JUNE 27, 1939
HYDE PARK, Monday—I am afraid that in all the economy and the changes which are coming in the various plans for the WPA, the adult education program in which I have been very much interested, may suffer. I am interested in the whole program which includes, of course, an opportunity for adults to learn English, to have courses in citizenship, and history, and even, in some cases, to learn some handcrafts.
I noticed in Sunday's papers, however, that in New York City the whole program will be administered through the schools, and this seems to create a good deal of anxiety about the worker's education program. This particular program has been carried on with an advisory committee on which labor unions have had representation and, when they, themselves, have been carrying on an educational program, they have been able to increase their services with help from WPA teachers.
As I understand the plan for New York City, at least, this help would no longer be available and workers wishing to take courses would have to take such courses as are offered through the school organization. These courses may or may not have special bearing on the subjects in which they are interested.
Of course, English and economics might well be included in any course for adults, but the history of the labor movement would undoubtedly not be included. Some other subjects would be treated differently if the student body was entirely composed of workers, or there were a mixed group of people with varied interests.
Then, this question of citizenship training is becoming almost an obsession with me. I have come across one or two such sad stories about people who have been in this country many years, have helped to develop it, and now are thrown off WPA because they are not citizens. Yet no one ever told them how to get their papers, or pointed out the desirability of becoming a citizen.
One particularly sad case came to light the other day in a letter from the young minister who is doing so much to help people in Scotts Run, West Virginia. One of his best helpers was informed that he could no longer be on WPA because he was not a citizen, though he had lived over thirty years in this country and all his children were born here. He applied for local relief, but, unfortunately for him, when work was steady and wages were good, he had bought his little home. Now his son and daughter, also out of work, had come to live with him. As long as he owned the little house, however, neither he nor his son could get relief. Finally, Surplus Commodities gave him a pound or so of beans and he went home and hanged himself in his own little garden. Curious world, isn't it?
My mother-in-law had distinguished guests for luncheon today and I almost missed an appointment with three gentlemen who came to talk about "The Open Road" an organization which has been taking people on inexpensive trips to various parts of the world and which now contemplates a much more interesting piece of work.