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Five fundamental human institutions were given recognition in the formation of Junior High School curricula. These are; the home, the state, the church, the industry, and the school. The instincts which find their expression through these channels are: the instinct of race propagation or preservation, the instinct of gregariousness, the instinct of contrivance, and the instinct of spiritual aspiration. The last institution-the school-merely supplements the functions of the other four. As we can see, nothing has been done to recognize fully the importance of the institution of art of the drama in particular-which is the channel through which the strong instinct of spiritual expression finds its way.
In the earlier times, both the instinct of spiritual aspiration and that of spiritual expression found their way through the church. With the separation of the two, however, the latter was gradually suppressed, except in the countries where art was regarded as one of the indispensable human institutions; to the group of which countries we, because of our late birth as a nation, do not happen to belong. Some of the advocates of the Junior High School reform did feel the importance of the drama, but their recognition of it was limited to a few remarks which, in practice, have resulted in the introduction of only a brief period of auditorium exercises in some of the Junior High Schools.
The purpose of this article is to show the importance of the drama, and to move for a more extensive recognition of it in the Junior High School curricula. To achieve this purpose, three definite questions must be fully dealt with: 1. What is the inherent value of the drama? 2. What is the relative importance and strength of the instinct of spiritual expression? 3. Is the period of adolescence a desirable time for training the dramatic instinct, and for directing it into beneficial channels?
In considering the first question, we need not go as far back in history as the period of the classical Greece. Nor need we go to the period of Shakespearean tragedy to recognize the value of the drama. We need go no farther than the great reconstruc
tive period following the French Revolution, to realize the full importance of the drama in our daily life.
When the greatest thinkers of France faced the problem of stabilizing the social conditions of that country, one of the first human institutions to which they turned their attention was the drama. They came to realize that a national drama was one of the most elevating and unifying social forces, and, in their arguments for establishing a people's theatre, we can clearly see the reasons for ascribing such great importance to the drama. Thus, speaking in behalf of the drama Louis Sebastian Mercier said: "The first duty of a dramatic poet is to mould the morals and manners of the citizens. The theatre is the most potent and direct means of strengthening human reason, and enlightening the whole nation." Again, speaking of the theatre's functions, Marie-Joseph Chenier said: "The theatre is an agent of public education. . . . The theatre, so long effeminate and abject, will henceforward inspire only a respect of law, love of liberty, hatred of excess, and execration of tyrants." Nor was the importance of the drama over-estimated because of the immediate service it could render. Even before the Revolution, Diderot characterized the importance of the theatre in the following words: "Think of the power of that assemblage when you consider the influence of one man on another, and the immediate transmission of emotion in such crowds. He who cannot feel within him an emotion arising from the fact that he is one of the great assemblage must be vicious; his character has something solitary that I dislike."
The sentiments quoted above are not peculiar to the French alone. They are the sentiments of all the civilized nations of the world. So also many of our foremost thinkers see great value in the drama. I shall quote some of the opinions at a later point in this paper.
Despite the fact that drama is so important an institution, to most people the theatre means only a relaxation, a recess, a recreation. The main purpose of the theatre-that of producing an effect upon one's spirit-is either unknown or overlooked. The real end of a play is to produce some effect upon the specta
This something always lasts for a while. We usually have left in our minds a bit of human experience. Athough permeated with feeling during the play, it seems as though people preferred to think after it is over. It is not difficult to think about the play that one has seen or read, for the drama is more a personal than a theoretical matter. Consequently, people carry away with them important intellectual food from the theatre.
Everyone who goes to see plays is affected by them in one way or another. A feeling of interest or concern in what has passed on the stage is aroused in the individual. Many continue under the impression of the drama for a long time, and it becomes a vital topic of their conversation for days to come, resulting in the intercourse of their ideas with those of others. This exchange of ideas among human beings works for a closer understanding among them, and for greater social unification.
It is the contention of psychologists that the human mind is ever reaching out and searching for something concrete, tangible, and definite. These things an audience unconsciously receives in the theatre. The drama is presented in the theatre where human beings receive their daily impressions which, in time, go to make up their beliefs, their convictions, their likes and dislikes. These, in turn, become the vital motive forces of our social life. Surely we cannot afford to neglect an institution which is so influential in the shaping of our destinies!
By the general consent of mankind, or that part of it which cares for letters, tragedy is regarded as the highest and noblest dramatic form a type of drama very conspicuous for its absolute non-existence in the United States. The presence of tragedy in any country has usually marked a period of highest attainment in moral and civic life of the country. Surely we are missing the many beneficial influences of tragedy in the United States! Let us see what some of these influences are. Our own Mr. Edward Everett Hale, Jr. has presented the benefits of tragedy very ably in his work entitled "Dramatists of To-Day." He
"We generally acknowledge that tragedy is the great thing,
though we may not always be in the mood for it. It is commonly supposed that there is something especial about it which influences all men; that human nature is such as to be susceptible to that something, which appears in all sorts of forms, always different, but always having upon the souls of men some moving effect. Tragedy seems to depend largely upon the sense on our part of the insoluble mystery or strangeness in some action or bit of life that we are viewing. Not that everything that we do not understand is tragic. We must have something great, something of importance, and then, if the incongruity, the inconsistency be brought out strongly and poignantly, the thing is done. The more important the case, the wider the appeal, the more certain of success is tragedy.
Tragedy is a purge to moral nature, is the idea of Aristotle. It is an influence upon our moral nature, a purifying, strengthening, reviving influence. It does away with certain evils that annoy our daily life.
When we have put before us one of these poignant scenes, or situations, or moments, or figures in human life, where good and evil, strength and weakness are so inextricably mixed, where all that might, that should turn out so well, does turn out so ill, then we cannot comprehend intellectually, do not try to; we can simply receive the impression emotionally or spiritually, we cannot but be seized by a mixture of pity and awe. And that feeling is our feeling for the tragic. It leaves us calm and quieted. Things seem a little different. Everyday matters at which we were so hot, for the moment seem petty. We feel in a confused way that life is something fine, big and noble, and that we ourselves are not the only people of importance. It does not last, of course; we shall again be angered, ridiculous, blunderers, but for the time we are satisfied. We are willing to continue our lives in their silly individuality, feeling that we may confidently trust in a power whose detailed purposes have not been fully explained to us. What a difference from the "purifying" nature of our movies, vaudeville, or drama!
Not only is the drama valuable in and of itself, but there is
also present in every human being a strong dramatic instinct which craves for satisfaction. It was this instinct that produced the drama of ancient Greeks, and it is this instinct that drives millions of our people daily within the walls of our unwholesome playhouses. In our mad age of industrial development this important instinct has been and is being nourished on an improper food, thus depriving the individual of one of the most vital sources of his happiness. But it cannot remain abused forever; and it is the awakening of this instinct to the realization of the true state of things that causes a large share of the prevailing discontent and unrest in our society. It is the hunger of the soul for its proper food that disturbs the human beings living in our materialistic civilization.
In speaking of the dramatic instinct, Dr. G. Stanley Hall characterizes it in the following words: "More generically it is propensity to express the larger life of the race in the individual, and more specifically to act out or to see acted out the most manifold traits of our common humanity. Thus, no agency is more truly humanistic."Again, Dr. Elnora Curtis, in her work entitled "The Dramatic Instinct in Education," characterizes this instinct as follows: "The dramatic instinct is a prime force in civilization: the need to give vent to pent-up emotions, to express joy of living, put in material form the ideas that vex his spirit, has driven man to imitate, to create."
Nor need we go to the authorities on the subject to learn of the presence and about the importance of the dramatic instinct in every human being. We need only to look about ourselves, and see it at work in our communities. Has there been anything more marked in the United States than the recent growth of theatres? These are springing into existence daily, in answer to the demand for satisfying the dramatic instinct. And all in a period of the most serious depression in the history of our industry! Yet, the theatres will continue to be built, and never satisfy the hungry soul of the nation, because they do not offer the proper sustenance to the souls of the throngs that fill them daily. Unless there shall come into existence the proper kind of