Here is an interesting column written in 1932, when barefooting kids were starting to disappear in the United States, particularly in the cities.
It is written by an educator named Angelo Patri.
According to Wikipedia, Angelo Patri was a teacher and then school principal, and was a progressive influence in modernizing the whole idea of fatherhood. In addition, he wrote a syndicated column on child psychology.
There is still an Angelo Patri Middle School in New York, in the Bronx. I notice that they have a dress code: I bet it requires shoes.
I wish I could write as well as he did. This is a wonderful plea to let kids go barefoot. Oh, and it really applies to adults, too.
Give Your Youngsters Chance to go Barefoot
By Angelo Patri
Let whoever can, go barefooted but be especially tolerant of barefooted children. They need to feel the earth under their bare feet. It cools them, rests their feet, and soothes their minds, all at the same time; and without cost. In fact, it saves cost. Think of the shoes and stockings they don’t wear out.
Many people are afraid to let the children go barefooted during the summer. They are afraid that the neighbors won’t think well of the idea. They don’t like to see the dirt on the children’s feet. They are afraid of hurts and colds. Almost all of these fears are without cause. The only danger to the children is from the broken glass, sharp stones and the like. But surely one can find a place that is free from rubbish? The garden, the lawn, the meadow, ought to be free of anything that could harm a child’s bare foot. The sandy beach should be free of all rubbish so that a child can tread safely on bare feet and get the joy out of feeling the wet sand on his feet.
The chief reason for going barefooted is the feel of it. It feels good. We do not give enough attention to enjoying good feelings. We sniff at the children when they say, “’cause it feels good” Feelings do not matter, especially when it is children who want to enjoy them. I think it is some remnant of an old conscience against feelings. They are dangerous traps that the senses lay for the soul of mankind. I do not believe a word of that. I believe that the senses are benevolent powers that afford us joy and consequent strength in living.
When you feel the cool grass under your bare feet something in you sings and a bit of the load drops off. When the sweet breeze off the sea or the mountain brushes across your face you are soothed and comforted and inspired in thought the breath of life had been breathed into you once more. When the perfume of the flowers, the color of the world comes to you, a glad feeling rises without pulling you up and up beyond the reach of the sordid earth.
These feelings are not to be despised. Rather they are to be cultivated. They are the food of the creative imagination which is the force that makes life beautiful for the human inhabitants of this world. Before you can create you must feel and feeling arises out of the use of the senses. When we ignore a child’s craving for pleasant feelings we stunt his spiritual growth. Starving his emotional being leaves him to the mercy of his crude senses, his devouring appetites.
This may seem a long way to go on bare feet, but it’s because of that long vista, the child’s 70-year long pilgrimage, that I plead with you to give him the power his bare feet generate, to give him the life of spirit that his seeing eyes, his hearing ears, his quivering skin offer to his evolving spirit.
It is one of the mysteries, this way of ours with a child. He comes to us equipped with everything he needs for a happy, successful life and we ignore his equipment and attempt to substitute one of our own, manufactured to our order. We have set up a false standard and the result mocks us. Let’s get down to the bare earth on our bare feet for a time and feel life from the ground up.