I just finished Paul Tough's book Whatever it Takes. The book is entirely focused on Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone, a non-profit organization in Harlem, New York that manages charter schools, pre-schools, after school programs, and parent education classes all in an effort to end generational poverty. Instead of writing a long, rambling post about the book, I will instead do a series of shorter, more focused posts. My large reading audience I think will prefer this blogging style.
For this first part of the review, I am going to simply write briefly about the author, Paul Tough. I don't know anything about him except that he writes and edits for the New York Times Sunday Magazine and he seems to focus mostly on education. From a purely stylistic standpoint, I loved reading an education book written by a skilled writer. So many of our education tomes these days look at things from a rather simplistic lens and/or are poorly written. Tough's book is both well-written and takes a complex view of the role schools play in defeating poverty.
One of Tough's previous NYT's pieces I want to briefly mention here was written two years ago and focused on the success of charter schools with inner city children across the country. The stories of every single one of these schools inspires me as an educator. As someone interested in education policy, the touting of these schools as "the answer" concerns me. Student attrition at these high standards charter is high and the teaching staffs are mainly young, dedicated teachers willing to work long hours to deliver quality instruction. What happens to kids in these schools that decide to not attend anymore? What happens when teachers start to have families and begin to have issues with working 55-60 hours a week for a teacher's salary? Whatever it Takes does not look at these issues but they have to be considered when reading the smaller picture, inspiration story. More on Whatever it Takes in future posts.