Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 230
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 230
 
being chased, the policeman looms up to take a hand, and is hailed with joyful awe. Occasionally the raids have a comic tinge. A German grocer wandered into police headquarters with an appeal for protection against the boys.
  “Vat means dot #‘cheese it’#?” he asked, rubbing his bald head in helpless bewilderment. “Efery dime dey says #‘cheese it,’# somedings vas gone.”
  To the lawlessness of the street the home opposes no obstacle, as we have seen. Within the memory of most of us the school did not. It might have more to offer even now. But we have gone such a long way since the day I am thinking of that I am not going to find fault. I used to think that some of them needed to be made over, until they were fit to turn out whole, sound boys, instead of queer manikins stuffed with information for which they have no use, and which is none of their business anyhow. It seemed to me, sometimes, when watching the process of cramming the school course with the sum of human knowledge and conceit, as if it all meant that we distrusted Nature’s way of growing a man from a boy, and had set out to show her a shorter cut. A common result was the kind of mental befogment that had Abraham Lincoln murdered by Ballington Booth, and a superficiality, a hopeless slurring of tasks, that hitched perfectly with the spirit of the street, and left nothing to

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