Working At The Roots

Taken from a speech in 1884 to a national meeting of state school superintendents by George Angell, founder of the Massachusetts SPCA:

“Nearly all the criminals of the future, the thieves, burglars, incendiaries and murderers, are now in our public schools, and with them are the greater criminals who commit national crimes. They are in our public schools now and we are educating them. We can mould them now if we will. We may teach a child to shoot a little song bird in springtime, with its nest full of young, or we may teach him to feed the bird and spare its nest. We may go into the schools now and make neglected boys merciful, or we may let them drift, until, as men, they become lawless and cruel.

I am sometimes asked, “Why do you spend so much of your time and money in talking about kindness to animals, when there is so much cruelty to men?” And I answer, “I am working at the roots. I declare that just so soon and so far as we pour into all our schools the songs, poems, and literature of mercy towards these lower creatures, just so soon and so far shall we reach the roots not only of cruelty but of crime.”

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