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by Ed Boland
A few years into his career as the development director of Project Advance, a nonprofit organization that helped underprivileged kids attain elite educations, Boland decided that he wanted in on “the front lines of education.” After two years of graduate training, he quit his comfortable job and began his teaching apprenticeship, where his idealism was soon tested. His hope was temporarily restored when he began his first job teaching ninth-grade world history at Union Street School. There, he met dynamic instructors who seemed to be making a difference among the urban youth they taught. As soon as he stepped into his own classroom, however, he discovered just how difficult his task would be. Many students openly defied him as they derailed his efforts to teach them; only a few showed any sincere willingness to learn. Three years later, Boland learned that half of his original 90 students graduated; only a tiny fraction went on to attend college. Though told with compassion and wry humor, the book is often difficult to read. Yet the ideal-shattering truths it reveals are important ones for teachers and administrators seeking to reform the urban education system in the United States.
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