Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 373
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 373
 
responsibility for “the property,” and the Hester Street school was opened. The property was not molested; only one window was broken that winter by a stray ball, and that was promptly paid for by those who broke it. But the boys who met there under Miss Winifred Buck’s management learned many a lesson of self-control and practical wisdom that proved “educational” in the highest degree. Her plan is simplicity itself. Through their play,—the meeting usually begins with a romp,—in quarters where there is not too much elbow-room, the boys learn the first lesson of respecting one another’s rights. The subsequent business meeting puts them upon the fundamentals of civilized society, as it were. Out of the debate of the question, Do we want boys who swear, steal, gamble, and smoke cigarettes? grow convictions as to why these vices are wrong that put “the gang” in its proper light. Punishment comes to appear, when administered by the boys themselves, a natural consequence of law-breaking, in defence of society; and the boy is won. He can thenceforward be trusted to work out his own salvation. If he does it occasionally with excessive unction, remember how recent was his conversion. “Resolved, that wisdom is better than wealth,” was rejected as a topic for discussion by one of the clubs, because “everybody knows it is.” This was

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