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´╗┐Title: Rural Problems of Today
Author: Groves, Ernest R. (Ernest Rutherford), 1877-1946
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Literature in Agriculture (CHLA), Cornell University)




 _Author of "Moral Sanitation," "Using the Resources of
 the Country Church," etc._










This book is written for the men and women who love the country and are
interested in its social welfare. Fortunately there are many such, and
each year their number is increasing.

Rural life has as many sides as there are human interests. This book
looks out upon country-life conditions from a viewpoint comparatively
neglected. It attempts to approach rural social life from the
psychological angle. The purpose of the book forces it from the
well-beaten pathways, but this effort to give emphasis to the mental
side of rural problems is not an attempt to discount the other
significant aspects of the rural environment. The field of rural service
is large enough to contain all who desire by serious study to advance at
some point the happiness, prosperity, and wholesomeness that belong by
social right to those who live and work in the country.

The author desires to thank the following for the privilege of using
material previously published: American Sociological Society, _American
Journal of Sociology_, National Conference of Social Work, Association
Press, and _Rural Manhood_.

 E. R. G.

 Durham, N. H.
 April 1, 1918.



 PREFACE                                             vii


    II. THE FAMILY IN OUR COUNTRY LIFE                15





   VII. RURAL VS. URBAN ENVIRONMENT                  103

  VIII. THE MIND OF THE FARMER                       117


     X. RURAL SOCIALIZING AGENCIES                   149

    XI. THE WORLD-WAR AND RURAL LIFE                 169




With reference to the care of children, faulty homes may be divided into
two classes. There are homes that give the children too little care and
there are homes that give them too much. The failure of the first type
of home is obvious. Children need a great deal of wise, patient, and
kindly care. Even the lower animals require, when domesticated,
considerable care from their owners, if they are to be successfully
brought from infancy to maturity. Of course children need greater care.
No one doubts this. And yet it is certainly true that there are, even in
these days of widespread intelligence, many homes where the children
obtain too little care and in one way or another are seriously

The harmfulness of the homes that give their children too much care is
not so generally realized as is the danger of the careless and selfish
home, although, in a general way, everyone acknowledges that children
may be given too much attention. The difficulty is to determine when a
particular child is being given too much adult supervision and too
little freedom. No one would question the fact that a child can become
an adult only by a decrease of adult control and an increase of personal
responsibility. Nevertheless, in spite of a general belief that a child
needs an opportunity to win self-government, there are parents not a few
who, from love and anxiety, run into the danger of protecting and
controlling their children too much. The father or mother spends too
much time with the children. The children are pampered. Too many
indulgences are permitted them. Children in these over-careful homes are
likely to grow up neurotic, conceited, timid, babyish, daydreaming men
and women, who are of little use in the world and are often a serious
problem for normal people. Probably this second type of a deficient home
is more dangerous than the first, for children without sufficient home
care often discover a substitute for their loss, but the over-protected
children can obtain no antidote for their misfortune.

Everyone knows that attacks are increasingly being made upon the home in
its present form by people who regard it as inefficient or as an
anachronism. It is usually thought, however, that these attacks come
mostly from agitators who set themselves more or less in opposition to
all the institutions established by the present social order. Perhaps
for this reason many do not believe that the family is receiving any
serious criticism and its satisfactory functioning is therefore taken
for granted. Such an easy-going optimism is not justified, for criticism
of the home is coming from science as well as from the agitators. For
example read "The Deforming Influences of the Home," by Dr. Helen W.
Brown, which appeared in the _Journal of Abnormal Psychology_ for April,
1917. She writes in one place as follows:

"Small wonder, then, if we begin to see that many of the mental ills
that afflict men are not due, as has been commonly supposed, to lack of
home training and the deteriorating influence of the world, but to too
much home, to a narrow environment which has often deformed his mind at
the start and given him a bias that can only be overcome through painful
adjustments and bitter experience."

The psychoanalysts and the clinic psychologists are gathering material
all the time that illustrates the bad results of home influences, and
soon the agitator will be using this as proof of the harmfulness of the
home as an institution. Some of us believe that no skepticism can be
more dangerous socially than that relating to the value of the home. The
best protection of the home must come from its moral efficiency and this
cannot be obtained if people are unwilling to face reasonable and
constructive criticism of the present working of the home. It is natural
for the adult looking backward to his childhood to assume too much for
the home, and then to transfer his emotion and his sense of the value of
his home experience to the present family as an institution. With this
enormous prejudice he refuses to see how often the family influence is
morally and socially bad. It would surprise such a person at least to
read an article like Emerson's "The Psychopathology of the Family" which
recently appeared in _The Journal of Abnormal Psychology_. Material
showing the unhappy results of inefficient family influences may be
found in nearly any number of the _Psychoanalytic Review_.

There appear to be three causes of the unwholesomeness of home
influences: lack of competition between homes, insufficient science
regarding the home problems, and the pleasure basis of family

First: There is no competition between homes. This is a most strikingly
peculiar situation. The home is competed against by other institutions,
such as the saloon, the moving picture, and the like, but as between
homes there is no competition whatever. Home life is a private affair.
Public opinion rules that it remain private. Nothing is sooner or more
seriously resented than interference with or criticism of the home life
of the individual. Professional men, such as doctors, lawyers, and
ministers, and business men compete with one another, and from this
competition comes constant, sane change and progress. But in the home,
there being no competition, methods of home management, however bad, go
on without change. Parents never realize their habitual carelessness in
home life. The scientists are seeking to bring some sort of competition
into home life, but they are under a very heavy handicap. In fact this
handicap is greater now than formerly, for our forefathers made long
visits with each other, sometimes staying for weeks in one home, thus
giving ample opportunity for valuable criticisms and suggestions from
guest to host.

Second: Bringing up children is really a scientific task and requires
scientific information. But to obtain scientific information of
practical value relating to the home is a baffling proposition. Human
instincts and child development have been studied very little. We have
theorized a great deal about such problems, but we have a remarkably
small fund of actual accurate information. Such knowledge as we have
recorded has been mostly obtained by parents, who have, of course, been
prejudiced. In such cases we seldom know the later history of the child
or the character of the home management and the actual contribution that
the home made as compared with other influences. Men who have had to
consider the entire history of an individual, who comes to the mind
specialist for treatment because of some abnormality of mental or moral
character, are gathering a great deal of valuable material regarding
family influences, but much of this is in regard to men and women who in
one way or another have been social failures. We have no material at
present of equal value in regard to the persons who in a popular sense
are "normal individuals." Such valuable information as we already have,
we are not very seriously trying to distribute. Yet, fortunately, a
beginning has been made and the entire problem is receiving an attention
that it has never before had.

Third: People are finding it difficult to accept the responsibilities
that belong to family life. Modern men and women more and more are
basing the home upon pleasure and comfort and personal advantages in a
narrow and thoughtless sense. When the crucial tests of family fitness
come with the children, the parents fail. They have had little specific
training for their greatest obligation and under such circumstances it
is strange only that so often they do not greatly fail. Children are
often unwelcome when they come into the home. Their coming disturbs the
easy-going pleasure regime of the household and as they become somewhat
of a burden to the father and mother, their interests are compromised,
that their parents may continue to have some of the freedom which they
enjoyed before the children came. Imagination cannot prepare for
experience in such a degree as to make it possible for those who marry
to realize the possible responsibilities of their choice. Because of
this they often are found to have undertaken tasks against which in
their heart of hearts they protest. It is natural for them, with such an
internal dissatisfaction, not to commit themselves fully or sufficiently
to the needs of their children.

Of one fact there is no doubt. Modern science is all the time
illustrating that early childhood, the period when the influence of
parents counts most, is the most significant of all the life of the
individual. Diseases and weaknesses of a physical character that
originate in early life bring about physical results that show in later
life. The same fact is true, but not so easily seen, with reference to
mental, moral, and social characteristics. The influence of the parents
upon the thinking of the child is particularly important. A child must
be trained to think rightly early in life. He should be saved from a
fanciful, dreamy life. He should be made to face real conditions, for
only as he tussles with reality is he prepared to enter the
relationships later demanded of mature adults. In all this he is much
influenced by his parents. At times real ability in the child to meet
his tasks with childish heroism is crushed by his parents and his entire
life spoiled.

The county worker, the minister, and the social leader in the country
must in their work consider seriously the needs of the home. The great
war will surely put a new strain upon the family. One result is likely
to be a freer relation between the sexes. Women now in new occupations,
because of the demands for labor due to war conditions, are likely to
remain in considerable numbers. This will influence the home status.
Schools are becoming more and more efficient and are taking over more of
the home functions. Good social service in the country will encourage
the home to use more fully its opportunities, to accept all its possible
functions. It is well not to be in a hurry to take as our work that
which the home fails to accomplish. The bad families, on the other hand,
should be stripped of all functions possible. Such homes cannot be
"eaten up" too soon.

Training should be provided for parents in the country. Some of this
type of social service is already being carried on in the cities. It is
equally needed in the country. Put on work for parents and get them to
come. Bring in men who have practical messages of real value to parents.
Don't seek to get a crowd. Lead country idealism to concrete problems.
For example, attempt to lower the death rate by making information
regarding health more popular. Drive the patent medicines from their
stronghold. Introduce the more thoughtful people to the work of the Life
Extension Institute.

Do not forget the human need of inspiration. People know more now than
they use. Get speakers who can inspire parents to activity. Only keep
the inspiration from being dissipated. Connect with actual problems the
interest awakened by good speakers. Insist upon enriching and
encouraging the home through the contributions of earnest talks upon
home problems. Don't expect cold science to accomplish with country
people what it is unable to do in the city. Inspiration and instruction
are both required.




There is in our modern life nothing more significant than the increasing
social discontent regarding the present status of the home. Criticism of
our family conditions comes both from the enemies and from the friends
of the home. A radical and vigorous school of thought finds in the
family of today a mere social and moral anachronism, to be pushed aside
as quickly as possible. Another group of thinkers, on the other hand,
sees in the changes that are already taking place in the conditions of
family life, a hopeless deterioration. In such a turmoil of social
controversy there is at least unmistakable evidence that the home is
passing through a period of readjustment. This much is clear: changes in
our manner of life have placed a strain upon the family that it cannot
successfully withstand without greater efficiency.

Any effort to determine the value and obligations of the family, whether
urban or rural, requires first of all a clear statement of the
significant places of irritation, where at present the family is meeting
strain that makes readjustment necessary. These may be classified as
difficulties created by changes in:

1. The equipment or environment of the family.

2. The function of the family.

3. The internal adjustment of the family.

Regarding the family equipment, the situation in the city is certainly
radically different from what it was. The usual dwelling place of the
home was, in former times, a house which the family occupied
exclusively. It made home seclusion and family fellowship easy and gave
the family group a sense of responsibility for its place of living. For
an increasing number of people, this type of dwelling place no longer
exists. In its place we have the flat, the hotel, and the apartment
house. The new conditions do not provide the present family with a
favorable equipment. The seclusion of the family is largely removed. The
fellowship within the family circle is greatly decreased because of the
limitations of the place of abode, and the increased attraction of
places of amusement outside, made necessary because of the failure of
the home to give satisfactory recreation. Of course, the sense of
personal responsibility for the place of habitation is almost entirely
destroyed. Such is the equipment furnished the family by modern city
life. In the country, however, the family has had little significant
change in its equipment.

The largest function of the family is its moral training. It is this
service which has made the family the most important element in our past
civilization. Were the family of the future to fail morally, it would be
hard to imagine how its existence could be justified. Without doubt
this moral function of the family has centered about the children. The
conditions of modern urban life, however, tend to make the moral
training of the child by the home increasingly difficult. The city
dwelling does not offer the child a normal opportunity for his play. The
school and other institutions have to take over service formerly
rendered the child in the home. In a large number of cases the urban
home regards the child as merely a burden and therefore in such homes
every effort is made to have no children born. This prevents the home
from attempting the moral service for which it exists. Instead, the
futile attempt is made to build up an enduring, satisfying home life
upon the basis of the mere personal pleasure of husband and wife. In the
country we find the home, for the most part, attempting to carry out its
former function as an educational and moral institution.

The most serious difficulty in our present family appears to be
internal. Economic changes have brought women, to a very great degree,
into industry as wage earners. Women are at present earning a livelihood
in almost every form of occupation. New ethical and political ideas, in
addition to this great economic change in woman's life, have influenced
her status. She no longer has to marry in order to obtain the
necessities of life. She can become a wage earner. If she marries, she
brings into her new state of living the sense of independence that has
come to her from her experiences as a wage earner. In many cases, after
marriage she continues to work away from the home for wages. Marriage,
as it used to be, made no provision for the new status of woman. It
assumed a dependence, a subordination, and a limitation to which in
these days many women refuse to assent. This internal change in the
conditions of home life brings about a host of difficulties that require
satisfactory adjustment if the living together of the husband and wife
is to be a happy one.

In the country the demand for this new adjustment is less serious, for
there, to a greater degree than in the city, there are women who have
not claimed their new status.

The rural home with reference to its equipment, function, and internal
adjustment appears superior to the city home. When this conclusion is
reached, many students of rural problems are content to drop the
discussion of the rural family. Such an attitude of satisfaction
concerning the country home is neither logical nor safe. It may well be
that the country family will meet the strain due to modern changes later
than the urban family, but sooner or later it will have to face the need
of new adjustment. Only time itself can disclose whether the country
home will find serious difficulties in the way of its final adjustment
to the significant changes of modern life. There is certainly little
security in the fact that numerous country families have as yet been
insensible to the matrimonial unrest so characteristic of urban people.
What has come first to the urban centers must, sooner or later, to a
greater or less degree, enter country life. Indeed, it is impossible to
doubt that family discontent is growing in the country.

The important question, however, to the moral and social worker is
whether the country is obtaining all that it should from its superior
family opportunity. Assuming that it is healthier than the city, with
reference to the equipment, function, and adjustment of the family, it
is reasonable to ask, "What are the obstacles that keep the country home
from making its largest moral contribution to society?"

One fault with some country homes stands out on the surface. The wife is
too much a drudge. Her life is too narrow and too hard. This type of
home is passing, no doubt, but it has by no means passed. This kind of
woman may be little influenced by new thought, and may think her
situation as natural for her as it was for her mother. Whatever her
personal attitude, however, from the very nature of things she is unable
to make a significant moral contribution through her family duties.
There will be striking exceptions, of course, but the general rule will
stand--in modern life the woman drudge makes a poor mother. The fact
that she is less likely to rebel against her hard condition than her
urban sister, does not remove the dangers of her situation. And it is
well for the lover of country welfare to remember that even when the
wife accepts with no complaint the hardness of her lot, she often blames
her husband's occupation, farming, for her misfortune, and becomes a
rural pessimist, urging her children neither to farm nor to marry
farmers. Her deep, instinctive protest appears through suggestion in the
cravings of her children for urban life and urban occupation.

The housekeeping problem is for the woman on the farm seldom an easy
one, but, nevertheless, conditions that make of the farmer's wife an
overworked house slave are in these days of labor-saving devices without
excuse. In any case, such a family situation in the country, whatever
its cause, must be regarded as pathological.

Sex has too large a place in the construction of the rural family. One
of the advantages of the country family of which we hear much is the
general tendency toward earlier marriages than in the city. Without
doubt marriages, as a rule, do occur earlier among country people. This
fact is significant in more ways than most writers recognize. A very
thoughtful student of the American family, Mrs. Parsons, has called
attention to the social importance of the fact that after maturity
mental and moral traits are more likely to influence the choice than
merely physical traits. In other words, the earlier marriages are more
likely to be influenced by sex interests--using the term in a narrow
sense--than are the later marriages. This brings no social problem to
the minds of those who see in marriage, for the most part, merely
physical attraction and relations. The movement of human experience
seems, however, on the whole, to be away from such a conception of
marriage. Although the postponement of marriage requires for social
welfare a greater moral self-control, we have every reason to suppose
that we must gain social health by a higher moral idealism rather than
by a return to the earlier marriage of former generations. In that case,
to a considerable degree, the earlier marrying of the country people
discloses that they have not as yet felt the full force of the modern
causes that make for later marriages. Earlier marriages may be indeed
happier, but they are often narrower.

A recent writer tells us that the vices of the country are the vices of
isolation. Sex difficulties arise spontaneously and require no
commercial exploitation when young people live a barren and narrow life
without ideals. This emphasis of sex is expressed not merely in
immorality and illegitimacy, but also in a precocious interest in sex
and in a precocious courtship. Early marriage, therefore, often
represents the reaction from an uninteresting and empty environment and,
however fortunate in itself, certainly does not demonstrate a socially
wholesome situation.

To contrast the divorce situation in the country with that in the city
also fails to give the basis for social optimism that the facts are
often used to prove. Public opinion has more to do with actions than
law, and at present the general attitude toward the granting of divorce
is more conservative in the country than in the city. The reason for
this difference is, in large measure, the fact that once again the
country shows itself less sensitive to the changes that are taking place
with reference to the conditions of marriage. It certainly is not safe
to assume that the unhappy marriages in the country are in proportion
to the number of divorces. It is more likely that unless the urban
attitude changes, in time the country will come to feel toward divorces
much as city people do at present.

It is important to notice that, although legal divorce is frowned upon,
there is often a considerable social indifference to the loose living
together of men and women. Two clergymen at work in a rural community of
about a thousand people recently stated that there were in the community
at least forty unmarried people living together as husband and wife.
Later, I was informed by another resident of the town that the clergymen
had not exaggerated the situation. And yet I doubt not that the
community had a rather low divorce record. It is very interesting how
the moral code of a community may be strict at one point, while lenient
at another. In some rural communities, at least, one may find an
inconsistent public opinion that expresses very rigid hostility to
divorce and little practical opposition to lax sex relations. The low
attitude toward the sex element in marriage and the coarse viewpoint
disclosed by conversation often surprise the country visitor who is not
acquainted with the occasional inconsistency of rural ethics. Judging
the standing of married life by infrequent divorces and rather early
marriage, he is painfully disconcerted to discover that the marriage
ideal is nevertheless mean and lacking in social inspiration.

A third criticism is deserved by the rural family, namely, its failure
to make use of its social opportunity. It is easy to demonstrate the
greater normality of the rural family as compared with the urban family,
with respect to the family conditions that make possible an efficient
home life. It is not always true, however, that these superior family
opportunities are of social value. It is true that children are
generally valued in the rural home. This is, at times, for the supposed
economic help the children are expected to be to the parents, rather
than because of an unselfish regard for the children, as a moral
opportunity. It is true that the home generally counts for more in the
life of the country child than in that of the city child. This by no
means proves that the greater home influence is always a social asset.
The home may penetrate the child's life deeply and yet affect it badly.
If the home means more, the character of the home comes to have a larger
meaning; what the significance of the home influence may be, is
determined by the type of the home. A greater opportunity for family
fellowship is naturally offered by the rural home, but this fellowship
opportunity works both ways. The closer contact of all the members of
the family often results in bringing all of them down to a low level of
culture. The base attitude of one or of both parents toward life may
poison each child's aspiration as he advances into maturity. The
neighborhood relation, which brings several families into close contact,
often permits a vicious child of one family to initiate many children
from various homes into sex experiences in such an unwholesome way that
purity of mind becomes very difficult later on, whether the illicit
intercourse comes to an end or not.

Rural people are too likely to be content with their superior family
conditions. There is real need for an emphasis upon the proper use of
these opportunities. The conscientious urban parent is stimulated to his
best by the rivalry of other attractions that attempt to exploit his
child. The rural parent has no security in the greater natural
advantages of the country home. Everything depends upon the way the
rural home makes use of its opportunity. The rural church, especially,
should take to heart this remarkably significant fact.

No institution in the country has the importance of the family. Good
moral strategy requires, therefore, that effort be made to make the
rural home happy and wholesome. The needs of rural people are indeed
many, but there is no need greater than the fullest development of the
opportunities for moral progress provided by the conditions of family
life in the country. It would seem as if one principle should always be
observed--no effort is wholly good that looks toward a substitution for
family responsibility. It is also true that the family will not again
have the moral monopoly of the child. Necessary as it may be, in certain
cases, to allow the family to farm out its important functions to some
other institution, this condition ought always to be recognized as
unfortunate. The better way of making permanent progress is effort that
encourages the family to make better use of its neglected opportunities.

First of all, the rural home needs to be spiritualized. Of course, there
is equal need of spiritualizing the urban home, but that problem does
not concern us now. Objections are sure to be raised against any rural
program that bases itself upon an attempt to emphasize idealism and a
spiritual interpretation of experiences. There is, however, no other
way. Material progress will neither content nor elevate country life.
Contact with nature is so close and constant that when spiritual insight
is lacking there is bound to be a fatalistic and brutalizing tendency.
Religion that does not enter intimately into everyday life and enrich
the baffling experiences of daily labor with great spiritual
interpretations, gives little of value to country people. The rural home
awakens to its opportunities only when it is invigorated by vital
spiritual inspiration. A materialistic philosophy of life will eat the
heart out of the country and leave it in despair. Country people seldom
have wide choice; they must either penetrate common experience with the
eye of confident idealism, or they must dig the earth, bent down with
the oppressing burden of dissatisfied toil. Whatever the philosophy of
life, it will command the spirit of the home.

Parents also need training if they are to make successful use of the
opportunities placed in their hands. This training needs especially to
give the parents a right point of view respecting sex and
sex-instruction. At present there is a powerful taboo in most country
places regarding any constructive attempt to give helpful sex
information, although, as a matter of practice, conversation often
gravitates toward sex in a most unwholesome fashion. The taboo is fixed
for the most part upon any public recognition of sex, while privately,
interest in matters of sex is taken for granted. We have gossip and
scandal, but little right-minded attention to sexual knowledge. This
condition must change before many families will be fit to win the full
confidence of the children and to influence them toward a high-minded
outlook upon life.

We must appreciate the very valuable efforts that are already being put
forth to make the rural homes more efficient with reference to
sanitation, hygiene, and proper food. This instruction promises to
decrease much human suffering, discontent, and poverty. In some
respects such constructive service is more needed in the country than in
the city. Certainly, good results are already appearing as a result of
the efforts that institutions and people interested in the country have
put forth.

The rural family must be made to realize the consequential character of
childhood experience. The alienist especially has demonstrated the
significant influence of childhood upon adult motives and conduct.
Recent studies of human conduct have greatly magnified the importance of
early experience and have disclosed how often it is the first cause of
morbid thinking and anti-social actions. The conclusion is not to be
doubted--a still greater effort must be made to conserve human character
by a wiser control of the influences of childhood. One may discover for
himself how interested conscientious parents are in detailed
illustrations of childhood influence upon adult life and how impressed
they are with the seriousness of such facts. Rural families must be
taught more generally this impressive contribution of modern science.

A much greater effort must be made in many localities to lift from the
rural family the burden of the feeble-minded. The possible harm that may
be caused by a high-grade feeble-minded boy or girl in the country can
be appreciated only by one who has come in contact with such a problem.
The close contact, free association, and common interests of rural folk,
with the added difficulty of segregating one's child, even when the
menace of a feeble-minded associate is fully recognized, make the
presence of feeble-minded boys and girls in the country a more difficult
and more serious matter than is the case at present in the city. The
school and the state, that is, the state by means of the opportunity
provided by the schools, must take more effective measures to handle
this problem. Until this has been brought about by public education and
agitation, many rural families will be required to encounter serious
moral dangers and problems for which society is itself responsible.

The rural family needs to be taught to be more just and more generous in
regard to other families. The clannish spirit ought to pass, for it is
without excuse in these days. The family interests a generation ago were
altogether too narrowly conceived to make a wholesome social life
possible. Greater cooperation is necessary if rural people are to make
progress, and this cooperation is impossible when families are jealous
and suspicious. This obstacle in the way of wholesome rural culture,
made by selfish and petty family motives, it is useless to ignore.
Unless the obstacle can be pushed aside, other efforts to inspire
country people to a realization of their social opportunities must
surely fail. Family life in the country can be saved from its besetting
sin when rural leadership undertakes this task with the seriousness its
importance justifies.

The rural family must be led to adopt a positive morality. This is
imperative. The age of prohibition as an expression of ideals has
passed. Emphasis must be placed upon what we should do, and must be
removed from a trivial and legalized code of "Don'ts." Here and there in
the country we find a firmly entrenched negative interpretation of moral
obligation. Nothing is so dangerous morally as this. Nothing can so
certainly drive out of the community the broad-minded, fine-spirited
youth. The family must interpret morality with good sense and with a
full regard for the proportions of things. The parents must teach a
better moral standard than they themselves were taught. The home
morality must have the flavor of kindliness and sweet reasonableness.
Morality, to be true to its essence, does not require that it be made
disagreeable. Goodness is beauty expressed in human conduct and,
therefore, deserves freedom to disclose its winsome charm as well as
its stern pre-eminence.

This program for constructive social service in the country is largely
based upon the conservation of the moral and spiritual resources of the
country. The deepest need of the country can be satisfied by no smaller
propaganda. The instruments for such service we already have. The
country school, the country church, neighborhood fellowship, and the
Young Men's Christian Association provide the means for a moral and
spiritual renaissance in the country. There is no easier way to obtain a
healthy rural family life than by a skilful, serious, and large-hearted
use of our moral institutions in concrete, courageous, and modern
instruction, and in persuasive inspiration.


[1] Published as a part of the report of the fifth Country Life
Conference by Association Press under the title, "The Home of The




Of late the rural schools have been receiving much attention. Educators
and others interested in rural welfare have seriously studied the needs
and opportunities of our country schools and the good results of this
interest are already revealing themselves. It is true, of course, that
much of this contribution to the rapidly increasing literature devoted
to rural educational problems has come from men who live in urban
communities and who for the most part have expert knowledge concerning
the administration of urban schools.

It is easy, without doubt, to give too much emphasis to the peculiar
needs of the rural schools and to forget that urban and rural schools
have much in common. Without forgetting that many of our school
problems are fundamental and present in all schools regardless of the
environment in which they attempt to function, it is reasonable to
regret that a larger part in the discussions relating to rural education
has not been taken by people living in the country and familiar with the
rural life of the present time. It is only just to add, however, that
both urban and rural education suffer because so little influence comes
into school theory and practice from those who stand outside the
profession of teaching. The teacher is not likely to know life so widely
or so accurately as do those men and women who have won success by
meeting actual situations that test practical judgment and sound
self-control. Every one subscribes to the statement that the business of
education is the preparation of pupils for life, every one knows that
the value of such a preparation can be made certain only by being
brought under the acid test of the actual conditions of social life, but
few there are that realize that one of the ever-present problems of
educational efficiency is due to the fact that the thinking that
influences the purposes and methods of teachers mostly originates within
the profession itself. The significance of this would be apparent were
it true that all of one's education for life comes from the schools;
happily, this is not true, and most pupils obtain valuable experiences
from actual contact with problems of life that impress them more deeply
than the preparation which at the same time the school is trying to

The rural worker needs to feel a responsibility for the making of some
contribution to the rural school's social program. He cannot help having
some advantages, in judging the results of school training, over the
teacher who is busy with the process of instruction itself. Without
doubt the rural worker has felt incompetent to enter much into
educational discussion, thinking that such matters are sacred to those
who have pedagogic training, but a moment's thought convinces one that,
since the teacher has more to do with the preparation for life than the
living of life, it is socially unsafe for the teacher to have a complete
monopoly of educational discussion and to obtain no help from those who
test the product of his schools.

The rural school has at present needs that stand out. First, it needs to
be socialized. This is true also of the urban school, but it is not
equally true. Urban schools have to some degree responded to the
pressure of modern life and have assumed in increasing measure a social
function. There has been no such pressure from rural communities. Often
the educational ideals for which country people have enthusiasm are
composed of experiences in a school-spirit less social than that usually
found in the rural school of the present time. This means that the
pressure of public opinion often pushes backward, while the urban school
is being forced forward.

Neither country school nor city school can obtain much success in its
socializing program until it really ministers to the physical needs of
its pupils. Theory to the contrary, the school system still forgets that
the chief business of the child is the making of a body, and that for
the sake of future personal and social welfare the needs of the body
must have right of way. Until this fact of nature is given its full
worth and the mental side of the school work is subordinated, public
education can never be a complete success. So long as the body needs of
the growing child are exploited for the purpose of obtaining mental
results that appear to the adult outside of the teaching profession both
trivial and premature, there can be no hope that the school will
maintain a perfectly wholesome social program. This problem is certainly
as serious in the country school as in the city school. This matter is
no by-product. When the schools fail to conserve human possibilities by
ignoring the regulations imposed by natural law upon the operation of
their educational processes, the schools are socially negligent. They
are faulty in the purpose for which they have been created.

The second difficulty comes from the first. The rural school still needs
a larger program. When it seriously undertakes to assume its function as
the most effective of our social institutions, it will make radical
changes in its program. To affirm this one need not forget or undervalue
the changes already made. Additions have been made to the program. The
spirit of the program has not been radically changed. We still provide
an individualistic preparation--hopelessly inadequate though it
is--rather than the social training which can be the only safe
foundation for social progress. We still overvalue ancient knowledge and
former educational values. We still refuse to admit into our schools
occupations and interests that belong there because they are consistent
with the instincts of the child. The country school has been stupidly
indifferent to the wealth of its resources and has forced upon its
pupils a meager and lifeless program. When a country high school, for
example, attempts to minister to the needs of its students with a
program of study that includes no science of any kind, the people of
that community ought to be told, as recently in one case they were, that
they are enforcing an educational policy that prophesies community

The third difficulty of the rural school system is its institutionalism.
No effective organization can be developed without creating in it the
danger of too great institutional concern. Those who are connected with
the schools very easily come to regard its problems from the point of
view of the welfare of the organization rather than that of the best
interests of the children. Of course this mistake is nearly always
unconscious and those who are really influenced by the professional
instinct to protect the immediate interests of the school as an
institution come to believe that they are also doing the best that can
be done for the people. It is, however, the clear teaching of human
history that effort to maintain the welfare of any social organization
is likely to decrease the attention given to its efficiency. The
attitude of institutional self-protection leads to uncritical methods,
easy-going content, and rigid, unprogressive habits of thought. In our
public school system the vital influences are always in conflict with
the constructive endeavor of those who, because of their desire for
professional repose, insist that the institution keep its attention upon
itself and continue as it happens to be. In the country this attitude is
likely to receive less criticism than in the city and for that reason
those who wish progress in the country must assume an unending struggle
against it.

Whatever its faults, the rural school in its influence upon country
youth has only one possible rival--the home. At present the school is
obtaining more and more opportunity to influence young life; the home is
losing more and more of the opportunities it once had. It behooves,
therefore, any one who serves young life in the country, to appreciate
what a power for good or for evil, for progress or for regression, the
schools are. Every effort should be made to understand the schools. With
the teachers sympathetic relationships should be maintained, but without
even a tinge of subserviency. An unbiased judgment of the social value
of the schools, known only to himself, should be constructed by the
rural worker and then every effort should be made to cooperate with the
striving of the school for better results and to supplement with
generous spirit the necessary limitations of public school service.
Indirectly and quietly the rural worker may wisely try to invest as much
as possible of himself in the school's social service by working through
those who control the public education of the community. No rural
worker can expect a greater ally than an efficient, socially-minded
country school.




The difference between the urban and the rural church may easily be
exaggerated. There are differences, of course, and it is natural that
the rural worker and the student of country life should make too much of
what is characteristic of the church ministering to country people. At
bottom, however, the two types of churches share the same experiences.
Therefore, what may be said in regard to one will prove also to be
largely true of the other. For the purpose of giving emphasis to the
work of the rural church, nevertheless, we are justified in forgetting
for the moment how common to both forms of church life are the
fundamental needs, resources, and possibilities.

Those who carry the burdens of church administration are generous in
listening as they do to the criticism and counsels of those who stand
outside. Indeed, so much has been said and is still being said in regard
to the work of the country church, especially by those who are not
clergymen and not responsible for the directing of church activity, that
one may well hesitate to express another opinion. And yet the tolerance
of those who have in charge the policy of the country church is in
itself significant and invites additional suggestions regarding the
function of the Christian Church in country places. It is significant
because it discloses that the church leaders know that the rural
churches have serious problems. It invites suggestions because it
reveals that the leaders are in some measure perplexed as to what is
required in our day of the country church, and are therefore not hostile
to any contribution that has a constructive purpose.

Institutions tend to be self-satisfied and self-protecting. A religious
institution especially is in danger of becoming content and resentful
of criticism because, by its nature, it deals with matters that seem
beyond the investigation that man prescribes for ordinary things, and
therefore secure from the scrutiny and criticism given to common,
everyday interests. Of course the Church has no right to protect itself
from criticism with respect to its efficiency of service by asking that
it be treated as if it were itself religion.

The fact that the leaders of the rural church are not taking this
attitude is of all things most helpful. It proves that their eyes are
directed outward toward their responsibilities and that the rural
churches are not in danger of the greatest evil that ever befalls a
religious institution--a blind leadership which cannot distinguish
between success and failure and is therefore well content when it ought
to be most dissatisfied.

Whether rural church leadership is willing to consider radical changes
in methods of social and moral service is a question time alone can
answer. The test has not yet been made; whether serious changes should
be considered can at present be only a matter of opinion. At present the
usual attitude seems to be that the rural church needs more skill--new
methods--in the doing of what it has always been doing. There appears as
yet to be little disposition to ask whether modern life requires of the
rural church that it change in large measure its form of service.

With its history of past success by the use of present methods deep in
its consciousness, it is certainly difficult for the rural church to
consider without prejudice the possibility of its needing to change its
manner of functioning. It is, however, possible that life has been so
changed, so fundamentally changed, that the Church to meet its present
duties and to use its present resources must make profound changes in
its method of service. When the situation advances to the point where
such changes receive serious consideration, some of us believe that the
following questions will be asked and finally answered on the basis of
experiment and experience:

1. Must not the rural church give less attention to preaching? The
theological student is still taught by many of our Protestant
seminaries, just as he was a decade ago, that the minister's chief
function is preaching. There can be no doubt concerning the supreme
importance of preaching in the past. Is not, however, its effectiveness
decreasing? If the Church were starting its work at the present time, in
the light of the methods of other organizations, would we expect it to
put the stress upon preaching that it does at present? There are two
reasons why preaching ought not to have the emphasis it has had in the
past. Much of its former importance was due to influences that are now
exerted by the newspaper, the magazine, the library, the public lecture,
and even by the theater. The sermon no longer has the monopoly it once
had in the bringing of moral truth to the attention of the people. Many
people are more deeply impressed by the methods of presenting truth
exercised by some of the Church's rivals for popular attention. It is
also true that, since religion has tried to function more in social life
and the Church has not so much tried to build up an experience of dogma
within the life of the individual, the sermon has, as a means of public
influence, suffered some handicap. It is largely because of this that
the Church has undertaken so much new work in addition to the preaching.

There is, of course, a limit in the process of taking on new forms of
service and eliminating nothing. The minister is human and he simply can
not do so much as is asked of him. Charles M. Sheldon, in a very
interesting essay in regard to the work of the minister,[2] says that
the man does not live who can produce two good, new sermons each week.
In the long run the rural church must decrease the emphasis upon
preaching, if it is successfully to carry on the new work that from time
to time it is adding. And the new activities come with all the momentum
that belongs to service that seems to fulfil real needs.

When the Church devotes less attention to preaching, it will certainly
give more consideration to its function as a leader of worship.
Protestantism has never exaggerated this part of the Church's activity;
it usually still undervalues the importance of the esthetic element in
religion. Worship tends to emphasize the common elements; preaching
necessarily brings out the differences between religious people. When
there is less importance given to preaching and more to worship, there
will be a decrease in sectarianism.

Of course there are orators who preach and who enjoy the influence and
popularity that oratory always will have. These men, however, are
outstanding and their success illustrates the continuing power of
oratory, but it gives no argument for the effectiveness of preaching in
general. As a person having an instinctive bias for the spoken word, I
have slowly been driven to the opinion that a great multitude of people
feel differently and are more sincerely and more easily influenced by
other means of bringing truth home to the hearts of men and women.

Less attention to preaching will permit the rural minister to undertake
the other work given in the following parts of the program here

2. There is a second question that we may expect the rural church some
time to consider--must not the Church make more of modern science as a
means of developing social and individual character? This question is
likely to reveal different ideas as to what religion is. One who thinks
of the spiritual as the flower of complete living, who wishes every
possible wholesome condition provided for character-formation, will
naturally regard science as the friend of religion and the basis for
moral progress. There is no one who does not wish the Church in some
degree to take advantage of the means for its wider service provided by
discovery and invention. Must not the rural church undertake to
distribute to the community life the helpful information science has,
unless it is willing to give to some other institution a great moral
service that at present it can best perform? Until it assumes in a
greater degree and in a more conscious manner the distribution of
science in the small community life, can we expect any amount of
exhortation to make the community life what it should be? The people
need, to meet their problems, concrete information that furnishes
specific answers to their difficulties.

At present the average minister realizes that his training has been
philosophic rather than scientific. His outlook upon life is from a
different viewpoint than that from which most men face experience. He
often builds his service for men upon a basis which no other
professional man except the lawyer--and he in a smaller and decreasing
degree--is attempting to use in practical effort. If the minister had
been given more science in his preparation for life, there is little
doubt that the Church would have accepted, especially in small towns and
villages, its opportunity to popularize science by bringing men and
women skilful in presenting useful information into the community and by
this time would have been regarded as socially the most valuable
instrument for the distribution of science.

3. Another question the rural church must soon face. Must there not be
less emphasis given to individualism and more to social control? This is
a question the schools are already facing. A philosophic outlook
naturally tends toward an emphasis upon individual responsibility in a
way science does not justify. Science (medicine, abnormal psychology,
and the social sciences especially) is showing more and more why men act
as they do. One's very personality is social in origin. The pressure of
early influences and of later public opinion is very great. Moral
results follow influences that belong to diseases, abnormal experiences,
unfortunate suggestions, defective inheritance, and a multitude of
causes understood by science. If religion is the supreme experience of a
wholesome, normal individual, there can be no doubt that increasingly we
must regard our moral problems as social more deeply than individual.
This will force the rural church to give up its present unreasonable
emphasis upon individual conduct and lead it to assume a much larger
social responsibility.

4. Finally, do not the currents of modern thought and feeling appear to
lead to a greater emphasis upon Christianity as a service rather than as
a system of thought? Will not the rural church consider whether it must
not put more emphasis upon itself as a function and less upon itself as
an interpreter of doctrine? This is the big question. At present the
Church wishes to increase its service, but it has only slight
inclination to reduce the attention it gives to doctrine. The essential
element in Christianity, service--largely as a result of the work of the
churches--has now widespread acceptance, but many are not captivated by
the doctrinal side of church activity. Such men must understand the
meaning of faith to Paul by the meaning of religion to Jesus. They
respond to the appeal of service; they do not take interest in matters
of doctrine. To such the Church is a function, not an interpreter of
dogma. What represents religious sanity in such a movement it is for
time to reveal, but the current now flows toward service and away from a
system of doctrine.

Service brings religious people together; doctrine separates them. It is
therefore natural that with the present tendency toward making religion
an activity, there should go a profound movement toward religious
consolidation. The reaction from narrower and narrower division, smaller
and smaller groups, within Protestantism is very determined. What a
blessing this is proving for the rural people! The burden of
sectarianism is hardest for them to endure. Someone has said that every
argument for the consolidated school is equally strong for the
consolidated church. If activity proves a working basis for the
fellowship of Christian people, we may in time have the community church
attempting to serve all the people in every possible way, and in
association with other churches assuming the same function. At present
this appears very distant and we are satisfied when we find churches
federating, while still assuming the seriousness of doctrinal

Our entire social life seems in a state of flux. It is commonplace
thought that changes are taking place. We are too closely related to the
movement to know just what is to be the outcome. A more stable condition
must some time come. It now appears that rural life is entering upon the
period of flux which heretofore has been more characteristic of the
cities. It is folly to suppose that church life will not at all change
during such a social experience as that upon which we have entered. The
rural worker must in every way possible help the Church in the work it
is now doing. He has no right, however, to be content with merely doing
this. He also should seriously think over and over the problems of
possible changes in church activity, that new social demands may not be
ignored. Since he knows the work of many churches, he has a basis for
wide-minded thought. This will prepare him to serve those churches that
attempt new service. In other words, the best type of rural worker will
not merely assist the Church that now is; he will also have sympathy and
understanding for the Church that is coming to be. This second task is
more difficult than the first. It will require critical thought, vision,
patience, courage, and good judgment.

Perhaps a sufficient criticism of this program is contained in the
question, "Why doesn't the author try to put his program in practice?"
The force of this challenge has been felt, even by one who is imbedded
in a different occupation and who has peculiar obligations that would
seem to forbid entering a new field of service. This much is certain,
were I a minister in any degree successful, I would be unlikely to feel
the need of any radical change in the program of the rural church; were
I a failure, I would have no courage to suggest the change. As an
outsider I have come to think that some change of program is sure to
come, but not quickly. Meanwhile it is wisdom for us all to remember
that the mission of the Church is a larger matter than its methods.


[2] "Man or Superman," _Atlantic Monthly_, January, 1917.




Nervous diseases, insanity, and feeble-mindedness are a grievous burden
for modern society. Every form of social ill roots itself in these mind
disorders. Since this great burden seems to be increasing as a result of
the conditions of present-day living, it is not strange that those most
familiar with the situation are seriously alarmed. This concern is
expressing itself in movements that attempt to educate the public to the
need of conserving the mind in every possible way. Interest is being
aroused in mental hygiene and this fact promises great social relief. It
is indeed fortunate that philanthropic effort has thus become welded
with science and is eager to get at one of the most serious sources of
poverty, alcoholism, prostitution, crime, and physical suffering. The
student of any of these great social problems knows that the roots of
the difficulty usually run down into human weaknesses such as the mental
hygiene movement is attempting to correct and prevent.

The mental hygiene propaganda has been up to the present time largely
confined to the urban centers, but it is very important that our rural
districts receive the benefits that come from attention to the problems
of mental health. Not that rural people have greater need of mental
hygiene than have those who live in the cities. Many alienists, on the
contrary, believe the city more in need of mind-conserving activities,
and, although there is no satisfactory basis for comparison, it would
seem as a result of the data gathered by the last census[3] that their
conclusion is reasonable in light of the evidence we have at present
regarding conditions in this country. The country needs emphasis
because it can be more easily neglected than the city.

People in the country are less likely to realize the needs of mental
hygiene. As a rule, rural conditions that should challenge the attention
of the leaders of the communities are not spectacular and appear in
isolation. In urban life, on the other hand, thoughtful social workers
are bound to see many individual cases that belong to the defective
group as a mass, and thereby to realize the seriousness of the problem.
If the rural leaders could put together the cases of social
maladjustment present in many different communities, there is no doubt
that the great need of mental hygiene in the country would be easily

It is also true that mental hygiene propaganda is somewhat more
difficult in the country, partly because of the temper of mind of rural
leadership and partly because of the lack of means for the reaching of
popular attention. People are not likely to be spontaneously interested
in the mental hygiene movement. They require the instruction and
inspiration that come through the personality of the alienist.
Fortunately our daily and weekly papers realize the seriousness of the
mental hygiene propaganda and they circulate both in the country and in
the city. This fact is making many of the leading people in the country
nearly as familiar with the problem of mental hygiene as are city

Even though we know less than we should like concerning the amount and
the significance of mental deficiency in the country, we already have
information that reveals the need of mental hygiene effort among rural
folk. The report of the New Hampshire Children's Commission made in 1915
contains a significant conclusion in regard to the feeble-mindedness in
the rural section of that state. "One of the most significant studies
that can be made in the survey of these counties is the geographic
distribution of the feeble-minded and the proportion of the entire
state population that falls within this defective class. Since there has
been a report from every town in the state, either by questionnaire or
personal canvass, this proportion may be considered fairly correct, even
though many cases have not been reported. One of the most significant
revelations of this table is the range of feeble-mindedness gradually
ascending from the smallest percentage, in the most populous county of
the state, to the largest percentages, in the two most remote and thinly
populated counties. It speaks volumes for the need of improving rural
conditions, of bringing the people in the remote farm and hill districts
into closer touch with the currents of healthy, active life in the great
centers. It shows that a campaign should begin at once--this very
month--for the improvement of rural living conditions, and especially
for the improvement of the rural schools, so that the children now
growing up may receive the education that is their birthright." We also
have two recent government reports that disclose the need of mental
hygiene among rural people.[4]

The first report, based upon a survey made in Newcastle County,
Delaware, contains among the conclusions these that are of special
interest to the student of rural life:

"Five-tenths of 1 per cent of 3,793 rural school children examined in
New Castle County are definitely feeble-minded and in need of
institutional treatment.

An additional 1.3 per cent of the total number were so retarded mentally
as to be considered probable mental defectives and in need of
institutional care.

A number of mentally defective children were encountered who exhibited
symptoms similar to those which are observed in the adult insane.

It is believed, as a result of this survey, that epilepsy is a more
prevalent disease than it has heretofore been thought to be."

The other report gives the following information:

"Of the 1,087 girls and 1,098 boys examined in the rural schools, 93 of
the former and 100 of the latter were below the average mentally, or 8.7
per cent of the whole number.

Of the total school population, 0.9 per cent were mental defectives.

The undue number of one-room rural schools in the county which were of
faulty construction, with poor equipment, and with imperfect teaching
facilities, were largely responsible for the retardation found in the

The average loss of grade by 193 children, as recorded by teachers, was
1.28 years for girls and 1.5 years for boys, a total of 269 school

No special classes for the instruction of retarded children were found
in any of the rural schools of the county.

In addition to the 214 children who were retarded and exceptionally
retarded, three epileptics and two constitutionally inferior children
were found among the school children of the county."

These interesting investigations do not, of course, disclose the full
amount of mental defectiveness in the localities studied, because they
are based on a survey of the children at school and because they
especially take up the matter of retardation and feeble-mindedness. It
is no uncommon thing in the small rural community to find the more
troublesome feeble-minded child withdrawn from the school. The reports
suggest that a wider investigation would increase the number of
defective children, for the method chosen could hardly be expected to
discern all the seriously neurotic children. The information gathered
indicates that epilepsy and the neurotic predisposition to insanity need
to be investigated as well as amentia,[5] and that the epileptics and
neurotics, even among rural children, are more numerous than is usually
supposed. Of course an investigation of the adults would still more
increase the amount of mental abnormality.

The sociologist is familiar with the social menace of the degenerate
family in the country. Most of the members of the families thus far
studied have lived in the country or small village. It is reasonable to
suppose that on the whole such families find it easier to survive in the
country than in the city. The country offers occupation for the high
grades during the busy season and yet does not require steady employment
all through the year. The social penalties of mental inferiority are not
likely to be so oppressive; certainly there is much less danger of
coming into collision with the law. Our institutions find from
experience that the feeble-minded take kindly to rough, out-door work
and from this it is natural to assume that a large number of the
feeble-minded, free to choose their environment, prefer the country to
the city. They are probably more often handicapped by the competition of
city life than by the conditions of life in the rural community.

It is probably true also that the feeble-minded family is more likely to
renew its vitality by the mixing in of new, normal blood in the country
than in the city. Illegitimacy holds in the problem of rural
feeble-mindedness the same position that prostitution occupies in urban
amentia. The attractive feeble-minded girl--and of course many of these
girls are physically attractive to many men--does not find it difficult
in the country to have sex relations with mentally normal men. Indeed it
is often not realized that the girl is mentally abnormal, and all too
frequently we have a marriage in the country between a woman of unsound
mind and a man who is mentally sound. Illegitimacy is, however, the
larger problem in rural amentia. The same type of girl that in the
country becomes the mother of several children, often by different men,
in the city, unless protected, enters prostitution. The city prostitute,
because of the sterilizing effects of venereal diseases, is less likely
to become the mother of children, but, on the other hand, she scatters
about syphilis, which has so much to do with causing mental
abnormalities. It may be a matter of opinion which of the two social
evils, illegitimacy in the country or prostitution in the city, has the
larger influence upon the spread of mental abnormalities, but there can
be no doubt that the rural difficulty deserves the attention of all
interested in mental hygiene.

It is unfortunate that rural people do not realize more often the
serious meaning of feeble-mindedness. The close contact between
neighbors and the familiarity of community life tend in the country to
develop an indifference to the variations from normal standard that the
high-grade ament expresses. People, as a rule, take the social failures
of the feeble-minded for granted and do not specially regard them as
evidences of mental inferiority. This condition makes the limited
segregation possible in the country very difficult indeed. The
thoughtful parent hardly knows how to keep his child from associating
with the deficient child of his neighbor when they live near together
and attend the same school.

At school also the feeble-minded child is likely to have advantages over
his city brother, which keep him from exhibiting to the full his
inherent mental weakness. A conversation with almost any rural teacher
will impress upon one the fact that the teacher is loath to declare
feeble-minded a child whose records give unmistakable evidence of
amentia and that she generally regards the child as merely dull.
Fortunately this is likely not to be so true in the future, as a result
of the recent instruction that candidates for teaching are now receiving
in our normal schools.

There is, however, the greatest need of clinic work being carried on in
our rural schools. The problem cannot safely be left with local
authority. The demand is for some state-wide method of mental
examination of school children. This service, which in most states could
be given over to the superintendent of public instruction, ought to be
given wider scope than merely the mental measurement of school children.
The problem requires the service of the alienist. Only by this more
fundamental treatment of the problem can we expect to obtain the full
social relief that the preventive side of mental hygiene promises. As a
matter of fact, however, it is likely that the problem will be
considered first from the viewpoint of retardation in our rural schools.
It will be unwise to force the mental hygiene movement into our rural
school administration more rapidly than the need of it can be made clear
to our rural leadership.

It is an unhappy fact that we are at present doing so little. The state
certainly must try in some way to provide, for the country children who
need it, the special class instruction now given backward children in
the cities. This will give relief by providing a basis for the
separation of the curable and the incurable defective children. At
present the defective child who requires treatment and improves in the
special class suffers a great handicap by being in the country rather
than in the city.

Without doubt epilepsy and psychopathic cases, as well as
feeble-mindedness, receive relatively less attention in the country than
in the city. This situation certainly hinders rural progress and adds to
the social burdens of rural communities. Any one familiar with the life
of a typical rural town will know of peculiarities of conduct and
strange attitudes of non-social persons which indicate mental
unsoundness. These abnormalities express themselves in various forms and
I happen to know of some New England communities that have been
hopelessly separated into two hostile parts as a result of the influence
of persons whose subsequent careers have proven that the originators of
the difficulties were socially irresponsible. One such case was a church
quarrel that finally had to receive a state-wide recognition because of
the serious situation that finally resulted. The later suicide of the
individual, who first started the dispute, a suicide that had little
objective explanation, seems to have demonstrated that the whole
difficulty originated because of the influence of a psychopathic
character. In this case had the community known a very little about
mental aberration the history of the difficulty would have been very
different. Even as it was, a very few of the more thoughtful people
believed the man insane.

The chief reason, however, for mental hygiene propaganda in the country
is the influence it will have in preventing human suffering. The problem
of mind health is a humane one and this fact removes the distinction
between rural and urban need. Urban fields offer more inducements at
present for the worker, but the rural need is also great. The rural
districts are less conscious of their distress and perhaps respond less
readily to whatever instruction is given them, but they certainly must
be given the benefits of the mental hygiene movement by a patient and
persistent propaganda.


[3] "Insane and Feebleminded in Institutions," Washington, D. C., 1914,
pp. 50 and 54.

[4] "Mental Status of Rural School Children," by E. H. Mullan, Public
Health Reports, Nov. 17, 1916, and "The Mental Status of Rural School
Children of Porter County, Indiana," by T. Clark and W. L. Treadway,
Public Health Bulletin No. 77.

[5] Amentia is used as a technical term for feeble-mindedness.




Our social ideas, the expression of what the psychologists define as the
social mind, are influenced too much by the thinking of urban people,
too little by that of people who live in the country and small villages.
There are many reasons for this undesirable social situation. One is the
outstanding fact that the city has the prestige that belongs to
political and commercial leadership. The urban leaders have for the most
part obtained their position by their possession of the means of control
of industries and of the channels of communication, or because of their
skill in winning public attention. They have become successful by
exercising capabilities that naturally give them social influence. They
are victors in contests that are decided largely upon the basis of
superior ability in manipulating men. Their advance has meant an
increasing opportunity to influence the thought of their fellows. In
many cases they have deliberately studied the methods of influencing
public opinion and have worked to obtain control of the modern equipment
necessary to direct it. One of the great engines for moving the public
mind is the newspaper and this is always in the hands of urban
leadership and a share of its power can usually be had by those who have
the necessary "pull" or cash.

Socially the successful farmer belongs to the opposite class. His
success has been obtained for the most part by his skill in handling
natural law. His struggle has been largely with the obstacles that arise
when one attempts to furnish a share of the food supply required by a
hungry world. The farmer's experience with the means of social influence
is limited and in his business there is no need of his impressing
himself upon his fellows. On the other hand it is natural that he
should overvalue the thinking of those who, unlike himself, have
developed the art of making social and political impression. This
tendency to discount his own social contribution in practice--even
though in theory he may often insist upon his paramount social
function--makes the farmer a good follower and a poor leader.

And yet in the nature of things there is nothing to demonstrate that
socially those who have the machinery that is required for the
influencing of public opinion or who have learned the art of impressing
themselves upon their fellows are the most fit to direct the social
mind. The struggle with Nature teaches as much that is of lasting value
for a philosophy of personal or national conduct as comes from
competition between people. Even if the population stimulus of urban
centers brings forth men of great ability who do large things, it by no
means follows that these men are wise merely because they are powerful.
And even if they were justified in claiming superiority at every point
over the successful men of the country, it would not be for the social
good that they be given a monopoly of social prestige.

Contact with men who occupy high places in city commerce will often
convince any one of a neutral and discriminating mind that these men of
social power have suffered loss at some points in their developing
personality as a result of the struggle that has made possible their
success. The present serious discord between capital and labor is
fundamentally born of the belief of some that wealth is as socially
right in all important matters as it is socially powerful and the faith
of others that the social problems that vex men and women would pass
with the destruction of wealth's artificial social advantages. Each
group confines itself to the territory of experience where everything
has to do with matters of human relationship, and each group insists
that only one point in that territory can have value as a position for
the observing and estimating of what happens there.

The extreme representatives of each group disclose that they have been
forced to a narrow view of human motives and interests by their
environmental experiences. They agree in their elevation of the power of
money to the supreme place socially--one defending the power as
belonging of right to wealth, the other regarding the social situation
as due to the unjust privileges of the few who prey upon the many.

The typical farmer is both a capitalist and a laborer and has a saner
attitude toward the difficulty than one can have who belongs exclusively
to either group. He is likely to accumulate his capital by slow savings,
which represent in some degree real sacrifice, and he cannot have
sympathy with those who refuse to credit capital with legitimate social
function. He also earns his bread by the sweat of his brow and has
therefore a first-hand knowledge of the burden of human toil. This
gives him an understanding of the discontent of exploited labor, but
also a deep contempt for those who have no interest in the work they do.
His thinking in regard to the differences between capital and labor is
born of experiences that are elemental in the human struggle for life
and comfort and therefore cannot be safely turned aside. His sympathies
swing toward one or the other of the conflicting groups according to his
most recent economic experiences. If he has been robbed by some
commission merchant, he joins the protest against the unjust power of
capital; if he has had a hired man who has worked indifferently and with
no respect for his vocation, he understands what is meant by the
unreasonable and impossible demands of labor.

The unchanging element in his thinking, however, comes from his personal
concern with reference to both capital and labor. In other words, he
lives closer to an earlier economic experience of man, when the present
great gulf between those who furnish capital and those who furnish
labor for industry had not been fixed. Neither the representatives of
the capital nor of the labor group, when they undertake what seem to him
extreme measures, can count upon his support.

The abiding fact that denies to urban thinking the right to enjoy a
monopoly of social influence is this: men cannot safely build up their
social thinking from experiences gathered merely from the field of human
association. Nature also has lessons to teach and lessons that do not
always agree with the inferences that are naturally made when one thinks
only of the experiences of men in their associations. It is socially
foolish and socially unsafe to disregard, or at least to forget, the
value of thinking that functions, as the farmer's does, in the effort to
control Nature for a livelihood that directly contributes to human
welfare. If such thinking is often prosaic and rigid, it is also close
to reality and insistent upon practicality. Narrow it may be at times,
as a result of lack of opportunity to have wide contact, but it is
substantial and born of knowledge of the necessary limitations that
Nature places upon the wishes of men and women. The farmer by his
vocation is taught to be suspicious of easy solutions. He stands aloof
from men who claim to have found the panacea and regards men of such
abounding enthusiasm as belonging to the same group of the pathetically
deluded as the believers in the machine of perpetual motion. The farmer
keeps the greatest distance from day dreaming and can never have charged
against him as a characteristic fault that menace of self-supporting
fancy which is so insidious in its attack upon the mental wholesomeness
of a multitude of people.

It becomes, therefore, as a result of a constant and clear-minded
attention to the actual working of forces of Nature that seem at times
friendly and at times hostile to man's purposes, difficult for the
farmer to regard money, even with all its recognized power, as able to
do everything, or the one thing to be desired. This does not mean, of
course, that the farmer is indifferent to money. No one who knows him at
all would claim that he is unconcerned in regard to finances. He is
always interested in money, and, like other men, works to make it. For
want of money he is often troubled. He knows how much money will do in
the sphere of human association. His everyday philosophy reveals this in
ways that one cannot mistake. He also knows, however, that even money
has its limits and that these are seen in man's relations with Nature.

How different it is in the experience of the city-dweller! He finds that
money will do nearly anything. With money he can have the fruits
gathered from the ends of the earth. Without money he is helpless. His
protection from disease, from vice, from countless forms of discomfort,
disrespect, and exploitation depends upon his ability to pay the
necessary rent for safe and pleasant surroundings. How much of
suffering, both physical and mental, the want of a "safe" income brings
to the urban-dweller one may discover by merely walking along the
crowded streets of any city. Without the necessary money he even fears
loss of a respectable funeral and burial place in case of death.

The urban wealthy keep close to more and more wonderful forms of luxury
by money. The urban poor keep out of the breadline by money. The
middle-class know that with a little more money they may expect to join
the first class and with a little less they may be forced into the
second. Money seems the one thing of power. Newspapers, street
discussions, and public opinion, for the most part, encourage the belief
in the omnipotence of money. Only in rare instances, as for example when
there is a death in the family, does the city person from his own
experience discover that money, which has so much of power among men,
cannot fully usurp Nature's control over the desires of men. Having so
often seen great natural obstacles overcome by bridges, tunnels, and
immense buildings, the urban person's final mental assumption is that,
given enough money, anything can be done. It is hardly strange that the
political philosophy which is distinctively urban should be built upon
the supreme value of money and the problem of its distribution.

With the present movement of the population toward urban centers, and
with the increasing ability of urban people through organization and
modern forms of communication to impress their ideas upon men and women
far and near, it is hardly strange that we should in our better moments
recoil from a materialism which seems to be creeping everywhere into
men's souls and producing interpretations of the purposes of life that
are false, dangerous, and sordid.

The antidote is a larger contribution to national thought and policy
from rural people. Talkers and men skilful in manipulating other men
have been taken too seriously. The doer, especially he who has
first-hand grapple with Nature in the contest she forever forces upon
men, has a word that should be spoken, a word of sanity. City people are
often too far distant from the realities of the primary struggle with
natural law to be entrusted with all the thinking. A visit a few months
ago to any city seed-store would have forced upon any critical observer
how ignorant city people are of the effort required to produce even
their most familiar foods.

Healthy national ideals require a contribution from both urban and rural
experience. The first we have in quantity. It is the second we lack. It
is the business of those who conserve social welfare to respect the
conclusions of rural thinkers and to discover how rural experience may
make its largest contribution to national policy and social opinion.




We had just finished eating lunch at one of the more quiet hotels of our
greatest city. We lingered after the meal for a chat, this being one of
the privileges of the place, untroubled by the type of waiter, hungry
for tips, who so often at the metropolitan hotels conveys unmistakably
the idea that one's departure is expected to follow directly the
presentation of his bill. The host was a man of business, famed for his
success and his interest in public affairs, and especially generous in
giving of his money and time to further movements that attempt the
betterment of rural life. He had spent his youth in the open country and
had never lost any of the vividness of his first joys. It was this
mutual interest in rural problems that had brought host and guest
together for a quiet talk.

"Will you give me your deepest impression of the city as you came into
it from the country?" asked the man of business of the student.

"I hardly can claim one impression, there are so many."

"But one must be deeper or at least more consciously so than the others.
It is that I want. I'll tell you in return my strongest impression when
recently I visited, for the first time in several years, the farm where
I was born."

"I suppose the line of thought that captured my mind when I first came
into the city tonight is what you want."


"I began to think not of your noise or your hurry, your poverty or your
crowds, but of your atmosphere of what I call popular materialism. Do
you understand what I mean?"

"Perhaps not."

"I mean I sensed everywhere the emphasis upon the power of money. I
suppose it is an experience forced upon the consciousness of everyone
who comes into the life of this great city from a small community. It
seems as if the city was a monument to the idea that money can do
everything, that the getting of money is the only satisfactory purpose
of life."

"You must not forget the miser of the small village or the considerable
number of city people who do not make business and money-making the
chief object of their lives."

"Of course in justice I must remember what you say, for it is true. But
you wanted my vivid impression and I give it to you as the feeling that
in the city money seems all-powerful. With it you are able to get
everything, to do everything. You can command other men and they obey
you. You can reach over the ocean and draw luxuries of every kind to you
for your pleasure and your comfort. Wherever you go you are invited to
spend money. At least it is suggested to you how much you could have to
satisfy your wildest dreams, had you only the necessary bank account.

"On the other hand, without money you are like a lost soul in the midst
of Paradise. With a little money your life must be spent in miserable
tenements, in a dirty, noisy, unsanitary quarter of the city. Your
children, perchance, must become familiar with the neighboring
prostitute. Disease dogs your steps. Pleasures are few. More income
means not merely renting a better tenement, but also changing to a safer
and more pleasant neighborhood. And always facing you at every turn,
from every show window, even from the posters on the bill boards, are
suggestions of what money could do for you if only you had it."

"I see your point, but not for many years have I felt the truth of what
you say. I imagine I felt strongly the power of money when I first came
to the city. Of late I have taken the matter for granted and thought
little of it. Yet you must admit that money is power."

"Of course, but not to the degree the city deludes one into thinking.
Even in the city there is much money cannot do. In the smaller places,
especially in the country, one is impressed with the limitations of
money. In normal ways it is not possible to spend great sums of money in
the country. You do not find methods of getting rid of your money
attracting your attention at every turn. If great wealth is spent, a
plan must be worked out and some new enterprise undertaken--for example,
a magnificent residence or a fancy farm. In the city no forethought is
required to spend great wealth. The opportunity is ever at one's elbow.
The difficulty is not to accept the importunate invitations."

"I assume you blame the cities for the widespread materialism which is
charged up against modern life?"

"Not altogether. In the country, as you have suggested, we have lovers
of money and we have sordid poverty. But I do think that urban life
tends to emphasize money-getting and to keep it before the mind in a
way that is not natural in the small community. Because of this I regard
the cities as the natural strongholds of materialism and I see a danger
in the urbanizing movement of modern civilization. I think, therefore,
that men like yourself should do everything possible to keep in the
public consciousness the splendid idealism that is in the city. I mean
such kindly sacrifice as the settlement house. However, I have talked
enough. What is your vivid impression as a result of your visit to the
place of your boyhood?"

"Well, before I give you that, let me remind you that men like myself
get our power to help what you call idealism largely because of our
money. I suppose you hold, therefore, that even in our disinterested
service we advertise the power of money?"

"Yes, I must confess that your influence is never divorced from your
standing as one who has made good in the ways of trade. But what of
your country impression?"

"There is no place that still seems so beautiful to me as the place of
my childhood. I was born beside a splendid river; and not far from the
house, separated from it by stretches of meadowland, was a thick and
extensive forest. It seemed as if I had everything ideal for the play of

"Upon my recent visit I felt as never before the value of what I like to
call the freedom of the spirit. It seems as if country environment
generously provides what the healthy-minded child most needs--an
opportunity for the free play of the fancy. I call it a spiritual
preparation for life, but I assume that the scientist would describe it
as an experience of the imagination. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, as far as you have gone. I covet, however, a clearer understanding
of what you mean."

"I mean what I used to find in Wordsworth's poetry and in the work of
our own Whittier. I never read them now, but years ago I did a little.
You were country-born yourself, as I remember. Don't you recall how your
imagination made rich with meaning the simple pleasures and sports of
your early life? I can well remember hours of fishing at a dark curve in
the river where the water was black even at noon-day because of the
overhanging trees. I think I never caught a fish there, but there was
always something about the place that made me think that some day a
wonderful catch would be made there. It was a place that enlivened the
fancy and it illustrates what I mean. There were many other such
breeding-spots for fancy scattered along the miles of river and woodland
which I grew to know so well."

"Don't you consider your play of fancy mentally dangerous?"

"No, not when it comes into the mind with the incoming tide of
experience. There was plenty of reality. We had our discomforts and our
disappointments. We were forced to take into account the causal order
of things. But the mind had a chance to add its part to the fact of
existence. And so it always needs to be. I have been successful as a man
of business in part because of my early use of the gift of imagination.
It is bad to have life all imagination, to carry into adult experiences
the make-believe of childhood, but it is a miserable and destitute
existence for any adult to bring to his work no imagination."

"And you regard your earlier use of imagination as a preparation for
your later use?"

"Indeed I do. I also regard it as the best basis for a reasonable
spiritual interpretation of life. In addition it furnished pleasures,
the memories of which are sweet and wholesome to this day."

"Do city children have no similar opportunity for creating fancy?"

"Perhaps they do, but their imagination is too quickly forced into the
hard forms of adult experience. They feel all too soon the meaning of
wealth, the punishments of poverty. They dream of more of this or less
of that. They covet possession of the things they see from the store
windows or in the yards of more fortunate children. The shadow of the
money-magic of which you spoke falls too soon for their later good
across their path. With the country boy and girl this is not likely to
happen. Their experiences are more buoyant, more interpretive, more
exploring. Fancy creates and reveals; it does not largely furnish the
false pleasures of fictitious possession. This is to me the difference.
The city may be the richest environment for the adult. That is a matter
of opinion. But I cannot see how anyone can think of it as the best
place for the child. I cannot believe that I would have gotten nearly so
much of good from my early experiences if I had lived in the city. If I
am right, this is another element to add to the great urban problem. If
the experience of the city child suffers spiritual privations from the
limitations of his environment, must this not show itself in social
tendencies? In any case I had a motive in what I have said. You are
interested in movements that attempt to enrich the experiences of
country boys and girls. That is good, but you must not occupy all of the
child's time or interest. Give him freedom to discover his own inner
resources, the spiritual union between his cravings and the richness of
nature. Don't exile him from nature's paradise by too much adult
supervision, organization, or influence. In my day we had too little
adult assistance in our games and recreation. I can imagine a condition
where the country childhood would suffer from too much."

It was this suggestion that I carried away with me from our




In discussing the mind of the farmer, the difficulty is to find the
typical farmer's mind that north, south, east, and west will be accepted
as standard. In our science there is perhaps at present no place where
generalization needs to move with greater caution than in the statement
of the farmer's psychic characteristics. It is human to crave
simplicity, and we are never free from the danger of forcing concrete
facts into general statements that do violence to the opposing

The mind of the farmer is as varied as the members of the agricultural
class are significantly different. And how great are these differences!
The wheat farmer of Washington state who receives for his year's crop
$106,000 has little understanding of the life outlook of the New
Englander who cultivates his small, rocky, hillside farm. The difference
is not merely that one does on a small scale what the other does in an
immense way. He who knows both men will hardly question that the
difference in quantity leads also to differences in quality, and in no
respect are the two men more certainly distinguishable than in their
mental characteristics.

It appears useless, therefore, to attempt to procure for dissection a
typical farmer's mind. In this country at present there is no mind that
can be fairly said to represent a group so lacking in substantial unity
as the farming class, and any attempt to construct such a mind is bound
to fail. This is less true when the class is separated into sections,
for the differences between farmers are in no small measure
geographical. Indeed, is it not a happy fact that the American farmer is
not merely a farmer? Although it complicates a rural problem such as
ours, it is fortunate that the individual farmer shares the larger
social mind to such a degree as to diminish the intellectual influences
born of his occupation.

The method of procedure that gives largest promise of substantial fact
is to attempt to uncover some of the fundamental influences that operate
upon the psychic life of the farmers of America and to notice, in so far
as opportunity permits, what social elements modify the complete working
of these influences.

One influence that shows itself in the thinking of farmers as of
fundamental character is, of course, the occupation of farming itself.
In primitive life we not only see the importance of agricultural work
for social life but we discover also some of the mental elements
involved that make this form of industry socially significant. From the
first it called for an investment of self-control, a patience, that
Nature might be coaxed to yield from her resources a reasonable harvest.
We find therefore in primitive agriculture a hazardous undertaking
which, nevertheless, lacked any large amount of dramatic appeal.

It is by no means otherwise today. The farmer has to be efficient in a
peculiar kind of self-control. He needs to invest labor and foresight in
an enterprise that affords to the usual person little of the opportunity
for quick returns, the sense of personal achievement, or the
satisfaction of the desire for competitive face-to-face association with
other men which is offered in the city. Men who cultivate on a very
large scale and men who enjoy unusual social insight as to the
significance of their occupation are exceptions to the general run of
farmers. In these days of accessible transportation we have a rapid and
highly successful selection which largely eliminates from the farming
class the type that does not naturally possess the power to be satisfied
with the slowly acquired property, impersonal success, and non-dramatic
activities of farming. This process which eliminates the more restless
and commercially ambitious from the country has, of course, been at
work for generations. It has tended, therefore, to a uniformity of
mental characteristics, but it has by no means succeeded in procuring a
homogeneous rural mind. The movement has been somewhat modified by the
return of people to the country from the city and by the influence on
the country mind of the more restless and adventurous rural people who,
for one reason or another, have not migrated. In the far West
especially, attention has been given to the rural hostility to, or at
least the misunderstanding of, city movements which attempt ambitious
social advances. It is safe to assume that this attitude of rural people
is widespread and is noticeable far west merely because of a greater
frankness. The easterner hides his attitude because he has become
conscious that it opens him to criticism. This attitude of rural
hostility is rooted in the fundamental differences between the thinking
of country and of city people, due largely to the process of social
selection. This mental difference gives constant opportunity for social
friction. If the individuals who live most happily in the city and in
the country are contrasted, there is reason to suppose that the mental
opposition expresses nervous differences. In one we have the more rapid,
more changeable, and more consuming thinker, while the thought of the
other is slower, more persistent, and less wasteful of nervous energy.

The work of the average farmer brings him into limited association with
his fellows as compared with the city worker. This fact also operates
upon him mentally. He has less sense of social variations and less
realization of the need of group solidarity. This results in his having
less social passion than his city brother, except when he is caught in a
periodic outburst of economic discontent expressed in radical agitation,
and also in his having a more feeble class-consciousness and a weaker
basis for cooperation. This last limitation is one from which the farmer
seriously suffers.

The farmer's lack of contact with antagonistic groups, because his work
keeps him away from the centers where social discontent boils with
passion and because it prevents his appreciating class differences,
makes him a conservative element in our national life, but one always
big with the danger of a blind servitude to traditions and archaic
social judgments. The thinking of the farmer may be either substantial
from his sense of personal sufficiency or backward from his lack of
contact. The decision regarding his attitude is made by the influences
that enter his life, in addition to those born of his occupation.

At this point, however, it would be serious to forget that some of the
larger farming enterprises are carried on so differently that the
manager and owner are more like the factory operator than the usual
farmer. To them the problem is labor-saving machinery, efficient
management, labor cost, marketing facilities, and competition. They are
not especially influenced by the fact that they happen to handle land
products rather than manufactured articles.

Much has been made of the farmer's hand-to-hand grapple with a
capricious and at times frustrating Nature. This emphasis is deserved,
for the farmer is out upon the frontier of human control of natural
forces. Even modern science, great as is its service, cannot protect him
from the unexpected and the disappointing. Insects and weather sport
with his purposes and give his efforts the atmosphere of chance. It is
not at all strange, therefore, that the farmer feels drawn to fatalistic
interpretations of experience which he carries over to lines of thought
other than those connected with his business.

A second important influence that has helped to make the mind of the
farmer has been isolation. In times past, without doubt, this has been
powerful in its effect upon the mind of the farmer. It is less so now
because, as everyone knows, the farmer is protected from isolation by
modern inventions. It is necessary to recall, however, that isolation is
in relation to one's needs and that we too often neglect the fact that
the very relief that has removed from country people the more apparent
isolation of physical distance has often intensified the craving for
closer and more frequent contact with persons than the country usually
permits. Whether isolation as a psychic experience has decreased for
many in the country is a matter of doubt. Certainly most minds need the
stimulus of human association for both happiness and healthiness, and
even yet the minds of farmers disclose the narrowness, suspiciousness,
and discontent of place that isolation brings. It makes a difference in
social attitude whether the telephone, automobile, and parcel post draw
the people nearer together in a common community life or whether they
bring the people under the magic of the city's quantitative life and in
this way cause rural discontent.

The isolation from the great business centers which has kept farmers
from having personally a wide experience with modern business explains
in part the suspicious attitude rural people often take into their
commercial relations. This has been expressed in a way one can hardly
forget by Tolstoi in his "Resurrection," when his hero, from moral
sympathy with land reform, undertakes to give his tenants land under
conditions more to their advantage and, much to his surprise, finds them
hostile to the plan. They had been too often tricked in the past and
felt too little acquainted with business methods to have any confidence
in the new plan which claimed benevolent motives. It is only fair to
admit that the farmer differs from others of his social rank only in
degree, and that his experiences in the past appear to him to justify
his skeptical attitude. He has at times suffered exploitation; what he
does not realize is that this has been made possible by his lack of
knowledge of the ways of modern business and by his failure to
organize. The farmer is beginning to appreciate the significance of
marketing. Unfortunately, he too often carries his suspiciousness, which
has resulted from business experiences, into many other lines of action
and thinking, and thus robs himself of enthusiasm and social confidence.

A third important element in the making of the farmer's mind may be
broadly designated as suggestion. The farmer is like other men in that
his mental outlook is largely colored by the suggestions that enter his

It is this fact, perhaps, that explains why the farmer's mind does not
express more clearly vocational character, for no other source of
persistent suggestions has upon most men the influence of the newspaper,
and each day, almost everywhere, the daily paper comes to the farmer
with its appealing suggestions. Of course the paper represents the urban
point of view rather than the rural, but in the deepest sense it may be
said to look at life from the human outlook, the way the average man
sees things. The newspaper, therefore, feeds the farmer's mind with
suggestions and ideas that counteract the influences that specially
emphasize the rural environment. It keeps him in contact with thinking
and events that are world-wide, and unconsciously permeates his motives,
at times giving him urban cravings that keep him from utilizing to the
full his social resources in the country. Any attempt to understand
rural life that minimizes the common human fellowship which the
newspaper offers the farmer is certain to lead to unfortunate
misinterpretation. Mentally the farmer is far from being isolated in his
experiences, for he no longer is confined to the world of local ideas as
he once was. This constant daily stimulation from the world of business,
sports, and public affairs at times awakens his appetite for urban life
and makes him restless, or encourages his removal to the city, or makes
him demand as much as possible of the quantitative pleasures and
recreations of city life. In a greater degree, however, the paper
contents his mental need for contact with life in a more universal way
than his particular community allows. The automobile and other modern
inventions also serve the farmer, as does the newspaper, by providing
mental suggestions from an extended environment.

A very important source of suggestion, as abnormal psychology so clearly
demonstrates, at present, is the impressions of childhood. Rural life
tends on the whole to intensify the significant events of early life,
because of the limited amount of exciting experiences received as
compared with city life. Parental influence is more important because it
suffers less competition. This fact of the meaning of early suggestions
appears, without doubt, in various ways and forbids the scientist's
assuming that rural thinking is made uniform by universal and unvaried

The discontent of rural parents with reference to their environment or
occupation, due to their natural urban tendencies, or to their failure
to succeed, or to the hard conditions of their farm life, has some
influence in sending rural youth to the city. Accidental or incidental
suggestion often repeated is especially penetrating in childhood, and no
one who knows rural people can fail to notice parents who are prone to
such suggestions expressing rural discontent. In the same way,
suspiciousness or jealousy with reference to particular neighbors or
associates leads, when it is often expressed before children, to general
suspiciousness or trivial sensitiveness. The emotional obstacles to the
get-together spirit--obstacles which vex the rural worker--in no small
degree have their origin in suggestion given in childhood.

The country is concerned with another source of suggestion which has
more to do with the efficiency of the rural mind than its content, and
that is the matter of sex. Students of rural life apparently give this
element less attention than it deserves. As Professor Ross has pointed
out in "South of Panama," for example, the precocious development of sex
tends to enfeeble the intellect and to prevent the largest kind of
mental capacity. It is unsafe at present to generalize regarding the
differences between country and city life in matters of sex, but it is
certainly true, when rural life is empty of commanding interests and
when it is coarsened by low traditions and the presence of defective
persons, that there is a precocious emphasis of sex. This is expressed
both by early marrying and by loose sex relations. It is doubtful
whether the commercializing of sex attraction in the city has equal
mental significance, for certainly science clearly shows that it is the
precocious expression of sex that has largest psychic dangers. In so far
as the environment of a rural community tends to bring the sexual life
to early expression, we have every reason to suppose that at this point
at least the influence of the community is such as to tend toward a
comparative mental arrest or a limiting of mental ability, for which the
country later suffers socially. Each student of rural life must, from
experience and observation, evaluate for himself the significance of
this sex precociousness. When sex interests become epidemic and the
general tendency is toward precocious sex maturity, the country
community is producing for itself men and women of inferior resources as
compared with their natural possibilities. Even the supposed social
wholesomeness of earlier marrying in the country must be scrutinized
with the value of sex sublimation during the formative years clearly in




In modern civilization the increasing attractiveness of the city is one
of the apparent social facts.[6] Social psychology may reasonably be
expected to throw light upon the causes of this movement of population
from rural to urban conditions of life. Striking illustrations of
individual preference for city life, even in opposition to the person's
economic interests, suggest that this problem of social behavior so
characteristic of our time contains important mental factors.

Since sensations give the mind its raw material,[7] the mind may be said
to crave stimulation. "In the most general way of viewing the matter,
beings that seem to us to possess minds show in their physical life
what we may call a great and discriminating sensitiveness to what goes
on at any present time in their environment."[8] This interest of the
mind in the receiving of stimulation for its own activity is an
essential element in any social problem. The individual reacts socially
"with a great and discriminating sensitiveness" to his environment, just
as he reacts physically to his stimuli to conserve pleasure and avoid

The fundamental sources of stimuli are, of course, common to all forms
of social grouping, but one difference between rural and urban life
expresses itself in the greater difficulty of obtaining under rural
conditions certain definite stimulations from the environment. This fact
is assumed both by those who hold the popular belief that most great men
are country-born and by those who accept the thesis of Ward that
"fecundity in eminent persons seems then to be intimately connected
with cities."[9] The city may be called an environment of greater
quantitative stimulations than the country. The city furnishes forceful,
varied, and artificial stimuli; the country affords an environment of
stimuli in comparison less strong and more uniform. Minds that crave
external, quantitative stimuli for pleasing experiences are naturally
attracted by the city and repelled by the monotony of the country. On
the other hand, those who find their supreme mental satisfactions in
their interpretation or appreciation of the significant expression of
the beauty and lawfulness of nature discover what may be called an
environment of qualitative stimulations. The city appeals, therefore, to
those who with passive attitude need quantitative, external experiences;
the country is a splendid opportunity for those who are fitted to create
their mental satisfactions from the active working over of stimuli that
appear commonplace to the uninterpreting mind. If Coney Island, with its
noise and manufactured stimulations, is representative of the city,
White's "Natural History of Selborne" is a characteristic product of the
wealth of the country to the mind gifted with penetrating skill.

Doubtless this difference between rural and urban is nothing new, and
from the beginning of civilization there have been the country-minded
and the city-minded. In our modern life, however, there is much that
increases the difference and much that stimulates the movement of the
city-minded from the country. Present-day life with its complexity and
its rapidity of change makes it difficult for one to get time to develop
the active mind that makes appreciation possible. Our children
precociously obtain adult experiences of quantitative character in an
age of the automobile and moving pictures, and an unnatural craving is
created for an environment of excitement, a life reveling in noise and
change. Business, eager for gain, exploits this demand for stimulation,
and social contagion spreads the restlessness of our population. The
urban possibilities for stimulation are advertised as never before in
the country by the press with its city point of view, by summer
visitors, and by the reports of the successes of the most fortunate of
those who have removed to the cities. In an age restless and mobile,
with family traditions less strong, and transportation exceedingly cheap
and inviting, it is hardly strange that so many of the young people are
eager to leave the country, which they pronounce dead--as it literally
is to them--for the lively town or city. It is by no means true that
this removal always means financial betterment or that such is its
motive. It is very significant to find so many farmers who have made
their wealth in the country, or who are living on their rents, moving to
town to enjoy life. May it not be that a new condition has come about in
our day by the possibility that there are more who exhaust their
environment in the country before habit with its conservative tendency
is able to hold them on the farm? One who knows the discontent of
urban-minded people who have continued to live in the country can hardly
doubt that habit has tended to conserve the rural population in a way
that it does not now. And one must not forget the pressure of the
discontent of these urban-minded country parents upon their children.
The faculty of any agricultural college is familiar with the farmer's
son who has been taught never to return to the farm after graduation
from college. That the city-minded preacher and teacher add their
contribution to rural restlessness is common thought.

In the city the sharp contrast between labor and recreation increases
without doubt the appeal of the city to many. The factory system not
only satisfies the gregarious instinct, it also gives an absolute break
between the working time and the period of freedom. In so far as labor
represents monotony, it emphasizes the value of the hours free from
toil. This contrast is often in the city the difference between very
great monotony and excessive excitement after working hours. It has been
pointed out often that city recreation shows the demand for great
contrast between it and the fatigue of monotonous labor. So great a
contrast between work and play--monotony and freedom--is not possible in
the country environment. In the midst of country recreations there are
likely to be suggestions of the preceding work or the work that is to
follow. It is as if the city recreations were held in factories. Country
places of play are usually in close contact with fields of labor. Often
indeed the country town provides the worker with very little opportunity
for recreation in any form. In rural places recreation cannot be had at
stated periods. Weather or market conditions must have precedence over
the holiday. Recreation, therefore, cannot be shared as a common
experience to such an extent by country workers as is possible in the
city. Since the rural population is very largely interested in the same
farming problems, even conversation after the work of the day is less
free from business concerns than is usually that of city people.

The difficulty of obtaining sharp contrast between work and play in the
country no doubt is one reason for the ever-present danger of recourse
to the sex instinct for stimulation. One source of excitement is always
present ready to give temporary relief to the barren life of young
people. Not only of the girl entering prostitution may it be said that
with her the sex instinct is less likely "to be reduced in comparative
urgency by the volume and abundance of other satisfactions."[10] The
barrenness of country life to the girl growing into womanhood, hungry
for amusement, is one large reason why the country furnishes so large a
proportion of prostitutes to the city. "This civilizational factor of
prostitution, the influence of luxury and excitement and refinement in
attracting the girl of the people, as the flame attracts the moth, is
indicated by the fact that it is the country dwellers who chiefly
succumb to the fascination. The girls whose adolescent explosive and
orgiastic impulses, sometimes increased by a slight congenital lack of
nervous balance, have been latent in the dull monotony of country life
and heightened by the spectacle of luxury acting on the unrelieved
drudgery of town life, find at last their complete gratification in the
career of a prostitute."[11]

Consideration of the part played in the rural exodus by the nature of
the stimuli demanded by the individual for satisfaction or the hope of
satisfaction in life suggests that the school is the most efficient
instrument for rural betterment. The country environment contains
sources of inexhaustible satisfaction for those who have the power to
appreciate them. Farming cannot be monotonous to the trained
agriculturist. It is full of dramatic and stimulating interests. Toil is
colored by investigation and experiment. The by-products of labor are
constant and prized beyond measure by the student and lover of nature.
Even the struggle with opposing forces lends zest to the educated
farmer's work. This does not mean that such a farmer runs a poet's farm,
as did Burns, with its inevitable financial failure, but rather that the
farmer is a skilled workman with an understanding and interpreting mind.
If the farming industry, under proper conditions, could offer no
satisfaction to great human instincts, it would be strange indeed when
one remembers the long period that man has spent in the agricultural
stage of culture. City dwellers in their hunt for stimulation are likely
to face either the breakdown of physical vitality or the blunting of
their sensibilities. Country joys, on the other hand, cost less in the
nervous capital expended to obtain them. The urban worker, in thinking
of his hours of freedom in sharp contrast with the time spent at his
machine, forgets his constant temptation to use most of his surplus
income in the satisfying of an unnatural craving for stimulation created
by the conditions of his environment. This need not be true of the rural
laborer and usually is not.

It is useless to deny the important and wholesome part that the urban
life and the city-minded man play in the great social complex which we
call modern civilization, but he who would advance country welfare may
wisely agitate for country schools fitted to adjust the majority of
country children to their environment, that they may as adults live in
the country successful and contented lives. We need never fear having
too few of the urban-minded or the able exploiters of talent who require
the city as their field of activity. The present tendency makes
necessary the development of country schools able to change the
apparent emptiness of rural environment and the excessive appeal of
urban excitement into a clear recognition on the part of a greater
number of country people of the satisfying joys of rural stimulations.


[6] Gillette, "Constructive Rural Sociology," p. 42.

[7] Parmelee, "The Science of Human Behavior," p. 290.

[8] Royce, "Outlines of Psychology," p. 21.

[9] Ward, "Applied Sociology," pp. 169-98.

[10] Flexner, "Prostitution in Europe," p. 72.

[11] Ellis, "Studies in the Psychology of Sex," VI, 293.




The individualism of rural thinking has been universally recognized. It
is this attitude of mind that has produced much of the strength of rural
character and much of the weakness of rural society. That the closer
contact of town and country and the rapidly developing urban mind
require more social thinking upon the part of country people few can
doubt. There are some people, however, who fear this socializing
influence of urban thought in the country, because they believe that it
will antagonize rural individualism in such a way as to destroy the
fundamental distinction between rural and urban ethics.

As a matter of fact, however, people in these days obtain their sense of
personal responsibility from their confidence in their social function,
and this confidence is not developed by an excessive individualism. The
farmer, like men in other occupations, needs to make realization of his
social service the corner stone of his moral life. This world war has
made every thinking person realize the unrivaled function that the
farmer performs socially, and it is fortunate for the future of rural
welfare that what has always been true is at last finding adequate
appreciation. It is the farmer himself who has most suffered in the
recent past from not realizing the value of his social contribution. The
widespread thoughtless indifference to his social service has, at least
in the oldest portions of the nation, given him an irritating social
skepticism and driven him into a dissatisfying industrial isolation. We
naturally antagonize what we do not share and the farmer when he has
thought himself little recognized as a social agent has had his doubts
about the justice and sanity of public opinion.

It was doubly unfortunate that this situation developed at a time when
religion was called upon to make heroic changes in order to adapt
itself to the needs of modern life. Formerly religion gave rural
thinking a larger outlook than individual experience by providing an
outstretching theological environment. Rather lately this environment
has ceased to satisfy the needs of rural people. Religion has in the
city become social in a way of which our fathers did not dream, and in
the country it must find its vigor also by introducing the believer to
his social environment in such a way as to emphasize social function, as
much as personal inward obligations formerly were emphasized by

We need, therefore, for the best interests of the country that the
native sense of personal importance characteristic of rural thinking
should be brought into contact with social need, so that it may function
socially. Out of this movement will issue most happily a great social
optimism in the country and individualism will lose nothing by being
adjusted to modern social needs. The chief agencies that socialize
rural thinking are the church, the school, the press, secret societies
and clubs, and the industry of farming itself.

The effective rural church as a socializing agency has a commanding
position. Even the inefficient church has more social influence than
appears on the surface. In a considerable part of the area of social
inspiration the Church has an absolute monopoly. The rural church,
however, has been until recently too well content with an individual
ethics that modern life has made obsolete. In our day healthy-minded
religion is forcing men and women to see their duties in social forms.
It is becoming clear that one cannot save his own soul in full degree if
attention is concentrated upon personal salvation. The country ministry
is beginning to feel the changing order of things and there is an
increasing attempt to build up a socializing institution in the Church.
Such a radical readjustment is not easily made, nor can we expect it to
be a complete success. Ministers are puzzled how to work out the new
program; they even at times become discouraged as a result of
disappointments. Impatience may be made the cause of defeat in such a
reform. It is much to ask of our generation that it turn about face
morally. Yet the dangerous thing is sure to happen when no effort is
made to influence the Church to assume a moral social function in the
country. We think as a people in social terms and the church that
remains backward in assuming social duties is bound to be repudiated by
the program of vital Christianity. The church that is struggling to
maintain the old-time individualism is driven first to isolation and
later to social hostility and moral stagnation. The rural church will
move on more smoothly if it can obtain better-trained leadership. The
minister is not yet given an adequate social view in some of our
theological seminaries, great as have been the changes in theological
preparation during the last twenty years. It is natural enough that the
more socially minded of our preachers should rapidly drift cityward, for
in the urban centers they can obtain the sympathy and opportunities that
they crave.

Sectarianism narrows the social viewpoint. It is true that it brings one
church into fellowship with outside churches of the same denomination,
but it makes for moral division rather than unity and magnifies
differences rather than similarities in the community life. Sectarianism
is very largely maintained by churches in small places. Where church
competition is severe, and especially when church support is dwindling,
the Church advertises its distinctiveness and enters upon a
life-and-death grapple with its neighbor institutions. Of course this
develops sectarianism and forbids the wide outlook in its teaching that
is required of a successful socializing agency.

There is positive need of church federation if the rural church is to do
its social service properly. The resources of a country community cannot
be scattered if social enterprises are to be successfully carried on.
These undertakings are of necessity expensive in proportion to community
resources, both in equipment and leadership. Therefore, the religious
work must be hampered in its social contribution unless there shall be a
greater concentration of religious resources. This fact appears clearly
with reference to work carried on by the rural church by means of a
community-center or parish house. No form of service promises more for
country welfare, but seldom can it be continued successfully year after
year in a rural town or small village unless there is a concentration of
the religious resources of the community.

Fortunately we have seen of late a vigorous effort to improve the rural
schools and to make them more modern. The endeavor has been made to
bring the schools more intimately into contact with their environment.
This movement naturally tends to increase the effectiveness of the
schools as a socializing agency because the viewpoint that guides the
effort is one that brings into prominence the social relations of the
schools. This progress is hampered here and there by a considerable
inertia for which individualistic thinking is largely responsible. There
are also positive limitations imposed upon the expansion of the school's
social service due to the physical environment. Distance, the scattering
of homes, and the small populations restrict the work of the most
efficient consolidated school at some points where it tries to perform
the largest possible social service.

As a matter of fact, however, the urban school is far less social than
it wishes to be. Under the spell of our own recent educational
experience it is difficult for us, who have to do with educating
institutions, to see the radical changes that modern life demands of the
schools and colleges. We add socializing efforts without removing the
individual viewpoint that has gotten into school studies and
professional habits. The failures of the city schools are less apparent
because the atmosphere of urban life is itself socializing. The walk or
ride to the city school is likely to make some contribution of
socializing character even to the unobservant child. It is still true
that the education outside of the schools, the spontaneous instruction
provided by the children themselves in addition to the publicly
constructed school, impresses itself most upon the childish mind. The
urban school is greatly strengthened in its social function by this
by-product of school attendance. It is aided also by the fact that the
public is more critical respecting its service. In the country we find
the reverse. The by-products of education deepen character, but on the
whole tend toward individualism. The community also is not asking for a
large social contribution from the schools, and this loss of public
pressure toward social effort is in the country very serious.

The consolidated school, modern in equipment and in spirit, adds greatly
to the effectiveness of rural education as a socializing agency. In
spite of limitations inherent in rural environment, the consolidated
school is by instinct social, and its community service is therefore
being enriched by its successful experience. It will increasingly relate
its work to the needs of the community and to the demands of the home
and will add to its socializing function by assuming new lines of
service. Large as is its present contribution, in the near future it
will be much greater. The consolidated school has enabled rural
education to assume new undertakings and this is most fortunate, for the
old type of rural school has about reached the limit of its social

It is safe to assume that neither in the city nor country are we likely
to overestimate the influence of the press. The daily and weekly paper
have a wide circulation among rural people and furnish a source of
penetrating and persistent social influence all the more significant
because the readers are little conscious of what they receive from
their reading. Into the most remote places the paper goes and is
received with avidity. The appeal is to human interest and is based upon
the entire hierarchy of instincts. No agency more successfully
socializes. It affords a mental connection with distant places that is a
good antidote for the physical loneliness in the country, which many
living there experience. It prevents the stagnation that comes from
concentration upon the interests of the day and neighborhood, for it
draws the attention of the reader out into the world of business and
affairs. It keeps country people from a too great class character by
charging the rural mind with the effects of modern civilization and of
necessity brings rural and urban people into a more sympathetic
relation. If it invites some to the city--as it certainly does--it also
makes the country a more satisfying and safer environment for those who
remain. Fortunately the papers are themselves sensitive to modern
thought and therefore attempt propaganda of a constructive social
character. If the appeal to human interests causes these educational
efforts to err respecting scientific accuracy, it is nevertheless true
that in spite of this fault the articles have a beneficent effect in
protecting the country from the excessive conservatism that isolation
tends to bring. The newspaper is the great gregarious meeting place of
the minds of men and therefore it serves to develop mental association
in a most intense manner. The weekly paper also serves a large
constituency in the country and on the whole probably socializes in a
more profound degree than the daily. The weekly permits the rural reader
to associate with the leaders of popular thought and builds up that
enthusiastic conviction which leadership always obtains. The leaders of
the country districts in this manner come into fellowship with the
thinking of urban men of influence. The farm paper is not to be
overlooked in a survey of the influence of the press upon country life.
Its little value as a professional journal because of its unscientific
character is in many instances a great handicap upon the progress of
agriculture, but even when these papers fail in having real worth for
the industry of farming they do extend professional fellowship by
encouraging harmony and enthusiasm. And as a whole the value of these
papers, aside from their socializing influence, is increasing as they
are more and more influenced by scientific investigation.

Secret societies and benevolent orders have a large following among
rural and village people. They are popular because they perform a very
valuable social service. No institution carries on its social function
with greater success, and for this reason it is rather strange that
rural sociology has not studied these organizations more seriously.
Because they afford fellowship, recreation, and comradeship, their
appeal is very great indeed to those who feel the hardships of physical
isolation. These societies do not limit their usefulness to community
welfare in a narrow sense, for they tie their following to similar
organizations in other localities and make possible an exchange of
interests that socializes in a marked degree. It is true that each
serves a limited number of people in the community, but the cleavage is
along natural lines and does not provoke feuds or neighborhood

The one great danger that they create in some small places is the fact
that there are so many of them that they capture nearly every evening of
the week and make it difficult for any community-wide enterprise to
obtain a free evening to bring all the people together. It is also true
that some of them fail to take a serious interest in the community
welfare, being content merely to enjoy the fellowship that they make

This latter criticism cannot be justly made respecting the rural society
strongest in the eastern section of the country--the Patrons of
Husbandry. This society, popularly known as the Grange, affords contact
with outside organizations, but it also takes a very practical and sane
interest in its own community. No movement has done more to conserve the
best of country life; no organization has in the country maintained so
sincere a democracy. Unlike most secret societies, it has made a family
appeal and has interested husband, wife, and children. It has taken a
constructive attitude toward legislation of importance to farmers, and
rural life has certainly become greatly indebted to its efficient
socializing efforts.

The enterprise most successfully socializing country life is the
business of farming itself. The farmer, who once maintained so large a
degree of economic independence, has of necessity become a man of
commerce, as seriously concerned and nearly as consciously interested in
business conditions as the city merchant. This situation is one of the
burdens of farming. The farmer must both produce and sell his crop.
Lack of skill in either undertaking may mean failure.

Economic pressure forces attention. The pain penalty, the product of bad
adjustment to the demands of the occasion, commands respect. The farmer
feels this pressure of economic conditions just as any other man of
business. He is not free to isolate himself and enjoy the economic
security of fifty years ago. Any indifference that he may assume toward
the business world is likely to bring him economic punishment which will
teach him his economic dependence as no argument could. It follows that
the farmer's attention is driven from family and neighborhood affairs
out into the modern world with all its complexities. He thinks in social
terms, because from experience he has learned his social dependence in
matters that concern the pocketbook. With painful evidences of his
economic interrelations in mind, he tends to become tolerant regarding
movements that attempt to socialize his community life. He realizes
that the independence of his fathers has gone not to return and that his
happiness as well as his prosperity depend upon his opportunity to
become well established in social relations.

No experience in the business of farming is so impressive as that of
membership in a cooperative enterprise. Whether the undertaking fails or
succeeds, it certainly teaches the member the meaning of social
interrelations. Often it fails because the mental and moral preparation
for successful working together is lacking. This is not strange, for
rural life in the past has done little to build up a social viewpoint
and the strain placed upon individual purposes in any cooperative effort
is necessarily great. Cooperation is never so easy as it sounds in
theory, but economic conditions are making it necessary in many rural
localities if farming is to continue a profitable industry. Under
pressure the farmers will develop the ability to cooperate. In this they
are like other people, for cooperation seldom comes until circumstances
press hard upon people who hopelessly try to meet individually
conditions that can be successfully coped with only by a cooperative
attack. We therefore must not pass hasty judgment upon the failures in
cooperative efforts among country people. All such experiences have some
part in the better socializing of rural thinking.

Without opposition to those who are placing emphasis upon other lines of
rural advance, as social workers, we must keep ever before rural
leadership the enormous importance that social conditions have for the
prosperity, wholesomeness, sanity, and happiness of rural life. Every
agency that has social value for country life must realize to the
fullest degree possible its socializing functions if it covets for
itself fundamental social service.




What will be the influence of this world war upon rural life? This
question is constantly before the mind of thoughtful people who are
lovers of country life and interested in rural prosperity. Of course it
is much too soon to answer this question in detail or with certainty. It
is true, nevertheless, that already we can see evidences of the
influence the present war is having upon the conditions of country life.
It is also possible, perhaps, to discover the direction in which other
influences, born of the war, are likely to have significance for rural
welfare. It is certainly most unreasonable for anyone to suppose that
this terrible war of the nations will not greatly influence country
conditions and country people.

One result is not a matter for argument. The great war has forced public
attention upon the problems of food production, and, as a consequence,
the social importance of the work of country people has been finally
revealed, so that even the least thoughtful has some realization of the
indispensable industrial contribution rendered to society by those who
till the soil.

Has this nation ever before had such a serious realization of the social
importance of the agricultural industry? The prosperity of agriculture
has become the nation's concern, because these war days are revealing
how certainly farming is the basic enterprise of industry. And our
experiences are those of the entire civilized world. It is not at all
strange, therefore, that thoughtful students and public administrators
the world over are earnestly studying how to foster the farming
interests, not only during the war but also after it is over.

Before August, 1914, there were few people who realized that, under the
conditions of modern welfare, one question of greatest national
importance is how nearly the nation at conflict can produce the food
necessary for its existence. It is unlikely that the nations will soon
forget this lesson that they have been taught by the ordeals of this
world war. Agricultural dependence is for any nation a very serious
military weakness.

Nations that cannot feed themselves must first of all use their military
power to make it possible to import the needed food. This, of course, is
a military handicap, for it removes military resources from the
strategic points for defence or attack, that lines of communication with
other nations that are furnishing food may be kept open. The more nearly
nations are able to obtain from their own cultivated land sufficient
food stuff, the more effectively they can use their army and navy in
strategic military service.

It does not seem possible that this great lesson can be forgotten by our
generation. Perhaps this is the largest result that the war will yield
within the field of rural interests. National leaders as never before
will consider every possible method by which farming can be made
profitable, satisfying, and socially appreciated. This policy will be
undertaken not merely for the sake of the farmer, but also as a means of
providing national safety.

The war already has disclosed the tendency of national policy to regard
the uses made of farming land as a matter for social concern. In
England, France, and Germany especially we have had, as a result of war
conditions, public control exercised regarding the uses made of private
land. Certain crops have been outlawed. Others have been stimulated and
encouraged by the action of the government. It has proved wise to
establish this control over the uses made of productive land. Of course,
war has furnished the motive and made possible the success of this
practical public control of land resources. Indeed, before the war, no
one could have imagined that England, for example, could have been led
to so great a public control of the uses of productive land as has
already resulted from the war.

Already we find some people advocating that the government continue
after the war to exercise a degree of such control over the uses made of
private lands and it attempt to conserve national safety by stimulating
the production of staple crops. At least for a time it will be difficult
to win converts to the proposition that the public has no interest in
what people who own productive land may do with their property. By
education, if not by legislation, the wiser nations are likely to
attempt consciously to direct production for social welfare. Probably
some nations will not hesitate to subsidize the cultivation of certain
crops in order to keep agriculture in a condition of preparedness for
the trials of war.

Whenever the war ceases, one of the problems that will immediately face
all the warring nations will be how best to get great numbers of
soldiers and sailors back into productive industry. The task will be
the largest of its kind in all human history. We find in Europe those
who advocate that the government should place many of the soldiers and
sailors back upon the land by making practicable a system of small
farms. To some this appears the wise way to help the partially disabled
soldiers and sailors. The problem of men suffering from nervous
instability deserves special attention. Many who have seen service will
return with slight nervous difficulties that will handicap them in
certain forms of urban industry. Their best protection from serious
disorders will be in many cases opportunity to engage in agriculture. At
this point the question of competition with experienced farmers who
suffer from no disability naturally arises. Experience may prove that
the government can wisely give financial assistance to those placed on
the land, by government aid in one form or another, to protect them in
their undertakings.

It has been pointed out by European students that the small farm is not
likely to increase much the production of the staple crops, since in
Europe garden truck is more easily handled by those who cultivate small
farms. Because of this fact, the effort of the government to encourage
the growing of staple crops for purposes of national safety is likely to
be independent of the movement to place soldiers and sailors on the
land. In Europe the success of the small farms appears to be conditioned
largely by the ability of the land owners to cooperate. Stress will have
to be placed upon the development of the spirit of cooperation, and
this, fortunately, will have a social influence in addition to its
economic advantages. How much governments may do to encourage the
building up of efficient cooperative enterprises is more or less
problematical, but the experience of Denmark teaches that more can be
done than has been done by most governments.

It is interesting to notice how the war has stimulated cooperation in
Europe. None of the countries illustrates this more than Russia. January
1, 1914, there were about 10,000,000 members of cooperative societies or
about 5.8 per cent of the total population. In 1916 this membership had
increased to 15,000,000. Counting in the families of the cooperators, it
is estimated that 67,500,000 people in Russia are interested in
cooperative enterprises, or about 39 per cent of the population. We find
that development of cooperation in consumption has been in Russia
directly related to the pressure for food due to war conditions. The
large majority of Russian cooperative societies are rural.[12] Other
countries, notably England and France, have also felt the influence of
the war in increasing the development of cooperation.

In America we are still too distant from the bitter consequences of war
to feel the need of planning for the care of the crippled and nervously
injured soldiers. Imagination will not allow us to picture the returning
of the soldiers as a problem. Our remarkable success in getting the
soldiers back into industry after the Civil War gives us a strong sense
of security when we do consider the matter. Probably if the war
continues for several years our problem after this war will be more
serious than it was in 1865. In any case we shall have a considerable
number of those who, because of physical or nervous injuries, will
require public assistance of a constructive character. If such men can
be made fully or even partly self-supporting by being placed on land it
will help both them and the food productiveness of the nation. Of
course, this form of public aid, like every other method of giving
assistance, has its political and economic dangers. The prosperity of
other farmers must not be disturbed. So many interests are involved that
the entire problem demands time for serious discussion, so that we may
not be troubled by hasty, half-baked legislation.

Anyone who has visited an army cantonment has felt the gregarious
atmosphere of army service. For a few men this is the most trying
experience connected with the service. Others find in it the supreme
satisfaction. Every soldier is influenced by it more or less. What will
it mean to the soldier who has come into the army from the small country
place? We know, as a result of what social workers among the soldiers
tell us, that the country boy is often very sensitive to this enormous
change from an isolated rural neighborhood to the closest contact
possible in a community which is literally a great city. By necessity
the recruits from the country are forced into the conditions of city
life, into an environment that is more gregarious than any normal urban
center experiences. What result is this likely to have upon the future
social needs of the men from rural districts? It is to be expected that
many of them will not be content again in the country. They will have
developed cravings that the country-life environment cannot satisfy. For
this reason it is not likely that the placing of former soldiers and
sailors on the land will have in any country all the success desired.
Much will depend upon who are selected to go into the country. On the
other hand, it is safe to predict that this war will add momentum to the
city-drift of our population and increase the number of those who form
the mobile class of rural laborers.


[12] _International Review of Agricultural Economics_, August, 1917.

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