JUNE 9, 1958
NEW YORK—More and more I get the feeling that many American communities try to solve their everyday social problems without getting down to the fundamentals which need to be corrected in our civilization. It seems to me, too, that in every community we ought to be concentrating on the particular problems which affect our basic welfare. If it is poverty in one area, or lack of adult education in another, then we should concentrate on getting the agencies together to change the conditions which are creating that particular blight in the community.
In New York City, for example, I find on the whole that there are three main problems to be attacked: 1- housing; 2- discrimination in any way against any part of the population, especially in the area of housing; and 3- schools. I surmise that this is also true in nearly every big city in the United States.
School difficulties, of which I have been making a little study, are the subject of a report I received from the Women's City Club of New York. It is called: "Report of Findings on the Facilities of the Board of Education for Helping Troubled Children and Children in Trouble," and it is an informative document which tells the people of New York just what the situation actually is.
Its recommendations lead me to believe that we are wasting money when we create separate schools for these children—known here as the "600" or "700" schools. What we need to do is to get more seats in the regular schools, to have better paid and better trained teachers, and to get more of them, so that we can put into every school the kind of thing which a member of our Board of Education calls "Operation More." In this way we can give the young people the benefit of having teachers with small enough classes so that they can know their children and have time and patience to let them talk about their troubles.
Measures of this kind would also help communities which are trying to do something serious about adult education and, on a much broader scale than ever before, to raise the standard of the homes that need to be improved. Having a teacher who can be looked upon as a friend would mean, I think, a cutting down in our juvenile delinquency problem, as well as less need for new mental and correctional institutions. We are paying more and more for such institutions; yet I would far prefer to pay more for better schools and thus attack this problem in the early grades where it needs to be attacked. I would prefer putting into each school all the services that need to be there rather than wait until the child is visibly in trouble and then giving the services in separate institutions, when often it is already too late.
The recommendations of the Women's City Club are in accord with these ideas, and I felt encouraged to be supported by them. I was also impressed by the club's survey of four courts where parents bring legal action against one another. I think these two reports should be read by every citizen of a big city, for they have valuable material which all of us should study and contain suggestions for action which many of us would like to follow.