Imágenes de páginas

Unflagging service to his neighbors,
But like a child whose drawings wait
For names, He labels all his labors.
He serves and struts, as peacocks must,
Trailing his glory in the dust.

The person who goes into work for delinquent children with any ulterior motive stands as the greatest reason why institutions do not prepare for normal, social relationships. But there is a leaven of workers with disinterested motives, to whom is attributable such success as institutions attain.

Can the institution equip a girl for normal, social relationships? Not if it fails to recognize the intrinsic worth of the so-called "delinquent girl." I have used the word "intrinsic" deliberately because of its connotation of core, pith, and backbone. When will social workers with these girls realize the essentiality of Browning's conclusion:

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

We have many times marveled at what are called "spontaneous cures" from delinquency. Perhaps we rather resent these demonstrations of children apparently elevating themselves by their own bootstraps. Like Naaman of Syria we wish to make a great display of our "methods and technique of therapy" and say, "I did it," when, many times, taking a child who is broken out with the leprosy of artificiality and dipping her into the river Jordan of naturalness will immediately transform her from an outcast into a normal individual. We oftentimes fail to realize the tremendous truth and human economy involved in the old woman's prayer when she said, "Good Lord, take care of me until blackberry time and then I can take care of myself." In the name of childhood, let us not, through our undervaluing of the individual's worth, complicate a simple situation by our ill-advised attempts at super-salvation. Among the greatest inspirational experiences that I have ever had have been the observations of the heroic fight put up by children in the training school to overcome their own faults, and the realization of the splendid qualities which our children have acquired like "Kiki," on the "corners of streets."

Can the institution equip the girl for normal, social relationships? Not if the institution for girls, in its vocabulary, methods, or sentiment, allows itself to be classified as a penal institution. Dr. Van Waters and a few other people know that the only definition of the delinquent is: "A delinquent is a child whom we have failed to educate properly." And yet the boys' and girls' training schools all over America are, by even the workers with juveniles, classified as penal institutions. It is done by the federal government. Witness the directory which

they get out in census year, in which information about the penitentiaries is bound in the same volume with the information about the girls' training schools. That is the attitude from the point of view of the "outside in," but still many, unfortunately, have the same attitude from the "inside out,” as indicated by, for example, the very convenient booklet compiled by a training school for boys, in which the Girls' Training School at Gainesville, Texas, is listed between Ferguson Farm and Harlem Farm, two of the notorious Texas penitentiary colonies. Mr. Frank Tannenbaum wrote up the Texas Girls' Training School in an article on "Southern Prisons." The public takes its cue from the institutional people, and the child we have been trying to educate and treat as a schoolgirl finds herself, when released from the training school, thanks to our shortsightedness, looked upon as an ex-convict. This thing of public sentiment, as it affects the juvenile, is not to be considered lightly. It has blasted the hope of happiness of many a girl who was trying her wings after her training-school stay. I feel that heads of training schools for juveniles are making a grave mistake, far-reaching in its results, when they continue to meet as executives under the banner of the American Prison Association and the National Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor. I have great respect for these organizations. They have most valuable functions, but a mission to childhood is not one of them. Our books on juvenile delinquency are printed in "The Criminal Monograph Series," and it is no wonder that when I went to the Dallas Public Library, in getting data for this paper, in looking for the subject "juvenile delinquency," I was promptly referred to "Crime." Such an attitude on the part of the public has necessitated the losing of his identity by the alumnus of the juvenile training schools. This is particularly true in the case of girls. Our girls in Texas, and no doubt your girls in Colorado and elsewhere, must repress all reference to their training-school days if they dare hope to be accepted on the social level for which they have been prepared. I have had a girl returned to the institution for no other reason than that the family with whom she was living insisted that she inhibit the childlike tendency to refer frequently to the only happy years which she had ever spent-those at the Training School. The conflict which is almost bound to result in such an attitude has caused the failure of many a girl on parole. Several years ago when the Texas institution was being attacked, one of the facetious Texas papers inserted the following in its joke column: "There is one thing about an inquiry into such an institution as the Girls' Training School, the alumnae never have meetings to protest." Why not? Because, the public hands hope to a girl with its right hand and withdraws it with its left, unmindful of its utter folly. Must we wait for the great celestial reunion before we see the evidences of joy over the return of one that repenteth on the part of the ninety and nine that safely lie in the shelter of the fold? Can it be that they are conscious of a feeling of insecurity themselves, which they dare not express, as they consistently refuse to make place for the more adventurous lamb?

Can the institution equip the girl for normal, social relationships? Not if it damns by classification and nomenclature. Dickens' character who continually referred to "him that shall be nameless" had the right idea. One perplexed child came to me and said, "Dr. Smith, I just want to ask one question, Am I incorrigible or delinquent?" Down in Texas we still have homes for dependent and neglected children and colonies for the feebleminded, with their cognomens all spread out on the letterheads and painted on the automobiles which take the children to the circus. One lusty "dependent and neglected child" had the courage to protest, and was promptly told, without mincing matters, "Who are you to protest? You are dependent and neglected, whether you like it or not." The state is not always a tactful, gentle parent when in loco parentis.

Can the institution equip the girl for normal, social relationships? Not if the girls are expected to be inarticulate. For example, a man whose opinion I value most highly wrote me that the action on my part of permitting my girls to protest against the use of mechanical restraints which would so mar their happiness and their outlook was unfortunate; that “inmates of such an institution should not be allowed to express an opinion." I cannot agree with my friend. While I am no hobbyist on the subject of what is known as self-government in the institution for delinquents, as I feel that it is often artificial, I do absolutely believe in self-expression. At the Girls' Training School at Gainesville we have for eight years conducted, every Sunday afternoon, what amounts to an open forum. There is no curb whatever put on the questions which the girls are permitted to ask. Every question is read aloud and answered. A framed notice is kept on our bulletin board, giving any girl permission, at any time, to send a sealed, uncensored letter to the board of control. This notice has been up for months, but only one girl has ever taken advantage of the permission.

Can the institution equip the girl for normal, social relationships? Not if it is afraid. Institutional management must be emancipated from fears-fears of criticism, fears of the public, fears of losing the job, fears of politics. The institutional staff, with its ear to the ground, is apt to miss the heart cries of its girls. The institution must not be socially isolated. An institution should have no secrets. Everything should be wide open, from the books to the discipline rooms. The right kind of publicity is most wholesome. Nor must the institution teach its girls to be afraid. Public opinion must be educated and our girls must suffer while the public is learning, but the longer we teach our girls that under no circumstances must they let it be known that they have been in a training school, the longer do we put off the day the public will accept them on their merits.

Can the institution equip the girl for normal, social relationships? Not if it is lacking in patience. Down in Texas we prevent, by statute, the "swabbing" of oil wells. We retain 50 per cent of the production capacity of the well. But one of the greatest causes of failures with girls is our attempt to hurry up mat

ters. We do this and that to the girl, then we justify ourselves by saying "we have given her a chance, and she wouldn't take it." We rationalize about the "good of the rest of the school," and make a summary disposal of a difficult case. In our part of the country they say that there have been three historical eras, characterized by, first, the passing of the Buffalo; second, the passing of the Indian; and third, the passing of the buck. This is all too true of institutions. We must bring to a child the heart of a child. Children cannot live by bread alone, nor do shining institutional floors and windows compensate for lusterless eyes and hopeless mouths. The "shining morning face" is even more necessary and should be more expected in the institution than elsewhere. Official dignity frequently befogs the institutional atmosphere. Most of it could be dispensed with to advantage.

Can the institution equip the girl for normal, social relationships? Not if it makes an obsession of economy. Business management is indispensable, extravagance is not to be condoned, but such matters should be considered only on the basis of their relative importance. Too many people, in their attitude toward institutions for children, are like the brother in the amen corner in the negro church. A new preacher was trying to arouse a spirit of enthusiasm in his flock. "Brethren," he said, "this church, ordained of God, has got a mission to fulfil, and Brethren, from what I hears, this here church has been a laying down on the job. Brethren, lets make her get up and walk." A brother in the amen corner shouted in approval, "Let her walk, Parson, let her walk." The preacher continued, "Oh Brethren, this here church can walk, but if this here church, ordained of God fulfils her mission, she gotta run." Again the brother in the amen corner cried, "Let her run, Parson, let her run." Spurred on to more grandiloquent heights, the preacher shouted, "Brethren, this here church, ordained of God, can walk, but halleluiah, this here church has got to fly." Instantly came the answer from the amen corner, "Let her fly, Parson, let her fly." "Brethren," responded the preacher, "If this here church, ordained of God, is going to fly, we got to take up a collection and raise enough money to pay the preacher and to build a new church." From the amen corner and the congregation came the universal wail, "Jes' let her walk, Parson, jes' let her walk.” It costs dollars and cents to re-educate a delinquent, but in actual money it costs more not to do it properly, and the real price of human wretchedness can never be estimated. The state should not expect the training school to contribute materially to its own support any more than any other junior school should be supported by the students. At the same time the girls should not be pauperized. Undoubtedly an effort should be made in every case to make the parents of the girl assist in their daughter's support while she is in the institution. This arrangement should be made by the court at the time of commitment. During the girl's stay in the institution she should be given enough work for the general welfare of the institution to enable her to feel that she is holding up her

end and is really entitled, through her labor, to "these beans and old state clothes."

Can the institution equip a girl for normal, social relationships? Not if any effort is left unmade to correct every physical defect from flat feet to myopia. The fight on the outside is hard enough at best without sending back into the conflict the young soldier who should be hospitalized. The laws of mental hygiene should be the code of procedure.

The institution is apt to fail completely if it emphasizes rules and regulations, order and system, uniforms and bells, rather than resourceful individual treatment and the pursuit of happiness. The system that is too often found in institutions has for its object the convenience of the staff, not the welfare of the children.

The institution must not preclude the possibility of escapes. "We only save that which we set free," said a Chinese philosopher thousands of years ago, but our American authorities have not yet learned it, and last year down in Texas they wanted to wall us in to prevent runaways. We protested. Our girls got out an extra of their monthly periodical known as the Happy Dump Herald and, quoting from their columns, is the following profound observation: "We need a will, not a wall," and ending up with the pathetic parody of the Mother Goose rhyme, "Humpty Dumpty may have had a great fall, but Humpty Dumpty don't need a wall." The protest against the wall became state-wide, and the girls won because the Texas people realized the importance of the spirit that giveth life rather than the restraint that killeth.

We cannot equip the girl for normal, social relationships if we make use of mechanical restraints, with the exception of the same type of restraints that are used for psychopathic cases in the best hospitals for the insane, namely: door panels have to be reinforced for a few cases, and some windows have to be guarded. But the purpose of such methods should be plainly protection, not punishment. There is no place in the training school for the lash, the handcuff, the strait-jacket.

Can the institution equip the girl for normal, social relationships? Not if it is patronizing. When in the name of common sense and human economy will we cease pulling out the Tremolo stop on the organ of life when we play for unfortunates and instead, once and for all, pull out the stop marked "Vox Humana"! That a bunch of girls should have staged a "cussin' bee" while a missionary society was giving them a treat-and incidentally improving the occasion by pious platitudes should not be surprising, nor should the girls be considered young ingrates. I once had occasion to thank God for such a demonstration in my school. When the shocked official reported it to me, I said to myself, "Thank Heavens! they still live.”

The greatest concern of the institution is to confirm, by its methods, an incidental delinquency into a social attitude. I have one stock in trade, prayer,

« AnteriorContinuar »