UNDER RUNNING LAUGHTER: Notes from a Renegade Classroom by

UNDER RUNNING LAUGHTER: Notes from a Renegade Classroom

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An eyeball-to-eyeball introduction to America's throwaway kids: inner-city teens neglected or abandoned as infants or children and now classroom failures, prone to violence and with little concept of right and wrong or a viable future. These are the students whom Howe, a former professor of Latin and Greek, learned to respect and care for in a last-resort residential treatment center just north of N.Y.C. There are few success stories here. At best only about 20 percent of those who leave Leake & Watts (a one-time orphanage/school whose graduates went on to college or apprenticeships) manage to escape a life of crime or welfare. One follow-up indicates that Howe's ex-students do somewhat better on the outside than those of teachers who stress discipline and traditional learning. Howe tailors his instruction and approach to each student's individual strengths and weaknesses. No matter how badly they behave, he rolls with the punches and lets them know he is still rooting for them. His first aim, he says, is to earn their trust in the face of a young lifetime of adult betrayals. His other goal is to instill self-esteem and a belief that they can develop skills that will provide them with gainful work and a future. For example, he trades on their love of computer games to teach word processing and computer programming. At book's end, Howe recommends various changes in residentialized treatment, among them longer stays than the current two to four years; and assignment of the same teacher, house parent, and social worker for the duration of each student's stay. He admits, however, that too many inner-city children will remain throwaways until society reallocates its resources to eliminate poverty, chaos, and child neglect. An eye-opening and chastening work: a must for educators, politicians, and everyone who has wondered why urban children are so out of control.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1990
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan