Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 342
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 342
a pair of tailor’s shears close to my ear. It was my first lesson in school. I hated it from that hour.
  The barrel and the hog were never part of the curriculum in any American boy’s school, I suppose; they seem too freakish to be credited to any but the demoniac ingenuity of my home ogre. But they stood for a comprehension of the office of school and teacher which was not patented by any day or land. It is not so long since the notion yet prevailed that the schools were principally to lock children up in for the convenience of their parents, that we should have entirely forgotten it. Only the other day a clergyman from up the state came into my office to tell of a fine reform school they had in his town. They were very proud of it.
  “And how about the schools for the good boys in your town?” I asked, when I had heard him out. “Are they anything to be proud of?”
  He stared. He guessed they were all right, he said, after some hesitation. But it was clear that he did not know.
  It is not necessary to go back forty years to find us in the metropolis upon the clergyman’s platform, if not upon Madame Bruin’s. A dozen or fifteen will do. They will bring us to the day when roof playgrounds were contemptuously left out of the estimates for an East Side school, as “frills” that had nothing to do with education; when the Board



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