JANUARY 12, 1942
NEW YORK, Sunday—Yesterday morning, at the Office of Civilian Defense, I met with some 25 people who are working largely in the mountain areas for the Save the Children Fund. They work, as far as possible, with the existing agencies and one of their main activities is to salvage desks from schools that are being remodeled and to provide them for the smaller schools where no desks have been available in the past.
In addition, they provide shoes and clothing for children who would otherwise be out of school. They have managed to have a demonstration project in one of the mountain areas. There, usually in the month of January, the second teacher would nearly always have to resign because not enough children were left in the school to employ two teachers.
By providing suitable shoes and clothing, the children were able to continue coming to school. By helping to provide hot lunches, they have managed to keep that school so well filled with pupils, that three teachers have to be employed during most of the school year.
I think it is rarely understood in many parts of our country that great numbers of children drop out of school because of lack of proper clothing. We take it for granted that, if we provide schools, we have done all that needs to be done. I have always been in favor of federal aid to education by grants to states which do not have the ability to provide equal opportunities for every child to obtain an education.
I have never been able to separate however, in my mind, academic education from the health of the child. This can only be good when a child is properly nourished and has adequate medical care. In one mountain county, I am told that 70 percent of the boys were rejected in the draft because of malnutrition. Providing adequate schools would not meet this question of building an adequate citizen to meet the needs of the community when he reaches the age of twenty-one.
Our interpretation of education must never be so narrow that we lose sight of the fact that learning to read on an empty stomach, or with eyes that are overstrained because of lack of proper eyeglasses, is not real education. Under such circumstances, one cannot learn much and one forgets the little one learns almost immediately, because one stops reading as soon as there is no obligation to do so.
After this group of social workers left, I spent two hours with Administrator McNutt and the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, Mr. Harold D. Smith, and various other officials. I returned to the White House just in time for lunch.
I came to New York City last night and I am having a rather lazy day visiting some of the older members of my family, whom I have not seen for some time. After my usual Sunday night broadcast, I am going to speak at a meeting this evening.