Trying to 'tip' Harlem

The Harlem Children’s Zone is trying to do more than help individual kids, reports the Washington Post. The huge project is trying to create a “tipping point,” changing the entire community.

There are asthma prevention plans and fresh produce deliveries; dental, medical and psychiatric care; after-school arts and music; tenant-ownership schemes and early childhood education; tae kwan do and dance, weight training and sports; and foster care prevention and charter schools. It adds up to about 20 programs using more than 1,500 staff members and reaching about 8,200 young people out of 11,300 in the zone. The cost is about $5,000 per child, and Canada raises much of his $70 million budget privately; it has been difficult during the economic downturn — he was forced to lay off 10 percent of his staff.

The conveyor belt begins with Baby College, a nine-week prenatal and early childhood parenting class with sections on brain development, discipline and parent-child bonding.

. . . The next step, for 3-year-olds, is the Children’s Zone preschool, then the Promise Academy, one of the well-funded, successful charter schools that are the centerpiece of Canada’s efforts.

Charter students are doing well, but it’s not clear that the zone is meeting its ambitious goals of community transformation.

Update: Scott Ott, in non-humorous vein, thinks altruists should emulate Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone but without federal money.  See Big Brother is watching Brits, above.

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  1. “Tipping” Harlem will take at least a generation, if not two. It is worth the effort. We have no patience. There are no instant results when it comes to changing people. We are not Civics that can be re-designed for the new model year.