Sunday, October 4, 2009

'The Providence Effect': Astonishing Educational Achievement, 'The Way It Should Be Done'

'The Providence Effect': Astonishing Educational Achievement, 'The Way It Should Be Done'
By Donald Douglas at AMERICAN POWER

I took my oldest son to Santa Monica last night to see The Providence Effect. The movie is playing this week at Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex (the next block down from the 3rd Street Promenade). Kenneth Turan's review is here. And note this:

- The person behind this heartening achievement is the school's president, Paul Adams III, a formidably charismatic individual who is determined to change the culture of American education, to break the cycle of poverty and give poor children the same opportunities as wealthy ones.

- A veteran of the civil rights movement, Adams started at Providence St. Mel as a guidance counselor.

- When the Chicago Archdiocese threatened to close the institution, he began a fundraising movement that enabled him to buy the building, take the school private, and run it so successfully that President Reagan came to visit. Twice.

- Adams says he runs the school the old-fashioned way. Discipline is key for him; he and his staff enforce zero tolerance for drugs. Without discipline, he says, you can't get a student's attention.

- Once that attention is assured, Adams counts on his inspired faculty to excite the kids about learning, and judging by the interviews with current and former students and glimpses inside selected classrooms, the method seems to work.

President Reagan's at 1:45 at the trailer above. He praises the students with open arms, exhorting them in triumph, "This is the way it should be done." To see him there, speaking to that school -- an all black school during the 1980s when the social welfare state had reached epic proportion, and when crime poverty and crime had destroyed the inner-cities -- is incredibly uplifting.

And what struck me, from the perspective of a teacher, was the no BS approach to instruction. There's no sign of progressive education throughout the entire film (and thus no mind-crushing leftist indocrtination). It's straight learning, with in-your-face instructors and administrators that spend time with the kids and in the classroom. Things go so well it seemed almost antiseptic. But as the early minutes of the film show, Chicago had been overrun by gang violence and much of the Westside had been razed in a far-from-finished scheme of urban redevelopment. Interviews with graduates -- kids who grew up to be doctors and bankers, etc. -- illustrated that the school was truly a life-saving institution, and education became the central focus of the child and the child's family.

The Providence Effect website is here. The Providence St. Mel school website is here. The school boasts a 100 percent college entrance acceptance rate, and the homepage states that "The School That Refused to Die - Now a Model for Urban Education."

And I was thinking exactly that after learning of the death of Derrion Albert in Chicago this week. The Los Angeles Times has a report, "Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan Attend Chicago Teen's Funeral." And from the Chicago Tribune, "Derrion Albert Funeral: There Is No Simple Fix For Problems, Pastor Says; Parents Urged to Reclaim Their Children, City Urged to Educate Kids Closer to Home"

- In death, the 16-year-old became the latest high-profile name on the long list of young Chicagoans who have died violently. The teen's brutal beating with two-by-fours was recorded Sept. 24. The attack captured the nation's attention and elicited a response from the White House.

- President Barack Obama is sending Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Chicago this week in the wake of the fatal beating. Obama's spokesman has indicated the administration is preparing an initiative to address the national issues of youth crime and violence.

It's almost tragic that the president's not spending time on these issues -- the crisis in American education -- rather than the year-long ObamaCare fiasco. This is the modern equivalent of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And while I'm tempted to say something like "I can't see how the president has ignored these issues," that's not true. I know exactly how. The corrupt Cook County Democratic Party machine, thoroughly infiltrated with crooked cronies, all the way down to union hacks, progressive education activists, and community organizing thugs, has consigned to city's poor to perpetual poverty. Michelle Malkin's book, CULTURE OF CORRUPTION, discusses how Michelle Obama milked her connections to lucrative jobs while crying racism all the way to the top. These people are a joke, and the Democratic political establishment is the last entity that's going to solve the crisis of the city's -- and America's -- urban poor.

That's why seeing Reagan in the film was so riveting for me last night. President Reagan was excoriated by the black community in the 1980s for cutting welfare programs, but it's going to be conservatives with the vision to match Reagan's who will lift the hope for America's youth again. And it's going to be the traditional educational methods found at Providence St. Mel that will be the vehicle for greater advancement for those now held back by institutional malfeasance and progressive political corruption.

See also, WitnessLA "The Providence Effect: A Murder & An Answer." There's an interview there with Paul Allen, and this part illustrates my point:

- WLA: With all your success, you must have a lot of people coming to you from the Chicago Public School system wanting advice as to how what you’ve done can be replicated in a public school setting.
- PA: Actually no one has come
- WLA: What do you mean no one? Like not one person from the Chicago School District has come to visit St. Mel’s?
- PA: Never. Not one.
- WLA: You’re kidding. I’m sorry to press this, but not one as in zero people?
- PA: Zero.
- WLA: Wow. That is completely nuts.
- PA: I think so.

See what I mean?

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