JULY 22, 1938
HYDE PARK, Thursday —That was a most serious meeting yesterday. It could not be called a party. Directors of workers' education came from 28 cities and states, with Miss Hilda Smith and Dr. Alderman present. We sat down around the big table in Miss Cook's living room and one by one they told me their experiences and problems in various localities.
There was a time when the difficulty of any program of this kind lay in getting pupils. I remember that years ago I served on the educational committee of the Women's Trade Union League and we used to discuss at length how to interest young people in education.
Most prospective pupils have worked eight hours during the day. They have traveled to and from work and still have to get home after their classes, which are held in the evening. In fact, the directors told me, some of the steel workers have classes at 2:30 a.m., when they come off the night shift!
It takes more preparation and different technique of teaching to conduct these classes and the subjects, of course, range over a wide field—English, parliamentary law, economics, and history. Finding adequately trained teachers is always an important part of the problem.
But the old difficulty of interesting pupils seems to have faded, because all the discussion yesterday centered around the ability to meet the demands of classes. There never was a time, I think, when people realized more fully the need for greater knowledge. It is not only because it has a bearing on their own economic situation, but because it makes a difference in their understanding of general conditions in the world.
From my point of view this particular phase of adult education is most important to democracy. It develops an ability to read and to reason, to listen to other people's viewpoints and to discuss questions before making decisions. This is valuable enough in relations between individuals, but in employer and employe relations and in international understandings it will mean a great step toward reasonable and peaceful settlement of many disputes.
I was so much interested, the other day, to see that three of our Junior Literary Guild books had been considered for the Newbery (correct) medal this year and that one of them had won it. "The White Stag," by Kate Seredy was the winner, but Mabel Robinson's "Bright Island," and James Cloyd Bowman's "Pecos Bill" were first and second runners-up. It must give Miss Ferris, the editor-in-chief, great satisfaction to know that the choices made for the Guild are considered so good by people outside our own board.
One of the stories I thought interesting about these books was the fact related by the postmaster in a mining town—that two miners' families had often gone without food, but had never cancelled their subscriptions to the Junior Literary Guild books.