Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 429
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 429
 
of them, but the poor people have no desire to be reformed. They do not think they need to be. They consider their moral standards quite as high as those of the rich, and resent being told that they are mistaken. The reformer comes to them from another world to tell them these things, and goes his way. The boss lives among them. He helped John to a job on the pipes in their hard winter, and got Mike on the force. They know him as a good neighbor, and trust him to their harm. He drags their standard ever farther down. The question for those who are trying to help them is how to make them transfer their allegiance, and trust their real friends instead.
  It ought not be a difficult question to answer. Any teacher could do it. He knows, if he knows anything, that the way to get and keep the children’s confidence is to trust them, and let them know that they are trusted. They will almost always come up to the demand thus made upon them. Preaching to them does little good; preaching at them still less. Men, whether rich or poor, are much like children. The good in them is just as good, and the bad, in view of their enlarged opportunities for mischief, not so much worse, all considered. A vigorous optimism, a stout belief in one’s fellowman, is better equipment in a campaign for civic virtue than stacks of tracts and

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