SEPTEMBER 29, 1947
HYDE PARK, Sunday—There is grave concern these days about our children. When I praised a teen-age center not long ago where youngsters were running a show of their own and seemed to be happy in doing so, I received a horrified letter of protest. It came from someone who must be living back in the dark ages when entertainment of any kind was considered sinful, and when children, girls especially, were chaperoned from morning till night! These teen-age centers, in actuality, are among the things that many of our educators feel have contributed largely to helping us cut down juvenile delinquency.
In the great city of New York there is an organization, headed by Mrs. David M. Levy, which is concerned primarily with small children and with schools from nursery grade through high school. Friday morning this committee held a meeting to discuss problems pertaining to public schools in New York. Ordinarily I would say that our schools everywhere in this country need many improvements—varying, of course, according to locality, but basically meeting the same difficulties. But I am almost afraid, in view of some of the things that have been said during the past few days in my committee at the U. N., to acknowledge that anything in the United States needs improvement! Every speaker has insisted that institutions in his own country are well-nigh perfect, or at least have been improving with astonishing speed.
I think the United States has done well, but not well enough by our children. Studies such as these done by the Citizens Committee on Children will do a great deal to help us. One of the phases of this report is significant. It deals with the experimental programs which have been carried on in some of the schools and which will be a factor in their gradual improvement.
But we also need better teachers, better training for our teachers and better pay. We need parents who are better educated and closer to the teachers with whom their children spend so much time. From my point of view, the parent-teacher organization in this country is one of our most important groups. It reaches into villages and cities and can be the agency for keeping both parents and teachers up-to-date on new ideas and new opportunities in education.
Strange though it may seem, our schools can profit much from what was learned during the war by those who tried to help our servicemen improve their level of education. The program of school health should be watched with great care. It can be of value only if there are enough school nurses, enough doctors and dentists actually to visit the schools and to see that the children get the care they need. I think in many places one of the most important factors in the school health program is a school lunch program. If all these things could be done—as is suggested in the report of the Citizens Committee on Children—and done all over our country, I think our juvenile delinquency problem would decrease very rapidly.