Boston Schools: Past Insights into Present Problems(continued)

by Jeanne Belovitch

had been sentenced to prison from 28 years to life for murder. Bridges estimated that he had shot 30 people. Later in the interview Brokaw asked Bridges, “Do you ever remember a time when somebody would say to you 'if you study hard and you work hard, you can be a success, you can be somebody?'”

Their exchange went like this:

Bridges: “Yeah.”

Brokaw: “Who said that to you?”

Bridges: “My mother and my teacher.”

Brokaw: “Did you believe them?”

Bridges: “No.”

Brokaw: “Why not?”

Bridges: “Because it's a hard world. I just—I didn't believe it.”

Perhaps Dinky Bridges couldn't believe his mother and teacher because they didn't believe it was really true themselves. It's difficult for students to see hope for their own lives when practically everything around them is crime, drugs, poverty, and death. It's difficult for parents “to keep hope alive” for their children when they've experienced a society that hasn't delivered for them. And it's difficult for teachers, whatever the race or ethnic group, to motivate students when their messages are in total contradiction to the reality their students live by daily.

If the three major players in education – students, teachers and parents – all carry with them the same burden of hopelessness, no one will ever begin to dream they can make a change. Attitude is creating an underclass of people who will be unfit to live in a moral, economic and social way. When we tire of asking the most obvious question “why don't schools work”, we ought to look toward a more revealing one: How are we shaping the identity of our urban children?

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