Paul Tough

Writer & Speaker

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Canada in Milwaukee

On Oct. 22, Geoffrey Canada gave a keynote speech in Milwaukee at the conference of the Alliance for Children and Families. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that “Canada addressed some of the questions he’s faced about the practicality of applying his Harlem Children’s Zone model to the rest of the nation.”

“There is a double standard in this country,” Canada said, adding that when people ask about non-educational services at Harlem Children’s Zone and how they affect kids’ scores, he admits they don’t. But he asks why they want their kids to see the dentist and play tennis.

“We know these things are important; we shouldn’t have to justify it,” Canada said.

By building communities around children, especially those in the most challenging circumstances, Canada said you can foster a sense of optimism in children. Educational success will follow.

“In saving kids, you got to be prepared to save families,” Canada said.

Accompanying the article was a column by Alan J. Borsuk, who took issue with some of Canada’s strategies, but concluded,

[T]here is something to what Canada says. The schools in Milwaukee that are most in line with what he advocates really are different from your general run of struggling public schools. The energy and dedication put into the pursuit of getting the students to succeed is at the core of the difference.

Maybe the people running and teaching in the large number of schools in Milwaukee with weak results should rest less easily, should be pushing harder to find better ways to do things, and should expect more of themselves. There are efforts under way to overhaul some of those schools, but I’m quite sure they are not as ambitious as Canada would want.

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