My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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EN ROUTE TO MOROCCO —An old cliche, which says that if you accept money from the Federal government for such things as construction of school buildings, the Federal government will control the schools, is haunting Congress again.

This false fear has always frightened people all over the country and, as a result, frightened their representatives in Congress. More and more people are coming to realize, however, that you cannot educate children without schoolrooms and teachers.

When I was in Washington a short time ago, I found the school situation all over the United States being discussed. There is no doubt that a public school crisis exists.

I have been traveling widely throughout the country, and if our representatives in Congress think that the shortage of schoolrooms is to be encountered only here and there, they are very much mistaken. Everywhere I went I had only to mention schools and children's education to get an immediate reaction.

At one place a mother told me that her child, just entering school, would—unless a miracle made school building possible—have only two hours a day in school for the next seven years.

Our forefathers realized the importance of education to a nation, and particularly the importance of an educated people in a democracy, but we seem to have forgotten what sacrifices they made to start a public school system in this country.

It is a shame that the country with the biggest national income, far exceeding that of any other nation in the world, is unable to provide today's children with an opportunity for education.

It seems to me that we had better review what happened to an Administration bill introduced into Congress last year at the request of Marion B. Folsom, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, with the President's backing.

It was introduced by Representative Stuyvesant Wainwright II, New York Republican. But in the debate on the legislation he said:

"I should never have introduced that bill. The Federal government should stay out of local school districts...Historical analysis proves that the evil leaders of each and every totalitarian state, on seizing control of that state, first put their paws on the educational system of that nation. You can say that it cannot happen here, and maybe it cannot. But let us not give it a chance to happen here."

What a courageous man to pilot such a bill through Congress for the Administration! He fell before the old cliche, not before reality, for there was nothing in the bill that could have given the Federal government control over the curriculum of any school. All it provided was help to build schools.

I will go a little further into this subject tomorrow.


(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 20, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.