DECEMBER 9, 1939
NEW YORK CITY, Friday—My visit to the Bank Street School yesterday was a thrilling experience. Something fundamental is being done here in the preparation of teachers. They are learning to deal with young people at every age level and to relate the children's earliest education to the community in which they live. These teachers are going to be familiar with New York City and will learn a technique by which they can familiarize themselves with any community and transmit their knowledge in the classroom.
This school was an old factory and even its disadvantages have been turned to useful ends. The fact that all the pipes were left exposed has made it possible to paint them different colors, so that the children can learn how the various utilities are distributed through the building. Where does the water come from? How do you safeguard the house against fire? Who makes the regulations? How do we obtain electricity?
We should know all these things. These are the questions which little children ask, but which, sad to say, teachers who have graduated from our colleges, cannot always answer.
I would have liked to stay much longer than I did, to talk with these future teachers who were doing actual work with various social agencies in the community and learning how people live. The first and most important thing for any child is to know how his community functions. That will make him want to know how people lived in ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, or in any period of history which may later be studied. The wars will not be so important, except in relation to conditions of life. We will have young people who finish school with an ability to understand their own environment and its relation to past history.
It seems to me that Mrs. Mitchell, Miss Jessie Stanton and their associates are doing a work in the five Bank Street Schools that should be studied by schools and colleges all over the country.
I arrived at McMillin Theatre, Columbia University, a few minutes before 5:30, and from then on the minutes seemed to fly. I finished my lecture and answered a few questions, dashed back to my apartment, changed my clothes and had dinner and then back to Columbia for another lecture and question period. I was a bit awed to find Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler had come to introduce me in the evening, and when I found he was staying through my lecture, I was even more nervous. But my real critic in the audience was Mr. W. Colston Leigh, my lecture manager. For, after all, if he found fault with me, it would be his duty to tell me all my shortcomings!
Today is windy but clear and I am just off to attend the annual sale for the blind and the sale held by the "Friends of the Near East."