I cook, I read fiction, I sleep…but I also write long-form journalism. One project in partiucular has been important to me these past few months. The article had been embargoed in the Prospect’s December print issue, but it’s now available online.
In October I spent a week in my hometown of Ossining, New York, reporting a story on this uniquely integrated school district’s attempt to close the achievement gap through segregated extracurricular activities. In the almost six years since I graduated from Ossining High School, there’s been a profound shift in how seriously the community takes the disparity in graduation rates between white students (over 90 percent) and black and Hispanic males in particular (under 50 percent). So there’s a new focus on sociocultural support for boys of color, ranging from weekend trips to plays, to African drumming lessons for black boys, to college prep tutoring as early as middle school.
I spent some time getting to know a group of high school students who call themselves Project Earthquake. This is a sort of masculinty support group for African American teenagers, where they dicuss dating, marriage, and parenthood in the black community; academic achievement; and career planning. The program — which is funded in large part by a foundation launched by upper middle class white mothers in Ossining — has been incredibly meaningful for its participants. But underlying the success is concern that girls of color and poor kids of all races are being overlooked, and that in a legal climate increasingly hostile to affirmative action, racially-targeted programming won’t stand up in the courts.
This isn’t an argumentative piece, but rather a reported look at one district’s attempt to deal with so many of the issues at the forefront of our national educational debate. I hope you check it out.