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The present wave of juvenile Cain-raising traced to the children living in tenements adjacent to the Houses and the Law School offers a problem which the University will do well to recognize. Several hundred urchins of these neighborhoods spend their free time in conducting a sort of guerilla warfare against the University at large, and if their looting parties, their brick-throwing escapades and merry bonfires persist, some accident is likely to occur that will make Harvard authorities repent of their indifference.
It is all very well to say that such matters come under the jurisdiction of the Cambridge police, but no one can study the problem without seeing the futility of police action. It is not always easy for a middle-aged constable to round up a gang of fourteen-year-olds, and there is absolutely nothing that he can do with them once he has rounded them up. If the Cambridge police can keep adult criminals under control, they are doing all that is asked of them. The children represent a sociological problem that belongs to the municipality, the churches, and Harvard University.
The children are by no means to blame for their behaviour. They are of large families, attend large schools, and so receive little guidance from the people to whom God and the State have entrusted them. Their families are often barely able to make ends meets and so can afford none of the little extras which keep more fortunate children happy and content. In the majority of cases their mothers have jobs--sometimes as waitresses in the University Dining Halls--and the children are left completely on their own for a large part of the day.
In vivid contrast to the squalor of their surroundings is Harvard University, with its beautiful buildings, playing fields, and comparatively well-to-do student body. The youngsters have not yet learned the gentle art of stealing cars, although this may come in time, but they have discovered the possibilities of income, in one form or another, from their wealthier neighbors. The loss incurred by the university community is slight, and only the possibility of a serious fire or an injured student can justify consideration of the problem on materialistic grounds; but Harvard should not be altogether deaf to its civic obligations.
Phillips Brooks House, St. Paul's Church, and other local welfare organizations are already taxed to their utmost. Although they might supply workers, they can make no initial investment. The University, on the other hand, owns several vacant lots near Leverett and Dunster Houses, and farther out by the Maintenance Building. The cost of equipping these lots as playgrounds, with swings and possibly a pair of goal-posts, would be slight, and, if a genuine effort were made in this direction, perhaps the City of Cambridge could be persuaded to lend more help to these youngsters than it does at present. If this were done, workers could be found to organize play, make the fields popular, and instill in the children the elements ofsportsmanship and good conduct.
The University's work in training men is recognized the world over, but it seems a pity that in the very shadow of Harvard hundreds of boys should grow up to be criminals, panhandlers, or burdens on the state.
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