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Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_V" id="CHAPTER_V" />CHAPTER V<SPAN name="Page_107" id="Page_107"></SPAN></h3> <h2>THE SPIRIT OF YOUTH AND INDUSTRY</h2> <p>As it is possible to establish a connection between the lack of public recreation and the vicious excitements and trivial amusements which become their substitutes, so it may be illuminating to trace the connection between the monotony and dullness of factory work and the petty immoralities which are often the youth's protest against them.</p> <p>There are many city neighborhoods in which practically every young person who has attained the age of fourteen years enters a factory. When the work itself offers nothing of interest, and when no public provision is made for recreation, the situation becomes almost insupportable to the youth whose ancestors have been rough-working and hard-playing peasants.</p> <p>In such neighborhoods the joy of youth is well nigh extinguished; and in that long procession of factory workers, each morning and evening, the young walk almost as wearily and listlessly as the old. Young people working in modern factories situated in cities still dominated by the ideals of Puritanism face a combination which tends almost irresistably to overwhelm the spirit of youth. When the Puritan repression of pleasure was in the ascendant in America the people it dealt with lived on farms and villages where, although youthful pleasures might be frowned upon and crushed out, the young people still had a chance to find self-expression in their work. Plowing the field and spinning the flax could be carried on with a certain joyousness and vigor which the organization of modern industry too often precludes. Present industry based upon the inventions of the nineteenth century has little connection with the old patterns in which men have worked for generations. The modern factory calls for an expenditure of nervous energy almost more than it demands muscular effort, or at least machinery so far performs the work of the massive muscles, that greater stress is laid upon fine and exact movements necessarily involving nervous strain. But these movements are exactly of the type to which the muscles of a growing boy least readily respond, quite as the admonition to be accurate and faithful is that which appeals the least to his big primitive emotions. The demands made upon his eyes are complicated and trivial, the use of his muscles is fussy and monotonous, the relation between cause and effect is remote and obscure. Apparently no one is concerned as to what may be done to aid him in this process and to relieve it of its dullness and difficulty, to mitigate its strain and harshness.</p> <p>Perhaps never before have young people been expected to work from motives so detached from direct emotional incentive. Never has the age of marriage been so long delayed; never has the work of youth been so separated from the family life and the public opinion of the community. Education alone can repair these losses. It alone has the power of organizing a child's activities with some reference to the life he will later lead and of giving him a clue as to what to select and what to eliminate when he comes into contact with contemporary social and industrial conditions. And until educators take hold of the situation, the rest of the community is powerless.</p> <p>In vast regions of the city which are completely dominated by the factory, it is as if the development of industry had outrun all the educational and social arrangements.</p> <p>The revolt of youth against uniformity and the necessity of following careful directions laid down by some one else, many times results in such nervous irritability that the youth, in spite of all sorts of prudential reasons, &quot;throws up his job,&quot; if only to get outside the factory walls into the freer street, just as the narrowness of the school inclosure induces many a boy to jump the fence.</p> <p>When the boy is on the street, however, and is &quot;standing around on the corner&quot; with the gang to which he mysteriously attaches himself, he finds the difficulties of direct untrammeled action almost as great there as they were in the factory, but for an entirely different set of reasons. The necessity so strongly felt in the factory for an outlet to his sudden and furious bursts of energy, his overmastering desire to prove that he could do things &quot;without being bossed all the time,&quot; finds little chance for expression, for he discovers that in whatever really active pursuit he tries to engage, he is promptly suppressed by the police. After several futile attempts at self-expression, he returns to his street corner subdued and so far discouraged that when he has the next impulse to vigorous action he concludes that it is of no use, and sullenly settles back into inactivity. He thus learns to persuade himself that it is better to do nothing, or, as the psychologist would say, &quot;to inhibit his motor impulses.&quot;</p> <p>When the same boy, as an adult workman, finds himself confronted with an unusual or an untoward condition in his work, he will fall back into this habit of inhibition, of making no effort toward independent action. When &quot;slack times&quot; come, he will be the workman of least value, and the first to be dismissed, calmly accepting his position in the ranks of the unemployed because it will not be so unlike the many hours of idleness and vacuity to which he was accustomed as a boy. No help having been extended to him in the moment of his first irritable revolt against industry, his whole life has been given a twist toward idleness and futility. He has not had the chance of recovery which the school system gives a like rebellious boy in a truant school.</p> <p>The unjustifiable lack of educational supervision during the first years of factory work makes it quite impossible for the modern educator to offer any real assistance to young people during that trying transitional period between school and industry. The young people themselves who fail to conform can do little but rebel against the entire situation, and the expressions of revolt roughly divide themselves into three classes. The first, resulting in idleness, may be illustrated from many a sad story of a boy or a girl who has spent in the first spurt of premature and uninteresting work, all the energy which should have carried them through years of steady endeavor.</p> <p>I recall a boy who had worked steadily for two years as a helper in a smelting establishment, and had conscientiously brought home all his wages, one night suddenly announcing to his family that he &quot;was too tired and too hot to go on.&quot; As no amount of persuasion could make him alter his decision, the family finally threatened to bring him into the Juvenile Court on a charge of incorrigibility, whereupon the boy disappeared and such efforts as the family have been able to make in the two years since, have failed to find him. They are convinced that &quot;he is trying a spell of tramping&quot; and wish that they &quot;had let him have a vacation the first summer when he wanted it so bad.&quot; The boy may find in the rough outdoor life the healing which a wise physician would recommend for nervous exhaustion, although the tramp experiment is a perilous one.</p> <p>This revolt against factory monotony is sometimes closely allied to that &quot;moral fatigue&quot; which results from assuming responsibility prematurely. I recall the experience of a Scotch girl of eighteen who, with her older sister, worked in a candy factory, their combined earnings supporting a paralytic father. The older girl met with an accident involving the loss of both eyes, and the financial support of the whole family devolved upon the younger girl, who worked hard and conscientiously for three years, supplementing her insufficient factory wages by evening work at glove making. In the midst of this devotion and monotonous existence she made the acquaintance of a girl who was a chorus singer in a cheap theater and the contrast between her monotonous drudgery and the glitter of the stage broke down her allegiance to her helpless family. She left the city, absolutely abandoning the kindred to whom she had been so long devoted, and announced that if they all starved she would &quot;never go into a factory again.&quot; Every effort failed to find her after the concert troupe left Milwaukee and although the pious Scotch father felt that &quot;she had been ensnared by the Devil,&quot; and had brought his &quot;gray hairs in sorrow to the grave,&quot; I could not quite dismiss the case with this simple explanation, but was haunted by all sorts of social implications.</p> <p>The second line of revolt manifests itself in an attempt to make up for the monotony of the work by a constant change from one occupation to another. This is an almost universal experience among thousands of young people in their first impact with the industrial world.</p> <p>The startling results of the investigation undertaken in Massachusetts by the Douglas Commission showed how casual and demoralizing the first few years of factory life become to thousands of unprepared boys and girls; in their first restlessness and maladjustment they change from one factory to another, working only for a few weeks or months in each, and they exhibit no interest in any of them save for the amount of wages paid. At the end of their second year of employment many of them are less capable than when they left school and are actually receiving less wages. The report of the commission made clear that while the two years between fourteen and sixteen were most valuable for educational purposes, they were almost useless for industrial purposes, that no trade would receive as an apprentice a boy under sixteen, that no industry requiring skill and workmanship could utilize these untrained children and that they not only demoralized themselves, but in a sense industry itself.</p> <p>An investigation of one thousand tenement children in New York who had taken out their &quot;working papers&quot; at the age of fourteen, reported that during the first working year a third of them had averaged six places each. These reports but confirm the experience of those of us who live in an industrial neighborhood and who continually see these restless young workers, in fact there are moments when this constant changing seems to be all that saves them from the fate of those other children who hold on to a monotonous task so long that they finally incapacitate themselves for all work. It often seems to me an expression of the instinct of self-preservation, as in the case of a young Swedish boy who during a period of two years abandoned one piece of factory work after another, saying &quot;he could not stand it,&quot; until in the chagrin following the loss of his ninth place he announced his intention of leaving the city and allowing his mother and little sisters to shift for themselves. At this critical juncture a place was found for him as lineman in a telephone company; climbing telephone poles and handling wires apparently supplied him with the elements of outdoor activity and danger which were necessary to hold his interest, and he became the steady support of his family.</p> <p>But while we know the discouraging effect of idleness upon the boy who has thrown up his job and refuses to work again, and we also know the restlessness and lack of discipline resulting from the constant change from one factory to another, there is still a third manifestation of maladjustment of which one's memory and the Juvenile Court records unfortunately furnish many examples. The spirit of revolt in these cases has led to distinct disaster. Two stories will perhaps be sufficient in illustration although they might be multiplied indefinitely from my own experience.</p> <p>A Russian girl who went to work at an early age in a factory, pasting labels on mucilage bottles, was obliged to surrender all her wages to her father who, in return, gave her only the barest necessities of life. In a fit of revolt against the monotony of her work, and &quot;that nasty sticky stuff,&quot; she stole from her father $300 which he had hidden away under the floor of his kitchen, and with this money she ran away to a neighboring city for a spree, having first bought herself the most gorgeous clothing a local department store could supply. Of course, this preposterous beginning could have but one ending and the child was sent to the reform school to expiate not only her own sins but the sins of those who had failed to rescue her from a life of grinding monotony which her spirit could not brook.</p> <p>&quot;I know the judge thinks I am a bad girl,&quot; sobbed a poor little prisoner, put under bonds for threatening to kill her lover, &quot;but I have only been bad for one week and before that I was good for six years. I worked every day in Blank's factory and took home all my wages to keep the kids in school. I met this fellow in a dance hall. I just had to go to dances sometimes after pushing down the lever of my machine with my right foot and using both my arms feeding it for ten hours a day&mdash;nobody knows how I felt some nights. I agreed to go away with this man for a week but when I was ready to go home he tried to drive me out on the street to earn money for him and, of course, I threatened to kill him&mdash;any decent girl would,&quot; she concluded, as unconscious of the irony of the reflection as she was of the connection between her lurid week and her monotonous years.</p> <p>Knowing as educators do that thousands of the city youth will enter factory life at an age as early as the state law will permit; instructed as the modern teacher is as to youth's requirements for a normal mental and muscular development, it is hard to understand the apathy in regard to youth's inevitable experience in modern industry. Are the educators, like the rest of us, so caught in admiration of the astonishing achievements of modern industry that they forget the children themselves?</p> <p>A Scotch educator who recently visited America considered it very strange that with a remarkable industrial development all about us, affording such amazing educational opportunities, our schools should continually cling to a past which did not fit the American temperament, was not adapted to our needs, and made no vigorous pull upon our faculties. He concluded that our educators, overwhelmed by the size and vigor of American industry, were too timid to seize upon the industrial situation, and to extract its enormous educational value. He lamented that this lack of courage and initiative failed not only to fit the child for an intelligent and conscious participation in industrial life, but that it was reflected in the industrial development itself; that industry had fallen back into old habits, and repeated traditional mistakes until American cities exhibited stupendous extensions of the medievalisms in the traditional Ghetto, and of the hideousness in the Black Country of Lancashire.</p> <p>He contended that this condition is the inevitable result of separating education from contemporary life. Education becomes unreal and far fetched, while industry becomes ruthless and materialistic. In spite of the severity of the indictment, one much more severe and well deserved might have been brought against us. He might have accused us not only of wasting, but of misusing and of trampling under foot the first tender instincts and impulses which are the source of all charm and beauty and art, because we fail to realize that by premature factory work, for which the youth is unprepared, society perpetually extinguishes that variety and promise, that bloom of life, which is the unique possession of the young. He might have told us that our cities would continue to be traditionally cramped and dreary until we comprehend that youth alone has the power to bring to reality the vision of the &quot;Coming City of Mankind, full of life, full of the spirit of creation.&quot;</p> <p>A few educational experiments are carried on in Cincinnati, in Boston and in Chicago, in which the leaders of education and industry unite in a common aim and purpose. A few more are carried on by trade unionists, who in at least two of the trades are anxious to give to their apprentices and journeymen the wider culture afforded by the &quot;capitalistic trade schools&quot; which they suspect of preparing strike-breakers; still a few other schools have been founded by public spirited citizens to whom the situation has become unendurable, and one or two more such experiments are attached to the public school system itself. All of these schools are still blundering in method and unsatisfactory in their results, but a certain trade school for girls, in New York, which is preparing young girls of fourteen for the sewing trade, already so overcrowded and subdivided that there remains very little education for the worker, is conquering this difficult industrial situation by equipping each apprentice with &quot;the informing mind.&quot; If a child goes into a sewing factory with a knowledge of the work she is doing in relation to the finished product; if she is informed concerning the material she is manipulating and the processes to which it is subjected; if she understands the design she is elaborating in its historic relation to art and decoration, her daily life is lifted from drudgery to one of self-conscious activity, and her pleasure and intelligence is registered in her product.</p> <p>I remember a little colored girl in this New York school who was drawing for the pattern she was about to embroider, a carefully elaborated acanthus leaf. Upon my inquiry as to the design, she replied: &quot;It is what the Egyptians used to put on everything, because they saw it so much growing in the Nile; and then the Greeks copied it, and sometimes you can find it now on the buildings downtown.&quot; She added, shyly: &quot;Of course, I like it awfully well because it was first used by people living in Africa where the colored folks come from.&quot; Such a reasonable interest in work not only reacts upon the worker, but is, of course, registered in the product itself. Such genuine pleasure is in pitiful contrast to the usual manifestation of the play spirit as it is found in the factories, where, at the best, its expression is illicit and often is attended with great danger.</p> <p>There are many touching stories by which this might be illustrated. One of them comes from a large steel mill of a boy of fifteen whose business it was to throw a lever when a small tank became filled with molton metal. During the few moments when the tank was filling it was his foolish custom to catch the reflection of the metal upon a piece of looking-glass, and to throw the bit of light into the eyes of his fellow workmen. Although an exasperated foreman had twice dispossessed him of his mirror, with a third fragment he was one day flicking the gloom of the shop when the neglected tank overflowed, almost instantly burning off both his legs. Boys working in the stock yards, during their moments of wrestling and rough play, often slash each other painfully with the short knives which they use in their work, but in spite of this the play impulse is too irrepressible to be denied.</p> <p>If educators could go upon a voyage of discovery into that army of boys and girls who enter industry each year, what values might they not discover; what treasures might they not conserve and develop if they would direct the play instinct into the art impulse and utilize that power of variation which industry so sadly needs. No force will be sufficiently powerful and widespread to redeem industry from its mechanism and materialism save the freed power in every single individual.</p> <p>In order to do this, however, we must go back a little over the educational road to a training of the child's imagination, as well as to his careful equipment with a technique. A little child makes a very tottering house of cardboard and calls it a castle. The important feature there lies in the fact that he has expressed a castle, and it is not for his teacher to draw undue attention to the fact that the corners are not well put together, but rather to listen to and to direct the story which centers about this effort at creative expression. A little later, however, it is clearly the business of the teacher to call attention to the quality of the dovetailing in which the boy at the manual training bench is engaged, for there is no value in dovetailing a box unless it is accurately done. At one point the child's imagination is to be emphasized, and at another point his technique is important&mdash;and he will need both in the industrial life ahead of him.</p> <p>There is no doubt that there is a third period, when the boy is not interested in the making of a castle, or a box, or anything else, unless it appears to him to bear a direct relation to the future; unless it has something to do with earning a living. At this later moment he is chiefly anxious to play the part of a man and to take his place in the world. The fact that a boy at fourteen wants to go out and earn his living makes that the moment when he should be educated with reference to that interest, and the records of many high schools show that if he is not thus educated, he bluntly refuses to be educated at all. The forces pulling him to &quot;work&quot; are not only the overmastering desire to earn money and be a man, but, if the family purse is small and empty, include also his family loyalty and affection, and over against them, we at present place nothing but a vague belief on the part of his family and himself that education is a desirable thing and may eventually help him &quot;on in the world.&quot; It is of course difficult to adapt education to this need; it means that education must be planned so seriously and definitely for those two years between fourteen and sixteen that it will be actual trade training so far as it goes, with attention given to the condition under which money will be actually paid for industrial skill; but at the same time, that the implications, the connections, the relations to the industrial world, will be made clear. A man who makes, year after year, but one small wheel in a modern watch factory, may, if his education has properly prepared him, have a fuller life than did the old watchmaker who made a watch from beginning to end. It takes thirty-nine people to make a coat in a modern tailoring establishment, yet those same thirty-nine people might produce a coat in a spirit of &quot;team work&quot; which would make the entire process as much more exhilarating than the work of the old solitary tailor, as playing in a baseball nine gives more pleasure to a boy than that afforded by a solitary game of hand ball on the side of the barn. But it is quite impossible to imagine a successful game of baseball in which each player should be drilled only in his own part, and should know nothing of the relation of that part to the whole game. In order to make the watch wheel, or the coat collar interesting, they must be connected with the entire product&mdash;must include fellowship as well as the pleasures arising from skilled workmanship and a cultivated imagination.</p> <p>When all the young people working in factories shall come to use their faculties intelligently, and as a matter of course to be interested in what they do, then our manufactured products may at last meet the demands of a cultivated nation, because they will be produced by cultivated workmen. The machine will not be abandoned by any means, but will be subordinated to the intelligence of the man who manipulates it, and will be used as a tool. It may come about in time that an educated public will become inexpressibly bored by manufactured objects which reflect absolutely nothing of the minds of the men who made them, that they may come to dislike an object made by twelve unrelated men, even as we do not care for a picture which has been painted by a dozen different men, not because we have enunciated a theory in regard to it, but because such a picture loses all its significance and has no meaning or message. We need to apply the same principle but very little further until we shall refuse to be surrounded by manufactured objects which do not represent some gleam of intelligence on the part of the producer. Hundreds of people have already taken that step so far as all decoration and ornament are concerned, and it would require but one short step more. In the meantime we are surrounded by stupid articles which give us no pleasure, and the young people producing them are driven into all sorts of expedients in order to escape work which has been made impossible because all human interest has been extracted from it. That this is not mere theory may be demonstrated by the fact that many times the young people may be spared the disastrous effects of this third revolt against the monotony of industry if work can be found for them in a place where the daily round is less grinding and presents more variety. Fortunately, in every city there are places outside of factories where occupation of a more normal type of labor may be secured, and often a restless boy can be tided over this period if he is put into one of these occupations. The experience in every boys' club can furnish illustrations of this.</p> <p>A factory boy who had been brought into the Juvenile Court many times because of his persistent habit of borrowing the vehicles of physicians as they stood in front of houses of patients, always meaning to &quot;get back before the doctor came out,&quot; led a contented and orderly life after a place had been found for him as a stable boy in a large livery establishment where his love for horses could be legitimately gratified.</p> <p>Still another boy made the readjustment for himself in spite of the great physical suffering involved. He had lost both legs at the age of seven, &quot;flipping cars.&quot; When he went to work at fourteen with two good cork legs, which he vainly imagined disguised his disability, his employer kindly placed him where he might sit throughout the entire day, and his task was to keep tally on the boxes constantly hoisted from the warehouse into cars. The boy found this work so dull that he insisted upon working in the yards, where the cars were being loaded and switched. He would come home at night utterly exhausted, more from the extreme nervous tension involved in avoiding accidents than from the tremendous exertion, and although he would weep bitterly from sheer fatigue, nothing could induce him to go back to the duller and safer job. Fortunately he belonged to a less passionate race than the poor little Italian girl in the Hull-House neighborhood who recently battered her head against the wall so long and so vigorously that she had to be taken to a hospital because of her serious injuries. So nearly as dull &quot;grown-ups&quot; could understand, it had been an hysterical revolt against factory work by day and &quot;no fun in the evening.&quot;</p> <p>America perhaps more than any other country in the world can demonstrate what applied science has accomplished for industry; it has not only made possible the utilization of all sorts of unpromising raw material, but it has tremendously increased the invention and elaboration of machinery. The time must come, however, if indeed the moment has not already arrived, when applied science will have done all that it can do for the development of machinery. It may be that machines cannot be speeded up any further without putting unwarranted strain upon the nervous system of the worker; it may be that further elaboration will so sacrifice the workman who feeds the machine that industrial advance will lie not in the direction of improvement in machinery, but in the recovery and education of the workman. This refusal to apply &quot;the art of life&quot; to industry continually drives out of it many promising young people. Some of them, impelled by a creative impulse which will not be denied, avoid industry altogether and demand that their ambitious parents give them lessons in &quot;china painting&quot; and &quot;art work,&quot; which clutters the overcrowded parlor of the more prosperous workingman's home with useless decorated plates, and handpainted &quot;drapes,&quot; whereas the plates upon the table and the rugs upon the floor used daily by thousands of weary housewives are totally untouched by the beauty and variety which this ill-directed art instinct might have given them had it been incorporated into industry.</p> <p>I could cite many instances of high-spirited young people who suffer a veritable martyrdom in order to satisfy their artistic impulse.</p> <p>A young girl of fourteen whose family had for years displayed a certain artistic aptitude, the mother having been a singer and the grandmother, with whom the young girl lived, a clever worker in artificial flowers, had her first experience of wage earning in a box factory. She endured it only for three months, and then gave up her increasing wage in exchange for $1.50 a week which she earns by making sketches of dresses, cloaks and hats for the advertisements of a large department store.</p> <p>A young Russian girl of my acquaintance starves on the irregular pay which she receives for her occasional contributions to the Sunday newspapers&mdash;meanwhile writing her novel&mdash;rather than return to the comparatively prosperous wages of a necktie factory which she regards with horror. Another girl washes dishes every evening in a cheap boarding house in order to secure the leisure in which to practise her singing lessons, rather than to give them up and return to her former twelve-dollar-a-week job in an electrical factory.</p> <p>The artistic expression in all these cases is crude, but the young people are still conscious of that old sacrifice of material interest which art has ever demanded of those who serve her and which doubtless brings its own reward. That the sacrifice is in vain makes it all the more touching and is an indictment of the educator who has failed to utilize the art instinct in industry.</p> <p>Something of the same sort takes place among many lads who find little opportunity in the ordinary factories to utilize the &quot;instinct for workmanship&quot;; or, among those more prosperous young people who establish &quot;studios&quot; and &quot;art shops,&quot; in which, with a vast expenditure of energy, they manufacture luxurious articles.</p> <p>The educational system in Germany is deliberately planned to sift out and to retain in the service of industry, all such promising young people. The method is as yet experimental, and open to many objections, but it is so far successful that &quot;Made in Germany&quot; means made by a trained artisan and in many cases by a man working with the freed impulse of the artist.</p> <p>The London County Council is constantly urging plans which may secure for the gifted children in the Board Schools support in Technological institutes. Educators are thus gradually developing the courage and initiative to conserve for industry the young worker himself so that his mind, his power of variation, his art instinct, his intelligent skill, may ultimately be reflected in the industrial product. That would imply that industry must be seized upon and conquered by those educators, who now either avoid it altogether by taking refuge in the caves of classic learning or beg the question by teaching the tool industry advocated by Ruskin and Morris in their first reaction against the present industrial system. It would mean that educators must bring industry into &quot;the kingdom of the mind&quot;; and pervade it with the human spirit.</p> <p>The discovery of the labor power of youth was to our age like the discovery of a new natural resource, although it was merely incidental to the invention of modern machinery and the consequent subdivision of labor. In utilizing it thus ruthlessly we are not only in danger of quenching the divine fire of youth, but we are imperiling industry itself when we venture to ignore these very sources of beauty, of variety and of suggestion.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /> <h3>
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