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Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's…

Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and…

by Paul Tough

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3471252,243 (4.1)7
An intriguing portrait of African-American activist Geoffrey Canada, creator of the Harlem Children's Zone, describes his radical new approach to eliminating inner-city poverty, one that proposes to transform the lives of poor children by changing their schools, their families, and their neighborhoods at the same time.… (more)



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I saw this book on a shelf at the bookstore and picked it up because it was praised by Ira Glass on the cover. I then turned it over and saw additional praise from Dave Eggers and Michael Pollan. I figured it was worth a read.

The book is about a community based set of programs in Harlem designed to help kids get out of poverty and into college. The program seems like it has done really amazing things and it was interesting to read about the successes and failures along the way. I can't believe how intense the programs are and how much it takes to catch inner city kids up to their more wealthy counterparts. The test scores of the children do dramatically improve with such intense programs, but it seems that such dramatic teaching to the test isn't a good idea in any kind of school.
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  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Ironically Paul Tough was a little tough on the parents he portrays in the Harlem Children's Zone and in my opinion, helps to promote stereotypes around dress, household composition and styles of speech. That I didn't like. With that said, he does do an excellent job of describing the incredible driving force that is Geoffrey Canada. The unwavering commitment to excellence and the determination to change systemic poverty is an example to be replicated everywhere- thank you Obama for Promise Neighborhoods! I suppose that Tough also reinforces the idea that money can change generational poverty. Someone please send some Wall Street tycoons to more nonprofits; individuals who can commit 25 million at a time and REALLY change lives. The idea of private/public partnerships is much too long in the making. ( )
  MichelleCH | Apr 5, 2013 |
Good review of American schooling debates, including research. The successes and failures of Geoffrey Canada's efforts to set up educational services in Harlem. He had an ambition to change everything at once. Maybe this is called for, but a particular danger with that approach is that it makes it difficult to evaluate what works and what not.

Canada was held up as a model by Barack Obama before he became president. ( )
  ohernaes | Apr 4, 2013 |
I finished reading Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough. It’s about the efforts of Geoffrey Canada to break the cycle of multi-generational urban poverty in America. Canada uses a 97 block Harlem neighborhood as his laboratory. First he learns that it’s not enough to change the lives of 2 or 3 kids through superhuman intervention. While that’s great for the few lives that are changed, what is really needed is a method that can change the lives of hundreds of children, and can be replicated in large cities across the country. Canada’s program begins with parents who are expecting or have newborns, teaching them about nutrition, health, and how important early stimulation and affection is for babies. He follows up with programs at age 3, pre-kindergarten, grade school, middle school, right up through college in what he calls his “conveyor belt” approach. In this time in America where we are feeling that there are so many things we’ll just have to give up; things that, while nice, just aren’t economically feasible, this book speaks to American’s “can-do” spirit. The only way to create a better tomorrow is to invest in our children today. ( )
  richard.thurman | Mar 21, 2012 |
Mr. Tough takes an unflinching look at one man (Geoffrey Canada) and his quest to lift an entire area of Harlem from the unrelenting poverty that currently afflicts it. What I found so admirable was Mr. Canada's unwillingness to leave anyone behind, and his unrelenting work towards that aim, using all the resources he could muster. It also made me aware of how much I take for granted as a member of the middle class - right down to the kind of parental interaction I had as a child and am having now as a parent. I hope Mr. Canada succeeds and that his methods can be applied throughout the United States. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Aug 6, 2011 |
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