FEBRUARY 28, 1959
HYDE PARK. Friday—I spent last Wednesday night at Choate School in Wallingford, Conn., and had the pleasure of again meeting the headmaster, Mr. Seymour St. John, and his wife. The last time Mr. St. John and I met we were in Moscow. He was with a large group of educators studying Russian educational procedures and I was on my own trying to find out something about juvenile delinquency in the Soviet Union.
Mr. St. John came back from his trip convinced that for our own safety our young people should know more of what was being done in the Soviet Union. So, in line with his findings, he will institute at Choate a summer program of Russian studies, with the first one scheduled for this coming summer.
For six weeks—July 6 to August 15—a small group of students will study the Russian language, Russian history and the position of Russia today in world affairs. Then at the end of the six-week period the group will go to Russia for a month under the guidance of Mr. Johannes van Straalen, instructor at Choate in Russian, French and history.
I think this is a very forward-looking program and a rare opportunity for boys of senior high-school age, and it should be most instructive. Also at Choate this year a course in the Chinese language and history is being offered on an extracurricular basis. It may soon be included in the regular electives, however, which would make it easier for more boys to find the time to take it.
I always enjoy my annual visits to Choate, and this year I had the unique opportunity to visit the kitchens. At Choate all the baking is done at the school, as well as all the rest of the cooking. The chef, Mr. William Pudvah, does all the buying and all the planning of meals, and if any of his assistants falls ill he merely steps in to help. He came to Choate two years before the present head of the school was born. His ambition is to round out 50 years of service, and he is now in his 49th year!
The butcher in the kitchen has been with the school for 47 years, the assistant chef for 39 years, and one of the cooks for 32 years. This is an astonishing record, which speaks well both for the men and for the heads of the school.
I had a feeling that the boys were as interesting to the head chef as they were to any of the masters, and Mr. Pudvah told me with a twinkle in his eye that he saw them quite often in his kitchen. And when he told me how many years he had been at Choate he twinkled again and said he thought he would be looking for a steady job someday.
In the St. John house, where I stayed, a spirit of warm hospitality prevails. The maid looks after me, now that I have been there several times, as well as if I were at home. Though the weather may be cold and wintry outside, it is warm and friendly inside.
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It seems extraordinary to me that in New York City we have to discuss again the question of the use of force in our high schools to restrain unruly pupils.
Some of the teachers are behind this, and they even produced a high-school junior to speak in favor of it at a public hearing. The Board of Education has come out in opposition to the proposal, as has the United Parents Association and the Citizens Committee for Children. However, the American Legion and other veterans organizations, which may have been mobilized by a New York jurist who is unwise on the question of youthful delinquency, are backing this return to 18th Century methods.
The whole question of juvenile delinquency needs to be studied much more seriously, and the methods to be used to defeat it are more numerous than simply giving the teachers authority to inflict corporal punishment.