THE CITY OF NEW YORK

OFFICE OF THE MAYOR

NEW YORK, N.Y. 10007

MAY, 14 1898

Dear Mayor:

I am pleased to hear that New York has been expanded to five boroughs. It gives me great pleasure to send this letter to you. Our primary goal is to make the city a better place in which to work, study, and live. In order to pursue this goal, I described some proposals, considering our historical experiences and the current major issues that we are facing, in the following pages.

New York has grown by experiencing through many historical events such as the Dutch dominance, the American Revolution, and the Civil War. However, the period from 1850 to our time was the most significant transition period. The city has changed rapidly and remarkably in terms of the economy, the industry, and the social structure during this period.

First and most important, the economic system and the major industry of New York has changed dramatically in this period. At first, the canal and railroad were the great stimulus to the growth of New York commerce. New York took the lead in canal and railroad construction to the West. They succeeded in carrying coal, metal, and other materials quickly to the city with far cheaper cost. Next, the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, and the high-rise buildings encouraged to think the role of technology, designing and engineering. They connected the city to the surrounding communities, and made possible the city�s growth. The quality of these elements served an economic purpose and commercial mobility. Moreover, the appearance of the new industries created a new industry repeatedly and produced variety of labors, which shifted new economic structure. Now, New York is the center of offices of lawyers, engineers, publishers, advertising agencies, bankers, newspaper companies, securities companies, and insurance companies. Originally, the main industry of New York, from its beginning, was trade, which has changed into financial and professional service industries. Now, New York became the center of the American economy.

After the Civil War, the social structure has also transformed. As the commercial center of New York, its center moved far north. The street life and commercial life as a downtown which centered around the area above the City Hall, moved to 10�s and 20�s streets around Union Square by 1870�s. Fifth Avenue has been lined with the beautiful mansions of the super-rich of these days. Department stores which have been recently called so, erected their fine high-rise store buildings on Broadway between10�s and 20�s streets, and have succeeded in the new style retail business. Meanwhile, a big tide of immigrants is coming to New York as the new immigrants. It is the tide of Italian and East European Jewish immigrants. Jewish immigrants are gradually occupying in lower east side that had been the domain of the Irish and German Immigrants. Lower east side has been the most densely occupied. Reflecting this situation and the development of transits, Irish and German are moving to north and to other boroughs. These immigrants established their communities remaining their own histories - own cultures, religions, and traditions - so that such sense of embodiments became the factor to make today�s social structure of New York.

There are many problems to be solved in New York. Especially, however, I point out that an issue of public school is the major problem that we are facing right now; undoubtedly the public schools are confused and complicated by facing a new situation, right now.

As I remarked, European immigrants to New York are rising sharply. The number of new comers to Ellis Island are around 3,000 people a day. Now it is very difficult for its station to deal with all of them every day. Also, immigrants has averaged less than 500,000 people annually in the last thirteen years, but it is expected 1,000,000 in each of the next ten years. However, it is not numbers problem, but the fact that in the future the new immigrants - from Italy and Eastern Europe - began to be greater than the old immigrants - from Germany and Island. In the 1870�s, the new immigrants represented less than 10 percent of all immigration to America, in the 1880�s it was about 20 percent, but in the 1890�s it is becoming more than 50 percent. This rate indicates that the number of students is excelling the accommodation�s capacity offered by the city�s public schools.

The prejudice against the new immigrants is intense and widespread, though education is supposed to be universal wherever they came from. Most new immigrants are ignorant, poor, dirty, and immoral, so their eagerness to work hard causes New York workers to accuse them of stealing jobs and depressing the American standard of living. Also, many students are so dirty that the Board of Education is, in joke, considering that the first exercise in each school be to give them a bath from the moral and sanitary point of view. The poverty and problems of the new immigrants are not different from those of old immigrants. However, such ignorant children are discriminated in terms of cleanliness.

Like old immigrants group, Jews and Italians are settling mostly in distinct neighborhoods, where their languages are spoken, where they have their own grocery stores, newspapers, religions, and social clubs. Italians moved to where Irish had lived, which is now called " Little Italy "; Jews settled in a previous German neighborhood, which is now called " New Israel." This residential concentration of ethnic groups indicates that the public schools in these wards will be occupied by the specific ethnic groups in the future. This situation is threatening many New Yorkers who are belonging to these wards. However, the public school is the only one so far, which is expected to provide a seat for the children and lecture him.

Also, another problem is that many immigrant children have poor academic performances. Most immigrants take a pride in learning American ways and make efforts to do so among the New Yorkers, but they came from families in which English is not spoken at all. School officials point out the main reason of the poor academic performance resulted from language problems, physical and mental handicaps, late enrollment in school, part-time schooling, large classes, non-English speaking homes, the strain of after-school employment, the effect of poverty on family and community life. All these conditions are influential, but the consistent differentials caused by cultural backgrounds, too.

Whether a group or individuals came from a city or from a rural area is one such important cultural determinations if successful assimilation. The majority of Italians who came to New York around are Southern Italians, mostly peasants, unskilled laborers, and mostly illiterate. Italians are considered as inferior, and hardly civilized immigrants. However, Italians know that they can return to Italy, and actually do so.

Jews had a tradition of education, a tradition which survived in synagogues when they were excluded in their old countries, but the opportunity to get an education in New York is completely opened to Jewish children. Nevertheless, there are many Jewish parents who are rising up in anger. This is because of the overcrowding classes. Last year, the parents of 500 Jewish children nearly rioted when their children were turned away from Grammar school No,75., which already had 2,000 children in a small building. The accommodation�s problem is expected to grow much more serious matter in the next century.

We must consider this problem very carefully and seriously, because they are deeply connected with other negative social issues such as joblessness, crime, and poverty. It is necessary to settle this problem down, to reform the educational system, and to adopt the new comers to the American society as soon as possible. If we ignored it, the problem would spread deeply, which would threat our future.

First of all, we are convinced that the current city�s accommodation�s classes are already overcrowded and that it would not possible for the facilities to handle the number of the new coming immigrants in the future. Thus, New York are destined to build many new school buildings. The problems are the location in which the schools are built, and budget needed for them. Recently, more immigrants has moved to north and Brooklyn, because of the development of mass transits and the disadvantages of lives in lower east; the line of elevated railway made a possible to carry the people of Bronx to work in the center of the city; lower east tenements are overcrowded and unsanitary. We expect that much more people move to other boroughs in the turning of a century. I recommend that the new schools are built not in Manhattan but in the other boroughs immediately. The school construction programs should be proceeded along with planning the public houses. In short, the development of suburban communities makes it possible to solve both the tenements and the school problems. In addition, these public construction projects result in contributing to generate tens of thousands of new jobs, to absorb in the large number of unemployed people, and to bring the interest back to the city through the tax.

As the solution of accommodation�s problem which the schools in lower east contains, I propose a simple solution; full use of the school facilities. In the traditional school, the auditorium and playground are used for the brief periods during the day and are left empty while classrooms were usually overcrowded, though the school facilities contains the matter of space in the large proportion of the students. Under this plan, students can spend half the day in class, and the other half in the roof or air playground, workshop, auditorium, laboratories, or other facilities. Once a school was properly driven, it could accommodate twice as many students as traditional school. In short, group A spends the morning in the classrooms and the afternoon in the play program, and group B has a reverse schedule. In effect, there are two separate schools in one building, using all the schoolrooms and programs all day. Dividing groups also contributes to reduce the differences of the academic performance by new and old immigrants.

Finally, I recommend that the curriculum of each school be planned by its principal and teachers, based on the needs and desires of the community in which their schools are located. In addition, the curriculum are needed to be aligned frequently and properly meeting its time and needs. Especially, the school located in the new comer�s community are strongly required to strengthen ESL curriculum. The course of study should be built emphasizing important aspects of commercial and industrial life; the social value and norm in America and New York; the mutual understanding of each cultures, customs, and activities; identifying themselves within the local communities.

We value your leadership and look forward to your consideration to these proposals. We are always ready to provide you with sources of information for many years to come.

Sincerely,

Seigo Dobashi

Chief of Office

 

Sources

Ravitch, Diane. The Great School Wars. New York; Basic Books, Inc.,1974

Texts related to the course; Low Life, Historical Atlas, All the Nations under Heaven, and Handouts.

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