There is not much evidence of college graduates realizing, or helping to solve, the social questions of the time, which is peculiarly their task, according to Thomas Mott Osborne '84 in a recent interview. Not that college men do not go into social work, but once active they are not as clear headed and direct as they should be in their training.
That is due, thinks Mr. Osborne, to deficient educational methods which characterize our entire system. The absence of sufficient responsibility in our training is the big lack of the method. School self government is one step in the right direction. To be sure many approaches have been made, especially by girls' schools, which are in that respect far ahead of those for men. Mr. Osborne's idea is that this denial of responsibility can never make for good citizenship, which can be taught only by being practiced. Athletics are the only branch of our educational life where we are trusted with that responsibility so necessary to the training of a citizen. There team play, the essence of citizenship, is allowed to crop out, but only there.
Guided by Principles of Team-Play
This principle is the basis of all Mr. Osborne's work, and he has had an opportunity to show that it can be worked out among those who are supposed to be least capable of acquiring any ideal, the criminal class. In the Sing Sing, Auburn, and Portsmouth prisons, he has proved the principle, though conditions prevented carrying it out fully. The prisoners, bound together in a league that made them responsible to and for one another, preserved their own discipline and left the prison much less antagonistic to society than when they entered.
The Portsmouth naval prison presented the most difficulties and hindrances possible to such a plan from the nature of the Congressional ruling regarding military prisoners. Formerly sailors who had served a sentence at Portsmouth could not return to the service and were thrown on their recources, branded criminals often for offences of comparatively slight importance. Commander Osborne, however, secured a channel for pardons, and instilling into his men a spirit of good citizenship, sent 2700 of them back into the service, after shortened terms, during his three years in office. A very small proportion of these men, despite the prejudice in the service toward them were returned, while many rendered valuable service to the country.
Criminals Have High Sense of Loyalty
It is not social discipline only toward which this principle works; that is the negative side. A sense of cooperative responsibility is sought. Curiously this instinct is higher in the criminal than in the so-called upper strata of society. At any rate a warped form of it known as loyalty to the gang is all-important among this class, while the tendency is all towards individualism in modern society.
This is readily accountable from the nature of a crook's life: he is first taught never to snitch, and when he later practices his occupation, team play becomes a matter of life and death. As one prisoner, convicted because he wouldn't tell on a pal, told Mr. Osborne, "the ethics of my profession forbid squealing on a pal." On the other hand graduates from our higher schools of education, which represent the height of our social trend, leave their sources of learning with keen intelligence and high moral purpose, yet ready to cut their neighbor's throat for a business advantage.
The solution of our melting pot problem is closely involved with this idea. Americanization is not to be learned from books. Teaching children a sense of co-operation is more valuable than any scheme that could be broached along those lines. The sacredness of the community should be taught in every day school life. There are three elements in democracy, so well expressed in the Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, of the French revolution. We have overstressed the first two. The war did bring out the last idea, but transiently. "We shall never realize our democracy," said Mr. Osborne, "until we recognize the claims of that element--fraternity--and get team play throughout our life."