Jacob A. Riis (18491914). The Battle with the Slum. 1902.
has gone amiss. The thing for us to do is to find out what it is, and set it right.
That is the story of the gang. That we have read and grasped its lesson at last, many things bear witness. Here is the League for Political Education providing a playground for the children up on the West Side, near the model tenements which I described. Just so! With a decent home and a chance for the boy to grow into a healthy man, his political education can proceed without much further hindrance. Now let the League for Political Education trade off the policemans club for a boys club, and it may consider its course fairly organized.
I spoke of the instinct for the crowd in the man as evidence that the slum had got its grip on him. And it is true of the boy. The experience that the helpless poor will not leave their slum when a chance of better things is offered is wearily familiar to most of us. One has to have resources to face the loneliness of the woods and the fields. We have seen what resources the slum has at its command. In the boy it laid hold of the instinct for organization, the desire to fall in and march in line that belongs to all boys, and is not here, as abroad, cloyed with military service in the young years,and anyhow is stronger in the American boy than in his European brother,and perverted it to its own use. That is the simple secret of the success of the club,