NOVEMBER 27, 1953
HYDE PARK, Thursday—There is an interesting letter in one of the papers in which a student at State Teachers College in Oneonta criticizes a communication from a teacher on the subject of lowering the compulsory school age. This teacher evidently had complained that he was tired of "holding reluctant and recalcitrant school boys and girls within the walls of our school prisons," adding that they merely "clutter up the school system, wasting the tax payers' money, and becoming truants, idlers and eventual delinquents."
This is a very revealing letter for it shows a lack of understanding of the fact that there is something the matter with the training of our teachers and with the curriculum in our schools.
I believe that teachers perhaps are now well enough trained to recognize physical, mental, and emotional difficulties in children which should be taken care of at a very early age and which if neglected do lead to troublesome children and eventual delinquents.
Sometimes a child is deaf, or does not see well, but sometimes he has real mental and emotional difficulties. I have known children promoted to the grade above when they were actually not prepared to move but the teacher being unable to cope with them wanted to get rid of them and let someone else have the troublemaker to deal with.
We know much more these days about psychiatry than we used to know, and the schools are one of the areas in which our knowledge should be used.Schoolchildren should be watched not only for physical ailments but for signs of any mental or emotional difficulties.
It is quite true that there are many boys and girls, when there are jobs to be had, who would rather leave school and be making money than stay in school following a curriculum which they find uninteresting, and which frequently they do not see is preparing them for a better job. That is due sometimes to a lack of work with both parents and young people and a lack of revision and examination of the curriculum. There are children who will never go academically beyond a certain standard, either because of lack of ability or lack of interest.
They should not be earlier out of school but they should be following vocational training so that they can actually see that their chance for a better job is improved. There would be far less truancy and far less rebellion against staying in school, if this was evident to the pupils and their parents.
Home conditions, of course, have to be taken into consideration. The child in a home where money is really needed may well feel he has no right to stay in school when he could be earning a living even with very limited abilities and it seems to me that here is where work with parents is necessary.
It may be that with the proper kind of opportunities in school and the chance for a part-time job the child could go on learning to the limit of his capacity and be better prepared on finishing school. I feel that our teachers need more and better training and parent-teacher organizations should give greater thought to how we can change the opportunities for older boys and girls to be trained according to their abilities.
When a child has become a delinquent he has to be cured, if possible, but the time to prevent delinquency is in the early years of his school life.