MARCH 20, 1961
CLEVELAND—The question of governmental aid to private schools has recently been much to the fore in national and state legislatures.
In New York, Governor Rockefeller has managed to have his scholarship incentive plan passed by a large majority in both houses. This bill, as revised by the Governor in response to much criticism, is much better than the original proposal. It will provide an indeterminate number of scholarships to students attending both public and private colleges in New York State for which the tuition is at least $200. The grants will vary in amount according to the needs of the family, and the students will be required to maintain certain academic standards which are not as yet defined. In addition, the Governor's program will increase the number of regent scholarships from the present 7,100 to 17,000. This will be greatly appreciated by the students in the state, because the scholarships are clearly the reward of merit and no question of religious controversy is attached to them.
One realizes that the proposals in both Congress and the state legislatures are extremely difficult to resolve in this area where religion enters. Representatives want to be reelected; and if large segments of their constituents vote one way or another on educational matters because of certain religious feelings, this is apt to cloud the real problem—which is to increase the value of our public schools by giving them the support they need to provide better educational facilities. Public schools are open to all children of the states regardless of religious affiliation, and these are the only schools that are really the responsibility of government. But it is easy to understand why this becomes a question not of public education but of religious affiliation when a politician is considering reelection.
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I have a letter today which touches upon what I believe to be a problem of national and international importance. My correspondent writes: "By this letter I hope to bring to your attention a most disagreeable situation. It concerns the lack of adequate news information available to the public outside the big cities. I have noticed it in several towns outside New York City, but since I have been in Syracuse for the last six months let me use this as an example.
"Having lived in Manhattan and its surrounding suburbs most of my life I have come to take for granted the excellent newspaper, TV and radio coverage of current events. The difference in quality and quantity of news information in Syracuse in contrast to that of their city cousins is quite appalling. Special TV news programs shown in New York, such as a report on the recession by NBC, a progress report on the Congo crisis by CBS, and several Presidential news conferences are among the many programs not shown in Syracuse. The latest Presidential news conference was not shown due to the importance of a daily cartoon feature called 'Yogi Bear.' All the previous programs named are available to the local stations, but they just do not use them."
This is one protest, but it could be multiplied by a great many more. I think it would be well for newspapers, radio and TV to hear this voice crying in the wilderness, because the protests are beginning to mount. We need news and information to be good citizens.
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I spoke the other evening at a meeting celebrating the 75th anniversary of the settlement movement in New York City, where the month of March has been proclaimed Neighborhood Housing Month by the Mayor. Many other cities have also had remarkable settlement houses, notably Chicago, where Jane Addams' Hull House will never be forgotten. In New York we have been fortunate in having the continuous service of settlement houses, and we still need them greatly today in cities all over our nation where we have not as yet succeeded in creating conditions which make all neighborhoods ideal places for people to live. Many a boy and girl looks back on the hours spent in settlement houses near their homes as the important influence in their lives. Settlements are creative centers. They start new and worthwhile activities, and they should be given all possible support everywhere.