In early Greece and ancient India it was the rule that all property "should remain in the family to which religion had attached it." 42 Wills, as known today, were unknown then. This custom, which became less pronounced during the peak of the ancient city civilizations, was found again to be the cornerstone of the social class institutions of the feudal era, 43 and also, as one would expect, among the Aztecs. 44 Much of the aristocratic trend in the colonies was traceable to the practice of entail and primogeniture. 45 Jefferson hoped that much social equality would result from the abolition of these two devices, but many southern families used the will to accomplish much the same result.Next Page
The use of ancient callings. Tradition lays a heavy hand upon all human relationships to guide them into channels old with time. Such an important things as a by-gone economic system can have the effect of holding the class lines steadier than otherwise would be the case. In both Rome and England, close connection with landed estates was (and in England still is) a source of social prestige. 46 America, once agricultural, has ceased to attach social importance to agrarian residence or pursuits. Some estates, such as Biltmore, are only reflections of an age already passed.
"Agriculture still held in the estimation of the Greeks a certain primacy as the most ancient and most natural of callings." 47 Socrates and Aristotle both praised this idea.
In India the long standing prestige of religious functions tends to lend dignity to those associated with their most devout observance; whereas among the Chinese it is the ancient profession of the governmental bureaucrat which is reputedly most highly esteemed. In small towns in the United States today banking is more honored, as such, than managing a chain store, and lawyers tend to assume greater dignity than local manufacturers. This is in part due to the influence of ancient callings. Toward these the conservative upper classes tend to lean, although they will desert religion, governmental service, agriculture, or any function when it loses its honor; that, too, is a part of the strategy of status retention.
Education and apprenticeship. Wherever education is monopolized by the upper classes, there will be little social circulation. Wherever the lower classes are provided with a practical training, the same rigidity will result. It is a grievous error to imagine, however, that to give the children of all classes uniformly the same pre-collegiate secondary training will keep the social class lines loose and flexible, that it will provide for the upward percolation of most of the talented. (This question will be discussed in great detail in a later chapter.)
Examples of masses kept in ignorance are many. In how many times and places would the following sentence be applicable: "Here the schools of learning were open to the children of the higher classes; a poor man was content to teach his son his own trade."
Education and apprenticeship, broadly interpreted, are the mainstays of every social class system. They maintain the social class structure; they cannot undermine it. For instance, the pupils of the county high school at Potwin, Kansas, study only such subjects as are recognized for entrance into college, but only one or two of thirty take further academic training; they stay where their parents were. The social class system does not budge. The opposite training is given in most European countries. The parents are asked early to choose between apprenticeship and the Gymnasium. The common people must choose the former. Indeed, the effects of the two systems of training are practically the same, so far as the class structure is concerned.
In America, where lower class boys are given some hope of higher education, the higher classes, indeed, receive, in addition, special preparation; for them are provided: tutors, cram schools, fashionable colleges, professional schools, and special connections when they graduate. The end result is not mass social mobility. America's economic abundance, out of which is provided much education, is also superabundance for the favored classes.
42. N. D. Fustel de Coulagnes, op. cit., p. 105.
43. Dixon and Eberhart, op. cit., p. 141.
44. Bancroft, op. cit., vol. II, p. 255.
45. Beard and Beard, op. cit., p. 135.
46. Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, vol. II (New Haven, 1936) p. 200.
47. J. B. Bury, et al., Athens, vol. V of the Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge, 1927) p. 12.