at night is adapted to excite the young and it is



106 THE TREND OF THE TEENS

often SO planned, because when they are excited
they will be likely to indulge their impulses, and
those who provide the means of indulgence will be
enriched thereby. The boy especially is apt to be
unduly aroused by what he sees and hears on the
street. Most evil habits are formed in connection
with street experiences at night. When young peo-
ple are excited by this kind of life, they crave
further excitement.

A person, and especially a youth, in a highly
stimulated condition is not likely to let down
easily, and he will seek artificial stimulation to
keep up his nervous exhilaration. This law of
human nature is seen in adult life as well as in
youth. Those who go the pace crave strong stim-
ulants. The actor, for instance, who is keyed up
by his part often cannot leave the stage and go
calmly home. He must have a drink or go to the
cabaret show where the sounds and sights keep up
his nervous excitation.

. The Problem of the Dance. — The chief problem
of parents and teachers in having youth keep rea-
sonable hours arises in relation to the dance. In
American life young persons have got into the
habit of going late to their dances and staying
until early morning hours. This practice, if per-
sisted in, will work harm to body and character.
No boy or grl in the teens should be up later than
ten o 'clock at night except on rare occasions. Ex-
cesses of every sort in amusements flourish after



WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS 107

ten o^clock rather than before. The later the
hour, the greater the danger of undue excitement
with lack of proper restraint. The youth whose
amusements keep him up frequently beyond ten
o'clock is in the way of going astray, because he
will be tempted constantly to indulgence of his
primitive passions. But the youth who habitually
is at home and in bed by ten o 'clock stands a good
chance of holding his impulses in check. College
fellows who drink and indulge in vice get started
in the late hours of the night. Dissipation rarely
begins in the early evening.

Late Hours Injurious. — In every community
the parents should agree that all parties for
young people should stop at ten o'clock. Only
evil can result in the long run unless this rule is
followed unwaveringly. Young people will ad-
vance all sorts of arguments for breaking over
now and again, but they will soon become content
with the plan if they see that they must conform
to it. They will be happier in the end if they stop
dancing by ten than if they go on until one or
two in the morning. They will not be any more
satisfied at two o'clock than at ten o'clock.

Parents should support teachers in their efforts
to control the amusements of the young, especi-
ally dancing. Unfortunately, some parents delib-
erately encourage their children to lead an exces-
sive party life because this seems to give them
social distinction and prestige. A mother in a



108 THE TREND OF THE TEENS

middle western town recently had a daughter who
graduated from the eighth grade. In order to
celebrate this achievement the mother gave a
dancing party for the girl. The young people
danced until half-past twelve, when they had sup-
per. They were not home until two o 'clock. This
is, of course, an unusual case, but it set a bad
example. It would have been better for the
mother to have given a party in which the chil-
dren would have engaged in games and plays dur-
ing the afternoon.

The Dance Problem is Ahvays a Pressing One.
— There has apparently been no time since civil-
ization began that people have not discussed the
question of dancing. It is probable that the ma-
jority of adults to-day think it would be better if
young people would not dance as much as they do,
and especially would not indulge in the types of
dances which are fashionable now. The writer
knows of many communities in which the min-
isters, as well as others, are violently opposed to
dancing, and they attempt by various means to
suppress it.

The ball-room is undoubtedly a source of evil
to many young people, — particularly so in our
day because of the prevailing methods of danc-
ing, which encourage extreme intimacy. But it is
significant that these new dances have become
very popular in the face of vigorous opposition
from ministers, teachers, and others. This fact



WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS 109

should impress anyone who wishes to reduce the
evils of the dance with the impotency of our usual
methods of dealing with it. No one ever stopped
dancing by threatening young people with ever-
lasting torment if they indulge in it. Parents
often say to their children: ''You can't dance.
You must stay at home instead of going to the
ball-room." Parents who pursue these methods
fail more often than they succeed and they are
apt to develop antagonisms between themselves
and their children.

The people in a western city recently had the
teacher of physical culture dismissed because she
taught folk-dancing in the schools. The board of
education forbade the use of school buildings for
dancing of any kind at any time or by pupils of
any age. These good people made a serious
blunder, and they now appreciate it. Commercial
dances have developed with great fury in that
city.

Constructive Treatment Alone Will Correct the
Evil. — No evil has ever been corrected simply by
condemning those who practice it. This is espe-
cially true of the dance. It has a peculiar fascina-
tion, and any young person who has felt the thrill
of it is not likely to be dissuaded from seeking a
repetition of it by threatenings from any source.
Is there any way then that people can be re-
strained in respect to the dance? Only by diver-
sion; not by repression. If a boy has an oppor-



110 THE TREND OF THE TEENS

tunity to go to a playground or gymnasium and
engage in competitive games with his fellows he
will ordinarily stay away from the ball-room.
Also if he can have access to a swimming pool, if
he can attend a good moving picture show in the
school or church building, — in short if he has an
opportunity to do anything wholesome which ap-
peals to his active social and motor interests his
attention will be diverted from the dance hall.

The writer has been making observations in a
number of towns and cities throughout the coun-
try regarding the extent to which young people
use church facilities during the week, and espe-
cially during evenings. He has found that in a
few places churches provide swimming pools,
basket ball courts, bowling alleys, reading rooms,
game rooms, and so on. It is difficult in such
places to provide for all the young people who
want to take advantage of these facilities, which
indicates how much they are needed. But in eight
out of ten communities the churches make no pro-
vision for the social or dynamic interests of
young people.

In some places the school buildings are open
during the evenings, and opportunities are pro-
vided for the indulgence of the natural instincts
and impulses of the young. Wherever this is done
young people do not crave the ball-room ; they go
to the school center instead. This suggests the
way in which the dance evil can be controlled, — by



WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS HI

positive, constructive treatment, rather than by
mere prohibition or censure.

Is the High School a Breeding Place for Vicef —
The writer has never found a person who has been
able to furnish accurate data showing that vice is
rampant in the high school. Wlien questioned,
people who complain about the morals of the high
school say that they have heard such and such per-
sons say that vicious practices are very common.
They do not themselves know of any definite in-
stance of vicious conduct, but they do know of per-
sons who know of other persons who have heard
some one say that the boys and girls in the high
school indulge in vicious practice without much
restraint.

It would be a miracle if in a large high school
there were not boys and girls who did occasionally
go wrong, but investigations have been made in
certain large high schools which rumor says are
''honey-combed with vice," and it has been proven
that these rumors are in reality false. In one high
school the newspapers recently reported that
moral conditions were exceedingly bad. They
claimed that many of the girls were compelled to
leave the schools for maternity hospitals, that the
boys were under the care of physicians, and so on.
A careful investigation was made by the dean of
girls and the boys' physical director and it was
found that the accusations against the school were
utterly without foundation. The stories had their



112 THE TREND OF THE TEENS

origin in a case of wrong doing by a boy and girl
who had formerly been in the school, but who had
had no connection with it for two-and-a-half years.
It is probable that the tales about vicious conduct
in other high schools have no more foundation in
fact than the stories concerning the school
referred to.

Benefits of Co-education. — No reader should
interpret what is said above to mean that it is not
necessary for parents and teachers to safeguard
boys and girls in high schools, by establishing rea-
sonable regulations so as to prevent the develop-
ment of too great intimacy among them. But the
American high school has accomplished more than
any other institution in the world in the way of de-
veloping friendship and comradeship among boys
and girls. It has removed artificial barriers which
in other countries make boys and girls after they
reach the teens strangers to each other. It has
given the girl a chance to play a part in the ac-
tivities of the world. It has broken down conven-
tional restrictions which have limited the freedom
of girls and of women. The experience and train-
ing which girls have received in co-educational
higii schools have enabled them to go to and fro in
the world without any hestitation. They can take
care of themselves wherever they are placed. The
American girl, mainly because of her training in
the public high school, has gained resourceful-
ness, courage and efficiency in every-day affairs.



WHEN THE TENDER PASSION APPEARS 113

These are tremendous advantages and we must
not permit anything to interfere with the free-
dom and frankness of social relations of our high
schools. We must see to it that girls have even
greater freedom of action in the future than they
have had in the past in these schools. We must
resist any attempt to segregate boys and girls
too rigorously. This does not mean that they
should not be separated in some classes. It is de-
sirable that boys and girls should work separately
in certain subjects. But the spirit of our high
schools should be co-educational. Just as far as
possible, boys and girls should develop comrade-
ship and fellowship with each other. In a well-
managed high school sentimentality and amor-
ousness will not become prominent. Boys and
girls will have enough work to do together so
that sex feeling will not be unrestrained. Teach-
ers in high schools are carefully studying the
problem of adjusting the relations of boys and
girls so that they will feel free in one another's
presence, so that they will gain an understanding
of each other, and so that they will learn to be
together without undue consciousness of sex traits
and sex differences.

Should a Mother Pick Out a Boy's Girl Asso-
ciates? — In this connection the question of the
boy and his girl companions arises. Should a


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Online LibraryMichael Vincent O'SheaThe trend of the teens → online text (page 6 of 16)