My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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PASCO, Wash.—I have a letter which touches on a point I have been troubled about for some time. It says: "My daughter has another year before graduating and has set her heart on being a scientist. She is a better than average student especially in math and chemistry...Because our finances are low, how can we pay for college? There are scholarships but not many of them in the South for scientists and the competition is keen and heartbreaking. We hear so much about the lack of sufficient students interested in science and allied fields and yet so little is done to help those willing to work hard in these fields. What can be told my daughter and those other children upon graduation from high school—that this country of plenty and opportunity will not help them? I understand there are foundations that lend worthy students the necessary funds for college which is repaid after graduation by the students. Do you know of any? I sure would appreciate it if you would let me know their names."

This woman lives in Florida but she might live anywhere in this country and her problem might be the same. Foundations have done a great deal, scholarships created by business and by individuals have helped and states in some cases provide scholarships but by and large in this country we are wasting good human material. Few people realize that this is one of the areas in which the Soviet Union offers us, I think, one of the biggest challenges. Every youngster in the Soviet Union is given aptitude tests and then given the opportunity, if they show the ability to go on with their education. Of course there are things in the Soviet scheme we would not like. For instance, Soviet youngsters are told what profession they are needed in according to their aptitudes and they are told also that they are to work for a few years in certain countries if they are needed in those countries. If they are being sent to a foreign country, they are also required to learn the language or the dialects that will be used in the country where they will work. This makes them doubly useful as they not only carry their skill with them but they also carry a warm gesture of friendship. To speak the language of the foreign country to which you are going makes a tremendous difference and allows the Soviet youngster to sell the ideas with which he has been indoctrinated as well as to sell his skill. The Soviets teach languages far better I think than we do in our public schools in this country. They teach English with both the American and British accent according to whether a person wants to go to the U.S. or Great Britain. I am afraid we cannot even boast that a youngster can talk any language that they have been taking in high school here fluently. These are the reasons why I say that the Soviets challenge us in this area and that we are wasting our human material. No youngster in the U.S. with a desire and a capacity for higher education should be prevented from obtaining it because of financial reasons.

TMsd 11 February 1957, AERP, FDRL