The Gang in Constructive Social Work

“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 in142 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 sons143 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 used144 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 Boyville.

145 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 despise146 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 four147 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 the148 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.

149 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 with150 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. Would151 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.”

152 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 little153 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 premium154 also on strength of body, while most of its typical activities involve wholesome physical exercise which most boys would hardly undertake alone.

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 in155 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 natural156 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 community.

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The Tribal Instincts and the Wanderlust

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 though95 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.

96 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 emulation97 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 inconvenient98 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 same99 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 on100 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.”

101 “How did you learn that?”

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

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 fundamental102 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 with103 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 itself.

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 expedition104 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 in105 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 age106 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 temptation.

Third in importance as causes of thievery come things to use,—saws, knives, hammers,107 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 impulse108 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 virtues.

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.

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Further Activities of the Gang

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
41 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 twenty42 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 the43 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 lives.

On this point the most entertaining witnesses44 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 and45 a dugout a quarter of a mile out in the woods. Stayed out five nights. Slept in a barn.”


The crosses indicate the leaders

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