Respect for Government and law is not a natural instinct. It is an artificial attitude slowly built up in the individual by all sorts of direct and indirect social pressure. The breakdown of old habits of thought in any one of the great departments of social activity very rapidly affects the other phases of conduct. The whole moral life of the individual tends to become unsettled. Nothing is held firmly except the selfish determination to obtain material wealth. Ideas and ideals which stand in the way of this are cast aside. The Americanized foreigner possesses all the native Americans’ ruthless greed without possessing his social, ethical, religious, or political idealism.
No man can learn a language perfectly who learns it deliberately, and social ideals are harder to learn than language. They can never be learned naturally and completely except when they are learned so gradually and imperceptibly that the process is unrecognized and largely unconscious. This can never be possible in the case of the foreign born, and is only very partially attainable in the case of the children foreign born. Its complete realization is possible only in the case of children born and reared in an entirely American environment. That is to say it cannot be accomplished before the third generation at the earliest, and often not then.
By Glenn Frank in the “Century Magazine,” June, 1920.
We are a nation of confirmed uplifters. We are never happy except when we are reforming something or saving somebody. It doesn’t matter greatly whom we are saving or what we are reforming; the game is the thing. This uplift urge expresses itself in the “movement” mania, the endemic home of which is United States. The American cannot live by bread alone; he must have committees, clubs, constitutions, by-laws, platforms, and resolutions. These things, the machinery of uplift are his meat and wine. The American society women takes to “social service” and the American business man to “public work” as a bird takes to the air or a hound to the trail. It is in the blood.
Just now the most popular social sport is “Americanization.” It is in many ways an ideal movement. It fully satisfies the passion of the comfortable classes for uplift, and is a Godsend to the candidate who wants something to grow fervent about in lieu of a frank facing of fundamental issues of politics and industry. Above all, Americanization work gives one the righteous feeling of a defender of the faith. The epidemic faddist character of much Americanization work was pointedly stated in a recent article by Simon J. Lubin and Christina Krysto in “The Survey.” They said:
“Every social organization, every religious society, every large industry, every woman’s club has been busy for months mapping out its own particular program. The study of Americanization has been used to stimulate interest in organizations which were dying a natural death; Americanization has been used as a pretext for sudden improvements in industrial management when the attitude of labor has made sudden improvements imperative; Americanization has been used to give employment to social workers out of jobs.”