MARCH 6, 1961
WALTHAM, Mass.—High officials of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. have announced that they will press for an amendment of the Kennedy Administration's education bill to add provisions for long-term Federal loans to private schools. According to newspaper stories, the officials, who include Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, took the position that unless some such provisions were included they would fight passage of the measure. Interestingly enough, top churchmen of no other denomination have come out with such demands for Federal aid to private and religious schools.
I believe that in this matter we must go back to Jefferson's original concept. A democracy must provide for public education since it is a form of government that could not function without education. But from our nation's earliest days the specifications were that our public schools were to be open to all children in the U.S. on an equal basis. Our great concern at the present time should be to make sure that all of our citizens profit from this original concept, and, further, that we do not continue the type of segregation which has made it impossible for some of our people to be the educated citizens that Jefferson felt were a necessity in a democracy.
Throughout our history, those who have wanted to send their children to church schools or to private schools have done so at their own expense. In point of fact, however, the great majority of our children in the U.S. have been educated in the public schools.
I personally think that the public schools would probably be better if all of us felt an obligation to send our children there, except under certain specific conditions. I can see the value of private schools, for example, as laboratories where experiments in education can be more easily tried than in the public schools system. Even here, however, I begin to think as the years go by that these gains are counteracted by the lack of more universal interest on the part of parents who send their children to private schools because they feel that greater opportunities in the education field may be found there along the lines they wish.
It is true that the large number of Roman Catholic children attending religious schools in this country does put a burden on their church. It is therefore perhaps not strange for the church to feel that when they remove a large number of children from the public schools they should be compensated for so doing. Yet from the beginning in the U.S. there has been a very strong feeling on the separation of church and state. Indeed, when efforts of the present kind are made to blur this separation, it hurts the real freedom of religion which should exist in our country. I believe such freedom can not exist to a full extent if religion is put into channels against which there is an almost automatic feeling of disapproval among large numbers of people in this country.
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Like many others, I read with great concern about the fire the other night in the Governor's mansion in Albany. The irreplaceable loss of so much valuable art is a loss to N.Y. State as well as to Governors Harriman and Rockefeller individually. We can be thankful that everyone escaped without injury.
Old houses, and that includes the Executive Mansion in Albany, are apt to have strange things happen in the way of defective wiring. I have always felt that the plumbing and wiring in the Albany mansion was probably only a little less complicated than that of the old White House when my husband and I lived in it. But at least one good thing is likely to come out of the necessary repairs. There will be less danger of such fires happening again, and perhaps it will also be possible to give the light and air in the new decorations which somehow never could be achieved with the old traditional setup. This has been achieved in the White House in Washington. When I saw it the other day I thought how much more cheerful the surroundings were for the present occupants than they had been in the past, and so I wish for Gov. and Mrs. Rockefeller some future compensations for their loss and present discomfort.