36 CHILDREN REVISITED by Michael Earle


Age Range: 6 - 1
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What became of them, those 36 Children whom Herbert Kohl found so talented and exasperating? Class member Michael Earle, now a journalist, tracked down and interviewed more than half of them (two died, four refused to participate) and their 21 narratives provide interesting self-assessments: readable, occasionally poignant, not always substantiated by the facts. A few characterize Kohl's interventions that year as helpful or influential, even inspiring; several more recall special events but preferred other teachers or found the year made little difference in their lives; many remain angry that Kohl not only used their writings--and experiences--without permission but also failed to share the profits. The lives themselves are unsurprising, what one has come to expect, as Earle concludes briefly, ""of young people molded by prejudice, restricted housing, and poverty."" Drugs, crime, and early, unplanned parenthood claimed or marked many. Robert, the promising artist, died in an auto accident. Alvin, once Kohl's ward, has survived assorted addictions and several jail terms. Phyllis is a teacher, fueled by Kohl's example; Reginald, a state correction officer, just missed out on pro ball; Ronnie, now gay, works in a bank while pursuing a dancing career; and Thomas S. does data processing after more lucrative years as a drug dealer. Overall, this would be a more substantial and dynamic offering had Earle reflected deeply or extensively on the patterns in these lives; or had he examined some of the assertions (""It's not important whether I did it or not,"" Lance claims of two robberies, for which he served time); or had he theorized about those reluctant and missing students--most are women; or had he contacted Kohl for his comments 20 years later. But these are books not written. What's here sounds more like reunion notes for Class 6-1: a not-quite-random, loosely revealing catalogue of Harlem lives, 1962-82.

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1983
Publisher: Anchor Press/Doubleday