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Vivid Writing About Urban Education

By Alexander Russo — November 01, 2007 1 min read

Much as I love the New York Times’ weekly Sam Freedman column on education, or the Post’s Jay Mathews, what I’m really liking right now is Will Okun’s weekly posts about teaching high school on Chicago’s rough West Side. Published on Nick Kristoff’s New York Times blogsite, Okun’s posts (and their accompanying pictures) are at their best like little scenes from “The Wire” -- vivid, unsentimental, and complex.

Last week’s profile of a smart, independent student has generated 200 comments so far and the creation of a scholarship fund (Nicholas, pictured). This week’s post is about a different student who dropped out of Okun’s school despite all attempts and ended up dead (one of 54 Chicago students who have been killed this year):

Our school’s faculty tried everything to reach Gregory Dugar...We tried tough love, then unconditional love. We kicked him off the basketball team then allowed him to rejoin. We made him read books by rehabilitated gang members. We had higher-ranking gang members speak to him about the importance of education. We found him legal employment. We initiated counseling. We visited colleges and took him on weekend retreats to the country. Our school’s mentors talked with him on a daily basis. And still, Gregory just disappeared one day.”

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