ORDER HAD BEEN the original preoccupation of the orphanage, not just because it supplied a discipline that was lacking in the lives of destitute and deserted children, but also because the asylum itself so magnified the possibilities for anarchy. It concentrated children in confined spaces where the outburst of a single child might provoke dozens of others. The institution's distinctive vulnerability to disorganization meant that institutional order had to be more exacting than the discipline of a family home, and because it was so essential to the life of the orphanage, perhaps, discipline sometimes came to be appreciated for its own sake. A visitor to an orphanage on Long Island was told that it was beautiful to see the children pray, "for at the first tip of the whistle they all dropped on their knees." 1
In time, however, even the sponsors and advocates of the orphanage began to suspect that there was something self-defeating in the order of the orphan asylum. "At the outset," explained an officer of the New York Juvenile Asylum, "much time was spent in discussing and putting upon paper the details of our proposed work, and many rules and regulations were adopted . . . But when we beheld the results of our actual experiences . . . we found that they were imperfect, and were forced to the conclusion that no teacher was adequate to inform us how we were to proceed save actual experience." 2 Experience taught, among other things, that asylum children did not develop like children raised in
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Publication information: Book title: Building the Invisible Orphanage:A Prehistory of the American Welfare System. Contributors: Matthew A. Crenson - Author. Publisher: Harvard University Press. Place of publication: Cambridge, MA. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 92.