Imágenes de páginas

Crime and Educated


To What Degree Religious or Ethical Education
Can Prevent Crime or Reform the Criminal


Note: This article supplements the series published in the World's Work for July, August, and September, in which the discoveries concerning the cause and cure of crime, made by Judge Harry Olson and Dr. William J. Hickson, of Chicago, were described. Their views regarding the limits within which environment and education may approach hereditary influences in importance in determining human conduct are paraphrased in the following text.THE EDITORS.


HE Olson-Hickson theory of is opposed to the common welfare. Polyg

crime can be re-stated for pres- amy, for instance, is now regarded as a ent purposes in a sentence: crime in America. But any student of "Crime is caused by a physical history knows that a majority of the

defect of the emotional centers; human race still regards polygamy as a and this defect is inherited and incurable." virtue, and that of all of the peoples who

Numerous readers of these articles have have inhabited the earth since the dawn been disturbed by what seems to them of time, an overwhelming majority has to be a conflict between this theory and sanctioned the custom. Numerous other the facts of life as they have observed examples could be cited of acts which are them. “If,” they ask, “the cause of regarded as crimes at one time or place, crime is an inherited and incurable de- but are elsewhere regarded as virtues. fect, how do you account for the authentic Therefore, it is not necessarily the act itcases of criminals who have reformed?” self that constitutes the crime: it may be And they ask, also, "If the public accepts the feeling of the community toward the this mechanistic and fatalistic view of act that makes it a crime. Therefore, a crime, why bother with religious or ethical criminal is, strictly, a man who knows training, when those who are predestined that his neighbors have declared a certain to commit crimes must therefore commit act to be a crime, but who nevertheless them anyhow?”

performs that act. These are perfectly natural questions,

ABSENCE OF A COMMUNITY CONSCIENCE but they are not unanswerable. There is no conflict between the theory and the IS at the facts. But to understand the harmony between them, it is necessary first to re- the present conceptions of crime. The call how we get our ethical ideas fixed in popular idea of the criminal is that he our consciousness, and why we regard violates this community conscience willcertain acts as crimes.

fully. The Olson-Hickson idea of the First of all, remember that crime is criminal is that he violates this commerely an act which the common con- munity conscience because he has a descience of the community has come to feel fective emotional center that does not

ITHicksən theorpoparesh company with



[ocr errors]


feel about the act the way the community and seek thereby to arouse in him a lively feels about it.

feeling of your displeasure. Either way, The importance of this word “feel” what you do is to appeal to his emotions cannot be over-emphasized, because it and not to his intelligence. What you exactly describes the scientific fact about hope is that always thereafter, when he conscience. 'Conscience" and “con- starts to pull a cat's tail, he will be resciousness” are two very different things. strained by the recollection of the partic“Conscience" is what we apprehend ular emotion which you instilled into about right and wrong through our emo- him at that first time. tions. “Consciousness" enables us to ap- This, indeed, is the way you yourself prehend only the abstract idea of right and got practically all your own standards of wrong. Let us apply this idea practically conduct. What you learned about conto a sample case from real life.

duct at your mother's knee is the most

powerful influence in your life and its CONSCIENCE OF A THREE-YEAR-OLD

power flows, not from what she said, but THEN your son, aged three years, from the tone in which she said it. As

pulls a cat's tail till she yowls with you grew older, you got other lessons in pain, he cannot be charged with cruelty. conduct in church. They are associated He is simply ignorant. He has never in your mind with the emotional mood pulled a cat's tail before and he has no induced by hushed voices, the music of idea of the effect of his act on the cat. the organ, and the sober light from stained The yowl is simply a new noise, and as he glass. Older yet, you got lessons in cona ,

, is interested in exploring whatever is duct from the world about you. If you new, he pulls again to see if the same ever did an unsportsmanlike thing, which cause always produces the same effect. affected your future conduct more the

. You, however, have an elaborate set of eth- sneer of the man that saw you do it, or ical conceptions that prevents you from his words explaining why he disapproved? pulling the cat's tail. You know that it

WHERE EMOTIONS ARE DULLED hurts the cat, and you have been taught that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary pain. Also, you have been taught that Lessons in conduct, therefore, are it is ignoble to take advantage of your worth while, because lessons in conduct size to oppress animals smaller than your almost invariably are conveyed in such a self. Now you have the task of getting manner as to implant a permanent emothese ethical conceptions over into the tional feeling associated with the ideas consciousness of your three-year-old son. that are conveyed. Mothers and preachHow do you go about it?

ers both know this principle by instinct. Do you try, in even, unemotional lan- But there must be an emotional structure guage, to explain the abstract terms in the child capable of receiving an emo

right" and "wrong” to a three-year-old tional impression, or all the emotional intelligence and then assure your son that education in the world will have no effect. . the consensus of community opinion, The criminal never got this normal emobased upon the experience of the race, tional association fixed in his mind, condemns pulling a cat's tail as an act because his mind was defective on the calculated to have a bad effect on com- emotional side. munity morals? You certainly do not. What, then, of the reformed criminal? What you do is to use a certain tone of If he committed his crime because of an voice and a certain expression of counte- incurable emotional defect, how did he nance that convey to the child your overcome his impulse to commit others? feeling about pulling a cat's tail. Either

Either Of course the answer may be that he did you say "poor kitty," and stroke the not have this emotional defect-it has victim, thereby seeking to arouse pity in been repeatedly explained in these articles the child's breast; or you say “bad boy” that, although nearly all crimes are com

E .

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]


mitted by emotional defectives, there are are much rarer than they are popucrimes that are committed by normal larly supposed to be. Probation statispeople acting under normal emotions tics are frequently cited to show that under abnormal stress. “Unwritten law” many criminals do not repeat. The troumurder is such a crime. But there are ble with probation statistics is that they many others. For example, one of the are not accurate. Most of them are hardest tasks of the drill sergeant in the carried only a few months from the date training camps during the late war was of release, and if the probationer does not to get men into the spirit of the bayonet relapse within, say, a year, he is recorded drill. He had to teach them to charge a as a successful case of reform. But often dummy man and stick a bayonet through the probationer has merely removed to him, and to do it with enthusiasm. So another community or another state, deeply rooted in most of the recruits was where he relapses and his new record does the horror of killing, that the sergeant had not connect with the old. Or he diesto use every resource of his imagination the criminal type usually dies young. to work the rookies up to an emotional Or he becomes clearly insane and is comstate where they could stomach the idea mitted to an institution—the criminal of attacking the dummy in earnest. type has a heavy percentage of the more

familiar kinds of insanity. Or he exOF TWO EVILS, CHOOSE THE LESS

hausts his nervous vitality—the criminal HIS aversion to killing is the product type is so constituted physically and lives

of generations of ethical emotional such an unbalanced life that it tends to education, for the idea of killing an enemy early loss of energy-and becomes a is a natural idea and as old as the race. relatively harmless" panhandler," "bum,' The rookies had a hard time, then, to or "down and outer." Or he lands in a unlearn an educated emotion and re- home for the feeble-minded—the cruel learn a natural emotion. Some of them criminal type practically always has an never could do it. So profound was the epileptic component that eventually horror in some cases, that some men de- brings him to incarceration in an inserted rather than face the possibility of stitution for epileptics. having to kill. (Of course, some cowards

CRIMINALS WHO DO NOT REFORM simulated this horror, but there unquestionably were cases in which this was the NOTHER alternative is common. genuine cause of desertion.) Now de- Men of the intellectually higher crimsertion in time of war is a very serious inal type, who combine good intelligence crime. But in these genuine cases, the with a bad emotional response, frequently “criminal” had to choose between what enact in real life the story of the play, to him were two crimes, and he chose “Within the Law.” They do not reform; what was to him the lesser crime. No de- they simply sharpen their wits. Enfective emotional machinery was involved dowed with enough intelligence to do it, here, unless it be that a too-sensitive they continue to be as bad as ever, but emotional response is as bad as the true they are careful to commit acts that do criminals characteristic, which is a too- not involve them in legal complications. dull emotional response.

Everybody knows men who, according “But," you may object, "you have to the judgment of the community, conchosen a case of a very special kind. tinually do mean things, or dishonest What about the man who once stole or things, or questionable things, but alforged a check, and then got religion and ways in such a way that they are within reformed and never committed another the technical right of the law. They crime all the rest of his life. What about get away with murder.” Many “rehim?"

formed” criminals are in this class. Some First, let it be said that these authen- of them do shady lobbying in legislatures. tic cases of reformation are rare. They Some of them manage crazy religious


cults. Some of them are spectacular Thus the explanation of the reformed public lecturers. Some of them even criminal may be that he was a simplex attain distinction of a sort in business praecox case who belatedly fell under a or politics; but while their success is often process of emotional education, similar to envied, most of their normal neighbors the case of a high grade moron who, behave a sound idea that something is latedly, had his first opportunity to learn wrong with the means by which they to read and write.. Parenthetically, it achieve it. Some of them are palmists, should be said here

that hebephrenic and psychics, or fortune tellers. Some of katatonic cases are hopeless, just as idiot them are sensational detectives. More and imbecile cases are hopeless. usually they are aberrant types who man- But the more probable-explanation of age to “get along," but are generally dis- the reformed criminal is that he was a trusted or disliked, and are regarded as "border-line" case-in other words, a having a “queer streak.”

person of relatively slight emotional de

fect, whose conduct would largely be der. STUPIDITY-EMOTIONAL AND INTEL

termined by the accident of circumstances. LECTUAL

His type comprises the class of people

[ocr errors]


that there are degrees of emotional determining fact in their lives. People of stupidity, which for purposes of compari- exceptional endowment create their enson may be classified roughly as ranging vironment. People of normal endowment from "simplex,” which is barely dis- fit themselves into their environment. tinguishable, downward through "hebe- People of thoroughly bad endowment are phrenic,” which is a negative or un- constantly at war with their environment. responsive type, to "katatonic,” in which But the people who are just below normal the nervous responses are so poor that and just above bad, are the border-line the victim is affected with a muscular cases whose conduct is good or bad just rigidity when under any unusual excite- as the circumstances of their life happen ment. These emotional types correspond to push them. If they find it easy to get roughly to types which, on the side of a living and do not fall into bad companintelligence, we call, respectively, moron, ionships, they are pretty certain to stay imbecile, and idiot. Now it is quite “good.” If they find it hard, with their true that no amount of education can small abilities, to get a living, and fall make a genius out of a moron. But into bad company and strong temptations it is equally true that a moron can they are pretty certain to “go bad." absorb enough education to change him Thousands of potential criminals never from an illiterate into a person who can commit crimes, just because they never read the newspapers with considerable have any occasion to do so. And the advantage to himself. Exactly so it is true story of many "reformed " criminals true that no amount of emotional edu- is that they belong to this class, and after cation can make a finely responsive spirit one lapse from good behavior are so placed out of a simplex case of dementia praecox. for the rest of their lives that they are not But, also equally true is it that the simplex again exposed to temptation. Sometimes praecox case may absorb enough emo- helping hand” societies thus arrange tional education to make the narrow their lives for them, and sometimes the difference in his life between delinquency kindly accident of fate arranges them. and harmlessness to society. His emo- In either event, “reform” is not an tional life probably can be got under some- accurate description of what happens. what better control than it would have The man has not changed: only his cirbeen if it were wholly neglected, though cumstances, his “environment,” has the degree of education of the emotions changed. of which he is capable is very slight in- In very rare cases it may happen that deed.

a youth is arrested and convicted of a



The Importance of Environment


crime he did not commit, and the injustice embrace a new attitude toward the of his punishment embitters himägainst world. society and turns him to a career of crime. The field of practical usefulness of Such a criminal can be permanently re- “helping hand” societies lies in the disformed by a change in his attitude toward covery of "criminals” of this type. A society, because his emotional equipment further field of usefulness lies in getting is normal.

at boys of normal emotions whose sur

roundings are educating these emotions INJUSTICE AS A CAUSE OF CRIME

the wrong way. Much of truly inspiring CASE was recently brought to the work of salvaging bruised and thwarted

author's knowledge, of a boy who was souls can thus be accomplished. And invited to gathering of young men in the by far their widest field lies in the “bordermountains of North Carolina. He had line" cases, where environment dena idea that liquor was to be part of the termines largely what their life history entiertainment. In the midst of the will be. festivities the party was raided by revenue But however numerous all these cases officers, and the boy was the only one may be, they do not comprise the bulk captured. He was sentenced to hard of the criminals who disturb the peace of labor for illicit distilling, and his rebellion the world. This somber majority are against the injustice of his position led the victims of incurable and uneducatable him into a series of real infractions of the emotional defect. The best that can be law. But there was no genuine criminal- done for them is to make their permanent ity in his make-up, and it is easy to see segregation from society as comfortable how, with freedom and a sympathetic as possible, and to protect their potential philosopher for a friend, he could be offspring from the catastrophe of being persuaded to change his way of life and born.

Next month, this series will be continued with an
article on "Crime and Eugenics.” The rediscovery,
twenty-five years ago, of Mendel's Law of Inherit-
ance, has been followed by a series of brilliant
experiments with plants and insects that have not
only confirmed Mendel's theory but have also
added new and important knowledge regarding the
transmission of characteristics from generation to
generation. The most extensive of these experi-
ments have been carried out by an American,
Professor T. H. Morgan, of Columbia University.
The next article will present in popular language
the principles of Mendelism and its recent exten-
sions, and their bearing on human society.

« AnteriorContinuar »