Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 233
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 233
 
aspect, seen from the angle of the community’s interest wholly, the matter is of the gravest import.
  What the boy’s play has to do with building character in him Froebel has told us. Through it, he showed us, the child “first perceives moral relations,” and he made that the basis of the kindergarten and all common-sense education. That prop was knocked out. New York never had a children’s playground till within the last three years. Truly it seemed, as Abram S. Hewitt said, as if in the early plan of our city the children had not been thought of at all. Such moral relations as Jacob was able to make out ran parallel with the gutter always, and counter to law and order as represented by the policeman and the landlord. The landlord had his windows to mind, and the policeman his lamps and the city ordinances which prohibit even kite-flying below Fourteenth Street where the crowds are. The ball had no chance at all. We have seen in New York a boy shot down by a policeman for the heinous offence of playing football in the street on Thanksgiving Day. But a boy who cannot kick a ball around has no chance of growing up a decent and orderly citizen. He must have his childhood, so that he may be fitted to give to the community his manhood. The average boy is just like a little steam-engine with steam always up. The play is his safety-valve. With the landlord in the yard and

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