Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 231
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 231
 
be explained in the verdict of the reformatory, “No moral sense.” There was no moral sense to be got out of the thing, for there was little sense of any kind in it. The boy was not given a chance to be honest with himself by thinking a thing through; he came naturally to accept as his mental horizon the headlines in his penny paper and the literature of the Dare-Devil-Dan-the-Death-Dealing-Monster-of-Dakota order, which comprise the ordinary æsthetic equipment of the slum. The mystery of his further development into the tough need not perplex anybody.
  But Jacob Beresheim had not even the benefit of such schooling as there was to be had. He did not go to school, and nobody cared. There was indeed a law directing that every child should go, and a corps of truant officers to catch him if he did not; but the law had been a dead letter for a quarter of a century. There was no census to tell which children ought to be in school, and no place but a jail to put those in who shirked. Jacob was allowed to drift. From the time he was twelve till he was fifteen, he told me, he might have gone to school three weeks,— no more.
  Church and Sunday-school missed him. I was going to say that they passed by on the other side, remembering the migration of the churches up-town as the wealthy moved out of and the poor into the

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