December 21, 1933
Garth came to the sub-station last night for a gab fest, and to obtain criticism of his paper for Berryhill's P.T.A. He is trying to inspire parents to broaden their lives by learning from their children, and thereby giving the kids the benefit of closer relationship with them. This idea is unquestionably worthwhile, but it is beyond my comprehension that parents can do otherwise. I asked Garth why this is a problem, and he replied that fully 90% of the parents in this town are completely outside the lives of their children. This astonishing fact may be attributed to the thoroughly rotten industrial set-up in this town, where the masses mill around from job to job at ten or fifteen dollars a week, which sums support whole families. Pitkin might call it a "factory slum town". Keokuk is a good example of the vicious system of the exploitation of ignorance to the benefit of the favored few. Generation after generation have toiled for long hours and starvation wages: there is no labor unrest for the simple reason that the inheritance of the masses has dulled any possible hope for escape from a dreary hand to mouth existance - and high school graduates take jobs in cornstarch factories. In contrast, there is a distinct clique of culture reserved for a few on the "North Side", to which the socially ambitious aspire. And this culture is fattened on the life blood of the sallow-faced serfs of the "South Side". This town, even more than the average I believe, offers some curious contrasts: we have hundreds of ramshackle dwellings, and a few mansions; cut-price, cheap stores predominate and yet we boast a Shakespeare Club, and Little Theatre among several would-be highfallutin societies.
I saw Jack's teacher yesterday and she expressed pleasure with his progress; he apparently is ahead of the game; she mentioned his unusual showing in the general intelligence test of last Fall. I expressed my appreciation of the School system in Keokuk, having learned considerable about its objectives from Dr. Reed last year. The teachers are expected to treat each pupil as an individual as far as practicable, and to keep in touch with parents. Jack is enthusiastic and happy in school. Well, why not? Quite so; but I cannot say the same for my own grade school where we endured a daily grind and lived in mortal fear of the bully. I take my hat off to the authorities in a small city who dare to attempt creative education, with the meagre facillities the tax payer can so far afford. And the educational system was the first of suffer from the depression! Go to it you Garths. You are hitting at the core of things, while big business shilly-shallies. This sounds like bitterness, but I should add that I am not particularizing; I merely complain that our industrial set-up, controlled by an abstract financial hierarchy, is an unstable and unjust system in its final analysis. Remove the injustices and I am for it; stabilize it through government supervision, and I'm for that. Here is the test of democracy: will the stupidities of individuals ever be ironed out by the average good sense of masses? This depression certainly shows that all the people can be fooled by themselves some of the time. About the most I can say for a democracy is that in times like these, we (en Masse) have nobody to blame but ourselves, but are we any better off because of that? On a point of pride, I suppose so. I'll be darned if I'd want a Hitler Lording it over me, despite his abilities.
Woodehouse is still producing Jeeves stories. The more I read about Englishmen, the less I understand them. That is possibly due to my life-long environment in a "nervous democracy", as Wister comments in his "Seven ages of Washington". He describes the Country's Father as possessing the serenity and apparent lack of a sense of humor, which we attribute to the English, or the native Indians. They have long since 'arrived', and feel no necessity for justifying themselves, or by advertising themselves to all comers, by cracking a joke, even when no entertainment is desired or requested. We Americans feel the constant urge to be smart, just to prove we are somebody; the Englishman doesn't need to - he is somebody.
Some day I hope to travel, over Europe anyway, not so much to see historic relics, cathedrals, and the Alps (naturally I'd look 'em over if I happened to be there); but I would like to have a look at the people. Europe is undoubtedly a good place to shun as far as entangling alliances go, but it must be a tremendously interesting conglomeration of humanity. Every one of those little nations can get more stewed up and agitated over their respective national prides that a pen full of peacocks courting one hen. But I suppose they get along as well as most neighbors in Keokuk. When Dick collaberated with the little girl up the street and set fire to a hedge, the neighborhood got all set for bloodshead until we called a peace conference.
By the way, I wish the cigarette stump Dick smoked had made him sick, instead of giving him a thrill. Right then and there I gave up smoking in the children's presence.
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