OCTOBER 5, 1945
NEW YORK, Thursday—On Tuesday evening I attended the dinner given to gain support for the Downtown Community School. This school, which started its career in Greenwich House on Barrow Street, has grown so rapidly that they have now acquired their own building on 17th Street, opposite St. Marks-in-the-Bowerie. The building was a hospital and adapts itself very well, they tell me, to the needs of the school, which includes a nursery school and more primary grades than they were able to have in Greenwich House. The basic concept of the school is that it shall really be a community school. It proposes to take part in the life of the community and include all the elements of the community among its students, thereby helping them to live and work in the future in a community. The part I like best is the fact that they expect to work with the parents as well as with the children, and this seems to me to make a great deal of sense in any educational adventure!
* * *
Yesterday I journeyed up to Springfield, Massachusetts, where I was met by two very charming young ladies who took me out to Mt. Holyoke. They were apologetic about the fact that I had to see the press and then, in half an hour, be ready for dinner, give my talk, hold a question period and attend an informal gathering with the students and a few of the faculty until about 10:30. This last gathering was the one I enjoyed the most.
As a matter of fact, there was really nothing to apologize about, for this schedule is what one expects on a one-night jaunt to any college; and I always find the contact with young people a revivifying experience.
Mt. Holyoke has a beautiful campus, and they told me of a custom established there which sounds delightful. One day in October before the hunting season opens, but if possible after a frost has colored the trees, the chapel bells ring out in the early morning. This is the signal that everything in the way of classes is cancelled for the day, and the girls can go climbing the neighboring mountains. They like it so well that these particular girls thought they would institute such a day wherever they were in the future.
The custom has many values, I think. For climbing to the tops of mountains can give one courage to climb over one's academic difficulties. The early months of any semester present these difficulties sharply to most students, since the return to routine and study means a period of readjustment after a summer holiday.
* * *
The questions which the girls asked interested me very much. They showed that the modern generation is really thinking with great concern about the national and international questions of the day. Young people have a disconcerting way of asking direct questions about subjects their elders would be somewhat reluctant to bring out in the open. For instance, the Foreign Ministers Conference in London, which most of us have been trying not to think about, had to be brought out and really examined!