Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

upon which the integrity of the home depends. We have allowed a property system, admirable in itself, to develop abuses and tyrannies which decreed inadequate income or an income at excessive sacrifice of health, home, and life as the portion of countless families, whose pitiable efforts to be noble and adequate invite the grief and shame of the world. We have seen selfishness and self-indulgence, undisciplined by spiritual values and high ideals of race sanctity, pervert the whole theory of sex as a race function and make it the instrument of arbitrary and irreverent passion.

I know how confused we are. I am aware of the freedom with which we may discuss every foundation of the institutional and disciplinary direction of life. I recognize the colossal problems in the safeguarding of the family, which confuse our wisdom, challenge our strength, and lead us almost to despair. With Harriet Martineau I place my feet firmly upon the common trusts of mankind and seek for this moment no learned demonstration of them. I accept the Christian concept of the family in a doctrinal and historical way, as an ultimate category of thinking and I ask our civilization to clarify and defend this view of the family as an essential condition to the spiritual and cultural progress of the race.

The elements that I see in this idea of the family are the following: reverence for it as a race institution ethnologically and as a divine agency in the plans of God; indissoluble union of one husband and one wife with fidelity, reverence, and devotion as the elements of that union; respect for the laws of nature, of the God of nature, and of the Christ, King of the World, in the exercise of its primary function of propagation; trained parenthood which recognizes and exercises parental authority intelligently; protected opportunities for children in order that they receive the filtered traditions of faith and culture in their homes. I would sketch the ideal of family life in a way something like that. I would ask research to help to establish it. I would ask the property system to accept this ideal as a discipline in the Christian conduct of industry. I would ask the state to come back to policies and laws that this ideal demands. I would ask the schools to write down this ideal as a first charge upon their paramount influence and solicitude. I would ask the church to seek new and effective ways of giving to this ideal the social compulsions of Christian faith. I would ask the world and all lovers of humanity to find in Christ the all reconciling and inspiring motives which will marshal the resources of the world to the defense of the Christian family as the fountain of everything noble in life. If we place this concept of the family as an ultimate category of thought and as the point from which everything else in civilization receives direction, measure, and value we shall begin to do our duty in this Christian civilization toward the sancity of the home.

There are two fundamental attitudes in this as in other fields of life. The drift of life is always in conflict with the direction of life. Insight, power, foresight, and determined faith are given to us in order that we perceive ideals and discipline the drift of life toward them with authority and effective sanction.

It may be that the family is drifting in the currents of passion, in the confusion of values, and in the uncontrolled social freedom that we have claimed, toward the rocks. If the family may be made an ultimate and unchallenged category of thought and aspiration we shall discover the social and personal discipline of which we have need if we are to safeguard it. Paul Boreget says with striking effect that unless we live as we think, we shall think as we live. If we think of the Christian ideal of the family into its authentic eminence, we shall discipline the movement of civilization in accordance with it. Failing that, the family will drift, God knows where, and we shall begin to think in obedience to every whim of selfishness. Institutions are a discipline of human nature, not a concession to its whims. The Christian family is a discipline of life, rather than a concession to it.

I said a moment ago that we must begin our study of the family with our own intimate experience in our homes. But that statement needs qualifications. In normal living, broad views, race perceptions, high and remote sanctities must be set forth as sources of reverence, principles of discipline and decision. Such views hinder the selfishness and localism which endanger our moral and social values. But social workers have a twofold attitude to foster; first, a personal attitude in the normal course of living; second, an attitude as thinkers, interpreters, and guides of social action in dealing with families that are weighed down by the agony of poverty and inert through its distress and confusion. In the performance of this latter duty social workers must remain close to the facts in patient industry, and they must relate the policies of social work to the preservation of the sanctity, integrity, and authority of the home.

I think that it was Charles Reade who said that a philanthropist loves the race, but is mean to his wife and children; that a misanthrope hates humanity, but is kind to his wife and children. Gorky says somewhere that a revolutionist should have no family ties to obstruct his enthusiasm for the race, and Peter Sterling says that a reformer should have no local ties to interfere with his devotion to the common welfare. Now, if there is a conflict between enthusiasm for the race and enthusiasm for the family, the supreme challenge to our wisdom lies in finding the solution. This is practically the fundamental problem in the upbuilding of any social order wherein the interests of the individual and of the race must be reconciled. Where we are seeking this solution I would ask social workers to concentrate in the present emergency of our civilization upon the plenary maintenance of the integrity of the home, and to reach attitudes on the larger problem after this first task is out of the way.

I would ask social workers to be on guard against taking an experimental attitude toward the family. I would ask them not to sacrifice the family in serving the individual members who compose it. The reconciliation of the interests of the family as a fundamental social institution with the welfare of its individual members is a problem which, even in its concrete form, will tax every source of wisdom that can be commanded. I would warn social workers against

the deceitful fallacy of concentration, which does so much to warp one's social views. Concentrating, as social workers do, on broken homes, on distressed families, on neglected children, on irresponsibility, on lack of morale, and on indifference, they may permit such experiences to lead them to think that the home is bankrupt and hardly to be saved. Evils must be seen in a wide view of life, in their challenge to ideals, and in actual place in the whole process of life.

A civil engineer once told me that no doctor could understand him because he was a normal man. Shrunken attention to failures in life may dull the mind to any understanding of success in life and make the mind indifferent to the authority of ideals. Corrective courses should, in every school of training for social work, safeguard students against the warping of views and the shaping of philosophy and policy around the concentrated failures with which social workers deal. I would warn social workers against all fallacies of system by which it is believed that a formula will solve a social problem and discipline the infinite complexities of life into orderly march toward happiness and peace. I heard Professor Wagner say many years ago that the fundamental mistake of socialism is that it takes human liberty as an axiom, whereas conservatism takes it as a problem. We must, however, make the Christian family an axiom, taken for granted, and relate all of our wisdom to it.

I gladly pay tribute to the superb contribution made by social work to the maintenance of the Christian family. As far as I know practice and intention, the great influence of social work today is in the direction of patient and kindly safeguarding of the integrity of the home. There is one danger against which I would utter a word of warning by way of conclusion. A dependent family may offer many obstinate problems to the social worker. The multiplied social resources which are now commanded may sometimes beguile social workers into ways that are actually in conflict with this accepted ideal of family life. It may be easy nowadays to transfer solicitude for health of children to a social agency instead of training parents to a recognition of their primary obligation in respect of the health of the child. It may be easy to separate the play of children in supervised playgrounds out of relation to the integrity of family experience. It may be easy to lead children to spend their leisure in a community house rather than in association with their homes. It is possible that social workers will from time to time forget the authority and demands of the integrity of home life and seek easier ways, through community resources, to deal with a problem in hand.

Processes of this kind have led many to fear that the multiplication of social resources threatens an invasion of the morale of the home. This problem was presented to the chairman of this committee by one of the committee members, who raised the question. The chairman asked me to attempt an answer. I am not familiar enough with actual practice in social work to know how much reason there may be for the solicitude which prompted the question. I have been able therefore to set forth only the points of view of which I was conscious, in a way somewhat remote from actual practice. But I have gladly accepted the oppor

[ocr errors]

tunity to make this appeal for a fundamental position in social work, and to ask courageous and patient industry in doing what may be done to save the Christian family against the cosmic pressure which threatens it. I base my appeal upon the tremendous service that your homes and my home have rendered to us. I hope that we may do our measured share in securing to the children of today and tomorrow the blessed influence of happy home life and remembered joys of childhood, affection, trust, and protection which have been the springs of everything there is of noble promise and happy memory in your lives and in mine.

THE RELATION OF COMMUNITY WORK TO FAMILY LIFE

Mary E. McDowell, Commissioner of Public Welfare, Chicago

This is a tremendous subject, which requires, perhaps, research which I have had no time to make. I must therefore talk out of a long-time experience in a settlement, in a neighborhood of crowded tenement houses, and shall necessarily have to consider the problem of the modern home in a great city.

[ocr errors]

We have to remember that the city of several millions of people is comparatively modern. To go into the heart of this subject we also have to consider that the problem of the home in a big city has not been taken into account in its planning. The city was built, not for growing young creatures, but for adults, for business and commerce, for money making, and for commercial and material glory, where the advertising motive is so great that even "Mother's Day" is capitalized. "Remember Mother with Flowers, or Candy, or Silk Stockings,' is the suggestion that is seen everywhere before the second Sunday in May, and I am not certain but that this is the only time that the city and business as a whole consider the mother. Children are forgotten in the hasty building of our great metropolitan centers. Then, when things get to be dangerous to children, we rush around and plan a playground here and there and try to bring about artificially conditions which were formerly the young person's natural environment.

We live at the rate of an awful speed and are under the domination of materialism to such an extent that the home has a difficult time keeping its spiritual center strong and sweet. While I have never been able to compute my patriotism or my Americanism in percentages, I am always gladdened, and renew my faith in God and the United States of America, whenever I get out of this intense life of the city and find in the country at large such great numbers of comfortable, simple homes of folks who still love each other and are not needing any psychoanalysis to readjust their lives.

But when I return to the great city of bigness I find the situation of the home a difficult and baffling question. More and more families in the city are having

to live in limited quarters. Children are raised in apartment houses or flats, and I must say that I do not see how a boy can grow up and develop normally even in the most expensive apartment house, with all of its wonderful inventions and conveniences, because a boy's great need is for space, and this he does not get in such surroundings, and never in a cheap flat.

Of course, the one thing that saves well-to-do children is the fact that they spend the summer in the country. Since I have lived with working people for so many years, I naturally think of them. Yet the nature of their boys is no different from that of the children of the apartment house group. Because of their environment the tenement house children have many hindrances and handicaps. But we cannot change back to the old ways, and we cannot transform the city into the country. We must, therefore, plan in some way to meet the situation so that the city boy and girl may have a chance for a normal, childlike life, and the family hold its place as the normal center of their young lives.

Perhaps the problem of the adolescent is even more serious than that of the child. When I think back to my own childhood, of the space, the beauty, the opportunity for creative activity that I had, I feel that my little neighbors in their sordid, dirty, overcrowded surroundings are disinherited children. My play equipment consisted of natural things: a hillside, a running brook, a beechtree limb for my swing, even pinchbugs were my horses and outriders for the morning-glory queens and fairies. Day after day we played out of doors under the trees, but my young neighbors find only a dirty street or a dirty alley and no natural playthings.

One neighbor, Tony, fresh from Italy, used to find treasures in broken glass and china to fit out his own idea of a playground, but even he, after a while, gave it up and came in to the standardized play place where he had only fixed and manufactured equipment. Perhaps the fact that Tony has to play with the offspring of ten other nationalities will socialize him, but what a waste of Tony's originality and ingenuity! In a short time he will go into a factory to do some monotonous bit of work that will soon benumb his free play spirit, and when he gets home he will find no space for himself or his companions in the crowded house. He therefore runs to meet his fellows in the street, the alley, the settlement, the playground, or the center.

The boy or girl of the swell apartment or tenement also finds an urge to get out to the street, the park, the movie, or the club to which his parents have a membership. These parents are often just as forgetful of the evil influence that besets these young impressionables as is the great city around them. The other day one young fellow of this group, about seventeen years of age, said to me, "Somebody had better look after the grownups and not worry so much about the present generation. At the dance at the club last night it was the fathers and mothers who were behaving badly, drinking and acting silly, while we stood looking on." This made me conscious that it was not only my neighbors who have to face allurements and temptations in the city that forgets them, but even

« AnteriorContinuar »