Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 349
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 349
warrant the purchase of property to erect a school on.”
  That was the way then of taking a school census, and the result was the utter failure of the compulsory education law to compel anything. Today we have a biennial census, ordained by law, which, when at last it gets into the hands of some one who can count, 1 will tell us how many Jacob Beresheims are drifting upon the shoals of the street. And we have a truant school to keep them safe in. To it, says the law, no thief shall be committed. It is not yet five years since the burglar and the truant—which latter, having been refused admission to the school because there was not room for him, inconsequently was locked up for contracting idle ways—were herded in the Juvenile Asylum, and classified there in squads of those who were four feet, four feet seven, and over four feet seven! I am afraid I scandalized some good people during the fight for decency in this matter, by insisting that it ought to be considered a good mark for Jacob that he despised such schools as
Note 1. After two attempts that were not shining successes, the politicians at Albany and New York calmly dropped the matter, and for four years ignored the law. The Superintendent of Schools is at this writing (June, 1902) preparing to have the police take the child census, without which it is hard to see how he can know the extent of the problem he is wrestling with. Half-day classes are a fair index of the number of those anxious to get in; but they tell us nothing of the dangerous class who shun the schools. [ back ]



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