Tribute to Charlotte Towle
BROADCAST: 1967 | DURATION: 00:54:59
Tribute to Charlotte Towle with Ner Littner, Pearl Rosenzweig, Alan Wade and Dame Eileen Younghusband.
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Studs Terkel On October of 1966 a remarkable woman died, Charlotte Towle. Question is, who was Charlotte Towle, a social worker, but that doesn't tell the story. Four of her friends are seated about, and perhaps talk about the influence of this woman upon their lives. There are four colleagues of hers: Dame Eileen Younghusband, distinguished British social worker, president of the International Association of Schools of Social Work; Alan Wade, has been a guest before, a member of the faculty of the School of Social Services Administration of University of Chicago, who is Chairman of the Chicago chapter of the Social--how
Studs Terkel Association of Social Workers. Dr. Ner Littner, has been a guest before, a psychiatrist, President of the Chicago Council of Child Psychiatrists, who was a member of the Censor Board concerning our films and this is a problem we have continuously, it seems, in all media.
Eileen Younghusband Both, perhaps, they are related, aren't they? "Common Human Needs" was a work she wrote. "Common Human Needs" was probably the most famous thing that she wrote. I was trying to remember just when I came to Chicago what she'd tell me about it. She wrote it in Washington in 1944 for the Bureau of Public Assistance, as it was called in those days. I suppose that the commissioning of something as revolutionary as this goes back to all the tremendous change after the Depression years, all the hopes that we all had on both sides of the Atlantic in 1944 that we were going to build a better world, which is how we always feel when we've killed a good many million people. And she lived in Washington and wrote this book, which is one of the most distinctive books you could read because it's on the surface so simple, so simple that sometimes the newer student says, "Well, what's it all about? We know all that, don't we?" And then they read it again when they know a good deal more. And they found how little they do know compared with this book. Before I came away from England two or three days ago, I talked with a group of students and with several English social workers and I said to the English social workers, "How do you use it with students?" These were separate people on separate occasions. And they looked at me and said, "Use it with students? It's I who use it." They've used it over the years. In my own practice, and every time I go back to it, I find something new. And for the students I would like to have the opportunity of saying this little group of students, they're older, mature, untrained having the opportunity of a professional social work education and they're doing a project on the needs of people who are handicapped and they said the thing it had given them, the framework they needed, the real opportunity to think about people who are handicapped. Their differences, their similarities, their needs, was common human needs. And they wanted me if I got the opportunity to say in this program how happy they were to be able to contribute from something absolutely current in the last few weeks that they had found in a book which was published in 1945 in another country more apposite to what they needed and they could find in any current book in their own country.
Studs Terkel Isn't it remarkable, as Dame Eileen Younghusband pays tribute to Charlotte Towle, this book written some 20, it seems a generation ago, yet seems centuries ago, so contemporary now. Alan Wade, you a student of Charlotte Towle?
Alan Wade Yes, I've been a, I had the privilege of being a student and a professional colleague and friend of Charlotte Towle's since, I guess you'd say, the mid '50s. My first acquaintance with her before I knew her was really through this book, and this is another little bit of history that I think is relevant to some of the things that Dame Eileen has said. I was a student in another school of social work in another state in 1950 when the federal government, which at that time was publishing the first edition of "Common Human Needs" made the decision to cease publication on the grounds that, a number of grounds, the main offense of the book apparently was that it used the term "socialized" on several different occasions. This was, of course, during the McCarthy period of hysteria and fear and the then administrator of the Federal Security Agency, the predecessor of our Department of Health, Education and Welfare, felt that the book was simply too hot to handle. I remember engaging in a protest movement at the time to have them rescind their decision. As it turned out, the government did cease publication, but publication was then taken over by the, what was then the American Association of Social Workers. Of course, it has been republished now in many different foreign languages and is currently in press through the National Association of Social Workers. But this was--I think the important thing is that this was regarded in very recent history as a radical book.
Studs Terkel And today we see as Dame Eileen was saying, how the impact it has, not only here but in another country, too, in those working in the world of welfare. I suppose that world welfare is as probably is, it isn't in England here as explosive a word as "socialized." The misconceptions, but Charlotte Towle herself, Pearl Rosenzweig, you knew her, too, and if you listen to Dame Eileen, her comments about young social workers being affected by it today.
Pearl Rosenzweig Yes, I knew her also, really, through her book. I did have a class with her. I had occasion to meet her, but really knew her through her book, which had a great impact, really, on workers in public assistance who had some conviction and concern about what they were doing. And it was kind of a Bible, you just had to have "Common Human Needs" in your hand, and as a matter of fact, when we began to supervise, we found that we really couldn't do the job unless we really knew what Charlotte Towle had said about supervision. In relation to what Dame Younghusband said about the use of it today, I think Charlotte Towle herself said something about that, when she made this statement which, I think, is terribly important and which we need to think about again and again in dealing with young people who are impatient with history. When she says, "The past is important insofar as it has significance in the present and import for the future." I was really angry at myself when I re-read this this weekend, because it's been so long since I read it, and, you know, you keep thinking, well, you know what's in the literature and you've worked with this for so long, and you really don't know, and you have to read and re-read and re-read. And I found myself feeling very guilty because I had not been re-reading right along to help the new supervisors that are coming along now, who really are at a disadvantage because "Common Human Needs" isn't talked about as it was talked about so many years ago. And we need to talk about it again.
Studs Terkel This point that Pearl Rosenzweig is raising, Dr. Littner, you a psychiatrist, I suppose you have your own thoughts about Charlotte Towle impact on you with this matter of "Common Human Needs" not being talked about as it once was. Your thoughts about that. Sorry.
Ner Littner Charlotte and I met under most peculiar circumstances. She was a student in the seminar that I was conducting, which is a little of the reverse. Of course, I think I learned far more from the seminar than she did. But it reflects something that was so characteristic of her. Although she was a great teacher and believed so much in passing on her knowledge to others, she firmly believed in anchoring her knowledge in the solid foundation of practice and she felt that unless one was intimately involved in what actually goes on in working with people, one could not be a good teacher. And so every couple of years she would take a period of time off from her teaching and come and visit a social agency and participate in the work of the agency. And I was a young consultant to the Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society, and all of a sudden she showed up in one of my teaching seminars, but we became good friends after that.
Studs Terkel I suppose, isn't this the Jane Addams idea pretty much, isn't it? It's not something abstract, it's quite related to the street. Let's keep this sort of, rather than calling upon various members of our panel, rather gathering here formally.
Ner Littner Maybe I can say something in terms of how psychiatrists felt about her as a leader in the field of social work. I think many of us considered her to follow in the spirit of Sigmund Freud. She writes beautifully and simply, has an amazing amount of common sense, and was devoted to teaching other people. And if you read her book, as Dame Eileen has mentioned, it seems so clear and so completely understandable, yet it is full of extremely important information. She was a vital bridge between psychoanalysis and social work. As you know, most emotionally disturbed people are treated by social workers, not by psychiatrists. The social worker, by and large, is the one in the front lines, and she was one of the people who took some of the early insights of psychoanalysis and made practical applications into the field of social work. And, I think, far more effectively than any psychiatrist could have done.
Alan Wade And of course, I think that social work has been in a peculiar and sometimes, I think, unfortunately defensive position in relation to psychiatry. I think that we have learned a tremendous amount from your profession, Dr. Littner, and in the process of doing this I think it's because your profession generally is ascribed higher status by our society. Many modern social workers have forgotten some of the mutual relationships that have existed here. I know, for example, I have a record of meeting of a group of psychiatrists and social workers in the early '30s where Charlotte Towle was making some of the earliest formulations of the whole business of family therapy, the process of the case worker in dealing with several members of a family at the same time. And this I remember was, I looked at the proceedings of the meeting was regarded as a very new idea by the psychiatrists present, and Charlotte was able to make the point that social workers have been doing this for a long while with varying degrees of success, so that really has been a two-way street between social work and psychiatry, and Charlotte was certainly, as you indicate, an important bridge--
Studs Terkel Dame Eileen, this matter of the connection between the two, I suppose also offering the person the social worker sees the family a sense of personal worth, isn't it? Offering him a sense of some pride.
Eileen Younghusband Yes, I was thinking back to what's just been said and remembering some of the things that Charlotte used to say. She very often used to say, as probably people around this table will remember, that she has thought social work had been as she put it, "Much too worshipful of psychiatry," that social workers should stand on their own professional feet rather than being handmaidens of the psychiatrists because she believed that social work had its own distinct body of knowledge and practice which called heavily on psychiatry and more particularly on psychoanalytic theory.
Ner Littner If you look in this book, you'll find so many things which I think all of us would subscribe to. The thing that I kept reacting to was her repeated comments about "Man cannot live by bread alone." Her great respect for the human being no matter what were his circumstances, her trying to point out that man is entitled to survive, man who is entitled to have his needs met, that you cannot help a person become independent if you deprive him, and that the only effective way of helping people become independent is by meeting some of their basic needs, a philosophy expressed so many years ago which is still not being acted on today.
Alan Wade She believed, as you indicated, that man does not live by bread alone, but she, as you also indicate, I just want to emphasize, it was firmly and thoroughly convinced that man had to have bread as a basic necessity. Of course, even in our very wealthy society, there are many people who probably may have bread, may not have much else.
Studs Terkel And so often, too, don't you hear this, if we could just pursue this a bit, and Pearl's point about, her--Rosenzweig talking about, common human needs not really being dealt with as much as we think it is today. The common human need can, as bread, and that also that something else, isn't it? Elizabeth Wood was telling the story of a mother of a welfare family, she was the best social worker you ever met, this girl [seemed a little retarded, her daughter?], and went to spend $2, a lot of money at the time, for a permanent for the girl. Now today, we'd say, "Isn't that a terrible waste?" She says, "Oh, no, that had a tremendous role to play in giving this girl a sense of being." So it involves these other matters, too, doesn't it?
Pearl Rosenzweig Yes, and she talks a bit about social workers' responsibility to work beyond the just the one-to-one relationship. When she talks about the fact that "as public assistance administration supervisors, we must help workers realize that our efforts to meet human needs, individual by individual, cannot be the whole answer to the problem of social welfare," and she addresses herself to the real purpose of a social work professional, which is "To try to make it possible that every individual have the most productive life of which he is capable and this must be achieved in two ways: efforts which aim to reshape institutions which are failing to fulfill their function, and creation of special services for the groups whose needs are not met, and too often today we have to remind ourselves that we have a real role to play in social reform."
Alan Wade She added to that the important point that through the creation of these special services for individuals, that we develop the testimony that we have to use in reshaping social institutions in the interest of human welfare, so since one of the things that as a social worker I particularly value in her teachings, that there is an intimate and continuing connection between the helpfulness of the helping hand extended to the individual and the active involvement, active engagement in changing the environmental conditions that bring individuals to us in the first place.
Studs Terkel Of course, the question that comes to mind immediately is, this book was written 20 years ago, 21 years ago in 1945, and obviously a powerful book, deceptively simple, yet the question arises, how much progress has been made in the past 21 years?
Eileen Younghusband Well, this is just what I was going to ask you. Here was the blueprint and one of the many levels of this book is part of the blueprint for sound administration for the appropriate ways of analyzing need and the appropriate devices for meeting them. I think of "Common Human Needs" being used, for instance, in the new programs under the 1962 Amendment.
Alan Wade I think so often in our social institutions and social welfare policies there is a great difference between policy and procedure, between--in fact, I think that what one might say that concern with governmental operations and with the abuses of government power have tended very recently to turn from concern with the policies of government to concern with the procedures of government. We find in our Social Security Act, for example, really, that the act that sets down the basic framework for public welfare programs, a number of extremely progressive pieces of legislation. The problem comes in, of course, in translating these very high-minded principles into programs that really serve people. Now, many things have happened. One of the most problematic things on the current scene is really the development of mass society and the emphasis on trying to find, the need for finding new ways of meeting the needs of vast numbers of people. How can we do this? How can we deal with the problems of a mass and still not lose sight of the individual? I think that Miss Towle has given us many principles and possibilities for doing this. I'm afraid at the present time that what she has suggested are still goals. There is considerable hope we may be able to achieve them, and I might come back to that later.
Eileen Younghusband May I ask a supplementary question on that, which is this, your public welfare programs, obviously are universal programs, so are many of our social services at home. Ipso facto, universal programs mean very large numbers of people to operate them. And, as I think Abraham Lincoln said, "God made a great many ordinary people because he liked them best." But the kind of sensitivity that runs through "Common Human Needs" is not something very common, and how do you produce the kind of workers who can relate to other people in the way that "Common Human Needs" suggests? When you're not talking about small programs, you're talking about universal programs and with the terrific staff turnover that you get in departments of public welfare, I remember, for instance, in this city two or three years ago, sitting in one of the district offices, and the supervisor said to me, "I look out through the glass panel and I don't even know the faces of many of the people sitting at those desks." And, again, somebody else here said to me, "You know, these are people who live in the suburbs, they come straight into the center, they've got no idea what the life is like of the people with whom they're dealing. What life is like for those people." Well now, given this kind of situation, how do you produce people who can implement "Common Human Needs"?
Ner Littner I think it goes, though, beyond that issue. We all bewail the large drain on the public treasury of supporting families on relief. Yet, when one looks at the situation of the large turnover, the relatively untrained numbers of people trying to impart this kind of understanding, I personally feel that we're not allowing the system to work, that we don't recognize the fact that if we could do an effective job, we would save ourselves so far much more money in the end. So that what we do instead is, we really give the minimal amount of money to support these kinds of programs. This ends up in the type of lower salaries available for attracting these people. There's going to be a large turnover with the noncompetitive salaries that may be available. If you look at one of the points that Mr. Wade was mentioning earlier, the amount of money actually paid to the people on public assistance, the vital importance of giving people enough money to subsist on, a lot of people think that we are not doing that here in Illinois, that, perhaps if a person who is a college graduate and could work on his budget, he could use the amount of money he's getting to survive. But most of the people on relief do not have this kind of expertise, so that we end up doing the very thing with the people on public assistance that Miss Towle points out we must not do if we are to ever rehabilitate them. The issue of how to humiliate people by depriving them economically. We're not letting this kind of thing come into being by not providing the kinds of resources needed to get trained people who can implement this knowledge.
Studs Terkel On the subject that, continuing your vein, Dr. Littner, Dame Eileen has raised, almost a schizophrenic life, is there not, on the part of the social worker, so impersonal, that is, living elsewhere, working in one community. I suppose, Pearl Rosenzweig, you working in the district come face-to-face with the young social workers who fall in the world described by Dame
Pearl Rosenzweig Eileen. Yes, I do, and I don't find that quite the handicap today that it was a couple of years ago. The young people that come in now are really coming in they think for a purpose, and it has something to do with their own fulfillment, and there--we are growing up in ways where we're talking more about what we need to do for people. I don't think that we have yet understood how we need to do for people, so that our problem is not so much the young person who doesn't have conviction about wanting to do, but has some question about how to do it and sometimes it comes to be a sort of patronizing sort of thing, "I will show you how," and this may be the handicap of living someplace else. I don't find that this is the hardest thing to work with, however. The hardest thing to work with is still the fact that the public will not really accept that we have to have a program that really helps people, and that does not always say to people, you are less than my equal because you do have to come on assistance. A program that really asks of people on assistance more than it asks of themselves. The public assistance mother must have a cleaner household. Her housekeeping standards must be better. She must manage and Dr. Littner, I would take issue with you. I think the public assistance mother is better able to manage than we who are college people on what we give her. She can better understand how one does without than we do. And I think she can better use it than I know I would be able to do. It is this kind of frustration that the young worker meets that makes her leave, also that we as administrators are somehow still not free enough to really say we want something better from our programs, so that we're not able to give the kind of climate in which these young people might be able to grow and develop. I don't know that we can yet say we can't make social workers out of them, but I don't know that we've done everything that can say we can.
Ner Littner If we could provide effective training, competitive salaries, and an opportunity to work with enough people so they wouldn't be flooded completely, I would think that we could develop a very good staff of social workers who could really learn and use the knowledge that Miss Towle has in her book. We're not providing any of these circumstances.
Pearl Rosenzweig No, we're not. We're spending all our time with the fine art of eligibility requirements that go down to dotting the I and crossing the T in the most ridiculous way in today's world. And I think we need to divorce ourselves from that sort of thing. I think we need to come to, really, the idea of a guaranteed annual income so that we can be free for some other things and that people can be free, too, to use this money to know that there is some floor that they do have.
Ner Littner Miss Towle points out in her book the vital importance of adequate payments in public assistance and the degrading and humiliating effects of deprivation. And she says that relief practices, this was 21 years ago, "May foster pauperization when they receive inadequate assistance or experience fear, humiliation, and resentment when these people are seeking help." This holds absolutely true today, and I think we're still doing this with a lot of people.
Pearl Rosenzweig Everything.
Alan Wade Occasion that has anything to do with people. But I was just thinking about her comment that "Dependence on others for love and care is the primary need. And insofar as this need is met freely, the child reaches out spontaneously to learn to master his environment and is sustained in the failures and hurts that learning inevitably brings." I think most of us recognize this in our own personal lives, but it's almost as if in the setting of determination of public policy we, we're very frightened of dependency, and Dr. Littner may want to comment on this, but for some reason the very striving for independence that all of us engage in throughout our lives seems to reflect back on our public assistance programs and we seem to take the stance that we dasn't help these people if we provide them with anything more than a bare minimum level of subsistence that is going to harm them. I am suggesting that there are not only political determinants of these attitudes, but getting over into your bailiwick in suggesting--
Alan Wade There are some very important psychological determinants. Incidentally, on the question of how we teach people to work with people in the public assistance programs, I think it's important to underline what Pearl has implied, namely that young people come into this program, come in with very positive and sound motivations. They really have a liking for people, they may not be certain what it is they're going to get into, but they do really want to do what's best for people. And one of the things that Miss Towle always pointed out, and she was a great believer not only in the importance of feelings, but in the importance of the intellect and the use of the intellect in changing and guiding feelings. And she emphasized in the book that a liking for people can really be increased and transformed into a useful social service by the provision of understanding based on knowledge. So she constantly in all of her teachings emphasized the intimate tie-up between feeling and thinking and the constant process of feedback between one and the other.
Studs Terkel You know I was thinking, as with Dame Eileen Younghusband is here, her being here and the impact that this book quoted now as Alan Wade could say, almost any page is pertinent today, and what Pearl has said and Dr. Littner and the slight differences, too, but values, societal values concerning the poor, has this altered in England in the past generation or so? As far as the establishment?
Eileen Younghusband I was thinking rather sadly while Dr. Wade was talking, that I'm afraid that what he was talking about was essentially history, was the attitude towards the poor which your forebears bring, my forebears brought over with the Elizabethan poor law.
Eileen Younghusband Well, it's taken us both a long time to live through it. I think one of the very many things which "Common Human Needs" does, and I hadn't thought of it until this moment, was to allay the fears of the givers. It says to the givers, "Well it's public assistance, so any other kind of agency, don't' be frightened. It's all right to give. You're not going to hurt yourselves," which is probably what's uppermost in the givers' minds, and you're not going to hurt the people to whom you give. I suppose it's so bred in us from Charlotte Towle, the [view? feel?] That if you give freely, you'll foster people's independence, and if he or she would so often said the constricted giver that then you're really fostering dependence. One of the things that strikes one so much in re-reading "Common Human Needs" is the enormous stress in it on the individual's capacity for growth, for independence, for learning, right through the book she's talking about the other human being's desire to learn, desire to master his circumstances. There's a delightful bit, I don't know whether anybody could easily put their finger on it,. About the baby and the spoon. The baby who wants to learn to feed itself and who is furious and frustrated when the mother tries to do it for the baby and the baby dribbles it all down his front and makes a beastly mess. But he is learning in the course of doing this. I wonder if I may for a moment turn to something else. You've all been talking about public assistance, and of course the book was written for the United States Public Assistance Administration, but to me one of the astonishing things is that a book which was written for a particular country, for a particular agency in a particular country over 20 years ago, has not only been translated into nine different languages. At least this we know, we think a number of people have translated and just not thought of mentioning it, but it is being used literally all over the world by countries with very different social systems. For instance, in my own country we just don't have public assistance as you know it. The cake is sliced quite differently. And this is true in other countries, too, and in countries at a very different economic level from yours. And yet, this is regarded as the basic book. I know from experience that when social work is starting as a systematic profession in the country and they say, "What textbooks do they need? Do we need?" Almost one of the first questions is, how do we get "Common Human Needs" translated so that students who don't speak English can use it. Well, this is the most incredible tribute that the agency doesn't get in the way, that then the students aren't saying, "Of course, this may be all right in the United States, but it's different here." The picture that she gives of people at every stage of development is so true to experience that it just doesn't get in the way.
Alan Wade The cultural setting makes very little difference. I think this attests to the validity of the title that she chose, "Common Human Needs", it suggests that this is not just Chicago or Philadelphia or San Francisco, but it's--has something to do with the way people are, with variations on the central theme, but nevertheless the central theme is there and operating, and I think this is very important. It's not only countries that have different means for organizing their social services, but countries with supposedly very different philosophies in terms of what a human being is like, and yet, they too, as you've indicated, have found this book highly relevant.
Studs Terkel I was thinking just as we are talking about the book of Charlotte Towle with our four guests, Dame Eileen Younghusband, Alan Wade, Dr. Littner and Pearl Rosenzweig. A boy on Chicago's West side in the inner city is talking. We hear this boy talking about himself and his grandmother who had been on relief who now has a job of her own as an elevator operator, but his view of how people like himself and his world are regarded by the givers. [pause in recording] We hear a lot talk about headlines, A.D.C., relief, people on relief, you know, we hear this so much, headlines, don't really want to work, you know, and getting away with things. What's your feeling about that?
Jimmy Well, I feel that, you know. You know, I know that some people can work and don't wanna, but, you know, you think about the people that can't work and really wants to work, you know, and there's no jobs open to 'em. And they really, they really, they really want a job, you know. And here are these people, you know, they down 'em, you know, just, you know, it's just like a guy, you know, that loses a race, you know, he's down because he done lost a race, but, you know, they never say, you know, they never tells him, you know, there's another race, you know. But it's the same way with the relief. I feel that some people shouldn't be judged, you know, as no good just because they're down on their luck. And just think if a guy has a family of about 10 kids, you know. And here you are, you gonna say, "Well, he's no good because, you know, he's on the welfare." Well, I say if you feel this way, give him a job, you know, see if he's no good. No and if he proves to be no good, then I say your judgment of him is pretty much right. But if you can't prove it and you don't know, you know, why should you say, "Well, he's no good." I know, for instance, that a lot of people are, you know, just standing around, you know, and don't want to work, you know, can and don't want to, but there are so many other people that really wants to. And they have, they have to, you know, have to look in the paper and see that these people are downing 'em, and saying, you know, you know, here they are, the scum of the earth. You know, this is in a sense is what they're saying, you know, they're actually saying that, you know, these guys are the scum of the earth because they don't have a job and they have to depend on someone. I know I dislike the idea of having to depend on someone. But, you know, if you can't make it on your own, I feel that what are you put here for, you know, if you can't help the next guy. If you can't help him, who do you help?
Jimmy Yeah, it is because, you know, like, you know, you don't want money from nobody. You know. You know, because you, I guess you get the feeling, you know, just like people always doing something for you, they say, "Aw, gee whiz, they ain't no good, they lazy," and then they, you know, you get treated, you know, in a different way. And you can't do as much as you want to do as if you was working. If you was working, you could have a free man. with her, she would almost enjoy having to come home and say, "I worked hard all day. Gee whiz, I'm going to quit that job," and knowing all the same time she never leave, But, yet, and still, she say, "Aw, gee whiz, heck, they worked me hard today. I'm tired from it." And she blow off steam, you know, and then she go and thank to herself, well, this is what I'm going to do with my money when I get paid," you know, and then every, you know, every weekend, you know, after the weeks is over, "Oh, I'm glad this week is over," and then she say, "Here come another hard week," when the week start. But you know, you enjoy it because you know it's yours. This is yours, you work for it.
Eileen Younghusband May I tell you what my main thought was about Jimmy? That he said let you prove that you aren't no good and then if you aren't no good, well, then they were right. But I don't think to Charlotte Towle there was ever anybody who wasn't no good. And Jimmy was just ranking people, which is exactly what Charlotte Towle was saying you shouldn't do.
Ner Littner Or any people. No, he was really pointing out the thing that Mr. Wade had mentioned earlier, that there is no such person as someone who does not want to be independent and self-supporting. He may not talk about it, he may not show evidence of such a feeling, but within every adult who lives there is such a strong feeling. It may not show because of a variety of fears, but just because we do something for a person doesn't mean to say that we're going to take away his initiative. His initiative is there, and no one can take it away from him. It can be released.
Alan Wade It can also be destroyed, of course, for practical purposes, and this is what many people feel that some of our large public programs are doing today. I think two things I'd like to say about the young boy, here we have a Chicago Negro boy from the West side. We say that people like him are culturally deprived. Listen to the eloquence with which he expresses some basic human properties and ambitions. As I hear these people talk, I often wonder if it isn't the rest of us who are culturally deprived in many ways. The other thing I'd like to say is that, in its initial purpose, the Aid to Dependent Children program, which is the most hated of all of our public programs, was established to make it possible for women to do something socially regarded as useful by the community, namely to stay home and take care of their children. These are women who are deprived of husbands for a variety of reasons. At the present time, we seem hell-bent to--with a public philosophy that's both written and spoken, that the only thing that women--that the only way women on Aid to Dependent Children can ever be useful is for them to return to work. Now, why this is, I'm not sure. It just seems to me to be a terrible travesty and to be ultimately the most foolish thing that our society can possibly do. To say that it's more valuable for women in general on A.D.C. to be working than it is for them to be at home providing care for their children, I personally would be willing to admit that there are many women who are better off working, and who want to work, and they should be allowed to do so, and adequate facilities for the care and maintenance of their children should be provided. But at the present time, our whole public purpose, at least in this community, seems to be to get these mothers out of the home, get them back to work so that we can show a good record in reducing the A.D.C. rolls. Is this the sum total of our society's purpose, to save money, in the short term?
Alan Wade No.
Studs Terkel Hasn't something happened as Alan Wade is talking and Ner Littner and Dame Eileen and Pearl Rosenzweig? Something new has happened. Poverty is altered, too, has it not, in the 21 years since Charlotte Towle wrote "Common Human Needs"? Is there something called the, Oscar Lewis calls the "culture of poverty," now the new element of profound despair is added, probably was never even there for more than--
Ner Littner We're getting third-generation families on A.D.C. where the A.D.C. mother today, her mother was on A.D.C. and her mother's mother was on A.D.C. I would think that this is solely a result of society's inability or refusal to stop the cycle by doing what's necessary to rehabilitate a family and the failure to rehabilitate the family allows this cycle to keep going. I think it's our fault that we're getting into this kind of culture of poverty.
Alan Wade Of course, there are always the easy answers. They are age-old, but they're the people who give them are hailed as profits. For example, the man who ran for senator on the write-in ballot during the last election--
Studs Terkel Sabonjian.
Alan Wade Who said that mother, the A.D.C. mother should be put in jail, that this was a solution to the problem. He got big headlines for this. This is an idea goes back 500 years, and yet it's still possible for a man to get headlines in the newspaper by repeating this kind of nonsense.
Pearl Rosenzweig And we may see some headlines in the coming meeting of our state legislature. We certainly know it's going to come in California. What Mr. Reagan has already said about a new crackdown on welfare.
Studs Terkel Well, something has happened here, isn't this, as a regression taking place now on the part of so-called respectable society that is going back 500 years. Now, there seems to be instead of the development that Charlotte Towle was talking about the end of--it seems to be a reverse, is this true in Britain, Dame Eileen?
Eileen Younghusband Well, it's always difficult to generalize about a country, isn't it? What is true is that we are getting many more severely alienated people than we had. It's nothing like the extent that it is here. For instance, drug addiction among adolescents, homelessness, drifting around, anything for a fix. This is beginning with us and it was quite unknown. I'm not suggesting it's a big problem, it isn't, I'm only saying that it's a new problem. Now, as far as poverty is concerned, how interesting it is that we've been talking for three quarters of an hour and nobody here has mentioned the "War on Poverty."
Eileen Younghusband I think your "War on Poverty" program is partly a stimulus to us. We've got a group going now called the Poverty Action Group which is trying to identify what families are in poverty and why. They tend, of course, to be obviously old people, what we tend to call unsupported mothers, families where there are more than a certain number of children and low earnings and people are handicapped. And we're beginning to think that we ought to do some special gearing of our social security programs 'til these groups are rather gathered and this feeds into what I've just been saying to--from what Dr. Wade says, that he thinks that A.D.C. mothers who stay at home to look after their children ought to get a really pretty good ground for doing so. For the effects on the children of being brought up in the single-parent family and in poverty where they can't do the same things as other children, they can't have the same things as other children, they probably can't invite other people home, other children particularly home. Well, they've got to say they don't have a father. But all that these things repeat themselves, as Dr. Littner has said, under the second and third generation.
Ner Littner We're getting caught up with the inevitable result of the perpetuation of problems. A kid who is not learning may be passed along in school until he gets to eighth grade and he knows nothing because the work has become so much higher and he does not have the bases for dealing with it. And I think we're having the same problem today. Our failure to do what is necessary for helping rehabilitate people and helping them become independent is now beginning to catch up with us and particularly, of course, with the lack of jobs for people who were not specially trained is adding an extra straw to this.
Alan Wade You mentioned the "War on Poverty." At least that part--I presume you meant that part of the War on Poverty that's established by the Economic Opportunities Act of 1964. This has been in many ways a useful program, however, I think it ought to be pointed out that it has reached a very small number of people, and that there are some ominous signs at the present time that the community action titles of that Act, which had as their purpose the stimulation of action and participation in community life on the part of poor people, are being slowly starved to death, or at least they're certainly not being increased by the present Congress and they seem to be moving in favor of giving major emphasis to essentially leaf-raking projects: The neighborhood youth corps which provides a little money for kids to pick up papers in the park. Well, I think it's important for kids to have jobs, but if this job doesn't seem to have any connection with a viable and productive future, can we blame kids for being cynical about it, and for not feeling that it's of any relevance to their needs?
Studs Terkel Doesn't what Alan Wade, isn't what he's saying directly related to Charlotte Towle's book, that he's talking about the movement's looked upon with suspicion by the establishment in which the poor suddenly find sense of personal worth and Charlotte Towle speaks of the sense of personal worth. As Jimmy mentions, too, you're worth something. His grandmother feels we're--that this is the part that is being threatened and this is the sad aspect of the developments according to Alan Wade, and this connects with Charlotte Towle again, as though we haven't learned from her, those in charge of these large programs goes way up. It comes back to that again, doesn't it?
Ner Littner There is one aspect where she was very far ahead of her time. She talks in one part of her book about learning, and the emotional roots of learning, and how you must be able to influence the emotional roots if someone is to learn. In this day of TV instruction and teaching machines, this and the fact that I think that they are beginning to realize that this is not what's going to really help someone learn, there has to be the personal contact in addition to these other things. We will be coming back as this pendulum swings to this appreciation that she brought out 21 years ago, that learning must take place in an area where emotional needs are being dealt with.
Pearl Rosenzweig you wanted to say? You know, I see she's way ahead of her time, too. I read in her pages on the nature of man's relationship with others, and its import in the development of personality, her plea, really, to us, to break out of the ghetto. Says, "It's generally agreed that the human personality grows, develops, matures through relationships with others, and that there's an innate tendency to gravitate into relationship with others in the interest of survival and the great push that we are at least thinking about and talking about, if not actually getting involved in, is how we break people out of the ghetto and out of what Dr. King has talked about, the "slum psychology."
Studs Terkel How about one last, it's funny how an hour at best just touches lightly on a program so profound and so disturbing. And so I hope not eternal, but lasting so many years, and so little had been learned by it. Just thoughts again, the book 21 years ago written by Charlotte Towle and thoughts today. Just one last go-around, we call this, Dame Sybil. Dame Sybil, Sybil Thorndike, who's quite a woman, too. Dame Eileen Younghusband.
Eileen Younghusband Do you know, it suddenly occurred to me, the title of the book is called "Common Human Needs"; we've been again and again pulling it back into poverty. The book is about the needs of anybody. The book is about the needs of people because they're human beings, and it was written for an agency which is concerned with poverty, but we've said that's it's found to be valid universally, and therefore it relates to the people and the way they live and the things that they need from each other and what happens to them at different stages of their development and in their family and community interactions. And this, I think, is one of the reasons why it's a very great book. Indeed, it's the only book that gives you a living picture of the human being from birth through to old age.
Ner Littner We've been somewhat pessimistic in terms of how are we applying the knowledge that Charlotte Towle wrote about 20 years ago. Actually, I think that we should end in a much more optimistic note because of the fact this knowledge is available, it is being learned by many people, and even though the pendulum insists on swinging back and forth, I am certain as I am sure all of us here are, that this knowledge will be implemented to a far greater degree as we go along.
Alan Wade Yes, I think of one phrase here that I might close with. She said, "Whatever the limitation in our present programs, we can take heart in our labors and the realization that we are pioneers in the effort to make real man's claim of right on society." There are some encouraging signs that we're beginning to talk and think about some ways of doing this, and of course, I would suggest that more and more people in positions of influence, including people in the business community, are thinking seriously about revisions in our income maintenance programs, moving in the direction of a guaranteed annual income, which of course would provide for a strengthening of our public welfare programs by removing from them the onerous burden that results from our presumption that everybody who needs assistance is a burglar come to raid the public treasury. And I think there are definitely some encouraging signs on the horizon.
Pearl Rosenzweig Well, Alan has already quoted you the line that I wanted to close on. I can only say that I'm glad I re-read it, and it reminds me that I must read it again and again, and it also gives me a sense of hope, and reinforces my feeling that where I've been going is the right direction and I'll have to keep going in that direction.
Studs Terkel Well, I think it's an optimistic note, and, perhaps for me, just in listening to four people so definitely involved with the lives, indeed the psyches of other human beings and were sensitive themselves and were influenced by Charlotte Towle, feeling that who is culturally deprived, we come back to that again. There is regression, that, perhaps it is the establishment and respectable society that is culturally deprived in not understanding what Charlotte Towle, in my reading the book quickly the other night, and written over it again, see that she is saying it's a two-way street continuously. It's a continuous learning on the part of the giver who does receive, indeed. Perhaps this particular gathering will have an impact of its own. I hope that thousands more of such colloquia, I like that word, will be needed. More understanding by everyone. Dame Eileen Younghusband, who has been our visitor from overseas, President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work. Alan Wade, who's the--we all call it the President, is Chairman of the Chicago chapter of the Social Service--
Studs Terkel National Association of Social Workers. National Association of staff in University of Chicago School of Social Services Administration, slurring, and Dr. Ner Littner, who is the Chairman of the Chicago chapter of Child Psychiatrists, and Pearl Rosenzweig, who is District Supervisor, Cook County Department of Public Aid. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.