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Children and the War

by Arthur T. Jersild - 1942

This article deals with the impact of the war situation upon children, and some of the practical responsibilities that confront parents, teachers, and other adults on the home front.

CHILDREN are winning their share their of the war. In England, after evacuation and bombings got under way, and in this country even before our nation became involved, it was asserted by some persons that the war was making nervous wrecks of children. Neither in England nor in our country (which, of course, has not yet faced a severe test) have children themselves verified these claims. There have been distress, anxiety, grief, recurrent fear, and a rise in delinquency in some sections. The war has put a burden on all children just as it places a burden upon the calmest adult. But already the war experience has shown that there is a greater reserve of emotional strength in the common man and in the common child than had been assumed by many who looked forward with apprehension to the effects of total war on the civilian population.

This article will deal with the impact of the war situation upon children, and some of the practical responsibilities that confront parents, teachers, and other adults on the home front. As the reader undoubtedly knows, the effect of the stresses of war on the child is influenced decidedly by the conduct of the child's elders. For this reason, there will be occasion to refer to observations that have been made of the response both of children and of adults to the war in this country and in England.


The young child's grasp of the meaning of military events and the outcome of distant campaigns parallels and shows the same limitations as does his understanding of other more peaceable social issues. According to a study by Preston [24], it is not until near the end of the elementary or the beginning of the junior high school period that the average child has much understanding of some of the larger issues, and of the sweep of military affairs.

However, although the younger child may be lacking in intellectual grasp, he will, of course, be affected by the physical events of war as they impinge upon his daily life. Moreover, he is highly sensitive to the moods and attitudes of those with whom he associates.


This leads to a consideration of some of the major emotional forces that are brought into play during a war. One such force is anger. Another prominent emotion is fear which in one way or another all participants experience, whether they be civilians or soldiers. Anger and fear are important ingredients in hatred which also comes into play.

There are other emotional forces, stronger than anger and more powerful than fear, that go into the waging of war. These are the emotions connected with affection, loyalty, and fellow feeling. For the adult, they provide the basis for patriotism, devotion to duty, and willingness to fight for a common cause. For the young child they provide a bulwark against the anxieties and strains which war entails. The response of children in England to bombings and upheavals connected with evacuation has driven home, as no peacetime event could have done, the importance of everyday loyalties in the adjustments of children.


Fear is a powerful weapon of war. In the early stages of the present conflict the Axis powers won some campaigns largely by means of the long-range guns of fear. One of the greatest, and perhaps the greatest, victory won by the Allies thus far was the moral victory over fear that was achieved by the British people when they stood at bay, with much of their armament lost at Dunkerque, with Hitler across the Channel, seemingly invincible, ready to strike. The British had every reason to surrender, but instead they resolved to fight. This does not mean that they were without fear. Of course they were afraid. But their resolve to fight was stronger than their fears.

Some Observed Reactions. All youngsters in this country who are able to realize that a war is in progress are affected by fear to some degree, even though, up to the present, no large direct assault has been made by the enemy. Some have shown intense concern, fear of bombing, of submarine attacks, of sabotage in vulnerable areas. Children who have near relatives on the scene of action have perhaps been most affected. Many children at the outbreak of the war showed apprehension and then seemed to recover their poise when no violence occurred. In this respect they show what has been manifested on an even greater scale in England where the phenomenon of habituation or acclimitization has been noted in response to air raids. According to Vernon, many persons who at first scurried when an alarm sounded later showed decidedly less concern [29]. As compared with children in this country who have shown apprehension, an even larger number of children have shown no outward sign of being seriously affected. It must be remembered, of course, that overt signs of complacency may simply conceal quite deep inner feelings. Again, the fact that a child has once shown distress and then seems to have recovered is no indication that residual effects do not remain.

Observations of the fears of British children and adults who actually have been under fire, and of children who have undergone evacuation indicate that while many have suffered, there has not been large-scale panic and that a. majority of the population has been able to gain an effective degree of mastery over their reactions to terrifying events.

Varying Symptoms of Emotional Strain. In war as in peace, difficulties in the child's everyday life may take many forms of expression, including symptoms of fear, or various forms of depression and grief, or anger as manifested by aggressiveness and hostility. Beginning during the preschool years, and increasingly thereafter, children are likely to conceal their emotions or express them, if overtly at all, by indirect means. Even a display of militant rage by a child may basically represent an underlying fear. Thus, if a child makes a drawing of Hitler and then proceeds to mutilate and demolish it, the outward semblance of anger may be quite subordinate to vague fears which this drawing symbolizes. Likewise, symptoms may "break out" in ways that seem unrelated to the underlying cause. In England it has been noted that children who have been deeply disturbed by a terrifying experience such as bombing may later show not only more than a customary tendency to be startled by loud noise, but also an outcropping of other fears, such as fear of strangers. Again, there may be other symptoms, such as bed-wetting, recurrence of thumb-sucking, nail-biting, and other "nervous" habits.

Various studies have shown that the child who reacts to a problem by a show of anger or aggressiveness is more likely to attract attention than is the child whose response takes the form of fear and retreat. It is well to remember that the frightened child is quite as much in need of help as is the aggressive child. Moreover, in times of stress the proportion of children who will react in the direction of fear is likely to be as large as, if not larger than, the proportion of youngsters whose symptoms take an aggressive form. In one study in England dealing with child evacues who showed symptoms of emotional distress, this was found to be the case.

The Influence of Example. A child's fears are decidedly influenced by the example of his elders. If a child's father or mother or teacher shows fear, there not only is added reason for the child to feel that terrible danger is afoot, but there is also added lack of assurance that he can count upon his elders for help. This observation has frequently been made in peacetime, and it has quite pointedly been verified by the events of war. In one study observations were made of a number of children who had been exposed to actual bombing. Many children showed no conspicuous aftereffects when removed to an evacuation center. In the case of those who did show severe aftereffects, it was found that in a large proportion of instances the children's elders had shown acute emotional reactions at, the time of the bombing.

One limited generalization that can be made from this is that as far as conditions permit, children should not be placed in the hands of unstable persons who are likely to "go to pieces" in an emergency. Another proposition is that to protect children from fear, adults themselves should not show fear. If this rule can help to remind an adult of his responsibility and divert him from being concerned only with his own safety, it will have a wholesome effect. However, this rule can never fully be put into practice, for even the doughtiest adults are subject to fear, and certainly in times of dire danger most adults will be frightened whatever resolutions they may have made before the event. One way of minimizing this effect is for the adult to have the courage to admit that he is afraid. Frequently an admission of fear requires great courage. In any event, the adult should be careful not to be furtive or to make a show of false optimism which future events will belie.

If after the event an adult can candidly say that he was frightened, he thereby helps to bring the fear out into the open, robs the fright of some of its mystery, and above all minimizes any feelings of guilt or self-disparagement that the child himself may have concerning his own natural tendency to be afraid. When adults have behaved in this forthright manner, children have been known to sympathize, to take measures to help the adult, and undoubtedly when such is the case, the youngster feels all the more strong in his own right.

The Influence of Background Factors. Fears are induced not only by the impact of a startling or terrifying event, or the prospect of a major upheaval, such as being evacuated from the home, but also by factors in the child's background and features in the larger context of his everyday life. In wartime England it has been noted, for example, that a large proportion of the children and adults who have shown severe emotional disturbance are persons who had a history of maladjustment before the war.

In dealing with children who are afraid, it is well to bear in mind that a given manifestation of fear may, in one case, be a rather limited and localized affair, and, in another, may represent a symptom or an outcropping of pervasive insecurities. But whether fears be restricted or pervasive in scope, anything which contributes to a child's poise and emotional stability under normal circumstances also is likely to stand in good stead in times of emergency or stress. Further, even in times of stress, anything that contributes in a constructive manner to a child's all-round serenity and confidence will add to the strength with which he can face a terrifying event.

Strangeness as a Factor In Fear. New or unfamiliar circumstances, or any happening that cuts the child loose from his usual moorings may render him more susceptible to fear. Thus if, under the pressure of war, a youngster is moved to a home other than his own or is placed in the care of strange persons, his fears may be interwoven with homesickness and uncertainty in the new surroundings. There may be the fear of getting lost. There may be a new fear of darkness incident to waking up in a strange place. Unfamiliar rules and customs may add to a child's uncertainty and he may feel at a loss as to how to deal with adults whose ways differ from those of people to whom he has been accustomed. Even a difference in games or in rules of the game may give him a feeling that he is unable to cope with the situation. Again, if separated from home, his fears may be aggravated by apprehensions concerning the fate of his parents.

In keeping with the foregoing, the more nearly it is possible, without interfering with the war effort or the child's safety, to maintain the customary flow of everyday events, including routines, work, play, and familiar companions, the more immune to apprehension the child is likely to be. Where changes are necessary, such as placing the youngster in the care of others outside his home, let the change, as far as it is possible to make a choice, involve as little in the nature of a break from the old environment as can be arranged. In England it has been noted, for example, that children from poor or affluent surroundings tended, on the whole, to feel more at home when evacuated to foster homes that corresponded approximately to the economic and educational status of their own homes. More important, of course, than the externals of socio-economic status are the countless physical details and human customs that make a habitation homelike.

The Strain of Anticipation. In war as in peace, the anticipation of danger frequently is more trying than the actual encounter with danger. Reports from England indicate that before bombings on a large scale occurred, people were tense with foreboding. For a great many persons the tension eased once the bombs began to fall. Then the danger had become tangible. Then there was a chance for action.


Action is one of the most powerful antidotes to fear and other emotional stresses. This is an important practical rule, for action, to a degree, can be brought into play even in dealing with anticipated dangers, and it can be a great help in mitigating anger. Soon after our country entered the war there was a false air-raid alarm in one large community. Many children, some of them taking their cue from jittery adults, were apprehensive. On the following day, one child went reluctantly off to school. She said goodby to her mother, walked a few steps, bade goodby again as though saying a last farewell. As she progressed down the street, she stopped and waved repeatedly until at last she was out of sight. But on her return from school she was cheerful and seemed to have found new courage. From the child and her teacher the mother learned the explanation. That day at school the first air-raid drills had gotten under way. At first the pupils were serious and tense. Then, as they learned with practice what each was to do, just how to proceed, the tension relaxed. Here, on a small scale, action, including knowledge of a way out, mastery of a technique which to a certain extent might be effective, had been substituted for helpless anticipation of danger. Each bit of active individual participation in the total war effort not only strengthens the fighting arm of the nation but also adds to the fortitude of the individual who takes part. In applying this principle it is important, as in other matters, to be honest and realistic. By all means avoid busywork that serves no purpose. It is a blow to morale, for example, if a child has gone to some pains to collect scrap and junk only to discover that his little pile is unused and unwanted.

Observations in this country to date indicate that there have been wide individual variations as far as children's participation in the war effort is concerned, such as buying war stamps, collecting scrap, doing errands in connection with local defense efforts, and the like. In connection with the latter, in the writer's judgment, most communities have failed adequately to enlist the willing efforts of older children, notably those of high school age. Many adolescent children could serve quite as ably as, and perhaps more enthusiastically than, their elders in some of the activities that are performed by wardens, airplane spotters, and the like.

One report that comes repeatedly from homes or areas in which the hardships of war actually have been felt concerns the willingness of children to pitch in and to help, to accept deprivations without complaint, or to do work that previously, for example, was delegated to a maid. Needless to say, children differ also in matters such as these, but the evidence, limited as it is, indicates that children, by and large, are capable of taking more responsibility in the everyday affairs of life than normally has been assumed.

A child likes to feel that his contribution counts. This is especially true of older children who are able to perceive the relation between their efforts and the total war effort. Also in connection with this principle it is well for adults to be honest and realistic. In the adult scheme of things, there is provision for volunteered and for paid services. Let the same be true in the case of children. If an enterprising child performs extra services in connection with the war effort let him donate his services, if he desires, or let him feel that as a laborer he is worthy of his hire.

Activity as a Means of Mitigating Tension. It should also be noted, in passing, that in some circumstances activity even of a rather aimless sort may help to relieve tension, at least to some degree. One writer in England noted that under the stress of bombing there was a tendency for children to be more active and "on the go" than under normal circumstances. Adolescent children showed an .urge toward physical activity as distinguished from sedentary interests. This observation undoubtedly has implications for the management of a class full of children. For children to be nailed to their seats for long periods of time is onerous enough under ordinary circumstances. If there is mounting tension by reason of the fortunes of war, there would be all the more reason for interspersing periods of activity, and for permitting greater freedom of motion than normally prevails in the average classroom.


Needless to say, a child's ability to "take it" will be influenced profoundly by physical factors, including his state of health, the extent to which he can obtain proper rest, and the degree to which he obtains an adequate diet. A population that is partially starved obviously will show diminished emotional hardihood. In this connection it is interesting to note that before-the-event forebodings concerning the dire effects that the expected bombings of London would entail seemingly were influenced in part by reports of the reactions of the civilian population in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. As it happened, the Britishers did not display the panic and disorganization that one observer had reported from Spain. Apparently one reason for this difference was the fact that in Barcelona bombs fell upon an exhausted and malnourished people while in England they fell upon people who were relatively well fed. The implications from the point of view of support of the nation's program of rationing food in an equitable manner, from the point of view of responsibility for providing at least one nourishing meal a day in areas where there are many children who are not well fed and providing all-day boarding care for children under necessitous circumstances, are obvious. The need for nourishment is not merely a physical need but also an emotional necessity.


One effect, and sometimes a cause, of war is hatred. One who hates is disposed to attack, to inflict pain and to destroy, but his anger springs in part from fear that he himself might be destroyed. Whereas anger is usually acute and episodic, flaring up and then receding, hatred involves a chronic »state. Hatred is especially likely to arise if one feels inferior to the foe and is helpless in one's rage, or if the war has come close to home and has caused personal loss or injury. As destruction and casualties mount, hatred is likely to increase apace. After hostilities are over, hatred may survive in the form of a vengeful desire to continue to inflict punishment on a vanquished foe. Thus far in this country, children's expressed reactions toward the enemy have differed widely. There are children who express hatred, or verbalize daydreams involving death to the enemy, or express bitter feelings through caricatures or other forms of art; there are those who more or less lightheartedly substitute Germans and Japanese for the customary villains in their war games; again, there are youngsters who seem to exhibit little or no conscious hostility toward the foe.

Hatred is an inevitable accompaniment of war. It may also be cultivated as an instrument for waging war, especially if it is found necessary by those in authority to stimulate hatred, by means of dramatization of atrocities committed by the enemy and of further terrors that lie in store, in order to arouse a lethargic people. On the other hand, hatred can also be a means of losing a war. The more intense and continuing the emotion, the more energy it consumes. Rage, with a passion to kill and with an all-out mobilization of physical energies, may serve a person in good stead when he is face to face with the enemy in mortal combat. But at other times a continuing state of anger may simply burn up energy to no good purpose, and at the same time interfere with an individual's judgment. The person who is confident of the righteousness of his cause and who is grimly resolved to carry on does not need hatred as a daily tonic.

Moreover, hatred can also serve as a factor in losing the peace. If a large section of the population, under the spur of hatred, is impelled to move beyond breaking the power of the enemy to wholesale vengefulness against a beaten people, we already will have lost the values of decency and humanity for which we are fighting. We will also sow the seeds for the next war.


The circumstances of war emphasize the importance of ties of loyalty and affection that play so large a role in a child's adjustment during times of peace. In the case of adults, war sharpens feelings of group loyalties that are partly dormant under normal conditions, just as a threatened tragedy to a member of one's family will induce feelings of affection more poignant than usual. The loyalties thus brought into play have their roots in the child's earliest experiences. A child comes into the world helpless and utterly dependent. His survival depends upon the care which others give him. The care which is thus bestowed upon him is interwoven with his earliest expectations. The passage of time strengthens rather than weakens his desire to count in the affections of others, and this desire for belonging prevails even when he goes through various stages of resistance, negativism, and other forms of self-assertive behavior.

These attachments center first upon the home and the family, notably upon the parents but also upon brothers and sisters. Later they come to embrace a larger group. Even a very humble home which, to an outsider seems to represent neglect, or which may be the seat of much bickering, serves as a haven. If children are questioned, for example, as to whether they would rather take a chance of staying home and being bombed or being evacuated to a safe place, the majority will choose the former. For many, the first wrench of leaving home for a strange place may be as severe as actual exposure to bombing would be at home. This does not mean that a majority of children will fail to adjust when, for military reasons, a policy of evacuation is put into effect. Rather it serves to emphasize the strength of home ties. In this connection it also is noteworthy that limited observations in wartime England indicate that, by and large, children who are most happy and secure in their own homes are likely to show the best adjustment "when evacuated to a foster home. The war has also emphasized the value which a child places upon tokens of affection, such as letters and gifts and visits from parents.

In times of war, to an even greater extent than in times of peace, there are occasions when substitute parents must take over the care of children during all or part of the day. Teachers constitute the largest single group of substitute or surrogate parents. Qualities which make for emotional strength in a child's relations with his parents are also the qualities which he seeks in any adult who substitutes for his parents.

What has been said thus far is quite obvious and yet it is well for teachers to be reminded of the important role they can play in the emotional lives of children. In the day-to-day grind of classroom work, it is easy for the teacher to become discouraged, to feel that his work is unimportant, to question whether the job is worth doing. The little details of living and working with children usually are rather unspectacular and it is only on rare occasions, if at all, that the importance of the teacher's calling is revealed in a striking way.

The exercise of affection need not involve gush or demonstrativeness, although this does not mean that warm expressions of affection are barred. More important are the countless quiet ways of communicating to the child that he is liked and respected, and the many incidental relationships that enable him and the adult to be at home with one another, and to consult one another's wishes. Among other things, the adult will not immediately set out to reform the child, and especially will he avoid efforts to reform the child (and thereby in effect belittling and expressing rejection of the youngster) in times of special stress.

Experience with children of one's own, or experience in the twenty-four-hour care of children not one's own, helps to promote these as well as other qualities that are important. However, experience as a parent is not a guarantee of good parental attitudes. Some parents are very solicitous when the welfare of their own children is concerned, but are selfish or even show a competitive spirit when the welfare of other children is involved. Although past experience helps, it is not necessarily essential that an adult be a parent himself in order that he be sensitive to children's personalities and needs.

In passing, it may be noted that while children need solicitous adults, it is equally true that adults need children. It has been noted, for example, that in a great many instances children who have been evacuated to foster homes have been sent back to their own homes not by reason of the insistence of the children themselves, but by reason of the loneliness of the parents, particularly the mother, whose need for her children was perhaps as great as, if not greater than the children's need for her.

Further, it has been noted in observations made subsequent to the war, as was known before the war, that to be responsible for someone else, to have someone to think of besides oneself, to have a sense of being needed by other persons strengthens an adult in the face of emergency and stress. The adult who has someone else to look after is likely to bear up better than the adult who needs only to fend for himself.


Observations of the response of children to evacuation in England provide some clues that may be of value in connection with provisions for children in this country who might have to receive out-of-home care during part or all of the day. In the English experience many difficulties were encountered and many mistakes were made, but the experience with evacuation as reported by some English observers has been relatively successful. As Burt puts it, children have adapted themselves "far more readily to new persons and to new environments than had generally been predicted" [4]. The instances of child delinquency and nervous disorders following evacuation were "unexpectedly small," at least during the first two years of the war.

In studies of children who have remained in an evacuation area for a reasonable length of time, it has been found that the incidence of obvious maladjustment or unhappiness is relatively small. In the Cambridge Evacuation Survey [17] it was found that only 8.2 per cent of the children who had been evacuated for several months appeared to be definitely unhappy.

Although these findings seem to be rather favorable, some observers are of the opinion that, for many children, evacuation may constitute a greater hardship than remaining at home in a bombed area. In any event it appears that large-scale evacuation, in accordance with careful planning, should be resorted to only if it is probable that an area will be* subjected to intense attack, as distinguished from desultory raids.

It has been noted in England that special provision must be made for those children who are likely to be misfits in any foster home. Burt points out that among such cases are those children who are physically weak, mentally defective, educationally backward, or who have a tendency to be unstable, neurotic, or delinquent [5]. Burt also mentions the need for special provisions for those who suffer from incontinence, notably enuresis and bed-wetting, which proved to present a problem in a rather large proportion of evacuated children.

It is clear that anyone who takes over the care of a child should, as far as possible, be sensitive to the feelings of the child's own parents. The child's parents may be anxious about their children, lonely for their return, or dissatisfied with the foster home, unable to afford the cost of clothes, visits, and the like. There may be friction between the child's own parents and his foster parents due to clash of personalities, practical inconveniences, ingratitude on the part of the visiting parent, an intolerant attitude by the foster parent. Anything in the way of a superior attitude or belittlement of a child's own home situation is likely to make for hardship. Reproaches directed against a child's parents are in a sense a way of belittling and antagonizing the child himself.

By and large, the younger the child is, the more provision should be made for having him under the care of his own mother, although it has been noted, in the case of young infants, that the child needs a motherly person whether it is his own mother or another woman.

Granting that a situation has been provided that is suitable in general, it is important on the child's arrival to make him feel that he is welcome. One means of appeal, of course, is to provide food that the child likes rather than to introduce him immediately to a diet that may differ from his diet at home. Facilities for sleep and toileting also are important. Some children are quite diffident about going to the toilet in a strange place. It is reported in the case of one child that he had spent three days in a foster home before he discovered the location of the toilet. This is undoubtedly extreme, but it is well to remember that eating, sleeping, and elimination are important pre-occupations of an individual throughout childhood and later years.

Among many other touches that may help a child to feel at home is to give him an opportunity soon after his arrival to feel that he has something to contribute. As time passes and he comes to know his way around, there will also be more and more opportunity to consult his wishes in matters that permit a choice.

Under all circumstances in which children are placed under the care of others for all or part of the day, it is important to be candid and honest about plans and not to build up false expectations in the child. As far as possible the youngster should participate in the discussions leading to his removal to another place. Although circumstances may not permit him to have much choice in the matter, at least the very fact of participating in the discussions gives him some degree of control. Further, where out-of-home provisions are made for children, the decisions should not simply be imposed upon parents by an official group, but the parents should participate from the beginning, as far as possible, in all plans that are made.

Adults who take over the care of children are bound to meet with many annoyances and these will be acute unless they are prepared to take children as they are. Many complaints are likely to arise out of seemingly trivial things, such as the child's use of slang or poor grammar, his lack of etiquette at table, his lack of thoroughgoing cleanliness, his tendency to be noisy, to dawdle, to tarry. A prudish adult may find himself disturbed to such a degree by the child's language, knowledge, and practices in matters relating to sex that he hinders rather than helps the child in this regard. As mentioned above, one problem that was met in dealing with evacuated children was enuresis and bed-wetting. It is easy to blame such incontinence on the child's parents or on the child himself, when actually in many instances the difficulty may have been more a symptom of tension than an indication of poor habit training. The foregoing does not suggest that an adult who takes over the care of someone else's child must forthwith abandon all his own ideals and scruples as to what constitutes good behavior. It is only implied that at the beginning he should try to meet the child a little more than half way. This means also that he will not carry a chip on his shoulder as far as the child's parents are concerned. Interesting in this connection is a comment made by Anna Freud in a report from the Hampstead Nursery Colony: We were warned in the beginning that we would find the London parents of the poorer classes unappreciative, critical, and only too glad to dump their children on us and to forget all about them and their future obligations. What we experienced was just the opposite" [n]. There are, of course, irresponsible parents, but the more a person in charge of children assumes that the children's parents are decent people, the more decent they are likely to turn out to be.


To win the war we must first beat the enemy, but we must also be prepared for the struggle of maintaining peace when the war is over. The maintenance of peace in years to come will lie in the hands of children who are now in schoolfrom nursery through high school. This places a tremendous responsibility upon teachers. If there were an easy formula for peace it would be fine, but there is no simple formula. There are a few matters that can be noted, however. It is easier to whip up an aggressive spirit for the prosecution of war, since it is necessary either to fight or go under, than to buckle down to the hard grind that is involved in maintaining conditions that might help to prevent a future war.

Some readers may be reminded of certain aspects of the aftermath of the last war. For one thing, there arose a wave of hypocrisy. Writers and speakers on every hand arose to debunk the war. It was blamed upon militarists, capitalists, munitions makers, or this or that scapegoat. It became fashionable to inveigh against armaments as though disarmament by one country would in itself remove an impulse for war in other countries. Peace slogans were widely adopted, sometimes as a handy and ulterior means of attracting a following for this or that militant ideology. Through all of this there seemed to be little recognition of the fact that actually to maintain and safeguard peace involves arduous work and many of the sacrifices that are necessary for the waging of a war.

In the meantime, also, our culture was saturated with belligerency of various lands. We reveled in the exploits, in the pursuit and the execution of criminals through newspapers and fiction, but gave relatively little thought to the causes of crime. A vindictive spirit prevailed in a large number of the comics, movies, and radio programs designed for children. Perhaps, as some have claimed, the aggressive element in these forms' of entertainment serves as a wholesome outlet, but it is quite as likely that, in subtle ways, continued spotlighting of melodramatic heroics by way of violence in the long run has a more unfavorable than salutary effect. In the meantime, likewise, large sections of our population showed complacency in the face of the persecution of minorities.

Even in some of our elementary schools the indoctrination designed to promote "social consciousness" took mainly the form of creating bias against this or that theory or condition, remote from the child's sphere of activity. One thing that will be needed in building for peace will be more in the nature of sincerity and honesty and less in the nature of divorcement between the big ideas of social betterment that are taught in the classroom and the translation of such ideas in terms of everyday deeds. There is the old saying that charity begins at home, and we might add that it too seldom goes far beyond that, but any genuine program for peace must be based primarily upon a practicable formulation and an extension outward of the charitable sentiments and practices which prevail in a good home.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 44 Number 1, 1942, p. 7-20
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 9210, Date Accessed: 10/24/2021 10:47:51 AM

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About the Author
  • Arthur Jersild
    Professor of Education, Teachers College
    ARTHUR T. JERSILD, who contributed "Children and the War," is the author of research studies and textbooks in child development; editor of Child Development Monographs; associate editor of Child Development Abstracts and Bibliography and of the Journal of Experimental Education; consulting psychologist for the Columbia Broadcasting System; and chairman of the Committee on War Services to Children of the American Psychological Association.
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