Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 387
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 387
they were not. They didn’t understand. The playschool came; the indoor playgrounds were thrown open evenings under the pressure they brought in their train. And at that point we took a day off, as it were, to congratulate one another on how wondrous smart and progressive we had been. The machinery we had started we let be, to run itself.
  It ran into the old rut. The janitor got it in tow, and presently we heard from the “play centres” that “the children didn’t avail themselves” of their privileges. On the roof playground the janitor had turned the key. The Committee on Care of Buildings spoke his mind: “They were of little use; too hot in summer and too cold in winter.” We were invited to quit our fooling and resume business at the old stand of the three R’s, and let it go with that. That was what schools were for. It takes time, you see, to grow an idea, as to grow a colt or a boy, to its full size.
  President Burlingham, who in his day drew the bill that made it lawful to use the schools for neighborhood purposes other than the worship of those same three R’s, went around with me one night to see what ailed the children who would not play.
  In the Mulberry Bend school the janitor had carefully removed the gymnastic apparatus the boys were aching for, and substituted four tables, around which they sat playing cards under the eye of a policeman.



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