TO BECOME SOMEBODY: Growing Up Against the Grain of Society by John B. Simon

TO BECOME SOMEBODY: Growing Up Against the Grain of Society

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Those who read Holt, Kozol, Kohl, and Dennison a decade or more ago will find in John B. Simon a similar sensibility. A teacher who faults society and schools for disabling youngsters, Simon directs The Dome Project, an alternative school/neighborhood center/extended family which takes on junior high kids with dubious school histories and gives them a chance to recoup their losses. In addition to conducting classes near four schools (with some support from the NYC Board of Education), the Dome Project organized and still runs a city basketball league, offers afterschool and summer programs, cleaned up a vacant lot that now produces unvandalized vegetables, and built a geodesic dome--an early cooperative effort from which the name derives. Is this a plucky dinosaur in our economic Pleistocene? In part. Organizational know-how accounts for some of its success but other factors, including the canny selection of co-workers, also obtain. Simon tells of the Project's unlikely beginnings, its continuing struggles for funds, local heroes, special events, and the direction of its growth. One can read of Isaac the preteen dope dealer or Michael the welfare hotel resident with weary recognition, then read on to discover how staff members, intervening at a crucial time, work to reverse their miseducation. For those whose world is capricious, an opportunistic set of values is adaptive; learning to care--about cooperation, being trusted, completing a task--becomes a major accomplishment, a process whose many variations Simon sets forth with fidelity. A vital, poised elaboration, written with a full appreciation of social complexities and a strong sense of human potential.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin