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Barton, M. (1977). Evidence on the Moral Socialization of American Children in 1864 and Its Psychodynamics. Am. J. Psychoanal., 37(3):235-239.

(1977). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 37(3):235-239

Other Voices

Evidence on the Moral Socialization of American Children in 1864 and Its Psychodynamics

Michael Barton, Ph.D.

James Spradley, an anthropologist, has written recently in his book Culture and Cognition that “The richest settings for discovering the rules of a society are those where novices of one sort or another are being instructed in appropriate behavior.” A psychoanalyst knows that it is also true that the rules of a society attach to its general psychodynamics—the rules show what a people love and fear from their childhood, then what they must pursue and defend themselves against in their adulthood. The written rules of a society are its collective conscience in its public display.

Here are some precise ethical rules for novices which were published in George L. Bidgood's Confederate First Reader in 1864. The Reader represented a critical moment of moral significance for Southern children, for here they confronted some of the first official, comprehensible, written rules of their society. To ensure that there would be no doubt about the meaning of the rules the writer entitled the essays “The Good Boy” and “The Good Girl.” These were the only two essays in the Reader that were addressed to the subject of goodness, so we may presume that they were intended to be complete and essential.

The Good Boy

The good boy loves his parents very dearly. He always minds what they say to him, and tries to please them. If they desire him not to do a thing, he does it not: if they desire him to do a thing, he does it cheerfully.

When they deny him what he wishes for, he does not grumble, or pout out his lips, or look angry: but he thinks, that his parents know what is proper for him better than he does, because they are wiser than he is.

He loves his teachers, and all who tell him what is good. He likes to read, and to write, and to learn something new every day. He hopes that if he shall live to be a man, he shall know a great many things, and be very wise and good.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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