How Much Do You Know About G. Stanley Hall?

G. Stanley Hall, the authoritarian father of adolescent psychology

G. Stanley Hall, the authoritarian father of adolescent psychology

I read a book and learned about somebody I had never heard of before. The book was Babysitter: An American History. The person was G. Stanley Hall.

I find it strange that I haven’t run into G. Stanley already, since he was a psychologist called the “Father of Adolescence,” and I’ve been reading a lot about adolescence for the past few years. But no matter — now that I’ve met him, I don’t think we’ll ever be too friendly.

The author of Babysitter states that G. Stanley Hall recommended that teenagers be “corralled in schools” as a means of keeping them away from the temptations for which their immature, tumultuous, “storm and stress” natures would be no match.

For more about his attitude toward teens, the title of his 1904 book tells a great deal: Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, and Religion. Gee, Stanley — I didn’t think simply being a teenager gave one a relation to crime or religion. The fact that you do tells me you think teens are prone to the former and need the latter.

Here are some quotes from Hall’s Adolescence:

The teens are emotionally unstable and pathic. It is a natural impulse to experience hot and perfervid psychic states, and it is characterized by emotionalism.”

“Normal children often pass through stages of passionate cruelty, laziness, lying and thievery.”

Yikes! But then, I guess nobody’s all bad. According to this article:

Hall suggested . . . that the curriculum should come from the child and be based on his or her interests and needs.

For young children, that is. You know, the ones who only might lie or steal, but aren’t all hopped up in psychic states.

It seems that, if you knew G. Stanley, you would have to pick and choose what you and he agreed on as if you were selecting items at a Chinese food buffet. For example, here, from Wikipedia, is another of Hall’s beliefs:

high schools should indoctrinate students into selfless ideals of service, patriotism, body culture, military discipline, love of authority, awe of nature and devotion to the state and well being of others.

I’ll have a plate of service with some patriotism on the side and a double helping of the awe of nature. Also, give me the devotion to others. And please, no “love of authority.” It gives me hives.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Colleen said,

    Yikes. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how adolescents are either bashed or ignored in our society and it really bugs me. Where are all the magazine articles and books on ways to have fun with your teen or tween? It seems like as soon as a kid hits 10 or 11 the world forgets they exist except to complain about them. I guess that’s probably an exaggeration–but not by much…

    • 2

      sgaissert said,

      I agree with you, and my almost sixteen-year-old daughter heartily agrees. She feels very disrespected in society as a “minor” who is expected to behave badly, cause trouble, etc. Even the supposedly “positive” books and articles make sure to remind parents top be wary of rebellion, anorexia, or drugs lurking around the corner.

      Thanks for commenting!

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