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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/132

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

undesirable elements cluster. The editor of a lively little periodical, in which many true things are said with great force—The Philistine—has lately declared that his own village, despite the refining influences radiated from the "Roycroft Shop," could furnish a band of hoodlum youths that could give points in every form of vile behavior to any equal number gathered from a great city. He hints that New England villages may be a trifle better, but that the farther Western States are decidedly worse. It is precisely in New England, however, that a bitter cry on this very subject of hoodlumism has lately been raised. What are we to do about it?

Manifestly the hoodlum or incipient tramp is one of two things: either he is a person whom a suitable education might have turned into some decent and honest way of earning a living, or he is a person upon whom, owing to congenital defect, all educational effort would have been thrown away. In either case social duty seems plain. If education would have done the work, society—seeing that it has taken the business of public education in hand—should have supplied the education required for the purpose, even though the amount of money available for waging war in the Philippines had been slightly reduced. If the case is one in which no educational effort is of avail, then, as the old Roman formula ran, "Let the magistrates see that the republic takes no harm." Before, therefore, our minds can be easy on this hoodlum question, we must satisfy ourselves thoroughly that our modes of education are not, positively or negatively, adapted to making the hoodlum variety of character. The hoodlum, it is safe to say, is an individual in whom no intellectual interest has ever been awakened, in whom no special capacity has ever been created. His moral nature has never been taught to respond to any high or even respectable principle of conduct. If there is any glory in earth or heaven, any beauty or harmony in the operations of natural law, any poetry or pathos or dignity in human life, anything to stir the soul in the records of human achievement, to all such things he is wholly insensible. Ought this to be so in the case of any human being, not absolutely abnormal, whom the state has undertaken to educate? If, as a community, we put our hands to the educational plow, and so far not only relieve parents of a large portion of their sense of responsibility, but actually suppress the voluntary agencies that would otherwise undertake educational work, surely we should see to it that our education educates. Direct moral instruction in the schools is not likely to be of any great avail unless, by other and indirect means, the mind is prepared to receive it. What is needed is to awaken a sense of capacity and power, to give to each individual some trained faculty and some direct and, as far as it goes, scientific cognizance of things. Does any one suppose that a youth who had gone through a judicious course of manual training, or one who had become interested in any such subject as botany, chemistry, or agriculture, or who even had an intelligent insight into the elementary laws of mechanics, could develop into a hoodlum? On the other hand, there is no difficulty in imagining that such a development might take place in a youth who had simply been plied with spelling-book, grammar, and arithmetic. Even what seem the most interesting reading lessons fall dead upon minds that have no hold upon the reality of things, and no sense of the distinctions which the most elementary study of Nature forces on the attention.