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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/476

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472
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE PLAY ATTITUDE AND THE SCHOOL FRATERNITY
By Dr. E. L. TALBERT

THE UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI

IN primitive society men hunted and fought in bands; they planned their expeditions in councils; they celebrated their victories and lamented their defeats in dance, chant and ritual. Boys early left the tutelage of their mothers, and the males—old and young—betook themselves to their "men's houses" lodges or secret societies, from which the women of the tribe were excluded. In some instances women formed like associations, expressing in this way the difference between feminine interests and the more active, predatory tendencies of men.[1]

Whatever the racial origins, the fact is plain that in children to-day there crop out instinctive proclivities to fight, to hunt, to court danger: they form gangs and secret societies in which they play the rôles of primitive man and imitate the occupations of their elders. After the earlier period of romping and playing individualistic games, they find greater delight in group games. At a certain age boys refuse to play girls' games, and separately engage in more violent, complex activities demanding general rules for their successful pursuit. Later, as the characteristics due to sexual ripening grow pronounced, the desire to please the opposite sex enters as a motive. Intricate sports are played with greater efficiency, facility in subordinating individual glory for the sake of the prestige of the team increases. When the physical and mental unrest attending dawning manhood and womanhood arises, vague, deep emotions and ideals are felt, and the occupations which in childhood were "played at" are now considered in the light of possible careers. Gradually the sense of having a mission in the world unfolds, forming one of the bases of religious awakening and interest in history and politics.

A satisfactory account of the phenomena pertaining to the social grouping of childhood and youth should include the following items. (1) It should stress the place of impulses and feelings which are ancestral, conflicting and urgent; recognizing that these impulses ripen at different periods, are roughly uniform, in spite of varying strengths in particular individuals, and that they embody combative and cooperative dispositions, both of which are essential to effective grappling with practical problems. (2) The fundamental requirement of growing organisms is overt activity and experimentation arising from imma-

  1. Webster, "Primitive Secret Societies," Ch. II.