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CHAPTER 1

The Groups To Which We Belong “America is another word for opportunity.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson. *

OUR COUNTRY AS A LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE

You must often wonder about this large country in which you now live. From the days of the first settlers it has been the home of those who came from other lands to find a new and freer way of living. That is one reason why it has been called a new country. No one of the

No one of the groups which came to America had a right to claim the whole country, for the early settlers came from Spain, England, France, Holland, Scotland, Ireland, and other lands.

The settlers who came to this land brought from their home countries their customs and usual ways of doing things. As they lived together in this country, they found that they were different in some ways but alike in others. Most of them were brave and had come here boldly determined to build up a new country. They were willing to give their lives, if necessary, to protect their homes from danger and to keep for their families the right of selfgovernment.

Today the new country of the settlers has become a great republic. It is divided into 48 States, many of which are larger in themselves than some of the countries of Europe. Each State is separated into big divisions of land called counties, which in turn are separated into smaller divisions called townships; and there are many large and small cities, and villages. But they are all united under one flag and one National Government.

Today we are still a great mixture of peoples, who have brought into our country many different customs, habits, and religious beliefs. That is one thing which makes citizenship in the United States so interesting. But all of us in this country believe strongly that its many citizens can govern themselves, can get along well together, and can treat one another fairly. We all hope and plan that American citizenship will offer a fair chance of usefulness and happiness to every citizen.

YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS

We

If we are to understand our new country, we must first of all understand life near us, in our own neighborhood. When we look about us we see men and women busy with some sort of work in factories or mills; others are farming; still others work in stores. Since the United States contains many kinds of people, we are not surprised to find in it many kinds of work through which these people can make a living. Look about in your own neighborhood and see all the kinds of work which people are doing. How many different ways of earning money do you find in your own community?

may not know all of the people who live near us. In large cities we often do not know our next-door neighbors. We do know, however, that most neighborhoods have their own homes, schools, playgrounds, stores, churches, and religious meeting houses and other places where people meet together. All over this great country there are thousands and thousands of local communities somewhat like our own neighborhood. If we can think of all these other communities which are scattered throughout the State in which we live, we can begin to understand what our State is really like and what the problems and interests of its people are. Then we must consider that there are 48 such States, each with its thousands of communities. If we can imagine these many little communities within our Nation, some alike and some different, we can begin to understand what our American Nation is like. All these thousands of communities are parts of one Nation. It is to this Nation your own community belongs.

In your community you hold membership in a number of groups. You are a member of your family, your church, your study group, your work group, and your community group. Perhaps you belong also to some clubs, societies, or civic organizations. Then beyond your own neighborhood you are a member of your county group, your State group, your national group, and finally of the world community.

So we find around us all kinds of groups. In each one of these groups every member is probably also a member of at least two or three other groups, so that we can say that the groups themselves touch and join and merge into one another in many places. Sometimes groups work happily together, and sometimes they fight each other. For instance, criminal groups work against a happy and safe community life, and groups of honest citizens fight against the criminal groups.

HOW GROUPS MAY BE CLASSIFIED

If we think of the size of our groups, we find that some contain only 3 or 4 persons and others millions of persons. Our national group, the whole American people, consists of over 131 million persons. Someone has called our Nation “the largest club to which we all belong.” If we think of the make-up of our groups, we find that they vary from those having almost no organization to those which have many officers, plans, and purposes. If we classify groups by length of time they last, we shall find that some of them last only an hour or two while others go on for many years. A group of people may come together for only a few minutes to decide how to act together in some neighborhood problem. On the other hand, our national group is about 150 years old. Groups which are doing useful things for the community are called pro-social. For example, our honest work or business groups, our families and our school groups are pro-social. Groups which are doing things to hurt others are called antisocial. For example, criminal gangs are anti-social. (See Figure 3.)

DIFFERENT KINDS OF GROUPS "Everywhere men cluster together in groups in order to get things done."

[blocks in formation]

Complex

Our National Government.

A group watching a fire.

Short

3. Length of time

Long

Our Government groups.

Our schools.

Pro-social

4. Value to the

people

Anti-social

Criminal gangs.

Figure 3
Our Different kinds of Groups

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