The inner cities of major metropolitan centers across the U.S. have been plagued with rampant crime for decades now, and still it seems every week newscasters manage to report some horrifying new instance of violence. This constant torrent of statistics and images inspire most people to react by switching the channel and calling a locksmith in Toronto for new Davies Lock & Door Services Ltd deadbolts. Kids who attend schools in these neighborhoods have no way of escaping from these epicenters of drug use and gang activity. The results, too often, are a failure to graduate, diminished employment opportunities, or incarceration.
Inner city crime and its negative effect on educational opportunities is a complex, seemingly intractable issue. Fortunately, there have been some attempts to help disadvantaged youth that have been successful. From these, valuable lessons can be learned.
Changing the Focus
Time and again, educators and former students alike have identified one of the principle difficulties kids in these schools face: a sense of hopelessness and an inability to imagine a future where they are successful adults. The remedy can be as simple as exposing these kids to teachers and an environment where everyday they hear otherwise. Educators like Bedford Academy’s George E. Leonard have shown that instilling in these kids a sense of self-worth and confidence in their abilities can work wonders. Programs such as the one at Milwaukee’s North Division High School called "Young Men of Vision" are also attempting to show young people a better path. Change the focus from how to school can change, to the students.
Too much of the focus of current programs is on quantifiable short-term goals, like retention rates or test scores. It’s felt that if these students don’t finish high school, immediately attend a four-year college and graduate, then the scholarship or community programs that tried to help them failed in their missions. However, government and educational leaders may need to take a bigger view. People growing up and attending school in these neighborhoods have a hard time breaking away. It may take years or decades for them to complete their academic and life goals, but in the end, they do. The difference is often the efforts on the part of educators to make them feel more capable.
Ultimately, what’s been learned is that the programs that will lead to better long-term outcomes are those that steer students away from negative everyday influences, while trying to put them on a track towards a certain hopeful vision of themselves.