Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 354
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 354
 
acre of asphalted floor to romp on from street to street; for the building sets right through the block, with just such a front on the other street as it shows on this one. If there be those yet upon whom the notion grates that play and the looks of the school should be counted in as educational factors, why, let them hurry up and catch on. They are way behind. The play through which the child “first perceives moral relations” comes near being the biggest and strongest factor in it all today; and as for the five or ten thousand dollars put in for “the looks” of things where the slum had trodden every ideal and every atom of beauty into the dirt, I expect to live to see that prove the best investment a city ever made.
  We are getting the interest now in the new pride of the boy in “his school,” and no wonder. When I think of the old Allen Street school, with its hard and ugly lines, where the gas had to be kept burning even on the brightest days, recitations suspended every half-hour, and the children made to practice calisthenics so that they should not catch cold while the windows were opened to let in fresh air; of the dark playground downstairs, with the rats keeping up such a racket that one could hardly hear himself speak at times; or of that other East Side “playground” where the boys “weren’t allowed to speak above a whisper,” so as not to disturb

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