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This is serious because natural leaders are of the utmost value CHAP. II to society. Not only is it they who launch improvements, but Leaders Necessary they perform a peculiar service in keeping up to the mark the to Rapid various institutions which minister to the higher life of the com- ity Progmunity. The bulk of the people are unable to start or direct those ress institutions, although they appreciate and support them once they exist. Often one sees a depressing slump in the religious, social, and recreative life of a neighborhood, following the moving away of two or three families of initiative. Usually those who insist upon and know how to get good schools, vigorous churches, and abundant means for social enjoyment, are a minority, often a very small minority. The loss of even the best tenth may cut down by one-half the effective support the community gives to higher interests.

The continual departure of young people who would in time have become leaders results eventually in a visible moral decline of the community. The roads are neglected, which means less social intercourse and a smaller turnout to school and church and Fublic events. School buildings and grounds deteriorate, and the false idea takes root that it pays to hire the cheaper teacher. The church gets into a rut, fails to start up the social and recreative activities which bind the young people to it, and presently ceases to be a force, perhaps even goes to pieces. Frivolity engrosses the young because no one organizes singing schools, literary soeries, or debating clubs. Presently a generation has grown up that has missed the uplifting and refining influence of these comnal institutions. There is a marked decline in standards of dividual and family morality. Many couples become too selfish to rear children. It is noticed that people are not up to the level of their forefathers, that they are coarser in their tastes and care less for higher things. Vice and sensuality are not so restrained as of yore. The false opinion goes abroad that the members of the community are "degenerate" and therefore past redemption. A this may result from the continual abstraction from a normal population of too many of that handful of born leaders which needed to leaven the social lump.

Ndoubt decline from this cause has occurred sporadically for thousands of years, but it assumes acute forms in the United States because the double pull of city and frontier, propagated by schools and newspapers, has worked on our old rural popula


tion of the

from Want

of Leader


Signs of pletion in

Folk De

the Older

Parts of

Rural America

CHAP. II tion like a cream separator. In New England there are rural counties which have been losing their best for three or four generations, leaving the coarse, dull and hidebound. The number of loafers in some slackwater villages of the Middle States indicates that the natural pacemakers of the locality have gone elsewhere to create prosperity. In parts of southern Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and even as far west as Missouri, there are communities which remind one of fished-out ponds populated chiefly by bullheads and suckers.

With the
Better Out-
look for

tion Is


Folk depletion no doubt accounts for the moral sag noted a few years ago by one of the earlier analysts of country life:

"Allowing for some exceptions, not too numerous, it may be said that throughout the prosperous and productive farming regions of the United States, which have been settled for fifty years, community life has disappeared. There is no play for the children; there is no recreation for young people; there are no adequate opportunities for acquaintance and marriage for young men and women; there is not a sufficient educational system for the needs of country people, and there is not for the average man or woman born in the country an economic opportunity within reach of his birthplace, such as will satisfy even modest desires. There is not in a weak community that satisfaction of social instinct which makes it a good place to live in.' Time was in New England and New York and Pennsylvania when there was a community to which every farmer belonged with some pleasure and pride. The absence of community life through these country regions expresses to-day what one man calls the intolerable condition of country life." "

Of late the situation has decidedly improved. The country-life movement has opened the eyes of many bright country youths to farm opportunities. More and more of the graduates of agricultural colleges engage in farming. Lately the course of food prices has told in favor of country and against city. As farm homes improve and farmers have money to spend, the country gains in prestige and hence in hold on its young people. High-priced farm lands necessitating the use of improved machinery, thorough-bred live stock, scientific methods and good business judgment challenge the more capable young men, so that in the more prosperous agricultural regions it is the restless rather than the ambitious who wander to the city.

Dr. Warren H. Wilson, Publications of the American Sociological Society, Vol. V, p. 174.


The hope of further checking the flow of country brains to the CHAP. II y lies in multiplying social and recreative opportunities for Means of heart-starved young people on the farms, in redirecting rural edu- Folk cation and re-inspiring the rural church, in dispelling the false Depletion glamour which envelops the distant city and in showing the bright country youth ways of gearing his brains and knowledge un to farming.


The world over, the psychology of city people is notably differfrom that of country people. The urban type lives on surfaces, life being so crowded with impressions that there is little mergy left for reflection. Compare the sights and sounds which had one in the street with those one meets in the country lane. Compare the big head-lines, chromatic print, dramatic posters and talpitant lights which must be used in order to reach the city mind. with the meek announcement posted at the crossroad. The former measures the intensity of the competition to arrest attention. The things the urbanite noticingly looks at or listens to in a day are generally many times more numerous than those that impinge the farmer's mind. As a result, one country-dweller sinks to stagnation the machinery of his rusty mind moving slowly ad only in response to a strong stimulus. The mind of another grinds on itself mulling over his narrow personal experience, his le stock of inherited dogmas, his scanty fund of scrappy unordinated information gleaned from his weekly newspaper. Another mind wrestles futilely with passages from the prophet Paniel or the Book of Revelation because quite without the equipment for interpreting them. Finally there is the farmer of 'ra:ned mind who, furnished by his schooling with orderly knowleige and supplied with trustworthy current data, by his own reSections works out sound principles.

The city atmosphere quickens the creaking rustic mind, making fer alertness, impressibility and promptness of response; also for rap-shot judgments and shallow thinking. You may long ply a ural population with facts and ideas which call for action on their part and get no response. But the impressions accumulate and presently you have built up in them a fixed purpose which inres the action you desire. Urban people, on the other hand, are sooner hot and sooner cool. Impressions are easily made,

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But the

Contrast Between Urban and Rural Mind Is Diminish


CHAP. II but they are not accumulated, for the city type loathes repetition. Now factors are at work which seem likely to wipe out much of this immemorial difference between city mind and country mind. Rusticity has well-nigh vanished from our Western states, while another generation will see its practical extinction in the corn belt and in most of the dairy belt. The farmer is becoming an entrepreneur, with an attention to the market which makes him a sort of cousin to the business man. Telephone and automobile link him closely with other farmers and with town. But even if the psychology of the isolate vanishes from the open country, it will remain the home of the rural mind, marked by love of the open, intimacy with nature, sympathy with growth processes, selfdirected labor and skill in dealing with things rather than in dealing with people.

The City Suggests Spending

The Farm

Certain economic contrasts between rural and urban seem likely to persist. The city does not favor the fundamental economic virtues such as foresight and frugality. The farmer is esteemed according to his production capital, his red barns, tight fences, weedless fields, sleek horses and fat stock. The city man, however, is appraised according to his consumption capital; not his mill nor his business block nor his law library, but his residence and scale of entertainment determine his social marking. In the country, then, the current standards of success incite to thrift; whereas in the city they incite to spending.

Again, the greatest stimulus to thrift is felt when one's present savings will plainly lighten future labor. The farmer pinches now so that next year a windmill may relieve his aching arms, or the horse fork take the strain off his shoulders. Moreover, his saving is expended under his eyes, just where it will do the most good, and no paltry 6 per cent. is his reward. The tiles he lays through his slough may pay for themselves in three years; so likewise, the new barn, the improved dairy herd or the self-binder. On the other hand, the typical city dweller rents his savings to some one else and takes the reward of his abstinence not in a vivid personal experience, but in an annual 4 per cent. from a savings bank or in 6 per cent. from some remote company whose directors he does not know and whose business he has never seen and would not understand.

The rural neighborhood rarely offers more than one or two levels of opinion upon the conduct of its members. Usually it


The City



the Golden

applies a single standard sound enough but mediocre. Individuals with a strong bent either upward or downward chafe under unstimulating self-complacent neighborhood opinion and mi- the Moral grate in quest of countenancers, models and appreciators. The the Coun city, on the other hand, offers circles which differ immensely in try Favors their standards of right and of excellence. At every stage of Mean descent into the pit one finds cronies, while one will hardly rise so far into the empyrean as to find himself without comrades. In the city, therefore, one's possibilities whether for good or for evil more fully develop. Angel or devil, hero or sneak, doer or kafer, miser or spendthrift, sage or fool-each more fully attains the limit of his nature than he is likely to do in the rural community.

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