APRIL 21, 1961
NEW YORK—It is difficult today to take one's mind off the very serious difficulties in Cuba and in Laos. And wherever one looks, it seems, there are more difficulties, which may be submerged for the moment, that will loom up in the future before any calm can descend on the world.
I think the U.S. Navy made a wise move when it called off the maneuvers scheduled to take place this weekend off the Florida coast. This exercise certainly would have created excitement in Cuba and given cause for much more propaganda on the part of the Soviet Union.
According to the newspapers on Thursday morning, it was quite evident the counter-revolutionaries in Cuba were not fully prepared and did not gain the internal uprising they had hoped for. So, at this time it looks as if the invading forces will not succeed.
On the Laos situation I wish the Soviets would at least show their goodwill by announcing for a cease-fire and neutrality. Then I would hope that this would mean we would withdraw our military advisers and that our main efforts would be devoted to the improvement of the economic conditions in the country.
Mr. Walter Lippmann's three articles about his conversations with Premier Khrushchev were extremely interesting to me. There seems to be no way to change the fixed ideas that the Soviet Prime Minister and his government insist on holding as regards the United States.
Mr. Lippmann reported that Mr. Khrushchev said at one point that he had tried to tell me when he was in this country last autumn how rapidly the Soviet Union would move toward equality with the U.S. I reported at the time that he had given me a picture of what he expected to achieve in the next 20 years, but I always discount to some extent the comparisons between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Russians can measure from only some 40-odd years ago, when the standard of living was at such a very low level, that even now what they consider very great improvements do not touch what we would consider the average comforts of life.
With the coming of automation in many parts of the world there will be tremendous changes, but these did not seem to disturb the Prime Minister at all. He looked forward, he said, to the day when the people of the Soviet Union would work only four hours a day. In his opinion this would be an ideal state and he claimed their educational system was quite adequate for his people to use profitably this amount of leisure time.
I am not so convinced that so much leisure time for many adults is something to be so greatly desired, for to use leisure time well people have to be conditioned and prepared. Creative work is the only answer to real satisfaction in living, and we will have to find ways to provide this before leisure time will be an unlimited blessing.
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Now I want to revert to the extremely important problem of learning to read.
I hope our New York public school system soon will have all the remedial teachers that it needs, but our concern should not stop there. One factor I did not mention the other day may enter into the somber results disclosed, and that is that we have some schools where the turnover of children is very rapid. This makes it doubly difficult for the children to learn how to read properly, and it seems to me our teachers should be allowed greater flexibility in the methods of teaching.
It is the end achievement that we are interested in, and, above everything else, we want to give children the opportunity to come in contact with books that excite their interest and imagination and give them the desire to be able to read.
One very able teacher from a rural area, now retired, who visited schools in Vienna last year came back from Europe with the feeling that our discipline in education is inadequate.
I agree that there are several kinds of discipline in which we fail to train our children. We try always to make learning easy, when as a matter of fact the sense of satisfaction that comes from having overcome a real difficulty is great and contributes enormously to mental discipline.
I also think we have grown careless in enforcing the rule for respect that requires children to stand when a teacher enters the room and not to sit down until told to do so. This may seem a little thing, but in a way it is a tribute to learning and is an attitude we should encourage in all our young people if we are to expect them to really strive for education.