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From our archives: Make good citizens out of ‘pavement boys’

What we thought: 75 years ago

Published: Monday, June 3, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following editorial appeared in the Telegraph on June 1, 1938.

Army of ‘pavement boys’ a challenge

to democracy

Say what you please about the dictators, you cannot accuse them of neglecting the problem of idle youth.

Their solution for the problem may look weird and unholy, from any civilized point of view; but at least they realize that the problem exists, and they try to do something about it – which, very often, is more than you can say for our enlightened democracy.

Herbert Hoover touched on this point in an address before sponsors of the Boys’ Club of Milwaukee the other day.

“The boy problem of America is the ‘pavement boy,’ the boy of the congested area, with no adequate occupation between school hours and bed time,” he remarked.

“There are 3 million boys in this class who are completely lacking in opportunity for constructive joy. They are chiefly in need of occupational direction, an intelligent effort to find their bent and help direct them into the line of work for which they are fitted.”

And then he remarked on the contrast between the way our democracy lets this problem slide and the way the dictatorships tackle it.

“The authoritarian governments of Europe start with the children of 7 to 9 years, to make fascists or communists of them,” he said. “If we are going to make them able citizens of a democracy, we must start as early, building their individual characters and their sense of responsibility.”

Probably one of the greatest distinguishing features of a free society is the fact that it does let certain problems slide. A democracy tends to feel that the cure can often be worse than the disease, so it doesn’t do a lot of things which the dictatorships do, and in many cases this is all to the good. But the youth problem is something else again.

All the things that have been printed in recent years about gangsters, kidnappers and commercialized crime ought to show us that we can pay a fearful price for letting these “pavement boys” Mr. Hoover speaks of grow up without any guidance.

The underworld gets its recruits from these boys; if society doesn’t let those lads feel that there is a place for them, the underworld will.

But that isn’t all. Those European strong-arm squads which took the dictators to power were recruited in precisely the same way.

The mere presence in any country of a floating mass of discontented, placeless young men is a standing invitation to the unscrupulous demagogue to collect a following and make trouble.

Indeed, it is more than that: It is a challenge to democracy itself.

The Telegraph’s

program for a

greater Dixon

n Increase Dixon’s population 1,000 each year.

n Connect Dixon with the Inland Waterway System.

n Pass a zoning law.

n Enlarge Dixon’s city limits.

n Abolish the smoke nuisance.

n Repave and widen streets in business district.

n  Build a municipal bathing pool.

n Advertise the beautiful Rock River Valley.

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