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Title: The Boy and His Gang
Author: Puffer, J. Adams
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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  _Director of Beacon Vocation Bureau, Boston_



  The Riverside Press Cambridge




Sixty-six boys who were members of gangs are responsible for this
book. They told me the stories of their gang life and I wrote them
out in the form illustrated in Chapter II. I showed these stories
to President G. Stanley Hall, who asked me to present them in the
_Pedagogical Seminary_, where an article appeared in June, 1905. These
original stories of Boys’ Gangs and Boy Leaders later became the basis
for a series of lectures on Boy Problems. In revising my material for
book publication, many interesting criticisms by parents, teachers,
and social workers, in various sections of the country have been
consciously or unconsciously incorporated into it. I have found a wide
interest in and demand for such a book as this--bearing upon the group
psychology of boyhood--and a lamentable scarcity of readable literature
on the subject.

For aid in preparing this book I am indebted first of all to the
boys for their confidence, which I have tried to keep; to President
G. Stanley Hall for his kindly encouragement at the right time; to
President Edmund C. Sanford and Professor William H. Burnham for
pedagogical guidance; to my wife, E. Hope Puffer, who has shared in
the task from the beginning; to Mr. E. T. Brewster for his invaluable
assistance in editing the book, and to _McClure’s Magazine_ for
permission to reprint the illustrations.



  PREFACE                                                            iii

  INTRODUCTION                                                        xi

  I. THE ETERNAL BOY                                                   1

      The nature of the problem, and the persons to whom this work
      is addressed.

  II. THE GENERAL NATURE OF THE GANG                                   8

      Importance of gangs--Their neglect in the literature of
      boyhood--The single conspicuous exception--The author’s
      own experience with boys’ gangs and its lessons--Boys’ own
      stories of six specimen gangs--Fundamental likeness of all
      gangs--Their instinctive basis.

  III. THE ORGANIZATION OF THE GANG                                   26

      Age of members--Their habitat, nationality, and social class--
      Permanence of and definiteness of organization of gangs--
      Their names--Times and places of meeting--Officers--
      Initiation ceremonies--Rules--Resignations and expulsions--
      Method of settling disputes--Emergence of the group mind.

  IV. CERTAIN ACTIVITIES OF THE GANG                                  39

      Analysis of gang activities--Survivals from pre-gang stage--
      Group games--Tribal industries--Boys’ reports of these--
      Their significance--“Plaguing people”--Boys’ reports--
      Instinctive nature of the impulse--Stealing--Reports.

  V. FURTHER ACTIVITIES OF THE GANG                                   50

      Reports--Fighting--Personal fights--Fights between groups
      inside the gang--Fights between gangs--A case of war
      between federations of gangs.


      Certain human instincts--Differing instincts of boys and
      girls--Many instincts of boyhood are survivals from savagery--
      The Recapitulation Theory, therefore, the key to boy
      psychology--Not, however, a complete explanation--Certain
      qualities of the young look toward the future--Illustrations
      of these--Ancestral qualities persist when useful--Examples
      from instincts of both boys and girls.


      Certain maladjustments of human instincts to civilized life--
      These especially noteworthy in boyhood--Instinctive basis
      of cruelty in boys--Other causes of cruelty--Psychology
      of “plaguing people”--Pedagogic worthlessness of the
      impulse--Its cure--Impulse to plague girls of a different
      nature--Apparently protective--The love of fighting--Its
      instinctive nature--Fighting is, on the whole, a virtue--
      Its pedagogic value--Practical treatment of the problem--
      Two working rules--Self-limiting nature of the evil.


      Transitory nature of instincts--Acquisitiveness the basis of
      boys’ thieving--Self-limiting quality of stealing--Effect
      of collections--Of common property--Cure of thievery
      must regard origin--Practical hints--Effect of gardens
      and shops--Unconscious element in anti-social impulses--
      Unfortunate position of city boy--Analysis of reasons for
      theft--Removal of specific causes--Summary of two chapters
      on anti-social gang activities and their cure.

  IX. THE TRIBAL INSTINCTS AND THE WANDERLUST                        109

      Inherent goodness of the gang impulses now to be discussed--
      Balance of home and gang life--General nature of the
      problem--Wholesomeness and spontaneity of these interests--
      Their usefulness in training for work--Their religious
      aspect--Uses of Sunday--Control of the _Wanderlust_--Its
      imperiousness--Its dangers--Its good side--Practical
      suggestions--Excursions to interesting places and historic
      spots--Camping trips--Truancy--Limitations of athletics--
      Advantage of non-competitive sports over games--Their value
      as permanent sources of happiness.


      Education through games--Their social training--The problem
      of playgrounds--Example of the best English schools--Value
      of swimming--Opportunity and supervision--Skating and
      dancing--Their peculiar function at the end of the gang
      period--Theatre, circus, and picture show--Analysis of
      their influence--Wholesomeness of melodrama.

  XI. THE SPECIAL VIRTUES OF THE GANG                                141

      Psychologic value of the gang period--Biologic aspect of
      moral education--Loyalty the foundation of the gang--
      The boy’s devotion to ideals--Mistakes of parents and
      teachers--Why all boys are not in gangs--Gangs are the
      natural training-schools for the social virtues--Pedagogic
      value of even anti-social acts--High social value of nearly
      all gang activities--This illustrated by typical rules of
      gangs--Gangs inculcate coöperation, courage, and other
      manly virtues--Late reversal of opinion with regard to the
      influence of gangs.

  XII. THE GANG IN CONSTRUCTIVE SOCIAL WORK                          157

      The Boy Scouts--The sound psychology of the organization and
      its relation to the boys’ gang--The Church--The psychology
      of religious training and its practical method--The
      Sunday School--The Home--Prerequisites of good gangs--
      Families should unite to provide these--The Boys’ Club--
      The Playground--The Summer Camp--its common failings--
      Suggestions for the improvement of these--Proper subjects
      for study in camp--Special fitness of instruction in hygiene
      and morals.

  XIII. THE GANG AND THE SCHOOL                                      177

      The nature of the problem--Necessity of comprehending the
      gang spirit--Illustration from fighting and by an incident
      of real life--Difference between boys and girls--Boys’
      motor-mindedness--Practical hints--Importance of using
      natural groups--Illustrated by gymnastics--By nature
      study--By work in practical arithmetic--By other
      coöperative efforts--By pupil self-government--The
      important matter is to utilize the great passions of boyhood.




  “WE FOUGHT FOR THE FUN OF IT”                                       20

  A FOOTBALL GAME BETWEEN CITY GANGS                                  44

  “A SHANTY OR CLUBHOUSE IN THE WOODS”                                44

  AN INADEQUATE PLAYGROUND                                           170

  A MODEL PLAYGROUND                                                 170


The gang spirit is the basis of the social life of the boy. It is the
spontaneous expression of the boy’s real interests. A boy must have not
only companions but a group of companions in which to realize himself.
This book had its origin in the minds and hearts of boys still active
in their gangs.

It is evident that nearly all the activities of boys in their group
life are not injurious but wholesome, or can readily be made so. What
grown people too often interpret as done from evil motives the boys
in the gang do from their love of fun. The educational world has not
yet taken the interesting view point, that in the group activities
of boys are cultivated the great fundamental virtues, coöperation,
self-sacrifice, and loyalty. Now that we are coming to understand and
realize what the gang life means, and what can be done with it, the
surprise grows that it has until so recently been left almost entirely
out of account in the work of helping and saving boys.

Mr. Puffer as a graduate student and fellow at Clark University
has taken time to acquaint himself with the literature in this and
adjacent fields, and as a practical worker has shown himself unusually
sympathetic with boys and helpful to them. Mr. Puffer’s writing is
uniquely effective and his book ought to be read by all parents and
friends of boys.

                    G. STANLEY HALL.

    February 12, 1912.




We adults do not commonly understand boys. Half of us, to be sure,
were boys ourselves; but when we became men and settled down to our
work, we did not merely put away childish things--we went further and
forgot them. To-day, we read a story of boy life and we say, “Why, yes.
That’s just the way boys do. I used to do exactly that sort of thing
myself.” But the next hour we have forgotten again, and the boy we were
is once more a stranger. Boyville is so far removed, both from Delos
and from Babylon, that we seldom think the thoughts of its inhabitants,
nor see the world with the boys’ eyes. Only a few men are at home
in both worlds,--Lindsay, George, some schoolmasters, an occasional
father,--and these can do anything with a boy.

The difficulty seems not so much to be that we have forgotten the
incidents of our boyhood as that we have lost its feelings. So far as
specific doings are concerned, we probably remember those crowded years
more distinctly than any equal period of our entire lives. Most of us,
too, remember them happily, as happily probably as any years we have
lived. No, the trouble is not with the memory, but with the self. The
experiences of life since we were boys have shifted our psychic centre
of gravity, so that we realize the particular incident far more easily
than we realize the being to whom it occurred. We do not completely
feel that the boy that was is quite ourselves; and while the memory of
the fact is sharp, the memory of the mental state that went with it has
become dim. Therefore, it costs a distinct effort to put one’s self in
the boy’s place. Any proper man will recite by the hour tales of the
old swimming-hole in the summer. But if men actually felt toward the
water as boys do, every club and half the private houses would have a
swimming tank instead of a smoking room.

But if we men fail to comprehend boys, what shall we say of the women!
The experiences which we have forgotten, they have not even had; if
there is a psychic fence which separates men from boys, there are at
least knot-holes in the boards; but between boys and women there is
a solid wall. There are parts of a boy’s soul which any woman may
observe or imagine, but which no woman can ever feel. That women often
do understand boys, understand them sometimes better than men do, is
simply one of the marvels of feminine insight.

This book is, then, addressed, first of all, to fathers, with the
hope that it will, in some sort, serve to revive memories of boyhood
days, not so much of specific acts of boyhood as of long-dead impulses
and past ways of envisaging the world. Every man who sits down and
thinks out for himself, not only what he did as a boy, but also how
it feels to be a boy, and how the world and the people in it appear
through a boy’s eyes, has taken a long step toward the understanding
and the control of his own sons. A scientific account of certain
aspects of boy psychology, such as this book aims to be, may aid this
introspective process.

On the other hand, so far as this book is an account of the natural
history of the genus boy, it may well be an aid to mothers, and to
other women who, with no children of their own, are yet concerned
for the welfare of adolescent males. If it does not help these to a
sympathetic understanding of a boy’s soul, one may at least hope that
it will serve to warn them of those regions of it most foreign to their
sex. Next to a knowledge of boy nature, comes the knowledge of when to
keep hands off and let some man have his chance. To the smaller group
of women, mothers and aunts and elder sisters, and especially teachers,
who already possess the heaven-sent gift of understanding boys, any
assistance may well seem superfluous. Still, intuition may often be
supplemented by science. The clearest insight does sometimes fail,
and need to be helped out by a more analytical approach from another
side than its own. To men, women, and teachers, then, this book,--an
‘apology,’ in a sense, to women, of men who once were boys.

Whoever it was that opined that

    “Men are but children of a larger growth”

knew little about boys. The child becomes a youth, and the youth
becomes man, by virtue of a process not so very different from that
which transforms the caterpillar into a butterfly or the tadpole into
a frog. As truly as the caterpillar takes on wings, and the tadpole
lungs and limbs, of which neither had any trace before, the child and
the boy take on not only habits and instincts and ways of getting on in
the world, but actual new structure as well. Boyhood begins with the
second set of teeth; it ends with the advent of the beard and a new set
of enzymes in the blood. Neither child nor boy nor grub nor pollywog
passes on to the next stage of his existence by any mere enlargement.

Nor is it altogether true that with the approach of manhood

    “Shades of the prison-house begin to close
            Upon the growing boy.”

The little child, in his father’s house and under his father’s care,
feels the stir of newborn gregarious instincts, and takes his first
steps into the larger life of the world. Boyhood proper begins with the
rise of impulses which make us citizens and lead us to take care of
ourselves; and it ends with the rise of impulses which make us heads
of families and lead us to take care of other people. Each step is an
enlargement of life. Each transition is marked by a psychic change
so profound that it makes the previous narrower condition appear as
shadowy almost as a dream, and almost as difficult to recall.

We are concerned here with the second of the seven ages of men: with
the period, that is, which begins at about the age of ten with the
rise of the herding instincts, and ends with the rise of the mating
instincts at, say, eighteen. The child, who thus far has been a
solitary animal, suddenly becomes a social one. He is profoundly
interested in youth of his own sex, while at the same time he cares
less than nothing for youth of the other. Therefore, he associates
himself with other boys and forms gangs.

The gang, therefore, while it lasts, is for the boy one of the three
primary social groups. These three are, the family, the neighborhood,
and the play group; but for the normal boy the play group is the gang.
All three are instinctive human groupings, formed like pack and flock
and hive, in response to deep-seated but unconscious need. Like all
such instinctive associations, the gang appears useless or stupid to
those who have never felt the inner impulse which caused it, or who,
having felt, have forgotten. The boy’s reaction to his gang is neither
more nor less reasonable than the reaction of a mother to her babe, the
tribesman to his chief, or the lover to his sweetheart. All these alike
belong to the ancient, instinctive, ultra-rational parts of our human
nature. They are felt, and obeyed; but only in part are they to be
explained, for no man understands any of them fully unless he knows how
it feels from the inside.



The gang age, from ten to sixteen, is one of the most important eras
in a boy’s life. One man out often may belong to a church, one out of
five to a fraternity: but as Sheldon has shown, three boys in every
four are members of a gang; and the character of this gang determines
in no small degree what sort of men these boys shall become. Taking our
lives through, our parents probably make us most, and next to these our
wives. But next to our wives, in their influence over our characters
and careers, come for most of us, the group of companions whom we knew
as boys and who together with us formed our special gang. Our domestic
education takes place in our parents’ home and in our own; but our
social training has had at least its foundations in our gang.

Curiously enough, in spite of the fact that three quarters of all boys
are members of gangs, the gang plays a somewhat inconspicuous part
in the literature of boyhood. Neither in “David Copperfield,” nor in
“Being a Boy,” nor in “A Boy’s Town,” nor in “Tom Brown,” does the
gang, _qua_ gang, appear. There are traces of it in Owen Johnson’s
Lawrenceville stories, and in certain tales of Elisha Kellog, dear to
the heart of a generation ago. Only one story of boy life, so far as I
know, gives the gang anything like its full value in boy psychology.

This tale is “The Story of a Bad Boy” of Thomas Bailey Aldrich. The
“Centipedes,” to which the Bad Boy belonged, were a real gang. They had
their local habitation, their badges, their ceremonies, their secrets.
They went camping together, swam and boated and fished, snowballed the
constables, fought the boys from the other end of the town, bombarded
the sleeping inhabitants of Rivermouth on the night before the Fourth,
and altogether comported themselves like the indefatigable young
savages which all proper boys have been since boys were. The story is
said to be highly autobiographical, to be, in short, the inside history
of Aldrich’s own gang. At any rate, it seems to be the most adequate
account yet in print of a typical boys’ gang, told with insight and
skill. One can hardly imagine a better introduction to the ways of all
boys than this story of a bad one.

Like most persons who were once boys, I was myself in my boyhood
days a member of a gang; but I never began to realize the spirit and
power of gang life until, between 1902 and 1905, I sat behind the
Principal’s desk in an Industrial School for Boys. Before that desk
stood each new-comer, and it was my duty to place each boy in his
school work, and to be responsible in part for his discipline. I soon
learned that rightly to guide a boy in the School, it was essential
that I know pretty thoroughly, not only the boy’s personal traits,
but also the social conditions of his home and of his neighborhood. I
asked, therefore, many questions about home, school, and playmates,
especially about playmates and the way in which the boys spent their
leisure time.

Many boys, after a short acquaintance, told me freely the inside
stories of their gang life. Occasionally, to start a narrator when
he stopped talking, I would put in a question: “When do you meet?”
“Where?” “What do you do nights?” “Saturdays?” “Sundays?” “Whom do you
let in?” “Have you any rules?”--and the like. Where a boy had a good
memory and a fair command of English, no questions were necessary; he
simply went ahead and told me quite frankly all he knew, while I wrote
down the story as nearly as possible in the boy’s own words. Later
when, as probation officer in a juvenile court, I became responsible
for the behavior of dependent and delinquent boys, I carried the study

As a result of this information, it soon became evident that certain
gangs were doing irreparable harm. Two boys, for example, out of one
gang had been sent to the State Reform School on the same day; another
contributed to the same institution, five of its six members. Good,
promising boys, too, they were, though the world thought otherwise.
Apparently, then, some gangs at least were pretty thoroughly bad.

On the other hand, some gangs proved to be almost as thoroughly good.
Their members were real boys, but on the whole the gang was helping
them to become worthy citizens and upright men.

I have especially full information concerning sixty-six gangs; and I
pass without more ado to the boys’ account of certain of them. Most
men who read these pages can supply the inside history of at least one

_The Morse Hollow Athletic Club_

This is a typical all-round gang, though its main purpose was to play
games. Its membership varied somewhat with the game, but it usually
contained from nine to eleven boys, between twelve and seventeen
years of age. Of these one was Irish, two were French, two Americans,
one Negro, and one Scotch. The historian of the gang is the Scot, a
distinctly bright boy who is now doing well at the printing trade.

“Met nearly every day in vacation time; had a shanty for a clubhouse
over in the woods; met there most of the time; met on R. A’s hill.

“R. A. was the leader. One that could jump the farthest was made
president; one could jump next farthest, vice-president; next,
secretary; one that could jump least distance of all was made
treasurer; club was for athletics, so that was the way we wanted it.

“We played baseball in the spring and football in the fall. We didn’t
let a fellow into our club unless he could play baseball or football.
Nights we would meet on the corner of the street and talk over games.
We have been going together four years; we take in a new lot of younger
boys every year. Sometimes we put a fellow out of the club because he
will not pay his share of the expenses.

“Sundays we went to church; sometimes we would go up on R. A’s hill
in the afternoon and watch some men play cards for money; they gave
coppers to the boys.

“We often jumped a freight to Gates Crossing and then went berrying or
after nuts. We used to play Indians in the woods; one boy captured the
others and put them in a hole. We had three detectives. We stole some
apples out of orchards. We had a fight with the ‘Garden of Eden’ gang;
we were coming home from football; we guyed them for beating us; they
fired sticks at us; we made some swords out of wood, got an air rifle,
and made an attack on them and drove them up on to a haymow in a barn.

“We sometimes ran away from school; two of us would go out at a time,
so as not to throw any suspicion on the gang. Our rules were that all
members should be present Wednesdays and Saturdays, and each boy should
pay equal parts for ball. When there were disputes the officers would
most always settle them.”

_The Tennis Club_

This is a thoroughly good gang, one of the best gangs I know. In
fact, I came to know about it at all only because one of its members
dropped out, joined the distinctly evil “Dowser Glums,” the account of
which immediately follows that of the Tennis Club, and as a result got
himself into various kinds of trouble. The same boy gave me the stories
of the two gangs, adding frankly, “If I had stopped in the Tennis
Club, I should never have been sent to a Reform School.” A thoroughly
worthless man, twenty-six years old, was in the Glums, while Mr. M.,
the father of one of the boys, was practically in the Tennis Club. The
contrast cannot be described in words.

There were fifteen boys in the Tennis Club, twelve to seventeen years
of age, all Americans except two Swedes.

“Met at tennis court at M.’s house. Met after school, nights and
Saturdays. Had a captain of baseball nine, captain of football, and
treasurer. Treasurer collected things at M.’s house,--gloves, rackets,
etc. If a fellow was a good ball player or an all-round athlete, let
him in. Sometimes fellows [by way of initiation] pounce on a fellow
and give it to him for two or three minutes. Tell a fellow he didn’t
belong there and he would leave. Been going together for seven months
when I left off going.

“M.’s parents would buy things for their boy and we could use them.
We played tennis, baseball, football, cricket; went bicycle riding;
camping out. Went a little ways from M.’s house; went out to camp days,
swimming, boating. Made a boat and went fishing for pickerel and perch.
Play ball and cricket after supper till dark. Sit in porch and talk
over stories a little after dark.

“Ring doorbells and play tick-tack on windows of fellows of our club.
Sometimes would have a fight; other fellows would stop it. Never let a
big fellow pick on a little fellow. We were against smoking.”

_The Dowser Glums_

This tough gang contained four Irish boys, three French, one American.
The members were for the most part seventeen or eighteen years of age,
except the man of twenty-six. The place-names, I suppress, as of no

“Met out in the woods back of an old barn on Spring Street. Met every
day if we did not get work. Any fellow could bring in a fellow if
others approved. Put a fellow out for spying or telling anything about
the club. Tell him we didn’t want him and then if he didn’t take the
hint force him out. It had been going for two years; broke up now, I

“We played ball; went swimming, fishing, and shooting. Each of us had a
rifle. Meet [at night] and tell stories of what we had done during the
day. Go to shows. Go and watch dancing class. Sundays we loafed around
streets. Sometimes went on a trip in the country. Went shooting. Other
days catch a freight and go to W---- and L----. Went to B---- to shows
and circus.

“Purpose of club was to steal; most anything they could get their hands
on; fruit off from fruit stands; snag ice-cream at picnics. Robbed a
store and put it in an old barn,--revolvers, knives, and cartridges.
Work for two or three days, then loaf round and spend our money; spend
money for circus. Sometimes folks would make us spend for clothes.
Play cards,--poker, whist, high low jack. Played in the woods. Smoke
cigarettes, pipe, and cigars. Biggest fellow drank; he tried to make
the other fellows drink but they wouldn’t.”

_The Island Gang_

Twelve boys: four Irish, three French, two Poles, two Germans, one Jew.
Ages between twelve and eighteen, but generally about fifteen. The boy
who told me the story, one of the Frenchmen, said with much pride, “We
never got caught stealing.” I have since watched boys stealing from the
big markets; they certainly have reduced it to a science!

“Met on L. Street; all lived on that street. Would not let any gang on
that street. Give a strange boy a licking.

“M. was ring-leader,--steals most; says, ‘Come on’; biggest and oldest.
Didn’t let anybody in after we started; been going together five years.
M. started it, and asked us to be in the gang.

“We played run-sheep-run, tag, relievo, hide and seek. Stay out all
night; have a fire down by the foundry. Go to shows Monday and Saturday
nights; like Railroad Jack, Great White Diamond, White Eagle; like
plays where there was fighting.

“Jumped freights to S---- and P----. Ran away from home to U----;
stayed up there two weeks. Hated to go to school; ran away because I
didn’t like to study. Saw boys out, so I liked to stay out and play
baseball. Go to W---- Market in a crowd; steal apples, candy, grapes,
and peanuts; we never got caught.

“Put wires across the sidewalks. Fight with another gang; fought for
the fun of it, to see which was the strongest; fought with clubs. If
there was a dispute in our crowd, leader settled it. If two fellows
were fighting for a thing, the leader took it away from them and
gave it to another fellow. If a member of the gang lied to one of us
fellows, we called him a squealer; if he told on us, we called him a

“Get our money from junk. Drink beer. All smoke. We had our best times
bunking out, ringing doorbells, and tying cats’ tails together. We like
to plague girls,--ask them for a kiss, and things like that.”

_The Medford Street Gang_

Six boys: two Americans, four Irish. Ages between twelve and fifteen.
This is, paradoxically, a bad gang of good boys. Five out of the six
members landed in Reform Schools, and I knew personally four of the
five. All were distinctly above the average, and all are now doing well
in life.


[Illustration: “WE FOUGHT FOR THE FUN OF IT”]

“Met on corner of street. We had three different leaders; I was leader;
St. J. was leader. When we first moved there we gathered together and
kept together all the time.

“We played baseball, football, cricket, tag, and hide and seek. We had
a tent,--stayed out nights. We stole pigeons, broke into slot machines.
We all divided up about the same. If a fellow lied to one of us, we put
him out of the crowd for a week. Used to think school was too hard;
didn’t want to go because there was a show in town; stayed away just
for the fun of it. Best time was going to theatre, like comical plays,
Irishmen and fighting.

“We never used to think of girls, [“How do you treat them?” I had
asked.] I don’t know how to treat them; never tried it.”

_Another boy’s report of the same Gang--one year later_

The gang now contained seven boys: four American, three Irish.

“Met every day, right after school, corner Medford Street and
Somerville Avenue; thought that Medford Street belonged to us. If a
strange boy came around, try to pick up a fight with him to see if he
was a good fighter. A. was leader; St. J. was leader sometimes. Anybody
moved around there we thought safe to come in, would let him in. Put a
fellow out if he go and tell on us. We have been going together five or
six years.

“We play baseball, hoist the sail, how many miles to Barbery; go to
beach; go to theatre once or twice a week, City Square and Grand Opera
House; like love plays best. Sundays go around in city; wander around
the streets; go to beach. Other days go down to freight yards and jump
freights. We used to snowball Jews who came to slaughter house to get
food. Plague a man down there; ring doorbells; play tick-tack. Steal
money, candy, hens, iron, and fountain pens.

“All of us smoked. Get lager beer Saturday nights off beer wagons. Boys
gamble with dice; shoot craps. Chuck a fellow out who made a dispute.”

_The Methuen Gang_

Six boys: five Irish and one “Yankee,” between thirteen and sixteen
years of age. This is an especially adventurous gang, whose chief
amusement is travel. Note especially the characteristic initiation to
test the candidate’s resourcefulness.

“I was called ‘Bull-dog,’ because I stuck to it when I started a thing.
C. called ‘Gulliver’ because he traveled around so much. M. called
‘Puggie’ because he had a flat nose. O. was leader; biggest and best

“When one fellow went out, let another fellow in; get a fellow who
would keep things to himself; make him take an oath. Put him [as
initiation] on a freight train and send him off alone to see if he
could get back alone; if he came back he was a member of the gang.

“Been going together three years. All live on the same street. Play
baseball, football, punch bag, tag, hide and seek, bull in the ring,
leap frog. Build forts and capture them.

“Go to boys’ club twice a week. Go to shows two or three times a
week. Like tragedies. Get up shows ourselves and let fellows from
the district in. Went to a show and traveled with the show as far as
W----. Stay out all night sometimes. Go off to different cities. Jump
freights. Sundays sometimes go off on a fishing trip, or a picnic out
in the country.

“Plague the ragman; upset his cart; run off with the rags. Ran away
with banana team. All work for a spell and then all loaf a while. If
one of the gang got hit, stand up for one another. Save up our money
and then go off for a good time; go to B---- Saturday afternoons; buy
our tickets on that trip.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Boys’ gangs, then, as one may readily infer from the foregoing
accounts, are of various types. They may be large or small, good
or bad, long-lived or evanescent. Yet with all their superficial
differences, they are fundamentally alike. Each exists for the sake of
a definite set of activities--to play games, to seek adventure, to go
swimming, boating, and playing Indians in the woods, to make mischief,
to steal, to fight other gangs. Few are the groups which do not, at
one time or another, do all these things. Especially noteworthy is
the desire of the gang for a local habitation--its own special street
corner, its clubroom, its shanty in the woods.

All normal gangs, in short, are so much alike that if we discovered any
group among the lower animals acting with equal uniformity, we should
unhesitatingly ascribe their behavior to instinct. Without doubt,
there is a gang-forming instinct set deep in the soul of boyhood.
Whoever, therefore, would understand boys, must study their spontaneous



The gang age, as we have seen, is from ten to sixteen. In a few cases,
this organized group life begins as young as seven; in a few, also, it
lasts up to eighteen or nineteen. Between thirteen and fourteen is the
average age; and in a general way, the boy’s social education in the
gang takes about five years. Before this period, the little boy plays
a good deal by himself, or plays in company with other boys a good
deal as if he were playing alone. After it, he cultivates individual
friendships, or courts a girl.

Nearly always, the gang is a strictly local affair, limited to a
certain district or to one or two streets. “We all live on L street,”
run the boys’ reports. “We all come from one street and a little street
off from it.” “Fellows who lived up that way could be in the crowd.”
“Come from down around the wharves.” “If he lived down there, and the
fellows knew him, he could get in with them.” The neighborhood spirit
is strong in boys; it needs to be regarded in all social work.

_Nationality and Social Class_

As for nationality, the gang is apt to be thoroughly unprejudiced and
democratic. To be sure, twelve of my sixty-six gangs were all of one
nationality. But that is largely because the streets or sections of the
city where the boys live are likely to be given up to a single race.
Fifty-four of my gangs were of mixed nationality, while in only one was
any line drawn at breed or color--“No Jews or Negroes allowed.” Far
more than we realize, the boys’ gang is helping out the public school
in the great problem of assimilating the diverse races in the United

Nevertheless, there are some curious differences of nationality in the
membership of gangs. Irish boys are especially gangy, with Americans
and French a good second. Jews, on the other hand, are conspicuous for
their absence. I questioned several Jewish boys, without discovering
a single typical gang; and only two of my sixty-six gangs had Jewish
members, though Jews are decidedly numerous in the regions from which
the boys came. The reader who is interested in race psychology will
find food for thought in the differing instincts of Irishman and Jew.

There is also some social difference in boys’ gangs. Boys from
well-to-do homes are, as one might expect, less gangy than those
brought up amid poorer surroundings. In the case of the more fortunate
boys, the gang is only one of a number of factors in their social
development. But boys from bad, broken, or inefficient homes are forced
to provide their own social life, and the gang is their one instinctive
reaction to their social environment.

Curiously, too, boys from the better class of homes more often form
their social groups _de novo_ to suit their individual social needs;
while boys whose home training is deficient tend more to become members
of gangs already formed. For this reason the permanent and long-lived
gangs are apt to be tough, with fixed and dangerous traditions. Thus,
while among well brought up boys a gang rarely survives the boyhood of
the group which formed it, among delinquents of my acquaintance hardly
more than a quarter were original members of their gangs, or could
tell how their gangs started. The bad gang, therefore, tends to be a
persistent and dangerous institution, taking in new members as the
older ones graduate. But the good gang dies young. This circumstance
probably accounts in no small degree for the bad odor in which all
boys’ gangs are commonly held.


In respect to definiteness of organization, there are marked
differences in gangs. Some are loosely knit and of short duration;
others are select in their membership and rigid in their structure,
so that they last through several generations of boys. Some gangs are
autocratic, some democratic,--this, naturally, depending largely on the

Most of them have names,--The Hicks Street Fellows, The Bleachery
Gang, Morse Hollow Athletic Club, Wharf Rats, Crooks, Liners, Eggmen,
Dowser Glums. Most have a regular time and place of meeting, rules and
officers, though only a few have written constitutions and by-laws.
Moreover, the definiteness of the organization and the _esprit de
corps_ seem to be quite independent of any formality or written code.
Two organizations may be equally definite and forceful; and yet one may
have its organization explicit in articles of federation, while that of
the other is covert in the brain and muscles of its leader.

_Time and Place of Meeting_

Boys at the gang age intend to get together whenever possible. They
will use all the time in which they are free from work or school. I
have known boys to leave their proper occupations to go with the gang;
and to reckon out carefully the balance between a day’s fun with the
gang and a general warming-up reception at night by father. Most of
the sixty-six gangs met every day, many met morning, noon and night, or
all day. The evening hours are, naturally, the most active and the most
dangerous part of the day, for then mischief-making is likely to be
rampant, encouraged under the veil of darkness.

During the larger part of the year in most parts of the United States
boys prefer the outdoor life. In the cities, a certain street or corner
is the customary meeting-place. In the fall and winter months boys
look for shelter. In the country they build a cabin of boards or logs
in the woods; in the city they get clubrooms, make a shanty in the
back yard, or fix up an empty room in the cellar, attic, or shed. In
one gang, for example, “the Club met down at one boy’s house--in the
cellar of the shed. Fixed up the place, had pictures out of magazines
and papers,--funny pictures. Made a little table and benches, had
boxing-gloves. Two boys had them an hour. No fighting allowed. Spent
our evenings in the ‘Clubroom.’ Go to church Sundays and then skip down
to the club and read books.”

In general, about half the city gangs have their regular meeting-place
on street or street corner. For the other half, my records show four
gangs meeting in clubrooms; three in houses; two in a shed; and one
each in a shanty, behind a barn in the woods, in a house made of old
barrels in a back street, a hencoop, a hut in the woods, a tent in the
woods, a tent in the yard, a dugout, an empty attic, and the cellar of
a shed.

Boys do not like parlors. They prefer a rather rough and crude place in
shed or attic which they can fix up to suit their own tastes. Benches,
working-tools, boxing-gloves, punching-bags, pictures, magazines and
books, form the natural furniture of a gang clubroom. Fortunate,
indeed, are the parents who can provide the right kind of a room in
their home for their boys, and are wise enough to let the neighbors’
boys use it freely, without too much attention to their muddy feet.

Naturally, the boys have a sense of ownership of their clubroom tents
or camps; but we find the same sentiment of ownership developing
over the street or corner where they meet. The following are familiar
expressions of the boys in regard to ownership: “Had a shanty in the
woods. Other fellows would come and tear it down. Had a right over it.”
“Wouldn’t let any gang in that street. Gave a strange boy a licking.”
“Thought that Medford Street belonged to us.” “Every corner has a gang.
That corner belongs to us.”


Two boys said: “We didn’t have no leader.” This is not correct.
Consciously or unconsciously there must be a leader in every social
group. A few gangs have a long list of officers elected formally by
ballot at stated periods. But forty-four gangs (66⅔ per cent) have
one leader, who takes his position naturally with little form or
ceremony. Of the sixty-six gangs--

  1 gang had six officers or leaders
  1          four
  4 gangs    three
  8          two
 44          one officer or leader
  8          no regular leader

The following words express the spirit of the boys in reference to

“J. was ringleader. Steals most; says, ‘Come on.’” “I was leader. Had
stumps, and the one who could do the most stumps would be leader.”
“D. was the leader. He could fight best and had most money.” “G. was
leader. He gave you anything if he had it. Worst one in the gang.” “G.
was leader. Big, strong fellow. He is always bringing a gang around
him.” “D. was leader. Pretty good fellow. Most daring fellow. Choose
him by ballot. He got seven votes.” “No regular leader. One fellow
proposed a thing. He knew most about it, and take the lead.”

The leader of the gang is such an interesting personality that we shall
make a more careful study of him later, in another work.


Commonly when boys enter a new gang some form of a reception is
tendered them. In winter the new fellow may get a rub in the snow; in
summer months he may be given a ducking or a little rough-and-tumble
good time. In the Jenhine Boys, the new fellow “had to wrestle with
Gibson to see if he was strong,” while in the Tennis Club, they “pounce
on a fellow and give it to him for two or three minutes.” In a few
gangs there were definitely planned initiation ceremonies. In the
Jeffries Point Gang they threw a new fellow up in the air for five or
ten minutes to test his grit. “If he didn’t cry, let him in.”

The object of the initiation ceremony appears to be to test the new
fellow’s grit and strengthen his spirit of loyalty.


In the sixty-six gangs we find--

  18 rules as to “squealing,” snitching, or tell-taleing
   8             lying to one of the gang
   8             standing by each other in trouble
   5             “divvying up” or paying equal parts of the expenses
   3             unjust fighting
   2             using tobacco
   1 rule        swearing
   1             stealing

We find the demand for loyalty and justice in the foreground and for
morality in the rear. Although the rules are rarely put on paper there
are few gangs without an unwritten code. These rules are necessary for
the existence of the gang. They must be strictly enforced or the gang
is dissolved. Expulsion is the usual penalty.

_Dropping out of Gangs and Expulsion_

Boys drop out of the gang suddenly, so that very few remain after
sixteen years of age. At this time boys are entering the second
adolescent period, and become intensely interested in girls. They feel
so far above boys twelve or thirteen years old that they no longer care
to affiliate with them. In gangs where younger boys have been allowed
to enter, the older boys retire without disturbance to the structure
of the group or its object; but in a gang where younger members have
not been admitted and the boys are about the same age, the group may
sometimes continue with a new set of interests.

As for involuntary withdrawals, ten boys were expelled from their gangs
for “squealing,” three for unjust fighting, one each for bossing,
failure to pay dues, cowardice, getting fresh, and disobedience.
“Kicked one fellow out,” ran the reports, “for telling on the others.”
“Put a fellow out for fighting with another boy. The other fellow was
in the right.” “Put him out because he would run off when needed to

_Settling Disputes_

Disputes are sure to arise in any social group and especially in a
gang. “If there was any dispute, have a scrap over it. Fellow who got
the worst of it, gave up.” “If there was a dispute the leader settled
it.” “The officers would most always settle disputes, talk it over, get
circumstances, and then settle it.”

These cases illustrate the most common methods of settling internal
troubles. In ten cases the boys fought it out; in seven other cases the
matter was settled by the leader, a bigger boy, or an outsider.

The typical boys’ gang, then, is no mere haphazard association.
Accidents of various sorts--age, propinquity, likeness of
interests--bring together a somewhat random group. Immediately the boys
react on one another. One or more leaders come to the fore. The gang
organizes itself, finds or makes its meeting-place, establishes its
standards, begins to do things. It develops, in some sort, a collective
mind, and acts as a unit to carry out complex schemes and activities
which would hardly so much as enter the head of one boy alone. The gang
is, in short, a little social organism, coherent, definite, efficient,
with a life of its own which is beyond the sum of the lives of its
several members. It is the earliest manifestation in man of that
strange group-forming instinct, without which beehive and ant hill and
human society would be alike impossible.



The most active time of life is early adolescence. At this age,
the normal boy has finished one stage in his development, and is
resting before he enters upon the next. He has weathered the storms
of childhood. He has completed some of the most difficult portions
of the growth process, and has salted down his gains. Between eight
years of age and twelve, lies a period of extraordinary toughness and
resilience, when the boy can eat anything and do anything. He is simply
one bundle of prodigious energy, which he must explode, and which he
generally insists on exploding in his own way.

The gang, naturally, becomes the chief outlet for his activities.
Sheldon, in his study of 851 boys who were members of gangs, found that
the purposes of these spontaneous societies were:--

  Athletics                                                      61%.

  Migration, building, hunting, fighting, and preying            17

  Industrial work                                                 8½

  Or to sum up, associations for purposes involving
    physical activity comprised                                  86½

  While associations for social, secret and literary
    purposes comprised only                                      13½

My own more detailed study of sixty-six gangs reveals the following
group activities:--

  Group games,--baseball, football,
    basketball, hockey, etc.                         53 gangs or 80%

  Tribal industries,--hunting, fishing,
    boating, building huts, going about
    in the woods, playing Indians, etc.              49          74

  Predatory activities,--stealing, injuring
    property, etc.                                   49          74

  Fighting                                           46          70

  Swimming                                           45          68

  Migrations                                         44          67

  “Plaguing people”                                  44          67

  Going to theatres                                  38          58

  Running-games,--relievo, chase, tag, etc.          31          47

  Smoking                                            50          45

  Playing cards                                      25          38

  Skating                                            20          50

  Sliding                                            12          18

  Drinking                                            9          11

Of these various group activities, the running-games belong properly
to the pre-gang stage of the boy’s existence. The normal instincts
of the little boy incline him to the individualistic games, of which
tag and hide and seek are the type, in which the player acts for
himself against the one who is “it.” The transition to the coöperative
“group games” of the gang age not infrequently takes place by way of
running-games of the prisoner’s base and relievo type, in which, though
the game is still fundamentally individualistic, there is nevertheless
some sort of loosely organized side.

Running being a deep-seated impulse of all young life, the formless
running-games of childhood tend to hold over into the gang age.
Thirty-one of my sixty-six gangs, or practically half of them, reported
that they still clung to their pre-adolescent sports. Tag, hide and
seek, and relievo are the favorites, being represented in twenty-one,
fourteen, and twelve gangs respectively. Hoist the sail, chase, leap
frog, and run-sheep-run, appear in five gangs or more. Some twenty
other games, a few of them apparently local inventions, are mentioned
at least once. Oddly enough, some of the oldest stand-bys of childhood,
such as puss in the corner, blind man’s buff, and follow the leader,
appear in but two gangs at most, while tops, marbles, and kites figure
not at all. Only two gangs--more’s the pity--play hare and hounds;
partly, let us hope, because of the limitations imposed by the city
streets rather than altogether because of deficient wind and stamina in
the city-bred boy.

Of the group games--of games, that is, which presuppose an
organized side, a leader, rules, apparatus, and some sort of
playing-field--baseball, as might be expected, comes easily first.
Fifty-one gangs play baseball, of the fifty-three which devote
themselves to group games. Football comes next, with thirty-six. Hockey
and basketball make a bad third and fourth, with nine each. Cricket
appears in six gangs. If, then, we lump together the cricket-playing
and baseball-playing gangs, as we may fairly do since they are both
bat-and-ball games of essentially the same type and really alternates
of one another, we arrive at the significant fact that all normal
boys, at the age when they have the native impulse to form gangs, have
also the native impulse to hit a quick-moving object with a club. The
precise significance of this conjunction, and the part which it ought
to play in the boy’s education, will appear later.

Of swimming, also, and the minor sports of boyhood, of smoking and
drinking and playing cards, I shall have more to say in another place.
For the present we are concerned only with such activities as arise
from the great fundamental instincts of the gang age.

Of these, next in importance to the group games come the so-called
tribal industries,--hunting, fishing, building boats and rafts and
sailing them, going to ponds or into the woods, building huts and
playing Indians,--the various uncivilized occupations, in short, with
which the savage tribes of the world fill the greater part of their

On this point the most entertaining witnesses are the boys themselves.
I quote, therefore, their own accounts.

“Played Indians in the woods. Went fishing after perch and pickerel.
Went berrying. Got a pail full, then ate them.” “Went fishing and
shooting. Each of us had a gun. Played cards in the woods. Met out
in the woods back of an old barn. Sundays, went on a trip into the
country.” “Went camping out. Stayed for a day or two. Made a boat. Went
bathing, fishing for perch and pickerel.” “Went fishing. Had a tent in
the woods for one month. Went boating.” “Went fishing. Went to woods
on Sundays. Built bonfires. Went hunting.” “Went fishing for pickerel
and perch. Went hunting for gray squirrels, pheasants, quails, rabbits,
foxes. Shot three foxes, one silver fox. Had a shanty in the woods.”
“Made boats and rafts to hold ten or twelve fellows. Twenty-three of
us hired a tent for five days in woods.” “Played Indians. Made up two
parties. One party captured others and put them in a hole. Met in
a shanty or clubhouse in the woods.” “Had a tent and a dugout a
quarter of a mile out in the woods. Stayed out five nights. Slept in a


The crosses indicate the leaders]


These are sample reports. In one form or another, three quarters of
our boys’ gangs find themselves impelled to revert to the conditions
of pre-civilized days, and to enjoy what their savage forebears had
perforce to endure. Considering that these gangs are nearly all made up
of city boys, who have to put themselves to a great deal of trouble to
get out into the country, the fact is most significant.

Closely allied to this instinctive liking for savagery is an instinct
for “plaguing people.” All proper boys have it, while nearly seventy
per cent of the boys of this study report that making themselves
collectively disagreeable is one of the spontaneous activities of their
several groups. As before, I subjoin the boys’ own account.

“Rap on doors. Push and pull people. Play tick-tack on windows.”
“Plague Jews and Italians. Tip the rag teams of Jews over. Take the
rags and sell them to some other Jew.” “Have a dead rat. Throw it at
a Chinaman. Fire things at men to get the chase. Hit men out of doors
to get the chase. Put a rock in a paper bag for men to kick.” “Tie a
rope across the street and trip people up. Throw eggs at people. Throw
cabbages at people. Ring doorbells. Break windows, electric lights.
Plague Chinamen. Bring them in a bundle of paper [to wash]. Throw
potatoes at Chinamen.” “Call persons names to get the chase. Throw eggs
at Chinamen’s doors. Plague policemen.” “Go round in wood yard. Throw
wood in street to get the chase.”

So the records run,--pure, wanton, useless mischief and cruelty. No
wonder the gang is not popular. Yet we all did the same things in our
day and have grown up to be very decent men. There is a time in the
lives of normal boys when any form of distress--to other people--is
instinctively amusing. Note also how frequently the boy annoys simply
“to get the chase.” He has the hunting instinct; he has also the
instinct for being hunted. Therefore he deliberately exasperates some
adult beyond endurance, until the man “takes after” him, wrath in his
eye and anticipation in the palm of his hand. The man, commonly, is the
fleeter of foot; but the boy has the better wind and the advantage of a
short start. As a last resort, he can dodge. The resulting game is, on
the whole, the most thrilling experience of boyhood. Nine times in ten,
the boy gets away; the penalties that follow being caught are a cheap
price for the riotous delights of escaping with the skin of his teeth.

Somewhat allied to plaguing people is stealing. The stealing instinct
is strong in boys, so that even the good country gangs, with all they
want to eat at home, devote part of their time to their neighbors’
orchards and vineyards. The impulse is closely connected with the
instinct for property, and is so entirely normal at the gang age
that the boy, otherwise of good character, who steals in company, is
seldom at all depraved. The boy who goes off by himself to steal is a
different case.

That the crime of larceny reaches its climax before the age of
twenty-one, shows that the predatory instincts and habits are early
formed, or else that if the stealing instincts and habits increase in
power after this age, the person becomes shrewd enough in stealing to
escape the penalty of the law. The following reports of the boys in
regard to stealing are instructive:--

“Go around stealing for fun. Go out to [a town ten miles from the city]
for apples, pears, and things. Steal off baker’s team; take basket
of doughnuts and pies. Take milk out of doorways. Take bananas off
banana team. Steal clothes off of clothes lines; sell to ragman. Steal
junk; sell it to another ragman.” “Steal coal and wood. Build fires.
Steal anything we could get hold of off of fruit stand. Steal wood off
farmer’s team coming into the city.” “Hit a Sheeney. He drop his bag
and another fellow take it.” “Stole pigeons. Broke into slot machines.
Get lager beer Saturday nights off beer teams.”

The boys’ own reports of their thefts sum up as follows:--

  (1) Things to eat (apples, pears, cakes,
      pies, oranges, bananas, etc.)           198 different things

  (2) Things to sell (lead, coal, wood)        23

  (3) Things used in games (balls, bats,
      gloves, etc.)                            48

  (4) Tools (saws, hammers, knives)            36

  (5) Jewelry (watches, rings, etc.)           24 times

  (6) Animals and birds (dogs and pigeons)     24

  (7) Money                                    80
        Total,                                433 things and times

There was no use in asking the boys how many times they had taken
fruit; life would be too short to take down the answers.



There is probably no more characteristic difference between boyhood
and middle age than the strange _Wanderlust_ of youth. We adults are
content to work year after year at the same desk, and think ourselves
lucky if we can warm our feet year after year over the same register.
But the boy,--

    “He must go, go, go away from here,”

and “the old spring fret comes o’er him” at all seasons of the year.

_Migratory Activities_

The migratory impulse takes a sudden rise at the dawn of adolescence.
Nearly all boys with good, red blood in their veins are touched by it.
It appears to come as a strong wave at the gang age, and then gradually
subsides; but it rarely entirely disappears.

Boys in their gangs love to tell and to hear stories of adventure,
and there is no question that the gang is often a direct agent for
stirring the call of the wild. In forty-four (67 per cent) of the
sixty-six gangs there are records of the travel of one or more of the
group. A boy who has taken some adventurous trip is a hero, and his
stories are listened to with great zest. Boys rarely go off in large
companies, for it is impossible for them all to get away at once.
Commonly, not more than three or four go at a time; often a boy and his
companion together; sometimes a boy goes alone.

In the following records, I have, as before, suppressed such
geographical names as would be meaningless to most readers, and
substituted for them some suggestion of the distance, or indicated
whether the journey was from country to city, or the reverse.

“From A---- [a city of 100,000 people] go to B---- [a neighboring town]
Sunday afternoons. Jump freights other days and go to [two other large
cities, one of them nearly a hundred miles away]. Stayed out one or two
nights. Ran away from home [nearly two hundred miles]. Stayed there two

“Sometimes go on a trip in the country on Sundays. Catch a freight, go
to [near-by towns]. Go to B---- to shows and circus.”

“Take a car, go to City Point, just for a little ride. Nice and breezy
on the cars. Went to C---- on a freight. Got back same night about one
o’clock. Go off for a trip on Sundays. Go out to A----, W----. Went to
P---- [one hundred miles]. Had a tent in the woods for a month.”

“Jumped freights. Was going to New York. Stopped [on the way]. Went
back, was arrested.”

“Took walks to Y---- Woods and R----’s Pond. Some saved up money and
went to L---- Fair [one hundred and thirty miles each way]. Some went
to [state capital] to ball-games.”

“Broke into a store and then ran away from home so we wouldn’t get
caught. Went to B---- on a freight. Stayed at Hawkins Street Home one
night. Went to O---- on freight. Stopped for a week in Armory in O----.
Walked to N---- [ten miles] to sister’s. Stayed a couple of days.
Went to W---- and then back to M----, and was caught. We planned to
go to A---- [which would have taken them two hundred miles into three

“Go off to different cities on freights. Went to P---- [one hundred
miles], five or six times. Stayed a week once. Went to N---- twice.
Stopped one day each time. Went to A---- six times. Stayed two weeks.
Went to E---- five or six times [these are within fifty miles of home],
stopped three or four days. Went [across into Canada three hundred and
fifty miles]. Got a job in a steam laundry there. Saved up money and
then went off for a good time.”

“Stay out nights three months to a time. Stay in cellars, freight cars,
and entries. Sundays go out to [a surburban town] to get apples and
pears. Jump freights to R---- and K----. Get off and come right back.”

“Stay out nights. Go in back yards and sleep. Run away to [nearest
large city]. Walked. Took four days. Got arrested there.”

“Go down to Apple Island in a boat. Stay out at night; stay in paper
offices on Washington Street. Lots of boys get there at one and two
o’clock for their papers. When woke up, say: ‘I am waiting for the
papers.’ Run away from home several times. Get as far as W----, turn
round and come back at nights. Say we would try it some other times.”

Or, to sum up:--

  23 boys had jumped freights to other towns or cities.
   3          walked to distant towns or cities.
   4          paid fares on cars to different towns or cities.
  30          gone off to distant cities.
  14 of the thirty had run away from home.
  16 had stayed out nights.

In addition to the records of travel found in these gangs, the
following records taken later are interesting:--

_Boy Number 1_

L. E. has a fair home ten miles from Boston; both parents are living.
This boy was fourteen years of age by the time he was finally
committed to a Reform School and had run away from home eight times. He
went the first time when eleven years old. His reason for going always
was: “I like to see places.” The places were, however, all near-by.

_Trip A._ “Went to F---- to the military encampment; stayed there two
days. Walked to B---- [twenty miles] and stopped around the wharves.
Begged something to eat. Slept in alleyways and in mission. Policemen
caught me; took me to the station till father came and got me.”

_Trip B._ “Went to R---- to watch them drive cows to get killed.
Stopped there for three days and worked for something to eat by driving
cows. Slept in the stockyard barn.”

_Trip C._ “Went to W---- to see them make guns and stopped at Arsenal
two days. Went to C---- to a boy’s house that I knew. Went to theatre,
stopped out too late; policeman took me; father came and got me.”

_Trip D._ “Went to H---- to the place where they keep warships. Stayed
there a week looking at guns and things. Went on errands for men; slept
in a barn; took some apples off a fruit stand; policeman took me;
father came and got me.”

_Trip E._ “Went to B---- again; liked to go to places. Went out for
a week, catching fish [salt water fishing]; went out as far as a
lighthouse; slept in a bunk. After return stayed in B---- four days.
Went to R---- again to see them kill cows. Policeman took me; father
came and got me.”

_Boy Number 2_

“G. stole some money, $75, and asked me to go with him to see the
world. ‘We’ll go to St. Louis, earn some change and come back.’ Went to
P---- from B----; stayed there two nights; went by boat to New York;
and then, the same day, took boat to Norfolk, Virginia; stayed there
three weeks. Went around taking in the theatres, concert gardens, and
having a good time. Went to cut-rate office for a ticket to St. Louis;
found it would take all our money. We went over to Baltimore, and
then to Philadelphia. We were ‘financially embarrassed.’ Worked at a
restaurant for something to eat. Struck Wanamaker’s for a job. I got
$4 a week. I told a hard-up story to the floorwalker and he gave me
$1 in advance; hired a room for $1 a week. He [G., the chum] didn’t
pay anything toward the room, and bummed around looking for a job. We
stayed in Philadelphia five weeks. I paid rent and meals for all but
once. Man paid me off and gave me $2 extra. We told hard-up story to
our landlady; she went and told the Associated Charities; two policemen
came and took us. We would not tell right names; we were sent to the
House of Detention for two weeks; sent me back to B---- and kept my
chum. Sent me over to jail on C---- Street for three weeks. I would
not tell my name; got bread and water twice a day. I told them that I
lived on Cherry Street, New York. I was getting sick with the itch, and
got scared, and told my right name. Folks didn’t want to send me here;
judge did it.”

This was a boy of fine ability and not a bad fellow. You can see in his
story noble traits of character. He stood by his chum and fed him; he
had good grit. One does not like to think what might have become of him
if he had not caught the itch.

_Boy Number 3_

“Father takes his money and Mr. D.’s up to the car barn. Mr. D. gave me
the money [$27] to take to my father. Instead of going to my father,
I jumped fence and went down to the city. I was going to New York. I
bought a ticket, got on board of the special train, and went to New
York. It was night. I slept at the station. Had some money left; went
out and bought a telescope and other things I did not need. Went back
and slept in the same station. Police officer took me and put me on the
train. Mother would give me a flogging every time I came home. Father
used to read newspapers how boys ran away and men escaped punishment.
The day I went he read about a man who got shot in New York; another
man shot him in the back of the head; when he was shot, he fell back
and pulled the reins so the horse stopped; the other man got in and
drove off; took man’s money and dropped him with a stone in the river.
After a while he floated, and murderer was caught in New Jersey.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Of course, it’s a serious matter, this _Wanderlust_ of boyhood, and
the boy who indulges it often comes to irreparable harm. But, after
all, what is there like this going to and fro in the world to teach
self-reliance and a knowledge of men? All normal boys want to run away;
it is rather to their credit when they remain at home.


Truancy is another manifestation of the _Wanderlust_. It takes the
combined restraint of good parents and good teachers to hold a boy in
that public prison, a quiet schoolroom, in the brisk days of fall when
the chestnuts are falling, or in the mild days of spring, when the
birds return and the buds are bursting. Notice the very suggestive
words of the boys in reference to school. The following answers came
from different truants in answer to the question, “Why did you run away
from school?”

“Miss P. [his teacher] was all right. When I could not get my lessons,
she would not scold me, but helped me out on them. Miss L. [another
teacher] had it in for me. I was to blame part of the time, but she
blamed other folks’ actions on me, and the school was right near the
park. I could see them playing and having fun. I wanted to have some
fun, too, so I ran away with another fellow.”

“Run just to get away from school. Gather up old barrels and junk to
get money to go to shows; used to go alone mostly.”

“Liked all the teachers but one; she didn’t like colored boys. I liked
to walk around the streets and look into the big store windows. Ran
away to go to the theatre, and to go to ride on the express wagon.”

“I didn’t like school; I didn’t like geography and history. I liked to
go to shows. Rather be out working than going to school. Went down
around markets to get jobs; about four of us used to go together.”

“Didn’t like to be in there sitting down.”

“Didn’t like to study.”

“Have to sit quiet as can be all day.”

“Went to wharves to see them take out fish.”

“Ran away to go swimming and nutting.”

“Ran to go to the circus.”

“Ran to go to the ball games.”

“Ran to go fishing.”

“No fun in school.”

“Ran to go to theatre.”

In short, the boy is a natural vagabond. He wants above all things
excitement, experience, and adventure. He is not lazy, but he will do
anything sooner than work steadily at desk or bench.

_The Theatre_

Such adventure as the boy cannot get at first-hand by running away from
home, he gets at second-hand by way of the theatre. Boys have a raging
passion for entertainments, and the stage gives them an opportunity
to get much of life condensed into a deglutible form. Boys will do
anything to get into the theatre,--pick over the dump, work hard, be
good for a whole week,--all from a desire to learn something more about
the world and to have a new experience.

Not many of us adults fully realize the power of the theatre in the
lives of children in our cities and larger towns. According to a study
made at Worcester, Massachusetts, of children between ten years of age
and fourteen, it appears that one quarter never attend the theatre at
all, another quarter go at least as often as once a month, while no
less than half of all the children examined go habitually once a week
or more frequently. There is no reason for supposing that Worcester is
in any respect exceptional in this regard.

Let us note the reports of the boys themselves:--

“Go to shows two or three times a week; liked tragedies; get up shows
and let fellows from our district come in.”

“Go once or twice a week to the theatre; go to Bowdoin Square and Grand
Opera; like love plays best.”

“Go to shows once a week; Bowdoin Square, Grand Opera, Lyceum and
Howard; like funny plays best. Father gives me money to go.”

“Go to shows about every night; stay around and they would let us in
late; hook our way in sometimes; jump over the banister when man’s back
was turned. Like to see men get shot; like to see trains come on the

“Like tragedy best, where there was a hero in it. In the ‘Devil’s
Island,’ the hero was a fellow in the English army. One fellow was
maltreated and sentenced to Devil’s Island, but finally came out the

“Like war plays. Liked the acting where there was fighting and singing.
Ran away from school to pick coal to make some money to go to theatre.”

“I like murders and plays that have villains in them. Got passes from
fellows who go out after the first act.”

“Saturday night go to theatre; like tragic plays best, where the hero
kills the villain.”

“Go to shows Saturday afternoons; like all kinds. I like war shows and
heroes and all like that.”

“We had the best time going to theatres; like comical plays; like to
see Irishmen and fighting.”

“Like plays with fighting in them best.”

“Like hero plays.”

“Like excitement and Indian plays best.”

       *       *       *       *       *

There were eleven different reports in regard to plays which boys
liked. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is mentioned in five of them. Others,
mentioned once or twice, are Great White Diamond, Queen of the White
Slaves, Steeple Chase, Railroad Jack, White Eagle, Devil’s Island,
Peggy from Paris, Girls from England, Under Southern Skies, Arnold the
Traitor, Wedded in the Streets, Shaumus O’Brien, Limited Mail, The
Power of the Cross, Paul Revere’s Ride, New York Day by Day, American
Gentleman, Heart of Maryland, Why Women Sin, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage
Patch, Across the Rockies, Younger Brothers, Night before Christmas,
Monte Cristo, Midnight in Chinatown, Rip Van Winkle, James Brothers in
Missouri, Eight Bells, Across the Pacific, Way down East, McFadden’s
Flats, The Blue and the Gray, Winchester.

The significant thing about these reports is the catholicity of the
boys’ taste. When there is no bad and demoralizing play to be seen,
they are entirely willing to attend a wholesome and elevating one.


A very common and annoying form of activity of gang boys is fighting.
The struggle for existence has, until very recent times, tended to
select the men of a tribe who were the best fighters. So the boys come
naturally by the fighting instinct. All grown-up persons feel that
fighting should not be allowed in their presence, and at the same
time, that it would have been far better for the boys if they had not
appeared on the scene at that critical moment. Boys will fight to
maintain personal rights, to defend their honor, to settle disputes, to
defend the camp ground. The very slightest offense will arouse their
combative instinct. In fact, they enjoy fighting so much that if they
have no proper reason for a fight, they will guy or throw stones at
another gang to furnish them a sufficient cause for battle. One gang
went so far as to arrange yearly a battle for the seventeenth of June.

In forty-six gangs (78 per cent) we find records of fighting of four
different kinds:--

  1. Personal fighting.
  2. Group fighting inside of gangs.
  3. Fighting between gangs.
  4. Fighting between groups of gangs.

_Personal Fights_

“Fight if any one swore about my mother.” “One fellow thinks he can
lick the other fellows. They think he can’t, so they start a scrap.”
“Have fights among ourselves. Put two fellows together for a fight.”
“A fellow wouldn’t share up, so we fought him.” “Fight about calling

Every boy has his code of honor. There are certain names which a boy
will not allow himself to be called without a fight. Boys are very
sensitive about names which cause disgrace to their mothers. I am not
so sure but that every boy should have a code of honor which may not be
disregarded in his presence.

_Group fighting inside of gangs_

“Used to make forts in fields and have fights between ourselves.” “Had
fights among ourselves over out and not out” [in baseball]. “Fight
among ourselves over ball games.”

There are six records of these internal group fights. In winter boys
make forts and choose sides to fight over the capturing of these forts.
These fights are usually good-natured but very hotly contested. In the
many different disputes which must naturally arise in the group games,
the side which is being imposed upon must stand for its rights and
fight for them if necessary.

_Fights between gangs_

“Fought with another gang to see which was strongest. Fought with
clubs.” “Our gang from our school fought a gang from another school.
Fought with sticks and stones. Chase fellows in streets. Split fellows’
heads open.” “Fought with High Street and Water Street gang if they
touched one of our gang. Fought with fists.” “Had a regular battle with
Sewall Street gang. Made a fort on a hill. Sewall Street gang tried to
take fort on us. We pelted them with snow balls. They took it once at
seven o’clock while we were eating breakfast. We drove them out over a

Gang fights are very common. The following explanations were given for
them: “For the fun of it.” “For the possession of a certain street.”
“For the possession of a fort.” “The other gang squealed on them over
tearing down a shanty.” “Touched one of our fellows.” “Plagued my
brother.” “Picked up a fight by throwing stones.” “Arranged for a
fight on the seventeenth of June.”

A fight between gangs is often a desperate and sometimes a dangerous
affair. It is a fight to a finish; and it calls for the highest kind
of courage, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. A small boy often has to
fight a large boy on the opposite side, and to hold his undivided
attention while the fortunes of war are being settled on another part
of the field of battle. In a single-handed fight a boy will acknowledge
personal defeat; but in a gang fight, never until the whole gang is
worsted. After a group victory, the boys enjoy talking it over, and the
little heroes receive high praise from their larger comrades.

_A Fight between Federations of Gangs_

“C---- gang fought with E---- gang. Everybody thought the E---- fellows
were picking on the little fellows too much. We had it all arranged
right, but there was a traitor in our gang. He told the E----s. We met
in the middle of the ice on M---- River. Fought with clubs, sticks, and
stones. There were about four hundred of our boys and about the same
number on their side. We licked. One of our fellows got knocked out.
Half of us got it on the arms. The ice broke in on the river and a lot
of our fellows pulled the other fellows out. We did not like to see
them drown. One little fellow on the other side got drowned. In close
quarters where we could not use our clubs, we used our fists.”

This story reads like a fairy tale, but it is not. The battle was
fought to protect the small boys of C----, as noble a principle in the
boys as “Taxation without Representation” was to our fathers.

There is a great difference of opinion in regard to the pedagogical
value of fighting. Many trainers of boys think that a fight is bad
and should be universally condemned. But there appears to be no road
to self-respect and social independence except for the youth to fight
for his rights. The boy who refuses to fight, and runs away when he
is being imposed upon, feels himself a coward. He loses respect for
himself and the respect of his playmates. Non-resistance is, without
dispute, an ideal for mature manhood, but there is grave danger of
forcing standards of grown-up people on youths. More of interest in
regard to boys’ fighting will appear in a later study of the boy



It is not easy to realize that it was only a single generation ago
when we used to think that the animals are ruled by instinct, man by
reason. We know better now. What was once the “new” psychology has
taught us that man has more separate instincts than any other creature
that breathes, and that however superior his rational life, it is still
based upon a substructure of primitive instincts which he shares with
the beasts of the field.

The newborn infant feels on his skin the air of a cold world, and sucks
in his first breath without knowing how or why. He manages, the first
time he tries, about as well as he ever will, the decidedly complex
operation of taking breath and food at the same time, crossing the two
streams in his throat, and sending each to its proper destination
without confusion with the other. When the proper time comes, the child
who has gone on all fours like an animal gets up on his hind legs to
walk like a man.

We are all of us, therefore, man and animals alike, born with the
particular set of instincts which prompt us, without our taking
thought, to whatever acts are essential to our physical life. Some of
these instincts are active at birth; more lie dormant, to ripen and
manifest themselves only at the proper age, each in its proper time.
The impulse to walk and to utter words comes suddenly, in babyhood. The
mating instincts appear only toward the end of adolescence. Metchnikoff
will have it that at the end of a well-spent life, an instinctive
longing for death replaces the will to live.

The physical differences between boys and girls are strikingly
correlated with a difference in instinctive interests. Brought up
alike, in a hundred little ways they are dissimilar. I have seen at a
children’s party, on the advent of a baby, every little girl leave the
supper table to surround the new-comer, while every little boy kept on
with his meal. Where the girl plays with dolls, the boy plays with bats
and balls.

Among other divergences, the boy forms gangs. Girls do not form
gangs. They belong to sets, and sets and gangs are quite different
institutions. The set is exclusive, undemocratic. It has no
organization, leaders, history, and it owns no property. The set snubs
its rivals; the gang fights them. The members of a set also snub one
another, quarrel, and backbite. There is none of the deep-seated,
instinctive loyalty which the members of a gang have for each other.
The normal boy may fight his friend; he does not “get mad at” him.

All this is only one aspect of the deep-seated difference between
“the only two kinds of people there are in the world, men and women.”
Barring dolls and the ability to hurl missiles, little girls and
little boys, as they emerge from babyhood, are not so very unlike. But
somewhere about the age of ten, the little boy begins to undergo a
transformation, which in the girl never takes place at all. He begins
to develop the gang-forming instinct. He begins to want to do things
which he cannot do at all alone; and cannot, moreover, do with any real
satisfaction except in conjunction with a special group of his fellows.
The once friendly boy becomes shy of adults, so that only the rare man
or woman can retain his full confidence. Girls he scorns. His games
tend now to be of the coöperative type, in which there is a definitely
organized side, with a leader and more or less specialized functions
among the players, and where one side wins or loses to the other as a
whole. It is no longer each for himself, but each for the team. A girl
can be taught to like this kind of game; a boy takes to it like a duck
to water.

Apparently, then, a boy joins a gang and a girl does not for precisely
the same reason that he throws stones while his sister tends lovingly
the dolls that are beneath his contempt. Each is doing instinctively,
as a child, for play, what grown men and women have been doing these
thousand years for work.

For obviously the instinctive activities of the boys’ gang are the
necessary duties of the savage man. The civilized boy hunts, fishes,
fights, builds huts in the woods, stands loyally by his fellows, and
treats all outsiders with suspicion or cruelty, and in general lives
the life and thinks the thoughts of the savage man. He is, for the
moment, a savage; and he instinctively “plays Indians” as the real
savage lives them.

General opinion has it that the boy instinctively plays Indians and
follows the so-called tribal occupations as the direct result of his
inheritance from some thousands of generations of savage ancestors who,
willy nilly, have been doing these things all their lives. We commonly
believe that the normal boy is possessed to throw stones at every
moving object because his forebears got their livings or preserved
their lives by throwing all sorts of missiles at prey and enemies, so
that the fascination of sticks and clubs is but the reverberation of
the not so very far off days when sticks and clubs were man’s only

According to this doctrine, such a game as baseball is an epitome of
man’s prehistoric activities. To throw accurately and to run swiftly,
to hit a quick-moving object with a club, is to revive, symbolically,
the most absorbing of ancestral activities and the most vivid of
ancestral memories. As the girl, tending her doll, is recapitulating
the experiences of a hundred thousand mothers before her, so the boy,
in the varied activities of his gang, is reproducing the life of long
departed clans and tribes. The instinctive interests of both boys and
girls are the result of the experiences of their ancestors.

All this, one need not point out, is the familiar recapitulation
theory, the doctrine, that is to say, that the young of each species,
our own included, tends to reproduce in the course of its youth the
successive stages in the history of its ancestors. We are by turns
invertebrates, gill-breathing vertebrates, lung-breathing vertebrates
(we make the great change at birth), little monkeys, little savages,
and finally civilized men and women.

It is an illuminating theory, and one, moreover, which goes far toward
explaining many aspects of our human nature which without it would
be largely meaningless. Especially is it the key to the behavior of
boys at the gang age. The normal boy between ten and sixteen is really
living through the historic period which, for the races of northern
Europe, began somewhere this side of the glacial period, and came to
an end with, let us say, the early middle ages. He is, therefore,
essentially a savage, with the interests of a savage, the body of a
savage, and to no small extent, the soul of one. He thinks and feels
like a savage; he has the savage virtues and the savage vices; and the
gang is his tribe.

Yet while nothing can be more evident than that certain characteristics
of growing boys and girls, both physical and mental, are the result of
a direct inheritance from the past, it is equally evident that certain
others are not. In certain conspicuous traits, our children favor their
long-departed ancestors; but in certain others they are even less like
them than we. Our anthropoid ancestry were hairy; children are less
hairy than adults. We have larger brains and shorter arms than our
forebears, but our children have still larger brains, relatively, and
still shorter arms than we. In a dozen different ways, the older a man
grows, the more, not the less, apelike does he become; as, for example,
in the curve of his back and the great bony ridges over his eyes. In
these respects, the child looks rather to the future than to the past.
The child, indeed, recapitulates the history of the race, but only so
far as it is some real advantage to him to do so, and never merely for
the sake of recapitulating. When Nature cannot utilize an ancestral
quality here and now, out it goes, to make room for something wholly

Certain qualities of youth, then, are an inheritance from the past;
they exist because of the men and women that were. Certain others are
a prophecy of adult life, and exist because of the men and women who
are to be. Most of our youthful characteristics are simultaneously of
both these sorts. They have persisted from an immemorial past; but
they have persisted, instead of being lost by the way, because they
have proved themselves useful in this present. Thus, for example, we
recapitulate a gill-slit stage, because we actually did have a fish
ancestor; but we use these gill-slits, not to become adult fish, but
as a convenient device for building an aortic arch such as no fish
ever had. We are tailed embryos as a step in becoming tailless men;
and in the same way, we are boy savages as a stage toward becoming
civilized human beings. The savage impulses of a long departed past
appear in every modern boy, both because they are an inheritance from
that past and because they are a preparation for the boy’s future. We
tend to recapitulate only so much of the ancestral experience as we can
actually use.

Conversely, what we keep is useful; or else has been useful so very
lately that we have not had time to change. Before the days of
gunpowder--and how short a while, after all, that was--handling spear
and javelin was a matter of life and death. Then, as now, boys had the
missile-throwing instinct, and girls did not. They had it, on the one
hand, because their ancestors had been spear-men; but they had it, on
the other hand, and equally, and long before they were old enough to
fight, in order that they might enjoy the long continued practice that
taught them to throw well. Evidently, a spear-fighting people whose
boys lacked the throwing instinct, so that they had to be coerced into
doing their spear practice, would soon go down before a rival group
whose boys found spear throwing a spontaneous play. In the same way,
the children of girls who did not love dolls and pets and all small
and helpless things could never, even under modern conditions, make
head against the children of girls who did. All the peoples whose women
tended their babies from a sense of duty have long ago gone to the wall.

The woman must tend her babies; therefore the girl loves dolls. The
man, to be a member of any human society, whether civilized or savage,
must stand by his fellows, follow his leader, act with his associates,
be loyal to the death. Therefore the boy has the gang-forming
instincts. These are, in a real sense, an inheritance from the past,
but they are in an equally real sense a gift of the present to the
future. Boys and girls alike repeat so much of their common ancestral
experience as helps to make them efficient men and women, and no more.
If there were no such thing as heredity, if each generation simply sat
down and created the next to suit itself, we should still have to make
the girls love dolls and the boys form gangs. Without these instincts,
neither girls nor boys would become fully equipped adults.



We must, then, so far as we are good evolutionists, look upon the boy’s
gang as the result of a group of instincts inherited from a distant
past. So far as, in addition, we are good Darwinians, we must suppose
that these gang instincts arose in the first place because they were
useful once, and that they have been preserved to the present day
because they are, on the whole, useful still.

Fortunately or unfortunately, however, the social evolution of _Homo
Europeus_ during, let us say, the last three or four centuries, has
been vastly more rapid than any strictly biological evolution can
possibly be. Inevitably, therefore, the bodily structure of man and his
equipment of natural instincts, has of late years tended to fall behind
the demands of civilization. Witness, for example, the professional
man who falls in love at twenty, but must wait till thirty before he
can support a wife; or the inconvenient superfluity of bone, muscle and
lung in many an office worker. One notes incidentally how much better
fitted for civilization, both in mind and body, women are than men.
They were, the ethnologists tell us, civilized first.

Certain of the gang instincts, therefore, tend to fit the growing boy
for conditions which no longer obtain, rather than for those which he
will actually have to face as a man. To no small extent, the ancient
virtues of savagery have become vices of civilization, so that the
instincts on which they are based are by no means desirable in a modern

Consider, for example, the “plaguing people” which, as we have
seen, occurs in forty-four of our sixty-six reports. This is, of
course, sheer savagery. “Most savages,” as Darwin says, “are utterly
indifferent to the sufferings of strangers, or even delight in
witnessing them”; and the modern boy does not fall far behind the
ancient savage as every Chinaman and Jew and policeman can testify.
The gang considers it the proper thing also to attack and misuse every
strange boy who appears in its precincts. It gets no small part of its
pleasure in giving displeasure to others.

Yet, after all, the cruelty of our savage forefathers was a hard
necessity. A little tribe, perpetually fighting for its life against
its rivals, could not afford to be sympathetic toward the discomfort of
outsiders. In the primitive struggle for existence, the kindly tribe
would pretty certainly be beaten by the cruel one.

So the boy is cruel and plagues people. But his cruelty is largely
collective rather than individual, like that of the wolf rather than
the tiger. As his ganginess fades with later adolescence, much of his
native barbarity will go with it. Till that time comes, the wise adult
will not attribute to thoroughgoing depravity what is only a temporary
stage in the boy’s psychic evolution.

In part, therefore, the boy comes honestly by his teasing instincts.
But “plaguing people” arises in part also from race prejudice; and so
far as it does thus arise, it is entirely the fault of us adults. Boys,
untaught, have no prejudice against any particular kind of stranger, so
that the fault being ours, the remedy is quite in our own hands.

To a large extent, moreover, the practice of being disagreeable is,
as the boys themselves report, merely “to get the chase.” “Plaguing
people” is an exciting sport, which satisfies a natural thirst for
adventure, and which is therefore most naturally controlled by
judicious doses of adventure in other forms. The joy of getting the
chase necessarily departs as soon as the running instincts begin to
fade, and the growing boy begins to encounter the gang’s prejudice
against fleeing from a pursuer not much stronger than himself.

Still, for the most part, this inconvenient impulse of boyhood is
largely a spontaneous instinct, allied to the disposition to tease
and bully. It is doubtful if it has any pedagogical value whatever.
Its proper cure is in about equal measure, firm repression and a
cultivation of the sympathetic imagination. But let the parent beware
of cultivating a sympathy which is in the least sentimental. It is
better to let the boy stay naturally cruel for a few years, and then
as naturally outgrow it, than to make him morbidly philanthropic for
life. After all, cruelty, however hard on the victim, so long as it is
unconscious, does little moral damage to the perpetrator.

The tendency to plague the girls, however, seems to be an instinct of
a different sort. In general, boys at the gang age do not naturally
associate with girls, do not allow them in their organizations, nor
have any interests in common with them. In fact, boys seem to be
impelled by a well defined impulse to make themselves disagreeable to
the other sex.

Only eleven of my reports so much as recognize the existence of the
beings who, five years later, will become the most absorbing objects
in life; while even in these, the information came only on inquiry,
not spontaneously. To the question: “How does your gang treat girls?”
typical answers are: “We never used to think of girls. I don’t know
how to treat them. I never tried it.” “We never used to go with any
girls.” “They never go round with any girls. They never say nothing to
them. Sis at them.” “Sometimes do mean things to them. Swear at them.
Fight them. Steal things off them. Call them names.”

Who can question that this instinctive hostility of boys to girls is a
wise provision of nature, and a good thing--at least for the boys? It
is a temporary stage which passes all too soon, and leaves the youth
at the mercy of the first attractive girl who makes the sweet eyes at
him. From ten years to sixteen, nature tries to keep the sexes apart;
presumably she knows what she is about, and we shall do well to accept
the hint which she offers us.

Closely allied to plaguing, and even more nearly universal in normal
gangs, is fighting. Unlike plaguing, however, fighting is on the
whole a virtue of the gang rather than a vice, notwithstanding its
many regrettable aspects. Boys enjoy fighting, and they ought to.
We come of a stock which has fought its way up from barbarism, and
has known the joy of battle these hundred centuries. “We, the lineal
representatives of the successful enactors of one scene of slaughter
after another, must, whatever more pacific virtues we may also possess,
still carry about with us, ready at any moment to burst into flame,
the smouldering and sinister traits of character by which they lived
through so many massacres, harming others, but themselves unharmed.”

    “They have rights who dare maintain them,”

and many a long century will go by ere the world loses the necessity
for the old fighting instincts. One may well believe that the men who
are fighting corrupt political gangs in their manhood, fought the gangs
of the next street in their youth, and so learned the fighting habit.

Fighting is like plaguing in being an anti-social impulse. Unlike the
latter, on the other hand, it possesses great pedagogical value. There
is nothing like a fight between individuals to teach physical and
moral courage, self-reliance and self-control; and when, in addition,
the battle involves the honor of the gang, it becomes one of the
most forceful of lessons in the social virtues. Either the fighting
experiences of boyhood, or the fighting instincts which persist into
adult life, or both together, make it impossible for men ever to treat
one another as rudely as women often do.

Nevertheless, this feature of boy life does present troublesome
problems. We come suddenly upon two boys fighting, and our grown up
standards of conduct compel us to separate them. Afterwards, when we
think it over, we are apt to regret that we happened to appear on the
scene at that precise moment. It would have been just as well, we
realize, for all parties, if the battle had been fought out.

As a rule, boys do not need to be encouraged to fight,--but neither
should they be discouraged without careful consideration both of
the boy and of his environment. There are times when every boy must
defend his own rights if he is not to become a coward, and lose the
road to independence and true manhood. The boy who is a bully needs a
good thrashing--and usually gets it. The strong-willed boy needs no
inspiration to combat, but often a good deal of guidance and restraint.
If he fights more than, let us say, a half-dozen times a week,--except,
of course, during his first week at a new school,--he is probably
over-quarrelsome and needs the curb. The sensitive, retiring boy, on
the other hand, commonly needs encouragement to stand his ground and
fight. Time is well spent with boys of this sort, in teaching them to
wrestle and box. Such encouragement and instruction may spare them the
lifelong habit of timidity.

On the whole, for the average boy, the ground is pretty well covered by
two rules of an old sea captain on the Kennebec River down in Maine:--

“Rule 1. If my boy comes home and has given a smaller boy than he is a
licking, I give him another.

“Rule 2. If my boy comes home and has let a bigger boy than he is give
him a licking, I give him another.”

I ought to add, by way of commentary, for the benefit of readers of
the peaceable sex, that in the technical vocabulary of the human
male, to let another person “give one a licking” does not mean to be
beaten after a brave fight, but to “take it lying down,” that is to
say, without putting up a decent resistance against overwhelming odds.
According to the code of honor of Boyville, when one is struck he is to
strike back. It is not for him to consider the outcome.

The bellicose impulse, furthermore, tends gradually to limit itself,
as successive combats make it more and more clear which boy can “lick”
which, and as the boys slowly learn justice and toleration under the
discipline of associate life. Like most of the anti-social instincts of
boyhood, it is essentially transient; if left alone, it will largely
cure itself. Circumstances over which we do have a great deal of
control, however, fix these instincts as habits. It is our duty to see
that they do not, but the fighting impulse ought to die a natural, not
an artificial death. To us is applicable, therefore, the parable of the
tares among the wheat. We shall do well to keep our fingers off the
tares, except when we are pretty certain that in gathering up the tares
we shall not “root up also the wheat with them.”



We are to look upon the gang as an association essentially instinctive.
The boy at a certain age joins a gang, the gang pursues a definite set
of activities, from motives that are primarily irrational. The boy is
simply made that way. His behavior has the same instinctive basis as
the acts of any other wild creature.

It is, so the psychologists tell us, a peculiarity of instincts among
the higher animals, and especially of the instincts of mankind, that
they are essentially transitory. They arise at the proper period of
existence, persist in some cases only until the acts which they inspire
have time to become habits, and then fade away. The squirrel born in a
cage tries to bury nuts in the tin bottom. He tries it once or twice,
and fails. He does not try it again; and probably would not, even
though he returned to the woods. The tame beaver which builds its dam
of chairs and umbrellas across the parlor floor, does it only once. The
hen which cackles distractedly when her first brood of ducklings takes
to the water trots calmly off to the pond with her third or fourth.
But the duckling, kept away from the water for the first weeks of its
existence, fears it forever afterwards.

So it is with these human instincts. They arise at early adolescence;
they die down with the passing of youth. Meanwhile, they tend to
develop into persistent habits of mind. Whether they shall so develop,
and which shall persist and which die away, depends on the boys’
surroundings and education.

Consider, for example, the special human instinct which we share with
only a few of the brutes, the instinct of acquisitiveness. It is the
basis of most of our adult frugality, and of the institution of private
property. Too little of it makes us spendthrifts; too much makes us
misers and kleptomaniacs; with just the right amount we become solid
citizens and taxpayers.

Unquestionably, acquisitiveness is instinctive in boys; witness the
contents of their pockets, and their collections of all sorts of
useless truck. They steal things to eat and to provision their camps,
with about as much attention to the morals of their acts as the
squirrel who secretes nuts or the dog who buries his bone. They are
continually appropriating articles which they cannot possibly use,
merely for the sake of possessing them. It was a wise mother and a good
psychologist who, when her cake became too dry to put upon the table,
used to “hide it away for the children to steal.”

In the adolescent boy this entirely natural instinct usually shows
itself as a desire to steal, which is normal but not proper. On the
whole, the gang does encourage stealing; forty-nine of our sixty-six
gangs report this form of predatory activity. We all did it as boys,
and most of us have grown up to be fairly honest men.

For there seem to be inherent forces in the gang itself that tend to
check stealing. For one thing, both example and emulation among the
members of a gang reinforce the impulse to form collections of shells,
postage stamps, butterflies or minerals, and these in a natural and
wholesome fashion satisfy the acquisitive instinct and turn it away
from theft. The common property of the gang, too, its wood hut or
clubroom with their furnishings, the bats and balls and other common
tools of the gang probably act in the same way. Doubtless, too, the
boys’ grief when a hostile gang wrecks their property or runs off with
their bats and balls reinforces powerfully the law of _meum et tuum_.
Certain it is that experienced educators regard as vastly more serious
the case of the lad who goes off to steal by himself for his own profit
than that of the one who steals in company with his fellows and for the
advantage of the gang.

The predatory activities of the gang do, then, in no small measure,
tend to cure themselves. So far as they do not, they will naturally
have to be put down by force in the interests of law and order. Yet
even while we are curtailing these inconvenient activities, we
ought never to forget that the stealing of boys is too natural and
spontaneous to be, for them, a sin. Selfishness, disloyalty, cowardice,
gluttony, are far more serious matters, for these are unnatural vices
which grow worse with time. In putting down the anti-social gang
activities, as of course we must, let us do it as psychologists, with
an eye to the genesis and the nature of the disease which we combat.
The impulse to steal is not primarily an instinct to take, but an
instinct to acquire. What the boy desires is to secure property by some
effort of his own. The raft and the hut which he builds, his collection
of stamps and butterflies, the queer, useless treasures which he
hoards, all these are the objects of his acquisitive instinct, quite as
much as are the things that he steals.

The moral is clear. We may keep the boy from being a thief by making
him a collector, and by making him an artisan. We help him to satisfy
his natural desire for property in one way, and we check his tendency
to satisfy it for himself in another. In the same way, so far as
his thieving grows out of a love for excitement and adventure, as it
undoubtedly does to a far greater extent than we commonly realize, the
rational device for stopping it is to satisfy his desire for excitement
and adventure in some other way. If, then, we encourage the boy to make
collections of whatever he may be interested in, and give him some
other experiences as delightful as “getting the chase,” we shall have
removed two of the chief causes of his thieving at all.

The creation and possession of property of one’s own tend also to check
the impulse to meddle with other people’s in yet another way. I recall
the case of a little Greek boy who had been smuggled into this country
as a slave at a bootblack stand, and almost immediately after committed
to a State Reform School for stealing. The boys at this school have
each a little garden spot of their own which they plant and weed and
tend and watch, and finally produce, among other fruits of their
labors, melons. This little Greek had one melon plant on which in due
season appeared a single tiny green watermelon. Never did a mother care
more tenderly for her babe than this boy for his watermelon plant, and
its single melon grew responsively. One day in the fall the little
farmer said to his instructor, “Shall I pick my melon to-day?”

“No,” was the reply, “you had better leave it one more week.”

The next week when the boys went out for their gardening that single
melon had disappeared. The little owner, with difficulty keeping back
his tears, went sadly back to the schoolroom and asked to be permitted
to see the Master.

“Do you remember,” he said, “my watermelon?”

“Yes, indeed I do. What about it?”

“To-day when I went out to work in the garden, it was gone!”

“I am sorry. You have taken good care of that vine.”

“Yes,” returned the boy, “but I have learned a good lesson by it. I
have learned never to steal any more.”

“How did you learn that?”

“I have found out how much people are hurt when they have their things

The boy has, indeed, learned his lesson, for he has gone out from the
Reform School to lead an honest life. All boys are fundamentally alike,
and this same appeal to the sympathetic imagination must always remain
our chief reliance in combating the predatory and destructive impulses
of normal boyhood.

Let the boy, then, have property of his own which he has acquired by
his own effort and you have taught him the great lesson of respect
for the property of others. The boy who plants potatoes, hoes them,
kills the potato bugs and harvests a bushel of potatoes, has gained a
sufficiently correct sense of the value of potatoes so that he will
not, as I have seen a gang do, dig up a poor man’s winter stock of food
just to see who could throw a potato farthest. The boy who makes a
tool chest or a table can estimate the value of manufactured articles,
and generally has a deep respect for well made furniture. One of the
essential and fundamental elements in training for honesty and respect
for property has been sadly neglected in our schools. A new era of
promise is fast approaching when all boys and girls will receive a
thorough training in handicraft and the still more valuable moral
training which goes with it. Fortunate, indeed, and in more ways than
one, is the boy who has learned in his teens the value of common things
by the actual production of them.

It is well, also, for a boy to have a carpenter’s room where he can use
saws, hammers, and knives. If at Christmas time each year one good,
useful tool is presented to a boy, by the time he reaches the gang age
he has a useful kit in which he takes great pride. Then, too, this room
often becomes a very good meeting-place of the gang, so that the boy’s
companions also turn naturally to making for themselves some of the
objects which they require for their collective activities. Thus the
gang itself not only contributes to the boy’s manual education, but in
a very real sense helps to tie the boy to his home.

It is especially important in dealing with these predatory and
destructive instincts of the gang, to bear always in mind that they are
thoroughly natural and inevitable. Every one of us men used to steal
when we were boys; even Henry Ward Beecher confesses to having “swiped”
sundry desirable objects “off” his Uncle Samuel from the Charlestown
Navy Yard. “The man who says he never did it, does it now.” The object
of our training should not be to root out the instinct, but only to
prevent its developing into a habit before it has time to die down of

I was much struck with the thoroughly unconscious nature of these
anti-social impulses by the case of a boy under my charge, who came
to me for permission to go off into the woods with his gang during
school hours. He told me in the most matter-of-fact way that they had
just discovered the meeting-place of another gang, and they wanted
permission to go there while the other gang was at school, loot their
property, and destroy their habitation. It struck these well brought
up boys that this highly piratical expedition was the only possible
reaction on that particular fragment of their environment. It had not
occurred to one of them that it was possible to let the other gang’s
property alone. The other gang, moreover, had carefully hidden their
abiding place, taking it for granted that any other boys who discovered
it would put it to sack.

Curiously too, the members of the two gangs were perfectly good
friends, and neither looters nor looted would, apparently, have
cherished the least grudge against the other. They were simply living
up to their boy nature with no more thought of the reason for their
acts than when, as children, they used to eat the paint off their
Noah’s ark, or when later, as young men, they will dance attendance on
the girls whom they now despise.

It is important, too, for the parent, and still more for the teacher
and the social worker, not only to recall his own youth and to be
as charitable as his station in life will allow, but to remember in
addition that in one way the city boy’s environment is more against him
to-day than ever before in history. The city boy takes fruit from a
fruit stand, is arrested and given a record. In the eye of the law he
is now a criminal, with an indelible smirch on his reputation.

If we elders had been treated after this fashion in our home towns and
villages, who of us would lack a criminal record? We had a chance to
steal fruit out of the orchards; and boylike, we preferred to steal
sour apples from a mean neighbor rather than take sweet ones as a
parental gift. The owner caught us, not the policeman; and after the
dust had been thoroughly removed from the seats of our breeches, we
were given a new start, none the worse. The consequences of the two
sorts of theft are out of all proportion to their inherent sin.

Nevertheless, when all is said, stealing is a pretty serious matter,
and it may help in handling the practical problem to follow out a
little further the study of an earlier chapter, as to the reasons for
theft. It appears from the boys’ own reports, as well as from their
chance remarks, that probably nine tenths of the objects stolen by
youths before the age of sixteen are things to eat. The desire for
food, therefore, is one of the most powerful contributory forces toward
the formation of thieving habits. One obvious method, then, is to
satisfy the hunger and thirst demands of boys. Well-fed boys from good
homes do steal, but, other things being equal, the chances are vastly
against the underfed. This aspect of the matter, unfortunately, takes
us off into questions of economics and social science which, although
important, have no place here.

Next to food in importance comes money, and objects such as lead, coal,
wood, junk, and the like, which may be converted into money. Here again
the remedy is obvious. Spending money for his reasonable desires, or a
chance to earn it, should protect the boy from the second of the great
temptations to theft. The parent who treats his boy to ice-cream or the
circus, while he gratifies a natural desire, removes also a natural

Third in importance as causes of thievery come things to use,--saws,
knives, hammers, and other tools, balls, bats, gloves, and the other
implements of sport. In a sense the boy has a right to these things, as
he has a right to textbooks and the other apparatus of the schoolroom.
They are the instruments of his education, a part of his reasonable
claim on society.

Last of our groups of things stolen come pets. All boys love a good
dog; most boys like to house, feed and care for pigeons, rabbits,
cavies, mice, almost any sort of pet. They steal food to eat, tools
to use and money to spend; but they steal pets to take home and love.
Here, surely, is a demand of boy nature that every parent ought to
manage to satisfy.

In brief, then, we have in the three most conspicuous anti-social
impulses of the gang--stealing, fighting and plaguing people--three
independent elements of boy psychology, each with a separate genesis,
and each requiring a different treatment for its suppression or cure.
Plaguing people is a survival from the past, which was presumably
useful once but certainly is so no longer. The impulse must be put
down by force or removed by education before it fixes itself as a
habit. The fighting impulse is also a survival, highly useful once
and of great pedagogic value now. Too much belligerency needs to be
curtailed; too little needs to be increased; the plain boy has just
about the right amount, and needs a good deal of letting alone. After
all, the warfare-varied-with-armed-neutrality of boyhood is nature’s
own great training-school for certain of the finest of the egoistic

Stealing is in still a different category. It arises from an instinct,
useful in the past and still more useful now. The problem is to
suppress the inconvenient manifestation without impairing the basal
impulse. Seldom, therefore, is it sufficient merely to know that a
boy is a thief. One must know why he stole, and why he stole this
particular object rather than some other. Only then shall we lead him
still to desire, while he ceases to covet.



We have dealt thus far more particularly with the anti-social and
predatory impulses of the gang, with the stealing and teasing
and fighting, which, while we cannot call them wholly evil, are
nevertheless to be rather checked than encouraged. With all their
incidental elements of good, they must be essentially transitory. The
boy may be allowed to steal and tease and fight; the man may not. The
problem is to suppress the undesirable activity with as little damage
as possible.

Now we pass to gang impulses which are inherently good. They may
need guidance and occasional pruning; but even if left alone, they
are likely, on the whole, to contribute both to the efficiency and
the happiness of life. Such evils as they bring are incidental; they
largely disappear when home life and gang life are perfectly adjusted
to one another.

For there must be a pretty accurate balance between the life of the
home and the life of the gang, if the boy is to get the best training
out of both. If the boy stays at home too much, he is likely to
become sissy. If he spends too much time with his gang, the wild and
savage impulses of boyhood receive too much exercise, and he becomes
wolfish. The boy must, for the most part, make his social adjustments
for himself, and the safest time for doing it is while he is still in
the home. Boys who have been kept too close, up to the time when they
go away to make life for themselves, too often afford most striking
lessons in how not to do it. In college and in business, under their
unaccustomed liberty, they go all to pieces for lack of the education
which they should have had as boys in the gang.

The problem of controlling the instinctive gang activities, therefore,
resolves itself into a question of not too much. The home will best
influence the gang by aiding its more wholesome interests, while to
a considerable extent it shuts its eyes to the rest. Each man does,
in his social development, pass through various stages of savagery,
and instead of trying to crush out even the most objectionable of the
tribal instincts of the growing boy, we ought rather to seek to satisfy
them in such wise that he may pass through the lower stages into the
higher as safely and as quickly as possible. As Froebel has well said,
“The vigorous and complete development of each successive stage depends
upon the vigorous and characteristic development of all preceding
stages of life.”

The way, then, to deal with the gang instincts is to gratify them.
We have already seen that approximately three quarters of our gangs
are wont to indulge in hunting, fishing, boating, building camps,
going into the woods or to ponds, playing Indians, and the like. This
is especially remarkable, as nearly all the gangs of our study come
from the cities. In country gangs, these forms of activity are always
present. With both city and country boys, they might be made of far
greater service than they commonly are.

All persons who have camped with boys know that their interest in the
outdoor world does not have to be kindled, but rather restrained and
guided. There is never any difficulty about filling in the idle time
of the gang with these tribal activities, while there is no doubt that
the rugged experiences of tramping, mountain climbing, and camp life,
of hunting, fishing, and boating, with the almost infinite forms of
manual training involved, wherever the boys do their own cooking and
camp work, and care for their own rods, guns, and kits, afford one of
the best, as it is one of the most natural, forms of manual education.
There is, besides, for the city boy, a training in resourcefulness and
gumption which he can hardly get elsewhere. Moreover, under the proper
sort of men leaders, this rough outdoor life furnishes the very best
conditions for instruction in physical and moral hygiene.

Somewhat paradoxically, therefore, much of this gang play trains a
boy to work. Play is work that one likes. But it is work, and it
cultivates the same concentration and persistence as work, and often
the same constructive imagination. Boys, moreover, often work hard
getting ready to play; and by a little tactful guidance from their
elders, they can be led through these play activities to the enjoyment
of work, and into sound developmental occupations. Notice how in the
Tennis Club, the boys, under the inspiration of Mr. M., the father of
one of them, went camping on a lake, and for the sake of going fishing,
built themselves their own boat. What better education in skill of hand
than that boat-building could be found for a crowd of boys on a summer
vacation; what better introduction to the joy of labor!

The life of the woods has, moreover, yet another important function
in the development of a boy’s inner life. I have often, in taking
cross country walks with boys, attempted to switch out from among the
trees into open meadow or pasture land to save distance. Over and over
again, however, have the boys protested. “No, don’t. Let’s stay in
the woods,” they have entreated. I am inclined to believe that the
religious life in boys has its natural birthplace in the forests,
in the temple not made with hands, where their fathers have been
worshiping these ten thousand years. If this be true, the Sunday School
teacher might well, at times, exchange the benches of an uninteresting
room for the spots where our race, from the beginnings of its
existence, has been learning its lessons of piety and reverence.

Sunday is, in fact, the great day of the week, for or against the
home. It is, as appears from the boys’ reports of their activities,
characteristically Nature Day; and there is a well-marked practice
among boys, no matter what they may do through the week, to go off in
groups into the country on Sunday. Parents who wish to keep control
of their boys should recognize this natural impulse, and be their
companions on their Sunday excursions. Family migrations, on the one
day of the week when the father is free to go with his boys, would be
an efficient means of keeping the home influence around the boy. Surely
there can in this be nothing irreligious.

Such a practice would, moreover, powerfully aid the parent in
controlling one of the most troublesome of gang instincts, the
_Wanderlust_. The roving impulse takes a sudden rise at the dawn of
adolescence, and then gradually subsides. Most red-blooded young men
hear the call of the red gods in the spring; not a few remain vagabonds
all their lives.

Certain it is that this strange _Wanderlust_ of man has been a
tremendous force in history. It drove the Angles and Saxons into
Britain, the English into North America, and the New Englanders into
the great West. The traditional Westerner is planning to sell out and
move farther on. The mere sight of the horizon is a challenge; and the
boy longs to repeat the ancestral experience.

In the normal boy, the migratory instinct is at times the most
imperious of his impulses. Many boys are driven by it to run away
from home; few, indeed, are there of us who have not made our plans
to go--and then changed our minds. It commonly takes the combined
influence of good parents, good teachers and good playmates to cool
us down; and where the neighborhood spirit is lost, as it often is in
city life to-day, or the home is broken by death or desertion, or made
inefficient by drunkenness, ignorance, or poverty, there is little
to check the boy’s response to the old fret. Off, therefore, the boy
goes, first by day, then by night. How far this running-away instinct
contributes to delinquency, it is difficult to estimate, but certainly
it is one of the greatest factors. About one boy out of every five in
most of our large cities is arrested before the age of twenty-one; and
in a considerable proportion of cases the beginnings of wrongdoing can
be traced to early wanderings.

On the other hand, running away from home does not always result
in permanent moral harm; while even at the worst, the boy gains a
self-reliance which nothing else can teach. Often, too, the impulse,
instead of growing with what it feeds on, tends to disappear with its
gratification. There is something to be said also for giving the boy
his fill of one sort of adventure before he is old enough for another.

As the migratory impulse is far too deep-seated and powerful to
be altogether restrained, the only method is to indulge it under
supervision and educatively. The boy should be taken on any sort of
interesting trip. If the expedition involves some bodily hardship,
so much the better. The son of a good home is usually made too
comfortable, and unconsciously he feels the need of some more
invigorating substitute for warm room and soft bed. When, therefore,
nothing better offers itself, it often does a boy good to sleep out in
his own back yard, with a dismantled revolver in his belt, and a lasso
hung beside him on the clothes pole. He will probably not get much
sleep, and he may catch cold; but the experience will be a powerful
stimulus to his imagination, and at the same time will help, at small
risk, to gratify a wholesome instinct.

The wise parent will take every opportunity to go on trips with
his sons to city or country; the gymnastic instructor will arrange
cross-country runs for his boys in spring and fall; and the
school-teacher will plan nature-study walks, trips to historic spots,
or visits to industrial plants, where, under a well-informed guide, the
class will learn about manufacturing processes from the raw material to
the finished product. All these persons are killing two birds with one
stone. They are satisfying the runaway instinct, while at the same time
they furnish the best sort of education.

In all sections of our land there are sacred historic spots, buildings,
graveyards, battle-grounds, which help to keep alive the memory of
noble men and women. There is a period in boy life when these have
an intense interest; when the boy, eager for any form of experience
or adventure, has his imagination powerfully stirred by whatever he
associates with the adventures and experience of other human beings. I
have often visited historic Concord with groups of school-boys, and
though they were of all nationalities, I have yet to find one who could
not be deeply impressed at the sight of Concord Bridge and the statue
of the Minute Man. Teachers who were present, and told their pupils the
story of what had happened on that ground, reported after their return
the extraordinary interest of the boys’ essays on their pilgrimage. The
boys had seen with their eyes and the past had become real. Could there
be any more effective method of teaching history, quite aside from the
incidental satisfaction of a deep instinctive need?

If, in addition to such informative trips, the parent or teacher can
go camping or tramping with his boys, then the climax is reached. Some
pond should be selected with good boating, fishing, and swimming, and
there ought to be a mountain near by which the boys can climb, camp on
its sides overnight, and go to the top for sunrise. Such an experience
will never be forgotten. Not only will it tend to kindle a lifelong
interest in hills and mountains; in addition and more important still,
the companionship in adventure gives the man a hold over his boys
that nothing else can bestow. In the woods, on the mountain top and
around the camp fire at night, come feelings of mystery, of awe, and
of friendliness, to which the boy is at other times a stranger. Here
is the opportunity for genuine moral and religious instruction. Better
one straight talk under these conditions, than a whole year of lessons
forced upon boys. Genuine morality and genuine religion are such deep
and sacred and natural things that a little real inspiration lasts

Probably, however, the most obvious and the most annoying aspect of
the _Wanderlust_ is truancy. It takes a shrewd teacher who knows boys,
backed by a good home, to hold a boy in the schoolroom in the warm
days of spring when the baseball fever is at its height. Most boys
become thoroughly tired of the inactivity, restraint and monotony of
the schoolroom; while the matter is by no means simplified by the
fact that the teacher herself commonly belongs to the sex to which
certain aspects of boy nature must be forever a closed book. Granted
that truancy is not to be tolerated, we must never, in dealing with
any actual truant, lose sight of the fact that truancy is not a sin.
It arises from two coöperating forces,--the lack of adaptation of the
schools to the needs of growing boys, and the determination of the boys
to be true to their own nature. For one of these factors we elders are
responsible; the boy is responsible for neither.

This is the day of athletics. The adult world has learned thoroughly
the lesson that there can be no perfect physical development without
the training which comes from the competitive and group games. Hardly
less important, of late years, has been the emphasis of those who know
boys best on the social and moral aspects of athletic training. The
best boys’ schools to-day provide for outdoor and indoor sports as
carefully as for any other branch of education.

This lesson, I say, we have at last pretty well learned. We have not
yet discovered, however, that the native impulses which lead a boy to
baseball and hockey are only part of his equipment of gang instincts.
The desire for athletic exercise which, at least for the favored few,
is now being gratified at so great an expense, is no older and no more
deep-seated than the desire for these activities which we have called,
for lack of a better name, tribal and migratory. The boy needs diamond
and gymnasium and running track. But quite as much he needs mountain
and lake and river and forests. He takes a step toward manhood when he
stands by his fellows through a hard-fought match. He also takes a step
toward manhood when he sleeps alone under the stars.

In one respect, moreover, the boy who plays ball is at no small
disadvantage in after life as compared with the boy who plays Indian.
The athlete will play his favorite game while he is at school. He will
get a thorough and wholesome physical training, and possibly some not
especially wholesome notoriety. If his parents can afford to keep
him four years in college, he plays there. Afterwards, unless he is
especially fortunate, he does not play at all; and all his carefully
acquired skill goes for nothing.

But the boy who has indulged wisely his tribal and migratory instincts
has for the rest of his life a never-failing source of happiness. He
has learned to love nature, and to delight in his own handiwork. To
walk in the woods, to climb mountains, to own the little camp which
succeeds to the place in his affections once occupied by the rude,
gang-built hut, to travel,--these are among the permanent satisfactions
of life. If we except the group of instincts which lead the young man
to found a family of his own, and to which, at the gang age, the boy
should be a complete stranger, the tribal instincts of boyhood, wisely
gratified and trained, are probably the greatest single factor in a
happy life.



The boy, we believe, likes to play ball, to run, to dodge, to throw
accurately and hard, to hit any quick-moving object with a club,
because for untold ages his ancestors have been getting their food and
guarding their lives by swift running and quick dodging, by accurate
throwing and deft hitting of moving objects with clubs. These are the
natural activities of growing boys; incidentally they train the boy for
the chief employments of savagery, and for some of the most valuable
recreations of civilization.

All this, however, is more or less by the way. The great value of
athletic games is the education they give toward essential qualities
in our modern, civilized and work-a-day world. A judicious blending
of work and gymnastics would probably bring about as high a physical
development as would the same training supplemented by games; but it
would stop there. Only sports, one may say only competitive sports,
can bring about the perfect adjustment of hand and eye, the sense of
“time,” the quickness of resource, the steadiness under excitement,
which mark the successful athlete. Games are the easiest, the most
natural, the pleasantest means of acquiring certain highly valuable
qualities; they are, in addition, almost the only means of acquiring
certain others.

For we make a mistake when we think of athletic games as contributors
only, or even chiefly, to muscular development and to soundness of
body. Their most important function is to train the nervous system,
the intelligence, and the will. As has often been pointed out, the
successful athlete is not necessarily an especially strong man. He is
a man who has learned to use his strength, whose nervous adjustment is
precise, whose body responds perfectly to the demands of his will. The
baseball field, in short, is one of the easiest roads to self-command.

But the playing-field has also an important social function. Games are
really the great social events of boyhood; in them he learns the great
art of getting on with his fellows. It is a curious sight to watch a
group of little boys when they first begin to play ball together. Such
wrangling and disputings as there are, such refusals to play unless
each can have completely his own way, such protracted controversy over
each least difference of opinion! Shortly, to begin with, each little
boy takes his bat or his ball, and departs for home and sand pile. The
next day they will play together a little longer. They are beginning
to learn one of the great lessons of life, and by the time these boys
have “made” their college team, their nice adjustment of nerve and
muscle will be hardly more manifest than their utter conformity of
intelligence and will. The erstwhile discordant group will have become
a single instrument. The separate individuals will have been trained to

Thus the playing-field confers both a muscular and a social education.
While it is training the muscular sense, it is cultivating also the
sense of human brotherhood, and the knack of getting on with other
people. “Activities calling for coöperation and self-sacrifice,” says
Luther Gulick, “form the natural basis upon which a life of service can
be built.... This life for others is far more probable, natural, and
tangible, when it comes as the natural unfolding or development of that
instinct which has its first great impulse of growth in the games of

The wise parent, therefore, will look well to his sons’ games for
reasons which do not lie wholly on the surface. The money that he
spends on bats and balls and mits is going toward their education, and
in no other way will he get more education for his money. It will be
recalled that one of the past members of the Tennis Club believed if
he had remained in the gang, it would have saved him from the Reform
School. This was an especially fine gang, and its goodness was in no
small measure due to the same Mr. M. who took the boys camping. He saw
to it that the boys had a place to play and apparatus to play with, and
he used the gang in dealing with boys, as he probably used club and
lodge and union in dealing with men, “for all there was in it.”

The place to play is too often the point at which the boy’s education
breaks down. Consider the conditions in almost any house-bordered
street in the more thickly settled parts of any large city. It is the
breathing-space, nursery, thoroughfare, market, and playground for
crowded tenements. Here the boys congregate and play, and come daily
into conflict with the officers of the law,--the very worst possible
education that can be given to a boy. This conflict causes enmity
to spring up between the boys’ gang and the organized government,
where there should be coöperation and good will. The mischief-making
tendencies which spring from this enmity land many a boy in the
delinquent class.

Too often in our cities and villages the park is found near the centre,
while the playgrounds are pushed to the outskirts, and relegated to
vacant lots of good-natured or absent owners. Boys love best to play
close to their homes, at the centres of interest, where they can be
watched at their games. Experience shows that the boy will not commonly
travel more than a short distance to his playground, even though he
will go miles to a swimming-hole. Somehow the distant field is the
enemy’s country, and he has the vague ancestral dread of stranger’s

Wise, then, is the village or city that provides frequent small
open spaces for neighborhood playgrounds. It helps to develop the
neighborhood spirit which is so sadly lacking in a modern city, and
it helps to meet a normal demand of boy life. Such an arrangement is
also a far-sighted economy, since, to quote Lee, “the boy without a
playground is father to the man without a job.”

We ought not to forget that, from time immemorial, the education of
boys has been almost entirely by spontaneous imitation of their elders,
and by free play. The formal and compulsory portion of their education
has, for the most part, been limited to various initiation ceremonies
at puberty. Aside from these, boys have largely educated themselves.

The English public schools have for some years been organizing
the boys’ free play, and using it as an instrument to a definite
educational end. An English school will run fifteen simultaneous
cricket matches of an afternoon, each with only a handful of
spectators. We in this country have hardly begun this method of
education; and have not thus far advanced beyond the stage where a team
of nine or eleven specialists play the game, and a hundred or two more
spectators “support the team.” The best schoolmasters to-day are using
the group games as a valuable educational instrument and the tendency
each year is to use them more and more.

But the schools which are doing this are few. At best they can hardly
touch the tenth part of the boys who are now growing up, while even
this tenth is precisely the portion which needs the training least.
If the group games are to be made an efficient tool for the physical
and moral training of our boys, it will have to be done by the
municipalities,--and still more by the parents. Sooner or later, the
time must come when an honest and enthusiastic game of ball will be
recognized as an important factor, not only in the physical training
of every boy, but in his intellectual, moral and even his religious

In addition, however, to these coöperating group games, the basis of
which is, at least in part, the inherent instincts of boyhood, there
still remain to be considered certain other gang activities, the
instinctive basis of which is much less specific, activities which
arise from the general impulse to do something interesting, and to do
it in conjunction with one’s fellows. These are gang activities, but
only in the sense that the ordinary boy actually does take part in them
as a member of the group, and while he might do the same things in
solitude, actually seldom does do so.

First of these comes swimming. Swimming is perhaps the most popular of
all sports during the summer season. The adolescent boy has a craving
for the water, and, if not checked, will remain in it for half a day at
a time. It is probably, on the whole, the safest way for most boys to
get their necessary exercise in very hot weather, while at any time of
the year it is, by general consent, the best all-round exercise there
is. Moreover, except for the chance of drowning, it is the safest of
athletic sports. Neither falls nor sprains nor broken bones nor any
of the common accidents of ball field and gymnasium are possible to
the swimmer. He cannot so much as strain a muscle against the yielding

For these reasons and because, of all interesting sports, swimming
contributes most to the symmetrical muscular development of growing
children, every community ought to provide some sort of convenient
swimming place for its boys and girls. If it can manage to give them,
in addition, a daily half-hour throughout the year, so much the
better. Even an artificial swimming-tank is not especially expensive,
when one considers to what large use it may be put. It would certainly
be a great improvement if there could be in every public playground a
children’s swimming-pool, two or two and one half feet deep, in place
of the dirty and useless wading-pool one so often sees.

Natural pool or artificial tank, however, every swimming-place ought
to be under the supervision of the right kind of man. He ought to be a
teacher, for the modern swimming-strokes are by no means easy to get
exactly right, and boys seldom pick them up correctly for themselves.
His chief function, however, should be to keep the moral atmosphere of
the swimming-place clean and pure, for here if anywhere the tone of the
company is likely to drop. Boys in their games keep pretty closely to
associates of their own age and station in life, but the swimming-hole
takes in all ages, and its society is apt to be somewhat too democratic.

While, however, the careful parent will take all reasonable pains to
avoid any moral contamination at the swimming-hole, he ought never
to allow his boy to fall into the other extreme of prudery. For
healthy-minded men and boys the bathing-suit is at best a necessary
evil, and trunks an utter absurdity. The last thing to be desired for a
boy is anything resembling the modesty of a girl.

Of skating there is little that need be said. As simple skating or as
ice hockey, it is, for three months in the year, the most valuable of
winter sports in our Northern States, and one of the least expensive.
It is a short-sighted community that does not keep cleaned and ready
for daily use a safe, central skating-field. An active boy during the
winter is often hard-pressed to find wholesome outlets for his energy,
and the ice is often the only efficient rival of poolroom and saloon.

The skating-field is, besides, one of the natural places for the boy
toward the end of the gang period to graduate into a new social life.
The fresh, wholesome air, the brisk exercise, the sharp cold act
together to discourage dalliance. Outside a better equipped home than
one half of our boys and girls come from, there is no more wholesome
place for them to meet one another than on the ice.

This last advantage, though at a long interval, skating shares with
dancing; that is to say, if the dancing is properly conducted. A badly
conducted dance comes near to being the worst environment in which a
boy is ever likely to find himself. Boys at the gang age, however,
except toward the end of the period, seldom care spontaneously for
dancing at all. On the whole, probably, the wisest plan is to respect
the natural impulses of the average boy and to discourage much
departure from the type. The boy’s manners will probably suffer, but
the boy who is a perfect gentleman at fourteen usually has something
permanently the matter with him.

As for theatres, circuses, and shows, for which boys have commonly
a raging passion, it all depends on the show. All penny arcades and
peep-shows are pretty certainly bad. Better keep the boy away. All
performances attended predominantly by men are also bad, except
athletic exhibitions and horse-races. The general run of vaudeville
shows, with singing, dancing, and the like, are probably harmless
enough in themselves, but they are commonly pretty inane, while the
slight demand which they make on the voluntary attention cultivates a
distinct trashiness of mind. Ordinary stage dancing, by women who are
in no sense artists, is degrading both to performer and spectator,
though, fortunately, to this influence the boy at the gang age,
unless precociously educated, is nearly immune. At best, however, the
vaudeville show, except its athletic turns and its exhibitions of
trained animals, is a good deal foreign to the interests of boyhood;
so that for various reasons, a taste for this sort of entertainment is
something whose cultivation may well be postponed until extreme old age.

Circuses and other performances of like types are in a different
category. Their feats of skill and strength and daring are a
revelation to the boy, and a stimulus to emulation. The cowboys
and Indians appeal strongly to his imagination, and help him to
visualize the people whom he reads about in books. In many ways, these
exhibitions are educative and valuable; such evil features as they
sometimes have slip off the boy’s mind like water from a duck. At the
gang age, he is quite impervious to them.

Much the same is true of the moving-picture show, which seems to offer,
just now, the pressing moral problem of the city parent. Where these
are good,--and it is always the simplest matter in the world to find
out whether they are or not,--they are likely to be very good indeed.
They give the boy at second-hand all sorts of delightful experiences
of travel and adventure. Where the films present scenes of industrial
activity, historic settings, important contemporary events, interesting
places, customs, or scenery, their educational value is often high.
Like the circuses and “Wild West” shows, they help to gratify the
migratory instinct, and to satisfy the boy’s native curiosity and his
desire to go out into the world and see things. I doubt whether we half
realize how much the moving-picture show might be made to do for a boy
if some one would show him what to look for, and tell him what it is
all about.

On the other hand, the general drift of the moving-picture shows during
the last few years has been in the direction of “playlets” of a rather
stupid type, together with criminal and vicious suggestion for its
own sake. This last is highly dangerous and ought to be controlled by
strict censorship. Even here, however, we need to beware of attributing
to the boy the standards and sensibilities of mature men and women.

As for the old-fashioned theatre, no one who studies the question
without the old inherited church prejudices can think that the
melodrama is dangerous. On the contrary, it furnishes, for the most
part, a decidedly wholesome type of amusement. The usual form, in which
the villain elaborates a mean, underhanded plot, only to be outwitted
and defeated by the hero in the last act, produces a distinctly
beneficial effect on the unsophisticated listener. It furnishes a vent
for bad emotions, and at the same time gives a tonic shock to the rest.
It does the boy good to see the paragon of all masculine virtues fight
against all odds for the sake of the paragon of all feminine ones. The
part that moves us elders to derision is precisely the part that has
the most moral value for the inexperienced boy. What to us hints of
evil, he simply does not see.

It is a suggestive fact that of the long list of plays which boys have
told me they especially like to see, the great majority are good, with
plenty of the fightings and shootings, villains and heroes and dogs,
which boys like, and humor of a clean, if not especially subtle sort.
To see such a play once a week will not hurt any boy. He will go home
and reproduce it, as he reproduces the feats of the circus. And this
reproduction is itself a promising activity of which much more use
might be made in the boy’s education.

In many ways, therefore, it is distinctly a social misfortune that
vaudeville show and motion picture film have pretty much driven out
the old-fashioned melodrama. Even at its worst, it had a coherent plot
that enforced some sort of demand on the young hearers’ attention, so
that intellectually as well as morally it was superior to the types of
entertainment which have supplanted it. All this, however, is from the
point of view of the member of the gang. The effect of theatre going on
older boys is a much more complicated matter.



“The boy problem,” says J. J. Kimball, “is fundamentally not a personal
problem nor a problem of intellectuality; not a moral problem, nor a
psychological problem, though it may be all these,--but is, first of
all, a biological problem.” The instinct for activity is not new at
the age of twelve, but it does take on new forms of expression. Some
of these will begin and end with the gang period; some will persist
through life, as work or as recreation. But during this especially
active period, probably the most spontaneously active period of
existence, there must be laid the foundations of all the more important
interests of adult life.

There is a time for boys to learn to swim, hunt, fish, build huts, make
boats, gather collections, play ball, love nature, work; or by neglect
of this time, to lack interest in both work and play for the rest of
their lives. There is a time also for learning the social arts and the
social virtues. If this time passes with these lessons unlearned, it
becomes highly improbable that they ever will be learned at all.

So far, then, as education is a biological question, it tends to
resolve itself into the problem of utilizing the boy’s instinctive
interests as a basis for his formal training. This is especially true
of his moral education. We take the boy at an impressionable age, an
age during which he is probably more plastic than at any other time of
life, either before or after. We can lead him through the group life
of the gang, while the social instincts are being born and fashioned,
into a social life of the highest ideals and devotion; or on the other
hand, we may make him an unsocial or an anti-social being for life.
The gang is a natural and a necessary stage in normal development.
Carefully watched and wisely controlled, it is both the most natural
and the least expensive instrument that we can employ to help our sons
through one of the most critical periods of their lives. Nine tenths of
the gang’s activities depend on primitive instinctive impulses, which
cannot be suppressed, and which need only to be sanely guided to carry
the boy along the path which nature has marked out and bring him out
at the end a useful citizen and a good man. The men who have been most
successful in handling boys, men like Arnold of Rugby, Judge Lindsay
and William R. George, are precisely the men who have appealed most
powerfully to those boyish impulses.

Of all the gang-nurtured social virtues, loyalty and its allies stand
easily first. The gang, indeed, exists only because of the loyalty of
its members to one another. Without this mutual loyalty there could be
no gangs. All the great leaders and successful trainers of boys use the
lever of loyalty in reaching and holding their boys. Note the words of
Judge Lindsay with Harry. “Judge! Judge! If you let me go, I’ll never
get you into trouble again!” “I had him. It was the voice of loyalty. I
have used that appeal to loyalty hundreds of times since in our work
with boys and it is almost infallibly successful.” If we study the
secret of the power of William R. George, we find him using the same
strong lever. He trusts boys; he appeals to their loyalty; and he wins
the toughest boys, with whom many others have failed.

This gang loyalty, however, is by no means a loyalty to individuals
only; it is a loyalty also to ideals. The boy refuses to “squeal”
under pressure, partly to shield his fellows, but still more because
squealing is contrary to the boys’ moral code. He joins the tribal
wars, partly because, like the good barbarian he is, he loves his
neighbor and hates his enemy, but quite as much because certain
fightings are demanded by the gang’s standard of honor. The moral
education of the gang from the outside, therefore, consists, in part,
of a deft substitution of the best ideals of the grown-up world in
place of the crude standards of youth. But it must be deftly done
and always, at any price, without violence to the immemorial code of

Forgetting this, many an honest and zealous parent and teacher does
irreparable harm when he finds the boy’s moral code at variance with
the man’s. Unquestionably, for example, all good citizens, if adult,
ought to inform the proper authorities of any violations of law and
order, and to use their best efforts to bring offenders to justice.
That we do not always take the trouble to do this, is an important
reason why we are so badly governed. But the boy’s code is precisely
opposite. The good citizen of Boyville will shield the offender, and
persistently refuse information to the authorities. It is far better
to let boyish offenses go unpunished than to encourage boys to violate
their native moral instincts; and all great schoolmasters have acted on
this principle.

Less gifted teachers are often sorely tempted to listen to
tell-taleing. It is often the quickest way to solve deep mysteries.
Is it not better, however, to remain ignorant and suffer, rather than
receive information from the boys’ traitor? Three out of four of our
boys admire the loyal playmate, and despise the traitor. When the
teacher listens to volunteer assistants, she loses the good will of all
the loyalists. From that day on, she has enlisted with the minority,
who are the traitors and outcasts among their playmates.

The fond mamma is, naturally, the chief sinner in this regard. It often
happens that dear Charlie comes in from his play and says, “Johnnie hit
me.” Mamma says, “I will attend to that matter,” and she volunteers
to go over and give Johnnie’s mamma a free lecture on how to raise
children. Charlie enjoys the excitement, and reports to his mother the
next quarrel which he starts. If Charlie’s mother had said, “Charlie,
it takes two to make a quarrel, and when you get into trouble it is
more manly for you to settle the matter without coming to me,” his
whole career of life might have been happier and better. Too often the
mother’s encouragement makes a decent and manly boy into a tell-tale
and a coward, and so cuts him off from one of the great educative
influences of life.

For the explanation why only three in every four boys are in gangs,
instead of four in every four, is largely that the fourth boy is one
whom the gang will not have. Some boys, of course, are solitary by
nature,--sensitive, retiring boys who do not care for the rough life of
the gang, but prefer to play alone, with one companion, or with girls.
Some, too, grow up in isolated neighborhoods where there are few other
boys of the same age. These lose, perforce, the education that comes
in the gang. But the rest who stay out of the gang, stay out for the
gang’s good. They have been trained, often against their nature, to do
violence to the gang’s standard of honor. They fail to pass through the
normal development of human males; they lack a fundamental virtue and
their fellows will not trust them, boy or man.

In the gang, then, we find the natural time and place for the somewhat
sudden birth and development of that spirit of loyalty which is the
foundation of most of our social relations. We must, in short, look
upon the gang as nature’s special training-school for the social
virtues. Only by associating himself with other boys can any youth
learn the knack of getting on with his fellow men; acquire and
practice coöperation, self-sacrifice, loyalty, fidelity, team play;
and in general prepare himself to become the politician, the business
man, the efficient citizen of a democracy. Nature, we must believe, has
given the boy the gang instincts for the sake of making easy for him
the practice of the gang virtues. It may well be questioned whether any
association of state or church or neighborhood or school or order has
had a greater influence over the lives of most of us men than had the
dozen or so of boys who were our intimate companions between the ages
of twelve and fifteen.

We must not forget that the instinctive vices of the gang tend largely
to be self-limiting, so that the boy, even if left entirely alone,
would outgrow most of his faults. Not so with the gang virtues. The
impulses to loyalty, fidelity, coöperation, self-sacrifice, justice,
which are at the basis of gang psychology, are powerfully reinforced,
as we have already seen, by nearly all the typical gang activities.

Even collective stealing is a lesson in coöperation. Thieving
expeditions are often definitely planned; one boy watches while the
others steal; one engages the attention of the storekeeper while
another annexes his property; one member of the gang plagues the victim
to get chased, and then the rest loot his goods. Most especially,
however, in the group games of the gang do we find the most convenient
tool for teaching many of the most essential social qualities. “In
playing group games,” says Joseph Lee, “morality is being born and the
social man, man the politician, man the citizen; and it is my belief
that in most instances this political or social man will get himself
thoroughly and successfully born in no other way.”

The steady pressure of gang life on the side of the social virtues
appears strikingly in the rules and customs of the organizations.

“Put me out,” reports one youth, “because I said one fellow didn’t have
spunk to play the leader.” “Put a boy out of the gang for fighting when
he didn’t need to.” “Put a fellow out once for fighting with another
boy. The other fellow was in the right.” “Never allow a big fellow to
pick on a little one. We were against smoking.” “Had to be at work when
he comes into the gang; must pay his dues.” “All stand up for a fellow
in trouble.” “Help each other out if we get into trouble.” “If anybody
picked on one of our fellows, we would fight them.” “If a fellow didn’t
divvy up, we started fighting with him.” “Put a fellow out because he
wouldn’t take his share of expense.” “A fellow wouldn’t share up, so
we fought him.” “Put three out for bossing and running the place.” “No
fellow ever told on us. One fellow was caught. He stayed in Charles
Street jail three months before the rest of us were caught.”

Or consider the following unwritten laws of various gangs as a
preparation for a law-abiding life. “If there was a dispute, leader
settled it. If two fellows were fighting for a thing, he took it
away from them and gave it to another fellow. In playing dice, chuck
the fellow out who made the dispute.” “I was leader. Would settle
disputes. Would say whether it was right or not.” “Quarrel for five
or ten minutes, and then ask N. to settle it. We would be satisfied
with what he would say.” “The officers would most always settle the
disputes. Talk it over, get circumstances, then settle it.” “One of the
bigger boys would settle it. They would stop the fighting.” “If we had
disputes, we would vote on it. One who would get majority, to him we
would leave it go.” “Get a fellow who could keep things to himself.”
“If he knew enough to keep still, let him come in.” “If he was a good
guy and round the corner every night, after a while let him in if he
was not a squealer.”

A “squealer,” be it observed, is one who, being caught in an escapade,
tells on the rest to save his own skin.

Disloyalty is the one unforgivable offense in boyish eyes, the one
crime which inevitably leads to expulsion from the gang. “If he went
against us, call him a back-biter. Chuck him out.” “Put a fellow out
for squealing on them.” “Put him out because he would run off when
needed to fight.”

Among twenty-one boys who had been expelled from their gangs, eleven
were put out for disloyalty, three for fighting in bad causes, and but
one each for all other reasons. There is no other institution on earth
that can take its place beside the boys’ gang for the cultivation of
unswerving loyalty to the group.

Close beside loyalty and fidelity, come the related virtues of
obedience, self-sacrifice, and coöperation. The boy who will not obey
the captain cannot play with the group. Baseball and football are
impossible without coöperation, and they demand constant self-sacrifice
of the individual to the team. The gang fight, brutal and useless as
it commonly is, also calls for the highest devotion. It is fought, not
for personal ends but for the honor of the gang. Often the fight is to
redress the wrongs of another member of the gang; not infrequently it
is on behalf of a younger brother of some member. In the great battle
between C---- and E---- in which nearly a thousand boys took part, the
_casus belli_ was the wrongs of the little C---- lads on whom the
E---- gangs had been “picking” beyond custom.

After all, there is nothing finer in all our human history than the
loyalty of men to comrade and chief, to regiment and king and country,
and their obedience even unto death. The Old Guard at Waterloo, the
Spartans at Thermopylæ, the Boy on the Burning Deck, the Roman Guard at
Pompeii, Horatius, Arnold von Winkelried,--who of us was not brought up
on these stories? The manly virtues are instinctive in proper men, but
men first learn their practice in the gang.

Almost every activity of the gang is a lesson in coöperation. Not
only the group games and the fighting, but the peaceful tribal
occupations,--the hunting, fishing, exploring, hut-building,
swimming, skating,--all have to be done more or less in common. Tact,
adaptability, skill in getting on with one’s fellows, are among the
minor virtues of the gang. So, too, is the spirit of democracy, for
the gang is as little snobbish as any human group. It puts a premium
also on strength of body, while most of its typical activities involve
wholesome physical exercise which most boys would hardly undertake

Last, but by no means least, of the gang virtues comes courage. Now
courage and self-reliance are partly a matter of habit. One simply gets
accustomed to danger, and so meets it without fear, knowing that he
can take care of himself. Baseball and football are both brave games.
The boy who is afraid to get his shins kicked, or to stand up to bat
against a swift pitcher, has no place in either. Fighting often demands
high courage, especially in group fight, where one cannot stop to pick
an opponent of his own size but must stand his ground against all
comers, little and big. Then there are also the “stunts” and “dares”
which the members of the gang give one another. These also are a
constant incentive to bravery. The coward is a social outcast who has
no place in the gang; but the timid boy stands to have his timidity
shamed and practiced out of him. For the naturally brave boy in the
gang, courage soon becomes a fixed habit.

Considerations such as the foregoing are rapidly bringing about in the
minds of educators, social workers and enlightened parents a radical
alteration of opinion with regard to the nature and influence of boys’
gangs. The time was when it was the nearly universal opinion that all
gangs are bad and should be broken up as quickly as possible. This
opinion, it must be admitted, is still that of a considerable majority
of persons.

Of recent years, however, we are coming to see that this older attitude
is not only false but futile. Man is a social animal, the social spirit
in him has had a very long history, and the fundamental social virtues
which support the complex structure of our modern civilization have
been built into man’s nature through thousands of generations. The
little boy is an extreme individualist; somewhere he must be born again
into the world of social coöperation. For the beginning of this new
life, the gang seems to be the natural place. It is through the gang
and by means of the gang that the modern educator and the modern parent
will train the growing boy to his part in the collective life of the



_The Gang and the Boy Scouts_

Of all present-day organizations for the improvement and the happiness
of normal boyhood, the institution of the Boy Scout is built at once
on the soundest psychology and the shrewdest insight into boy nature.
The Scout Patrol is simply a boys’ gang, systematized, overseen,
affiliated with other like bodies, made efficient and interesting, as
boys alone could never make it, and yet everywhere, from top to bottom,
essentially a gang. Other organizations have adopted gang features.
Others have built themselves around various gang elements. The Boy
Scout Patrol alone is the gang.

How thoroughly this is true, appears at once in the actual details of
the scout’s training. He must learn to build a fire with two matches;
to swim a specified distance, and to take a companion ashore; to
handle and to care for, according to the situation, canoe or boat or
horse; to find his way across country and through woods to a designated
spot and back, within a specified time; to track a companion by his
foot marks; and to spy upon a, constructively, hostile camp without
being discovered. In short, he is taught to “play Indians” with a
thoroughness and success which no unaided gang can approach.

Like the spontaneous gang, the patrol puts special emphasis on
coöperation, loyalty, obedience, and honor. The scout is a soldier; he
may discuss and argue and protest to his heart’s content--afterwards.
But he will obey first. The scout is a gentleman; whatever he declares
“on his honor” is to be received without question. He is to stand by
his friends, to respond to the call of any other scout. These are the
simple rules of the organization, as they are the rules, written or
unwritten, of every boys’ gang that ever existed.

Most ingeniously does the scout’s training feed his social instincts.
He is taught all sorts of sign languages,--marks on the ground or in
the woods that tell which way he has gone, where there is water, or the
wrong path which those who follow him should avoid. He learns to signal
with smoke and with flashes of sunlight from a mirror, to telegraph,
to wigwag, to do semaphore signals with his arms. In all these ways he
is given one of the most precious possessions of boyhood, the secret
code which only he and his friends understand; while at the same time
he is initiated into the great company of soldiers, sailors, engineers,
explorers, railroad men, and other romantic adventurers who also
comprehend these mystic signs. The ordinary gang would give the boy
this same sense of solidarity with other boys; the patrol gives him in
addition a contact with the world of men.

Incidentally, of course, the patrol, like any other gang, goes swimming
and skating, plays ball and the other group games, has its local
habitation and its stamping-ground. In these respects it is simply
an especially good gang--as good, let us say, as the Tennis Club
of our earlier reports. In one way and another, therefore, it does
everything that the spontaneous gang does, and does it a great deal
more interestingly. The whole Boy Scout movement is a shrewd and highly
successful attempt to take the natural, instinctive, spontaneous boys’
society, to add nothing to what is already there, but deliberately to
guide the boy into getting completely just that for which he blindly

The obvious answer to the whole gang problem, therefore, is this: Turn
your gang into a Boy Scout Patrol.

_The Gang and the Church_

If one were to give to an average boy a religious education which
should be thoroughly psychological, and quite independent of any
particular theological bias of those who had him in charge, one may
fancy that method would be something as follows.

While the boy is still a child, before he arrives at the gang age,
and while he is still educating himself through his larger muscles
and the cruder perceptions of his sense organs, he should attend a
place of worship with an elaborate ritual. The child at this stage
is developing rapidly his acquaintance with sound and color, and is
learning to coördinate the larger movements of his body. He is in the
period of drum and trumpet and the running-games, so that the appeal of
the church service to eye and ear, the processions and recessions, the
movements of clergy and choir, even his own changes of posture as he
sits, stands, or kneels, all fit in with the strongest interests of his
secular life. The ornate ritual, therefore, with short sermon or none,
makes precisely the appeal to which the way is most open. This, then,
is the time to instill reverence through the ministration of the church.

Now, reverence, which is fundamental to religion, is itself founded
on the muscles. Just as we are angry, so the psychologists tell us,
because we clench our fists and snarl our lips, so we are reverent
because we bow our heads. As one cannot be thoroughly angry so long
as he keeps his hands open and makes himself smile, so he cannot tip
back in his chair, put his feet on the table, and pray. The mood will
not come till the muscles point the way. There are, to be sure, genuine
conversions late in life, as there are miracles of other sorts. But the
normal religious man is one who, in boyhood, at the period of life when
he was establishing his other great muscular correlations, has been put
through the movements of worship till they became habits. We make a
devotee, in short, precisely as we make a musician or an athlete.

With the advent of the early gang period, however, the boy’s relation
to the world undergoes a sudden change; and naturally his attitude
toward religion will alter with it. He who once babbled to any listener
becomes reserved. The desire for sensation is now replaced by a desire
for experience. Woods and sea and the greater forces of nature are
now the objects of his religious instincts. His interest is in the
creation, and the proper channel through which to instill reverence is
friendship with Nature. The child has become a savage, and he worships
the red gods.

With the later gang period and the stage which immediately succeeds it,
comes normally the veneration of a hero. By this time the boy leader
of the gang has emerged from the general ruck of its members, and his
word has become law. Now is the time of greatest influence of the
man leader--father, trainer, scout-master, pastor, or older friend.
Now, for the first time, the boy, beginning to find himself, becomes
capable of special and enduring friendships; probably, too, he falls
frequently in love. In short, his one absorbing instinctive interest is
in personality.

The proper minister of religion at this stage is no longer the
ritualist, but the inspired preacher; and the less of form and ceremony
and church millinery, the better. The boy’s instinctive hero-worship
turns him toward any prophet of righteousness whose theme is the moral
life, the duties of this present day, and “the religion of all good
men.” At the age of sixteen, he normally experiences conversion.

After that comes, of course, the period of intellectual skepticism; and
when that is by, the erstwhile boy settles down to the enduring faith
of his manhood, in which all the religious experiences of youth have
their part. For the rest of his life, few changes will go deeper than
mere matters of taste and opinion.

We, however, are concerned only with the boy at the gang age. His
problem is simple in theory,--and anything but simple in practice.
Preaching at this stage does him little good, nor does form and ritual.
He should already have fixed his habits; now is the time for ideals
and dreams. The boy is instinctively a nature worshiper, and the one
essential thing is to get him out of doors in company with the right
sort of man. This is no time for bible or hymn book; there is time
enough for these both before and after. What the boy wants now is to
learn about life. To set him at Sunday School lessons under a woman
teacher is a pedagogic crime.

We need, then, in church and Sunday School, for influencing boys at
the gang age, simple manliness far more than we need either learning
or piety. If we have done our full duty by the boy up to the age of
twelve, and if we are prepared to go on with his formal religious
instruction after he passes sixteen, we may safely leave the welfare
of his soul for these intervening four years to nature and to the
unconscious example of almost any good man. For boys at the gang age,
I would choose as a Sunday School teacher the sort of man who makes a
good scout-master, even if he himself made no profession of religion
whatever, rather than the stanchest pillar of the church who has
forgotten his boyhood, or than the most angelic maiden lady that ever
lived. This is one of the cases where the children of this world have
been appreciably wiser than the children of light.

_The Gang and the Sunday School_

Of the gang and the Sunday School, as apart from the church, little
need be added to what has already been said. The common mistake is
to pick out the proper number of boys, of about the proper age, but
with small regard to their other qualities, and out of these to form a
class. The result is, that unless the teacher possesses most uncommon
gifts, the class never has any coherence. It is not a natural group,
and it never develops the internal structure of a real gang. There
may be too many natural leaders. There may be too few. Or the class
may combine fragments of rival gangs that are “licking” one another
on sight, six days in the week. More commonly, the class contains a
considerable fragment of one gang, with one or two individuals out
of several others, and perhaps an occasional out-lier who belongs to
none. The remainders of the broken gangs are in other Sunday Schools.
Thus the class remains always at cross purposes with the boys’ native
impulses; and rarely, therefore, wins their instinctive loyalty.

The remedy is the method of the Boy Scouts. Organize your Sunday
School classes on the basis of natural affiliations. Found each on
some spontaneous group. Add, if you think it wise, some boys whose
ganginess is less developed. But don’t put fragments of well defined
gangs together. Then, if some of your own boys follow their gangs to
other schools, you can trust that, in the end, enough others come to
you to even up. The essential matter at the gang age is the boys, not
the denominational interests of their parents.

_The Gang and the Home_

There are three primary social groups in a modern state,--the family,
the neighborhood, and the play group, which is, for our purposes, the
gang. The second of these has become pretty much extinct in our cities,
in spite of the efforts of settlement workers to preserve or revive
it. The typical city dweller does not know the people in the next
house by name, and views with instinctive hostility the family in the
neighboring flat.

This really leaves only the home and the gang for the boy’s informal
training in citizenship, so that these two need more than ever to stand
together; and although in essence, this entire book is a discussion of
the ways in which the home may utilize the gang, there still remain one
or two points that are worthy of special emphasis.

A thoroughly “good” gang, to do its best work, ought to have a meeting
place, a shop, a man leader, a playground, and a stretch of wild
country for its members to roam about in. All these, in some form or
other, the home ought to furnish. Allowing for two or three pairs of
brothers in the same gang, each group will commonly represent at least
a half-dozen households; and these, among them, ought to be able to
provide the gang with the essentials of its profitable existence.
Somewhere in those families, there should be at least one spare room,
one large back yard, and one father, uncle, cousin or big brother who
likes boys. Somewhere in those families, there ought to be country
relatives or the owner of some sort of a camping-ground.

The only thing, then, for a group of households related to one another
through a boys’ gang to do is to recognize frankly this relationship,
and to live up to it. The father who has no room for a shop can put up
the money for bats and balls; the mother who cannot stand the boys’
racket can provide grub for the summer trip. Somehow or other, six
reasonably well-to-do households, if only they will stand together,
can always manage to give the gang about all it needs for its best

What I especially urge, then, is that the good home shall recognize the
good gang as among the most efficient of its allies. As the careful
parent keeps an eye on school and church and social set, so ought he to
keep his eye on the gang. He should make it his business to know, not
only that his boy gets into the right gang, but that he enters it at
the right age, neither too early nor too late, and that he graduates
at the right time, after the gang has done its perfect work and more
would be too much. He should see to it also--as I shall point out at
some length in another volume--that the boy, being in the right gang,
has also the right place in it, so that he gets his due training in
the great art of making his will count in actions of other men. Most
especially, as I have all along been pointing out, he should see that
the gang as an organization gets its chance and lives its life, with
its fitting environment and its proper tools.

_The Gang and the Boys’ Club_

Unfortunately, however, taking the mass of boys as they come, about
one boy in every two, either because of lack of room in his home, or
because of sickness or death or poverty, cannot look to his parents for
any aid in his group life. For him there remains the boys’ club. The
best of these are those which recognize themselves as mere adjuncts to
the gang, which furnish a chance for wholesome exercise and play under
the direction of a man who knows when to be blind and deaf, and for the
rest lets the boys a good deal alone.


The outdoor gymnasium is not enough]


Boys at the gang age need room for the group games]

During the warmer months of the year, the city boy, for whom naturally
the boys’ club is designed, will spend his time out of doors. Playing
field and swimming place, trips into the country on foot, with
longer journeys by rail and trolley, keep the gang actively engaged in
ways which are for the most part wholesome. Even the least desirable of
them serve to work off the boy’s abounding energy, and keep him from
worse things.

The peril of the city gang comes with the cooler weather of fall, when
the early darkness hides its doings, and any meeting place becomes
attractive if it is warm. This is the time for the boys’ club to
capture the gang. The game is to keep the boys off the streets, and out
of worse places, between the hours of four in the afternoon and ten in
the evening. If at this critical time a boy can explode his energy in
wholesome ways and amid good surroundings, the rest of the day will
largely take care of itself. The gang demands a place to meet and to
do things. This place will either be the home, the boys’ club--or

_The Gang and the Playground_

In certain of its aspects the problem of the playground is not unlike
that of the boys’ club. Each exists primarily to give the boy
opportunity of activity, spontaneous and largely self-directed, yet
under supervision, adequate but not meddlesome.

The playground, however, is vastly the more important of the two. Our
artificial city life fails, more than anywhere else, in its handling of
boys. We have parks and boulevards and speedways, public baths and golf
courses and wading-pools and sand piles, free museums and art galleries
and libraries, not, to be sure, in any profusion, but often in number
fairly adequate to the demand. The one thing our cities commonly lack
is enough places where growing boys can indulge in a wholesome game of
ball without getting themselves into some sort of trouble.

To be of any use to boys, a playground must be large. A small ground,
with swings and teeters and sand piles, is for children. But the gang
needs room to play the specialized group games against its rivals.
How the city gang is to get this is another question, and one worthy
of very careful consideration by those having the welfare of boys at

_The Gang and the Summer Camp_

It might be inferred from what I have already written in praise of
camp life for boys that I place the boys’ summer camp high on the list
of favorable environments for youth. This is by no means the fact.
The typical summer camp, such as is advertised by the score in every
magazine, is altogether too much an affair _de luxe_ to be of much
real value. It is too apt to be merely a school under canvas, or worse
still, a summer hotel. So much is done for the boys that they lose
all the training in skill of hand, in woodcraft, in self-reliance, in
gumption, which a proper camp ought to give. Worst of all, they have
little chance to “endure hardness.” Life is nearly as soft as in the
city; and for all the primitive manliness that the camp puts into them,
they might as well have stayed at home.

Summer camps, also, for business reasons, are likely to be too large.
The ideal arrangement is six or eight, or at most ten, boys who have
already made themselves into a gang, with a man leader. A natural
group, in short, with a natural man added on, is far superior to a
selection on any other basis. If for any reason, the group must be
larger, then there should be two or more men leaders, and provision for
the group to break up into several natural gangs.

The best time to camp is late in the summer. Boys when left to their
own impulses build their camps in the fall, urged thereto by as blind
an instinct as that which sets the birds to building nests in the
spring. Late summer is as near the natural building-time as the school
system of civilization permits us to get; and besides this, the camping
trip at the end of the vacation serves as the climax to be looked
forward to all through the hot weather.

The two months’ camp in the summer is based rather on custom than on
experience or sound theory. Four short periods, during four different
seasons, are far better than a single long stretch during one. Boys
at the gang age desire ardently experience. That they get in fourfold
measure, when to the common sports of summer are added hunting and
trapping and nutting, expeditions on skates and snowshoes, fishing
through the ice in the winter or in the first open water of the spring,
and all the other rich and varied doings of the yearly round. It is any
season but summer, also, for the touch of hardship which for every true
boy is the salt of camp life.

As for formal instruction in camp, the less of books the better.
Natural history, of course, there is, and the simpler handicrafts, and
the various outdoor arts, from boat-building to camp cookery. Practical
surveying may sometimes be conveniently managed, together with some of
its attendant mathematics. There is often a chance, too, for a limited
amount of physics, especially on the practical and the observational
sides, and in the region between block and tackle on the one hand and
the theory of the weather on the other.

But the one subject above all others for camp study is hygiene. Here is
illustrated, practically and on a convenient scale, the entire subject
of communal hygiene, from the obtaining and storage and preparation
of food, to the disposal of waste, and the necessity of order and
system in any sort of group housekeeping. As for personal hygiene, the
white light that beats about a camp, where every act has to be done in
public, reveals many a need for instruction on this side; while the
frankness and naturalness of camp life make such lessons easy to give.
Example, too, counts here as it rarely can where existence is more
private. For public hygiene, therefore, and for private, a well-managed
camp is an ideal school.

Most especially is a camp an ideal spot for instruction concerning sex.
The candor and wholesomeness of camp life, the busy days and the solemn
nights, the absence, one must confess, of one half the human race, all
make for purity of heart. At no time, probably, can a high-minded man
do so much toward setting a boy’s feet along the narrow way.



The problem of the school, so far as the gang is concerned, is not
so much to use actual gangs for the furtherance of its objects, as
it is to use the underlying instincts of boyhood, which lead to the
formation of gangs. These instincts normally lead the boy to associate
himself with other boys in a gang and in this gang to pursue certain
lines of activity. It is quite possible, in addition, to turn these
gang instincts in the direction of the activities of the school. The
emotional reaction of the boy toward his gang and its doings, can be
extended, in part, to the school and its life.

For this purpose, the teacher must first of all understand the gang
spirit. She is too apt, being herself a woman, to treat the boy as only
a rougher and more troublesome sort of girl. She tends to interpret
his acts as if they were those of a girl, and to forget how different
in the two cases may be the inner meaning of the same overt deed. She
errs, in short, by thinking of the boy in terms of her own woman’s
nature, when she should be studying him objectively as the quite
different sort of creature that he actually is.

Take, for example, a rough-and-tumble fight. It is a rare woman who
can see that as a boy sees it. She feels the brutality of the contest
with something of the disgust with which she would view a case of
fisticuffs between two women. She sees the dirt and blood, and she
feels sympathetically the blows. What she does not feel is the “hour
of glorious conflict, when the blood leaps, and the muscles rally for
the mastery,” the “joy of battle,” the “seeing red,” the decent, manly
pride in taking one’s punishment and “fighting it out as long as one
can stand and see.” The same teacher, because she is a woman, will face
with steady courage an experience more dreadful than twenty fist fights
rolled into one; and yet, because she is a woman, she may fail to see
how long a step some bruised and disheveled youngster has taken toward

There are many acts of boyhood which, like fighting, seem brutal or
depraved or absurd, until one makes out their instinctive basis, and
realizes their inner meaning. Take, by way of another illustration,
this case which fell under my own eye. A boy whose gang was “playing
Indians” happened upon a flat piece of some dark red, hard-grained
stone, and after days of labor fashioned from it a very respectable
stone knife of the Neolithic period. As a tool, naturally, this stone
knife was nearly worthless. As a piece of boyish handicraft, it was by
no means without merit; and the maker had wrought it lovingly, with
some vague instinctive feeling, I am sure, for the far-away times when
a stone knife was an article of value to be handed down from father to

The boy carried this primitive tool in his pocket along with his
other treasures, and showed it proudly to his companions, who, being
themselves boys, admired and understood. One day, however, he left it
on his desk, and returned to search for it, just in time to see his
teacher pick it up and toss it contemptuously into the waste-basket.
There it remained; for the owner was too grieved and hurt to take it
out again.

So that teacher made an enemy where she ought to have made a friend.
The trouble with her was that she did not know her business. Even if
she could not understand all that the strange treasures of boyhood
mean to a boy, that stone knife ought to have fairly shouted at
her--Indians! Look out! To the seeing eye that fragment of stone
bristled with meaning--the wild instincts of boyhood, its strange
acquisitiveness, its joy in creation. To any reasonably sympathetic
adult, it ought to have meant the opportunity to get a little nearer to
one bewildered little soul.

The woman teacher, then, must learn to get outside herself and to see
the boy as he is. She must study him as she would study any other
wild creature. He has his own habits, his own instincts, and his own
emotional reactions toward experience. These are to be studied in the
spirit of a naturalist. Then, being understood, they are to be used.

Now, the boy, for our present purposes, differs from the girl in
two respects. In the first place, he is vastly more active and
motor-minded; and in the second, he is intensely and spontaneously
loyal to a small but highly organized group of his fellows, in which
his own individual will tends to become more or less merged.

The treatment of the first of these qualities of boyhood is perhaps
a problem for superintendents and school boards rather than for
individual teachers. One rejoices to see that, more and more every
year, attention is being given to this aspect of boy nature. Manual
training, industrial education, practical work of all sorts are
relieving boys from the unnatural burden of acquisition and offering
them instead their proper chance to do. Why is it, when we can all see
so clearly the general superiority of the color sense in girls, we are
so blind to the boy’s preëminence in the muscular sense!

Much of this, I say, is not the problem of the individual teacher,
who must, for the most part, conform to the school programme. Even
here, however, an insight into boy character will help her in smaller
matters, here and there, to handle the boy with the grain instead of
across it. Outside school hours, there is sometimes opportunity for
the teacher to enter into many of the activities dear to boyhood which
I have already discussed. The excursions to interesting and historic
spots, the nature walks, the visits to industrial plants, and the like,
the value of which I have already emphasized, are for the most part
quite within the range of most teachers. A few women of my acquaintance
have even gone camping with their boys, and done it successfully.

The most important thing, however, is that the teacher, while she
appeals at every turn to the natural activities of boys, shall always,
so far as she possibly can, organize these activities on the basis of
the boy’s own spontaneous groups. When she cannot manage this, as in
many cases she inevitably cannot, let her imitate in her artificial
groupings the size, the quality, and the internal structure of the
native gang.

For example, let us suppose that a teacher, fully alive to the
motor-mindedness of boys, sets out to take special pains with the
gymnastic work of her room. Suppose, too, she decides to follow a
common practice and divide her pupils into squads or files, each with
its separate leader. It will not do, in such a case, for her merely
to pick out a half-dozen docile youths, and put each in charge of a
random group. She ought, in the first place, to make her squads of
about the same size as the gangs which the boys are forming of their
own accord; and she should, in addition, select for her leaders, not
the boys whom she happens to like or even the best performers, but the
boys who are actually leaders in their own gangs. Then she should, so
far as possible, let the leaders choose their squads, keep the groups
together, and not make alterations without good reason.

By this device the squad becomes a gang, artificial and temporary,
to be sure, but still enough of a gang to have some touch of the gang
organization and the gang spirit. The amount of these will probably be
small, but whatever there is is so much clear gain.

Or suppose a teacher goes in especially for nature study, and has her
pupils make collections for the school, butterflies, beetles, minerals,
it does not make much difference what,--stamps, if nothing else offers.
By this means she appeals strongly to the acquisitive instinct, which,
as we have seen, is especially strong in boys, and often the sole
reason for their thievery. By this means also, since the collection
is for the school, she appeals to the instinct of loyalty, and turns
this powerful impulse of boyhood in the direction of the institution
and of herself as a part of it. She may, however, without added labor,
go still further. Let her organize the collecting on the basis of the
boys’ natural groups; let her work, in short, less with individuals
and more with gangs. She can set one group to collecting one set of
objects, and another group another set. But her groups should be like
the natural gangs in size, and each should have one member, though
not commonly more than one, who is already the natural leader in some
permanent group. Thus, as before, the instinctive, spontaneous gang
loyalty will unconsciously attach itself to the school and the school

The teacher, then, in dealing with boys, must learn to think in terms
of gangs, as well as in terms of individuals. She must, in certain
cases, go even further than this and think of gangs entirely, and not
of individuals at all. Suppose, for her arithmetic class, she plans to
take up as a practical problem, in mensuration and denominate numbers,
the material which is, let us say, going into a dwelling-house in
process of construction near by. Her thought should not be: I will
send ten individuals to measure foundation or cellar or frame, and
see which boy comes out best. She should think rather: I will send
two gangs of five each, and see which gang comes out best. And these
gangs should be as far as possible real gangs. The best device is to
select the leaders, who, in turn, one need not say, must be boys whom
the rough-and-ready election of their fellows has already elevated to a
like post outside. These, then, should select their companions; and at
once there results something of the gang structure and spirit. Then the
rivalry of the gangs will make each boy expend far more effort than he
would ever put forth for his own glory.

So it should be with any attempt to accomplish anything for the school.
Is the room to be decorated for some occasion? The pupils as a whole
should not attend to the room as a whole; nor should the pupils as
individuals work as assistants to the teacher. Instead, the work should
be divided into parts, and each part should be given to an independent
group; to a natural group, as far as possible, but at any rate to a
group under a natural leader.

Or is it a question of self-government, either in the schoolroom or
on the playground? The head monitor, or whatever he is to be called,
should pick his own assistants, and be responsible for their results.
When the time comes for a change of authority,--it is well to have
such change come periodically and somewhat often,--the whole group,
prime minister and cabinet together, should go out of office at once,
and another group take their place. That is the way men organize their
industries and manage their governing. It may often be advisable to
have the entire body of pupils elect the successive leaders; but
the leader’s assistants who are to work with him should be his own
selection. Only thus can one make sure that they “will be in sympathy
with the administration”--or, in other words, belong to the same
temporary gang.

The main point, then, in dealing with school-boys at the gang age is
to utilize to the full their natural groups. The little boy is an
individualist, and we train him as an individual. But when later at
the age of ten or twelve, the gregarious instincts begin to appear,
the significant thing, the interesting thing, the unit with which,
oftentimes, we have to work, is not the individual but the gang. For
certain purposes, at this stage, we may ignore the boy and attend to
the boy group. After sixteen the group dissolves, and once more we may
take up the education of the individual.

The problem of the school is to utilize, to the full, the great moving
passions of boyhood,--its loyalty, its self-sacrifice, its desire for
coöperation, its thoroughgoing gregariousness. We do that best, in
school and home and everywhere, when we learn to think of each boy in
his gang relations, and to utilize these natural groupings as the basis
of our artificial assemblages, and our guide in forming them.

Good citizens are sometimes quite as much the product of good gangs, as
of good schools or good homes.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

A sequence error in the List of Illustrations was corrected.

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