Book Review: Whatever It Takes
Paul Tough on Geoffrey Canada's quest to change Harlem and America.
It's a familiar story: A guy from the hood does good, then returns to lift up the folks back home. A reporter shadows him, showing us the bullet holes, the exhausted yet heroic crusader, the teary graduation ceremony. Whatever It Takes fits into the inner-city redemption genre, but thankfully, Paul Tough avoids its traps. His subject, Geoffrey Canada, is the head of the Harlem Children's Zone, a conveyor belt of conception-to-graduation services and schools that he hopes will "contaminate" Harlem with education and upward mobility. Canada's strategy, as Tough puts it, is to "borrow some of the new ideas from the manic superparents downtown and combine them with the hanging-out-on-the-stoop beliefs that he grew up with" to create a new black middle class. His Baby College gets pregnant teenagers to talk to their fetuses, preschoolers study French, and eighth-graders at his Promise Academy Charter School stay in class through July.