An educator's spiritual journey

It all started with teaching in an inner-city school

We have a problem: Many high school classrooms in America's big cities have become frightening and destructive environments. In a recent New York Times article, Bob Herbert writes: "You'll find these noisy, chaotic classrooms in almost any of America's big cities, not just New York. They are ruthlessly destructive, and scary to students and teachers alike. They are places where childhood dreams all too frequently expire" ("Failing Teachers," October 24, 2003).

During the 1980s, I taught in New York's inner-city high schools in Harlem and in the South Bronx. I often felt that the situation was hopeless, and I was frequently overwhelmed by the sheer number and rigor of my tasks as a teacher. Worse still were the hard facts about just how tough things can get, facts that only insiders—teachers and school administrators—are privy to.

Herbert's article confronts these hard facts head on: "The worst of the problems—the true extent of school violence, the utter chaos in some of the classrooms, the fraudulent grading and promotion practices, the widespread contempt heaped upon the students, and the scandalous lack of parental involvement—have not yet been fully and honestly revealed. Real progress and real reform won't happen without an understanding of the real truth." But what is "the real truth"?

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'I ate the Bible'
November 24, 2003

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