TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Geoffrey Canada on Saving American Children through Education

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While it’s widely understood that without education, most young people cannot hope to enjoy a future of health, productivity and civic engagement, the United States continues to deny millions of its children the quality of education it lavishes on others.

Whatever the official reasons are for such disparity which effectively dooms millions to a shorter, more painful, and more economically deprived life, two things are clear. The students hurt by such policies are disproportionately poor, and disproportionately of Afrikan, indigenous and Latin-indigenous descent.

But while many are content to blame the elites for creating and maintaining this factory of inequality and despair, some have sworn to change that system.

Born in 1952, Geoffrey Canada is an educational crusader and founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Himself a child of the South Bronx, Canada learned early in life that doom awaited those who were unprepared for their futures. The Zone he and others established sought to provide for its constituents the opportunities widely available for middle class children, including services and activities after school ended for the day or for the week.

“In the late 1990s, HCZ ran a pilot project that brought a range of support services to a single block. The idea was to address all the problems that poor families were facing: from crumbling apartments to failing schools, from violent crime to chronic health problems.

“In 1997, the agency began a network of programs for a 24-block area: the Harlem Children's Zone Project. In 2007, the Zone Project grew to almost 100 blocks and served 7,400 children and over 4,100 adults.

“Over the years, the agency introduced several ground-breaking efforts: in 2000, The Baby College parenting workshops; in 2001, the Harlem Gems pre-school program; also in 2001, the HCZ Asthma Initiative, which teaches families to better manage the disease; in 2004, the Promise Academy, a high-quality public charter school; and in 2006, an anti-obesity program to help children stay healthy.”

The Zone school features a longer school day and a longer school year; beginning in 2004, entrance to the Zone’s Promise Academy kindergarten and grade 6 classes was selected by lottery.

Geoffrey Canada, one of the key builders of the Zone, has been widely honoured for his work, including through the $250,000 Heinz Award, a prize similar to the MacArthur “genius” fellowship. Numerous universities and colleges including Harvard have granted him honourary degrees, and he’s appeared widely on American news media. He’s the author of two books:

Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America (1995)
Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America (1998)


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