Work and Play: Recognition Day Address By Miss Jane Addams, August 16, 1905

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Work and Play Considered as Factors in Education -– The Children in the Cities -– Conditions of Their Normal Growth -– A Broad Problem and Education and Philanthropy -– Stirring Presentation of Social Needs.

It gives me a very great deal of pleasure to speak to this class this morning and to all the old Chautauquans who gather here every summer, partly because in some respects this institution is one of the most American we have among all our educational experiments, and partly because there are some things I should like to say to this new class in regard to the effect this new type of education is having on some of the problems which face our American life and our future.

Of course we all know that never before in the history of the world has there been such a passing to and fro on the face of the earth, in part because such migration has never before been possible from the physical standpoint. A man and his family can come from Naples in eighteen days, and in certain seasons for eighteen dollars. We are having Syrians, Greeks and Asiatics, as well as Europeans, coming to us who for the most part know little about them, and who are slow to bid them welcome on the deeper side of things. We accept their labor in the building of our railroads. We accept their muscle in our factories, in the doing of our heavy work. The finest spinning which is being done in America at this moment is coming from the spinning looms of Lowell and is being done entirely by Greeks. We accept all these things from them and yet, unless we watch out, we are going to miss from them some of the best things they can give us, their long reserve of experience in lines such as we do not have. Unless we take some pains to teach them somewhat of our language and learn somewhat of theirs, a whole generation is going to die out without any special relation between us. And it is because this great school, this great university, as it is in the higher sense, consists largely of adults, of people who have kept their minds open, who have been widening them in new directions as they have grown older, of people who believe education is not merely preparation for life, that I believe people here are the ones who will understand this great demand which is coming to us adult Americans to open our minds to other adult citizens from all parts of the world and find out what it is that they have that will be of benefit to us, the things we have which will be of benefit to them; to be ashamed of ourselves when we are separated by differences of language or differences of dress and manner, or when we are content to go along day by day and say no word of fellowship.

Yesterday I was delayed at Westfield for several hours. I talked to some of the people as I had opportunity. The first three men I met were Italians, the fourth an American, and the fifth a Syrian. This may have been merely an accident. It may be I have eyes for Italians and Syrians, but I was not consciously trying to find them. I merely looked on the streets of a Western New York town to find it as cosmopolitan [page 2] as the streets of Chicago in the district in which I live.

I can well imagine that a historian writing about America one hundred years from now might say, "The last decade of the nineteenth century and the opening of the twentieth saw a tremendous increase of population from all parts of the world. But for some reason or other the American people remained indifferent to it; they took no pains to discover what these people might have brought, to incorporate them into their life, and they lost an immense opportunity." There is a challenge to us perhaps such as no race has ever had before.

There is another side which I should like to bring forward to this audience, and that is in regard to the child and the new way of looking on child life, which is growing in different spots in America, but growing far too slowly. We all now accept the statement, which I believe John Fiske was the first to use, that as childhood is prolonged in the race or the individual, the adult intellect is going to be better and stronger, and the greater are the possibilities for culture. There is something else equally true -- that in proportion as the playtime of the child is lengthened, we have a new opportunity for adult culture. That is what the psychologists mean when they say that culture is not mere learning, pegging away and getting a lot of things in one's head, but it means the power of enjoyment as one goes along, the power to play with a fact and get pleasure out of it, and if we have not that we are still pokey and uncultivated people.

What is it a child does when he plays? He imitates the life about him and anticipates his life to follow. We cannot get culture merely by making an effort; we must also combine this with social relations, with pleasure. We must keep ourselves constantly using that culture for the benefit of ourselves and people near us, so we can share it and get pleasure out of it. Some of us see that on the crowded districts of the cities the one thing which stands for culture as against mere book learning, mechanical learning, the thing which will keep life from becoming commonplace and dead, is the constant play of little children with each other. Often in a neighborhood all kinds of people are thrown together from all quarters of the globe. It used to be when people came to the city or a neighborhood there was some sort of a personal tie between them almost as in the village in which most of us were born and brought up. But now new people coming to the cities come to work in great factories, to help in loading and unloading ships or cars, and they are held together entirely by impersonal ties; members of a group do not know all the other members. What is it makes them acquainted, what spans the gulf of language, religion and all that keeps them apart? It is the little children who play on the streets. They are doing the work which cultivated people ought to be undertaking consciously and doing better. The children are the only ones who are coming together and showing how much stronger human nature is than any other tie. The Italian child understands the Russian child, and then their parents begin to understand each other.

Something of that sort you have had who have enjoyed fellowship in getting your education. It seems to me something that brings people together on the fellowship side, on the impulse to know each other, on the more universal relations -– something of that sort we might all of us undertake.

You have come together here and marched together, not because you happened to live next door to each other, but because of a great common impulse, because you have studied together the great masterpieces of literature and read together some of the great studies of science. You have discovered in what fellowship consists. If you could bring that into the life of all the districts where it is not being done, in our cities where we find little knots of lonely people getting old and worn because they have no chance for the play of their more human faculties and the only thing that is keeping it alive is the little children before they are caught and put into factories or into the public school-–for sometimes the public school crushes out that very thing, that play spirit which this age needs as no other age.

There is still a third thing on which I would lay stress -– the treatment of crime, of disease, of all those things which we call the subjects for social amelioration, philanthropy, charity and correction. All that side of life is being approached from an entirely different standpoint from that undertaken before. Thus we say that no criminal, however abandoned, no disease however much we may have called it incurable, no city slum however wretched, can possibly be helped or ameliorated unless we know personally some of the conditions which brought it about, and we can only know those as we know the people. It is not possible to understand the bad boy of the city, who seems to spend his time in petty tricks, unless one has at heart the play impulse which is at the bottom of all our culture, the universal spirit which comes from the study of literature and history and historic background. In order to get at the most wretched things which civilization brings we have to bring to this study the results of the new kind of education, or it will slip from our grasp.

For many years we have considered consumption a disease which would be with us always. Now, suddenly, people are beginning to say this thing may be avoided, controlled; that it may pass from the face of the earth as the black plague has if we undertake its control intelligently. We must go into the sweatshops, the crowded tenement houses, and find the people who are afflicted. We cannot get to them by printed tracts, but we must understand by daily intercourse the people who most need the knowledge which we bear. So we are getting in New York and Chicago corps of physicians, nurses and other people who are going to do away with one of the most wretched things our civilization bears; and it will be done away with, not through knowledge, or because we have developed the art of social intercourse to a new art, but because in addition to that we have developed the power of knowing the most wretched person and inspiring in him the best which he has and the control which he has altogether lacked.

We have in Chicago a juvenile court which takes the bad boys and girls at the time of their first arrest and sees that they are not put into reform school or prison, or sent to the police station. The probation officer tries to find out all about the boy or girl, the family, the school, all the possible resources in the child's life which might make for better living, and then he says to the boy, "These public schools were established for you; if you cannot study arithmetic we will give you something else; if you cannot study grammar and spelling we will give you some work you can do with your hands, but you must go to school and stay there because it is for the interest of the community and your own salvation." And this one boy may modify the schools in his town, may introduce playgrounds, modify the tenements. I simply use this example to show how the study of one individual, if it is done in the spirit of intercourse and with the power which the really educated person can bring, may meet and overcome various problems. This probation officer feels that he represents not one person dealing with one person, but that he represents the whole effort toward getting at the sources of juvenile crime, toward getting rid of certain classes of crime which have disgraced our cities because no man ever intelligently undertook to understand them. And when they are understood they can be removed as other causes are removed.

The new education is meant, of course, to develop the individual, to enlarge the family life as it learns new sources of combination and companionship between the members of the family. But in addition it will bring a new spirit, a new power, a new consciousness to bear on our social problems. The young people educated in our old-fashioned schools and colleges who fall in the snare of self-culture will be the people of no use to us. But those who want to expand their minds and enlarge their powers and perceptions, who will take, for example, the Italian immigrant into their studying and ask, What can I do for that man, how can I understand him? who make him part of their study of Roman history, and ask by what he handles, by what straws he can be brought into contact with one's life -- such a person is a cultivated person, organizing his knowledge in connection with his experience of life, making all life fuller and better, and being as unlike the uncultivated person as the man who has eyes and ears for the birds and flowers along the country road and the man who passes these by unseeing and unhearing.

I believe it is through such methods as this which unlocks the new power of fellowship, that we will be able to grasp, in America, our great problems of increase of population, of overcrowded cities, of child life that it may be saved to the child.

I wish to say for myself that I have seldom been more stirred than this morning as I saw this class file by to receive the diplomas which many of you must have found hard and many would not have attained to but for the sense of fellowship which came to you with the realization that many other people were doing the same work. It buoys us up to come to a life outside of ourselves, and I would only beg of you to break out still further into the world about you till it includes the man who seems quite unlike ourselves, and yet whose experiences are so like our own and who is often so forlorn because he does not realize there is any fellowship in this land to which he comes, who thinks that all we want is money and muscle. As our land is growing cosmopolitan in its peoples, let us meet it with a cosmopolitan culture, let us meet it with a cosmopolitan fellowship.

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