Memorandum on the Study of the Races, August 18, 1922


Memorandum on the Study of the Races

I. It is desirable that a volume should be prepared to serve as standpoint and background for the special questions concerning races, for example, immigration.

This volume would show that races and nationalities differ not so much in original or inborn mental and moral worth as in the type of social and personal life developed, the ideals and values particular to each group.

The knowledge of these questions, the state of the sciences of psychology and ethnology, is now such that a better and more authoritative statement is now possible than heretofore.

A volume of this kind would not only give standpoint but an indication of the cultural values developed by the different racial groups would be of value in diminishing prejudice. A mere acquaintance with the schemes of life of other groups softens prejudice.

II. A series of studies should be made, under the auspices of settlements, of the problems of immigration as they appear in the experiences of the different racial groups.

Studies of this type should show what types of social organization the different racial groups bring to America, what experiences they have here, what forms of disorganization follow, and what forms of reorganization follow the partial disorganization. In general disorganization in an immigrant group may be viewed as a state preliminary to another type of organization.

It will be found that in his attempt to adjust his life in this country foreigner accepts and uses certain of our institutions, preserves certain of his traditional institutions, and develops certain institutions which serve his particular needs in this country.

In this connection studies should be made of the following immigrant institutions: [page 2]

1. The foreign language colonies; their location and their movement.

2. Foreign language churches, schools and other cultural institutions.

3. The mutual aid, fraternal, benefit and insurance organizations.

4. The foreign press and [theater].

5. The labor organizations and socialist societies.

6. The nationalist organizations.

My experience in the study of immigrant groups, however, has convinced me that the best approach to the study of immigration is through the study of the family life of the members of the various racial groups. The children of the second generation are the most significant feature of the situation. They show greater tendency to disorganization, or personal demoralization, and at the same time tendencies to more efficient forms of personal life-organization.

These studies of family and personal life should be made by cases. Life records should be made showing typical lives of personality development. Some cases should be taken showing individual demoralization and others showing the contrary. The effect of all the immigrant institutions, as well as of the American institutions, would appear in the records of the individual cases.

The general object of all studies of this character should be to establish the conditions in which all the members of a society can participate fully in the organized life of the group. This would mean also the conditions under which the normal "wishes" of the individual are realizable in socially valuable forms.

It is desirable that work along these lines should be planned and distributed among the members of settlements who are interested in doing it, and that the results should be published, preferably in the form of monographs. There should be some editing of the materials obtained, but the studies should be issued under the name of the person who makes the research in each case.

In this way it would be possible for the settlements to identify themselves with a valuable and unique series of behavior studies which would have a bearing in theory and practice in a number of fields. [page 3]

I think such studies should have the following general character:

1. The basis on which cooperative social life can be carried on.

2. This would involve a study by cases of the principles of human nature which must enter into cooperation -- where and why attempts fail and succeed. There is evidently in human nature a desire to cooperate, but development of customs and institutions which interfere. There should be a series of behavior studies, showing personality development under different conditions. I will send more definite suggestions.

3. The races should be studied from this standpoint as well as that of their comparative mental worth, etc.

4. It is very desirable that well organized concrete studies should be continuously published, preferably as monographs by the settlements and identified with the settlements. This whole behavior field could well be identified with the settlements.

5. Some special devices should be used to get public notice and appreciation of these materials.

6. Studies could be planned for those persons associated with settlements who have an interest in such work, and could be carried on more favorably when in universities.

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