DECEMBER 1, 1958
NEW YORK—Dr. James E. Allen, Jr., Chairman of the New York State Education Commission, who will look into recent charges of extravgance in public school construction, has been wise, I think, to call his undertaking an "inquiry." I hope that this inquiry will also make a real evaluation of the wisdom of developing as many different types of schools as we have been doing in New York City, where we have the special "600" and "700" schools for disturbed children.
The question in my mind is whether it would not be better to spend more money on the original public schools, organizing them so that difficult children could be treated there in smaller classes, perhaps with specialized personnel to deal with them. Apparently the need there is for more leisure-time activities and shop work to be available.
It seems to me that if we could succeed in meeting the needs of these children within their original school, it would be a better practice than what we have been doing. Undoubtedly the regular public school would in that case cost us more; yet in the long run we might save money by eliminating the need for the 600 and 700 schools. Even more important, we might thereby keep some of our young people from reaching the boys' and girls' reformatories which are the next step if the schools do not successfully do their job.
To investigate costs in the building of schools is of course very important. But I think this is of secondary importance in comparison with how the schools are run for the benefit of our young people. We must realize that many of the young people who do not do well in school have homes which make it difficult for them to take hold of their lives and lead them profitably. In these cases, it is often only the school which can fill the vacuum of the home. To have small classes may be the salvation of many a youngster who needs to find a friend in his trouble.
Thus it seems to me extremely important to look at the school problem with the greatest of care. It affects not only the way our children are educated, but the way they grow up and the possibility of their being kept from becoming criminals. In the long run, too, every youngster who reaches the state reformatory costs the state far more than a better job done in his education might have cost.
I would like to correct a misapprehension which seems to have arisen from something I must have written or said in the recent past. Specifically, I was told the other day that I did not think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the tenth anniversary of which we are celebrating this year—has been successful.
Actually, I believe that this declaration has had enormous moral impact on the world, and that it has succeeded far beyond our expectations even without having any legally binding value. What I meant to say was that the covenants—which have been worked on for some time and which are still in the process of final development—seem to be almost impossible to write in legally binding phraseology for the world community. Therefore, it might be better to begin again and try to phrase only a few rights in legally binding fashion—putting in a clause which would allow us to insert now rights as we came to agreement on them in the world community.