JUNE 27, 1946
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—Yesterday I paid my first summer visit to Wiltwyck School for Boys. Mr. Stillman, the assistant director, told my four guests a little about the school and showed them around.
One of my guests had never been to a school where boys are sent from the courts, and he was astounded to hear that institutions for the rehabilitation of young offenders are not run in the same way as private boarding schools. When we explained to him what some of the differences are, he said quite firmly that he thought he would like to turn his back upon the human race, since he did not consider that any child should be treated as a criminal.
That parents could be cruel, that people who run institutions could become callous, that taxpayers could be indifferent—all these things seemed to him an indictment of the human race. I suppose they are, but you have to take things as you find them in this world and do what you can to remedy them.
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Finally, somebody asked Mr. Stillman how many boys he had at Wiltwyck, and he said 80. Then he was asked how many delinquent children there were in the country, and he said he did not know the statistics but thought they might run up to the million mark. A profound gloom seemed to settle upon my guest, and he said, "But you are only scratching the surface."
I could not help laughing because that is the reaction which so many of us have, but if we let it influence us, nothing experimental would ever be tried. There would never be any new developments if no one dared to tackle the things at hand because they could not tackle the problems of the world.
We were stopped on the way over and on the way back because every car going over the Mid-Hudson Bridge was being examined. A very bold bank robbery had taken place in Poughkeepsie in broad daylight, and the robbers had got away in a stolen car. We moved so slowly and it was so hot that I thought my car was going to boil over. When we finally reached the state police, they suddenly recognized me and politely waved me on.
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In the late afternoon, we went up to the camp at Tivoli, N.Y., which the Farmers Cooperative is running. We had a picnic supper with us which we ate on a grassy spot in the shade, back of the camp.
At 7 o'clock, we joined the girl campers, who had been hard at work picking strawberries. One girl told me it had been 107 degrees in the field in which she worked. The group is mixed—a few college girls, a few from private schools, but the majority are working girls spending their vacation in this way. The farmers are well satisfied with the work they do, and say it is an excellent group.
We had strawberry shortcake with the campers, and then I talked for half an hour. After that, they asked me questions for another hour. I think the experience of camp life and an 8-hour day in the fields is probably very valuable for all of them.