Archive for 2008
Insideschools.org, “an independent, not-for-profit website devoted to informing parents, teachers, and students about New York City public schools,” has started an online book club. The first book under discussion is Whatever It Takes.
Paul Tough, who writes about education for the New York Times Magazine, tackles hefty social science quandaries – like what causes poverty and how it can be alleviated — within the narrative of Geoffrey Canada’s dramatic, ongoing struggle to change the lives of Harlem’s children. … After five years of reporting, Tough describes Canada’s venture – the Harlem Children’s Zone – through the stories of the people who work for and are served by the project, which includes two charter schools. Tough also explains the research behind anti-poverty efforts, relating it to the sometimes nail-biting, sometimes heartbreaking, yet surprisingly hopeful story of Canada’s work.
Tough offers an inspiring look at Geoffrey Canada, who created the Harlem Children’s Zone, a program to provide children with the support they need from birth until graduation from high school.
Yesterday on “Midday with Dan Rodricks,” on WYPR, I talked about Whatever It Takes and the idea of replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone in Baltimore.
As Rodricks summarized on his blog:
The Harlem Children’s Zone is a groundbreaking initiative to help impoverished neighborhoods with high crime and low levels of academic achievement. Could it work in Baltimore? We’ll talk with Paul Tough, author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, and with Matthew Joseph, Executive Director of Advocates for Children and Youth, who would like to see taxpayer resources go into a Harlem Children’s Zone-like project here. Done well over time, it could save hundreds of millions in government social and justice expenditures.
Here’s the audio.
“My own journalistic investigation into the questions of poverty and education started a little more than five years ago, not far from here, when I first visited [HCZ Founder] Geoffrey Canada,” Paul Tough, an editor at The New York Times Magazine, told an audience at Teachers College’s fourth annual Symposium on Education Equity in November. “By the end of our first conversation, I knew I wanted to write an article about Geoff’s work, and by the time that article came out in The New York Times Magazine in 2004, I knew I wanted to go further and write a book.”
Tough, author of the recently published Whatever It Takes:Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, concluded that “a true solution to the problem of underachievement in inner-city schools is going to require more nurturing families and safer neighborhoods, as well as better teachers and more accountable schools. It’s not only possible to fix both problems at the same time, it’s essential.”
Today on Edutopia.com, an online magazine, an interview I did with Bernice Yeung on the process of reporting and writing Whatever It Takes. I said things like:
The prekindergarten teachers were just so focused on and conscious of language, on how to get language into every part of the day to expand these kids’ vocabularies, which all this research shows is exactly what the students need the most at that stage.
Bernice Yeung, Edutopia, November 19, 2008
From his blog:
If the same group of highly intelligent and dedicated urban educators shifted their focus to the birth though 5th grade population we could see some significant results. Maybe our input might start matching our output. This isn’t to say that we don’t need highly qualified and passionate teachers working at the secondary level. We obviously do and those kids deserve our best efforts to turn things around. However, recruiting a new group of educators and taking some of the current work force to focus in on the age levels where we can really make a difference and ensure that a gap never starts seems to me as the only way to make a dent in this giant social dilemma.
Today on Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog, notes on “Whatever It Takes,” plus a Q&A with me and Geoffrey Canada.
When I saw this summer that Tough had written a book about Canada, my radar screen lit up like the Fourth of July. And the book, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, turns out to be excellent: a well-told distillation of a very complex story, and an admiring but level-headed profile of a remarkable man. Canada’s project, the Harlem Children’s Zone, is an incredibly ambitious attempt to make sure that no child really is left behind in the 97-block neighborhood it serves, working with everyone from expectant parents to hard-to-steer adolescents to foster an entire culture that supports the basic task of educating poor kids and breaking the cycle of generational poverty. As the book shows, the project has had some remarkable successes in its first few years, but they haven’t been uniform or easy.