Speeches at Brooks House
A Social Service Conference was held in Phillips Brooks House last evening and was attended by an unusually large number of interested men.
D. P. Ranney '12 presided at the meeting and introduced as the first speaker Professor F. W. Taussig '79, of the Department of Economics, whose subject was "Social Questions and Social Service." His discussion was on the relation which social service holds to the great world problems of society: socialism, property, foundations of the present regime of society, labor unions, social unrest, and many others. These are the large questions which must be answered sometime, and with these social service can scarcely hope to struggle. Its sphere of labor is among apparently trivial problems. They seem small and workers often wonder whether they are worth while. But it is this small and doubtful work which is really the true service. The small problems which a student worker meets in social service serve the two-fold purpose of helping the world a little and relieving his own mind of constant dealings with the great theoretical problems of the classrooms. It is stimulating and healthful to ask students to deal with both sorts of problems. The world grows better by small items, not by leaps and bounds, and these small items are furnished by social service work. It is good for the worker and those for whom it is done, and should be done as though worth while and with faith that it will be worth while.
Mr. Meyer Bloomfield '01 was the next speaker and dealt with "Some Fundamentals in Volunteer Social Service." He defined social service as a trained and persistent kind of friendship which every man must render in his life. The right kind of social service is to the social life of the great community, what efficient engineering is to industry. It discovers hitherto unknown valuable by-products in the members of the community and is constructive and educational. Good social service requires that the workers give all they can to their boys and take in return what the boys can teach them. To give everything and take nothing is impossible and would be unprofitable to all concerned; to give nothing and try to take everything is equally impossible and would be unjust. Social service is something more than to take a set program and follow it through day in and day out in one's work; it is to take charge of a boys club, or something similar, and put into its training all the originality of the mind, all the original ideas which may occur. The work is made by the worker and is not cut and dried routine. Now, the question is sometimes asked, "What is the use of it all?" In the first place it carries new ideals to the hearts of the unfortunate classes. In the second place it gives the teachers an invaluable asset to life, ability to meet and get along with all sorts and conditions of people. It is true experimentation in democracy, now being undertaken by private workers alone. But when these workers have demonstrated its good, it will become a public institution and will aid materially in the solution of social problems.
J. C. Bills 3L. spoke on "Deputations." The deputation committee fills requests from various organizations in and around Boston for Harvard men to speak read, and entertain in similar ways. Y. M. C. A.'s and boys' clubs want athletes to speak to them; churches and Sunday schools want men to speak on travel, to tell stories, and to read selections. The chances of this sort offer a golden opportunity to College men to learn to stand squarely before an audience and say what they want to say. They are called upon to instruct and amuse, and are often forced to speak extemporaneously. The opportunity is great for a good work to be done in a short time by men up to whom the boys of the slums will look for ideals and advice.
R. C. Benchley '12 spoke on "Boys' Clubs." He emphasized the fact that good is not only done to the boys, but that inestimable good is done the teachers by the points which they learn from their wards. The finest thing a social service worker can do is to learn one or two of his boys by heart, to have them as true friends, boys to whom he is an idol, and who take from him the ideals which will stir ambition in their souls.
E. D. Smith '13 gave a general outline of the kinds of work which are open in the service. He said that the qualifications were interest and faithfulness, with which any one could succeed in social service work.