JULY 29, 1957
HYDE PARK—The more I think about the vote by which the House of Representatives killed the Administration's school aid bill last Thursday, the more I am convinced that it is we, the parents and the grandparents of young children, who are to blame. Most of us are sure that we realize the importance of having enough schools and enough good teachers to educate the increasingly large crop of school-age children, but we did not do enough about letting our Congressmen know how we feel about it.
There are many sections of the country where adequate schools simply cannot be built and staffed properly without federal aid. The need is not for elaborate buildings, but for simple buildings with enough space and light and air so that double-sessions can be eliminated. Every child in every community should be able to go to school in the morning and spend the proper number of hours in the school.
Equally important is the need for sufficient teachers to keep the classes small enough for genuine education of each child. When classes are too large, no teacher can cope with all the necessary work and still give her pupils the individual attention they all require at times. Without that individual attention the teacher-pupil relationship becomes impersonal, and the pupils do not learn what they should. As all educators know, the very bright children need this individual attention as much as do the slow ones.
Many a child will be influenced all through life by some little personal help or attention given by a teacher to some particular problem. We should not let our teachers be burdened by such big classes that this becomes an impossibility.
More money should go into teacher training, and more money should go into helping teachers take advanced studies during vacations, so that they themselves may grow and gain new interest. Then they will be ready to give even more to their pupils when the new school year begins.
I have just been sent a most delightful Christmas story that tells what lies behind a Christmas song called "Little Sandy Sleighfoot.".... how he came to get that name, and how he learned, as the story says, "that God has a job for everybody on this earth. No one is so crippled, or shy, or clumsy, or ugly, that he can't help other people."
That is the theme of the story, and it makes it easy for any child to understand that the greatest pleasure is in helping others, and that even though you are handicapped you will not be unhappy if you can accomplish that.
The lyrics for the song were written by Phillip M. Crane. I understand that Gene Autry will make a recording of it in the near future. The story was discovered by Phillip's brother, who felt it would help handicapped children and who, unfortunately, was killed when his jet plane crashed a year ago this month. His mother and father are anxious to see it a success, because of his interest in it.
I hope it will help many an unhappy, handicapped child.