In many inner-city areas, schools and other institutions have failed to prepare students to become effective members of society. The grassroots efforts that have sprung up to help those students offer lessons that could help save many of our most vulnerable children, say the winners of the 1995 award.
Stanford University professors Shirley Brice Heath and Milbrey McLaughlin conducted five years of intensive fieldwork in some of America’s most distressed inner-city neighborhoods. They presented their findings in “Identity & Inner-City Youth: Beyond Ethnicity and Gender,” which was printed in 1993 by Teachers College Press.
They studied 60 organizations, ranging from theater groups to gangs, that engage about 24,000 children.
The researchers found that, while many teachers advocate emphasizing ethnicity, gender or self-esteem, the successful organizations instead promote a feeling of community, or family.
Successful institutions serve several purposes in addition to their focus, are proactive in recruiting and working with students, provide shields against the negative aspects of neighborhood life and draw on and respond to the particular talents and needs of their community.
Effective institutions also view youth as a resource and as a collection of individuals of value to society rather than as a problem to be corrected.
“Their book is about education, but it is not about schools,” said UCLA professor Ronald Gallimore, winner of the 1993 Grawemeyer Award in Education for his work in reshaping curriculum to fit the needs of the community. The book is important, he s aid, because it “invites all of us to look beyond schools and educational research for new ideas and directions for education.”
Heath is a professor in the departments of English and Linguistics. McLaughlin is a professor of education and public policy at Stanford University.