JULY 18, 1944
HYDE PARK, Monday—When I was at Antioch College, the other day, Dr. Arthur Morgan told me that, along with the conference on international relations which was being held under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee, he was holding a conference on living in a small community. These two conferences met in assemblies very often, but Dr. Morgan felt that his conference was perhaps the more realistic of the two because people were talking about actual experiences, whereas in the other conference they were talking about hopes and plans for the future.
Dr. Morgan's thesis runs somewhat like this. The place where real friendliness and understanding of other people develop, is in the small community. The big city becomes too impersonal. Even the family deteriorates in the city environment and fewer children are born, so that our population will tend more and more to come from the smaller places. The difficulty is that too many smaller places are being deserted by the young people, who think their only opportunity for advancement, and what they think of as the good life, is in the larger centers. This, Dr. Morgan feels, is because in small communities we have ceased to develop all-around living.
We work on a farm or in a small industry, but we do not think of the intellectual and cultural as well as of the economic life of the community. Dr. Morgan took as an example the life which has developed in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Of course, it is not really quite a fair example, because Yellow Springs is a university town where, of necessity, many talents are available. Nevertheless, it is true, as he pointed out, that where fewer people live together, they know each other well and there is released a spirit of cooperation and goodwill if the community is organized for a full, all-around existence.
I know many small places in our country which have no life outside the daily grind of earning a living. People have no interest in doing anything together which develops education or entertainment and draws people from the outside into their community. In Yellow Springs they have been so successful in their dramatic productions, that people come from Dayton to see their plays.
Unless the small community is busy and interested and growing, it will tend to break up into little groups and there will be more gossip and more snobbishness and less community life than you find even in a big city. So it is perfectly obvious that a technique must be developed if the small community is to retain a percentage at least of its young people and continue to be a valuable part of our American life.
Dr. Arthur Morgan is always a stimulating person and I wish I could have stayed to attend the sessions of his particular conference.