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Sociology - Cycle In Communication And Social Mind

Communication passes through a cycle in the form or manner of it. A great battle was fought yesterday; it was reported in a characteristic way in the papers last evening, then in a different way in this morning's papers ; there were editorials on it this morning, and more will come this evening and to-morrow morning ; then the weekly papers and magazines will tell of it so as to show its place in the campaign ; then there will be analyses by experts, accounts by eye witnesses, and other articles on special phases of it for a longer or shorter time according to its relative prominence and the hold it has on popular impression. But no matter how prominent it may be, popular impression will tire of it after a while; in-formation of any kind about it will no longer be news ; even information never published before will only be history.

A congenial group goes through a cycle of changes, as every one knows who has thought about the matter. It takes time for a newly formed group to learn to know one another. Then after the possibilities of the group have been exhausted the association tends to become stale; some work in which the group may have become engaged may continue to hold it together, as may also the ideal of loyalty to friends or some other moral principle ; but the keen enjoyment of the first acquaintance is gone.

Each phase of the social mind has its own cycle of changes. The briefer end by merging into more durable. In general the duration of any phase varies inversely as its intensity. A mob, for example, rarely lasts longer than a few hours; the members become tired and hungry and must think of other things than the ones which brought them together ; the mob therefore disperses, unless there be some practical reason why it should keep together; it can keep together only by becoming organized, and then it ceases to be a mob. Popular impression takes shape quickly in the minds of an extensive population as the daily papers and casual conversation work on the news of the day. But it soon merges into something quite different. On matters requiring action it merges into public opinion; on matters which never come to a definite finish, but which yet continue to hold attention, it merges into popular sentiment. Public opinion in turn, since it takes shape from the deliberately formed conclusions of the more capable members of the population, is slower in growing and holds to a given subject longer. There is more of social telesis in it ; there is less of mere natural selection in it than there is in popular impression. Public opinion, therefore, is likely to hold to its object until some definite result has been obtained, after which it, too, becomes quiescent and merges into popular sentiment. This last process, doubtless, a psychologist would explain by saying that the intellectual content of the opinions is forgotten while the affective response to the situations to which they relate remains. These cycles of the social mind may be observed in a political campaign ; also in a propaganda of any kind, such as that for military preparedness in the United States in 1916, and in the proceedings by which the students of a school are brought to support some project.

... A democratic reform is instituted in one of our States with a blazon of trumpets. Thereafter we hear rumors of its working ill or well. Then silence. A dozen years later, we are surprised to learn that half the States have adopted the new institution, and soon we forget the evil conditions which preceded, and think of the reform no longer as an improvement, but as a thing upon which we are absurdly slow to improve.

... "The heirs of all the ages" are spoilt children, valuing only their very newest toys. An infant born a few generations ago might have been elated over the steam engine ; a child born to-day will find the telephone, automobile, and X-ray commonplaces. He will no more think of aviation as progress than we regard plowing and arithmetic as valuable social acquisitions. Weyl, The New Democracy, pp. 158, 159.

... During the war many people felt that the heroic temper, the spirit of self-sacrifice for an ideal, the exaltation of sentiment called forth, were certain to raise our civilization permanently to a higher level, and to produce a lasting effect on the national character. But that has not been the experience with great wars hitherto. The wars of Napoleon were followed by an era of material progress, where interest was centered in the accumulation of wealth. Our own Civil War was followed by the lowest state of political morals that we have ever known, reaching its climax in the Tweed Ring in New York. The war of 1870 was followed in Germany by the growth of materialism that culminated in the present attempt to exploit mankind by force. Nor are these unnatural results. On the material side, war destroys vast quantities of property which have to be replaced, rolls up debts that have to be paid, and it is natural that after a war people should seek to repair the damage it has caused. On the spiritual side, also, any great moral effort is liable to be followed by a period of moral relaxation, After a great war, therefore, and not least, perhaps, after a war that has awakened so great an enthusiasm and devotion, it is wise to beware of a materialistic reaction. . . . Official Register of Harvard University, March 20, 1919, A. Lawrence Lowell, "President's Report."

In a Social Class; Immigrants

A social class represents some balance of forces in the population. It is therefore almost certain to become either more numerous or less numerous, either to increase or to decrease in influence, to change its opinion of itself and of other classes. An example of a declining class is found in a community which contains many immigrants of one nationality. These immigrants make a distinct class, with the language, religion, and other customs brought from their former home. But such a class loses its distinctive character and becomes Americanized in one or more generations according to the degree of communication which it is obliged to maintain with other classes. The successive stages in this process are much the same every-where. The teacher should have some inkling of what they are, because a school in almost any part of the United States may have to accommodate its work to some foreign element.

Welsh communities in America have made a brave fight to preserve the language 0f their fatherland, which is so dear to them. . . . The longevity of the Welsh language varies in proportion to the size of the community, its geographical position, the proportion of Welsh in the community, and the degree of migration from Wales into the community... . The average period of persistence of the Welsh language in Welsh communities is about three generations or about 8o years; sometimes more, and frequently less. Concerning the Welsh settlement in Ohio, briefly studied, . . . the following may be stated regarding the longevity of the Welsh language in them. Paddy's Run, settled over a hundred years ago, passed through its most flourishing period in the'30's and'40's. At present there are only four old settlers in Paddy's Run who can speak the Welsh language. . . . In the Jackson and Gallia settlement, the strongest and best organized Welsh settlement in America in her palmy days, and the best fortified by natural environment against extraneous influences, the Welsh language is rapidly vanishing, and is being supplanted by English even in the church services. About one-third of the preaching done in the settlement is in English, perhaps more. About two-thirds of the Sunday School classes in the churches are con-ducted in the English language. Gomer in Allen County, settled in 1838, is rapidly changing its complexion linguistically. Half of the preaching services are in English and more than half of the Sunday School classes are carried on in that tongue. Vendocia in Vanwart County, settled in 1848, is gradually coming to recognize the need of English in the church. Vendocia is the latest of the large settlements, here considered, to be established and therefore the last to show signs of the decline of the Welsh language. Strictly speaking, the signs were evident long ago, but they were not discerned by the leaders in the Welsh church. ... The Radnor settlement, in Delaware County, once a flourishing Welsh community, is now entirely English in society and church. But the inhabitants of the community are almost all people of Welsh blood, being the descendants of the early Welsh settlers who came to Radnor a hundred years ago.

The Welsh church is the great conserver of Welsh forces, linguistic and otherwise. The Welsh church is the last place to give up the Welsh language. When every other branch of social activity and every social circle, including the home, has ceased to use the Welsh language, the church demands it in public worship, even though every sign points to the need of a change. The main reason for this condition is that the older people cling to their mother tongue from sentiment, and the older people control in church affairs... .

In Columbus we have this interesting linguistic condition among the children of the Calvinistic Methodist Church, viz., there are more children, and a larger per cent of the children, of five years old and under, who can speak the Welsh language than there are in the next two age groups, viz., those between the ages of six and ten, and eleven and fifteen respectively. The reason for this is that some Welsh parents are faithful in teaching Welsh to their young children in the home, but as soon as the children go to the public schools and begin to associate with other children they pick up English and in a short time they refuse to express them-selves in Welsh even at home, and soon thereafter they cannot speak Welsh at all.

One Ohioan, who has been an officer in the Calvinistic Methodist Church for over 40 years in one of the large cities, and who is American born, said to the writer in a conversation on this question : "Our fathers who laid the foundation of our denomination in this country never dreamed of the present condition of things. They believed that our church would always remain Welsh."

Beginning with the twentieth Century things began to change. One sermon a month was preached in English on Sunday evenings. English classes in Sunday School began to multiply. For a time the linguistic struggle waged in Sunday School. Teachers insisted on teaching Welsh to their pupils during the Sunday School hour, and Welsh children left Sunday School because their teachers insisted on their learning Welsh when they knew nothing of Welsh on the street, in the public school nor even in the home. But the strong Welsh prejudice was overcome in the Sunday School as time went on, and today about 28, or perhaps more, classes out of 36 are conducted in English. By the latter part of 1907, English sermons were introduced into the Sunday evening service, regularly every Sunday. The Christian Endeavor Society is now carried on entirely in English.

The fond dream of the Welshman of the past has been for a community in America strictly Welsh, uncontaminated by the extraneous influences, and in which the Welsh language might ever flourish. But this is not to be. The process of Americanization will prevail over the efforts of any foreign group to the contrary. . . . Local groups or communities may try to stay this process, if they will, by clinging to some cardinal custom of their respective father-lands or mother-tongues, but ultimately all must be melted into a uniform American people. Williams, The Welsh of Columbus, Ohio, pp. 109-112, 124, 129, 130, 135, 136.

An example of a growing class is found in the leaders of organized labor. Teachers constitute a class which is growing slowly, both in numbers and in influence. Feminism is an example of growth of influence of the female sex without growth of numbers.

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Sociology:
Sociology - Cycles Of Change

Sociology - Rhythm In Nature

Sociology - Cycle In Communication And Social Mind

Sociology - Cycle In An Institution

Sociology - Cycle In Civilization



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