Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/127

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AN EXPERIMENT IN CITIZEN TRAINING.

bates on the innumerable subjects in connection with club government are far more useful in moral development than debates on outside subjects—political or literary. After a decision in a debate on club affairs, the boys will see "how it works" in a week or two; they will also know the exact circumstances that led to the necessity for a decision.

It is also because of the value of seeing the natural consequences that it is better for a club of this kind to be governed by the laws which all have taken part in making, rather than by the director, who is apt to get mixed as to what are natural consequences and what are her own nerves.

It is a curious fact that the untrained boy, like the untrained man, when given the chance of self-government, falls at once into the way of devising the most ingenious and complicated bad government possible. Junior Good Government Club No. 1, and all the other clubs this writer knows, have lived through their Tammany Hall periods. When a year comes in which the majority of members have had two or three years' training in the club, charges of bribery and corruption are few, but when the older members move out, and their places are filled from below by more youthful "politicians," then the Tammany-Platt situation is inevitable sooner or later.

It is often asked if clubs of this kind are distinctly reformatory. The writer of this article once visited a criminal lunatic asylum, and after making a tour of the wards and having noticed the striking malformation of the heads and bodies of the patients, she asked one of the doctors if he knew how many of them owed their condition to lack of nourishment before and after birth. "Roughly speaking, fifty per cent," he answered. If lack of nourishment can cause criminal insanity, it can cause simple criminal tendencies, and unfortunately insufficient and improper nourishment is the common condition among even those people whom we are wont to consider not "desperately poor." To answer the question asked at the beginning of this paragraph, it is very doubtful if abnormal criminal children would be greatly benefited by Junior Good Government Clubs. Reformatory these clubs certainly are for those who have become criminal through environment only; but reform is not the chief object to be attained. Growth in character and reasoning power comes to a child after a few years in such a club, and many latent gifts are developed in his nature through the freedom to use all of himself. Such clubs are just as important for the children of rich and intelligent parents as for those of the poor and ignorant. Whether the former, with their many opportunities for enjoyment, would find clubs amusing is another question.