5.04.2005

speaking truths

i was reading a book containing oral histories of young men spending their days in rikers island, who are part of a program called horizon academy. these stories, recorded as interviews at rikers and later transcribed verbatim, tell a thousand tales, evoke as many images and emotions, and keep bringing one thought to my mind: i've heard these stories before... when i talked with ed, or lawrence, or jose, or angel... there is a danger to interpret this last statement as a win for the glossing identities team - i don't mean it that way. what is similar are the themes of when and why kids conscisously disengage from formal schooling; the presence of institutional discourses in the lives of youth; the missed opportunities for adults and educators to connect with youth - and particularly young african american and latino men; the richness, surprises, and insight woven through the stories aren't too often heard, in favor of sensational soundbytes and images.

recently, laura bush has been on a speaking tour trumpeting the "helping america's youth" initiative put forth the administration. she talks about youth who have been helped by drug treatment programs and who are vowing not to repeat the mistakes of their neglectful parents; about youth who have failed their siblings and themselves; about government initiatives that are correcting these social ills.

where are the stories of institutions that failed kids? that held expectations so low? that supported the building of prisons at a greater rate than the construction and renovation of schools?

i wonder if the stories of the young men at rikers will make it into the first lady's speeches...