JUNE 9, 1961
HYDE PARK —Premier Fidel Castro's answer to the Tractors for Freedom Committee on the exchange of tractors for prisoners was, in my point of view, indirect and completely unrealistic.
It seems almost impossible for him to give a simple, straight answer, and I cannot help but wonder if he really expected anyone to take him seriously. He must know quite well he is dealing with United States citizens and not the U.S. Government, and yet he behaves as though he was responding to government action. Anything as simple as citizens of the U.S. taking action on their own is, I suppose, difficult for him to understand.
Cuba is, of course, developing the pattern of Soviet rule quite rapidly, making all education the obligation of the state and allowing no private agency to function. This means there will be no Catholic or Jewish teaching, and this is quite a change for the Cuban people who are, on the whole, Catholic and parochial schools and religious education have been an accepted pattern in their lives.
I want to thank again all the kind people who have been sending checks to the Tractors for Freedom Fund and to repeat that the place to send checks is to Tractors for Freedom, Freedom Box, Detroit, Mich.
Joseph M. Dodge is our treasurer, but until definite assurances from Premier Castro that negotiations will be completed, we are not opening any of the letters that have come in.
It was disturbing to note that the U.S. and Britain had to boycott the international conference on Laos in Geneva because of violations of the cease-fire by pro-Communist forces.
This seemed to be such an open disregard for the values of peace that it was hard to believe that responsible leaders would condone it.
I am coming more and more to the view that our juvenile delinquency is partly a case of boredom and the young people not having enough to do. Country life has more natural adventure in it, but even in the villages we find the complaint that there is nothing to do.
This feeling of boredom seems to have been the reason for the thefts totaling more than $100,000 by a gang of 17 youths in the New York area over a period of years. Reports of the recent arrests said that most of the youngsters come from good homes in which money could not have been the purpose for which they stole.
The motive seems to have been the thrill which came from doing something dangerous and different. This is perhaps a criticism of our modern education. Perhaps we do not allow youth the kind of activity that offers the sense of adventure that any young person requires.
I remember well having talked with a fine, good-looking Negro boy in one of New York's better schools. He had at one time gotten into trouble, he said, because there was nothing to do.
I think parents and teachers should put their minds to this problem, and that a determined effort should be made in both rural and urban areas to find ways for youths to use their superabundant energy. If it is channeled in the right direction, it can achieve remarkable results, but now it is going into crime and the whole country suffers.
It was shocking to learn that the New York City Board of Education has had the money to make the badly needed repairs to certain schools in the city but did not do it. Who is to blame for the failure to make repairs I do not know, but I feel strongly about this subject of neglect in giving our children decent places in which to learn.
Some years ago I visited vocational schools in our city and reported on their conditions. In one of the schools, available to Negro and Puerto Rican children, the conditions made it impossible to teach the students the importance of cleanliness in the food industry, for which they were being trained.
I am now shocked to find that this school is only now coming to the attention of authorities. I certainly thought I had done my best to bring it to their attention before, but I was evidently unsuccessful.
(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 9, 1961
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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