education reform | February 08, 2012

Pedro Noguera: A School in the South Bronx Where It's Cool to Be Smart

In this new video, Pedro Noguera, a leading voice on education reform, talks about a school in the South Bronx where the “culture of the school was more powerful than the culture of the streets.” Designed to serve young men who might succumb to gang violence, the school is an example of an educational model that can work. “You can take young people—young men—who have been turned off to school, and create a school setting that is so compelling that you can change mindsets about learning.”

In the video above (excuse the poor quality—the content is really good!), Noguera describes encountering three young men on the New York subway one day. They happened to be students of the school, and all were fanatical about building robots. They worked through evenings, through weekends, and got the school custodian to help them. They were propelled by their enthusiasm for the subject. They want to grow up to pursue careers in mechanical engineering—even though, in their neighborhood, there are no mechanical engineers. Their enthusiasm, Noguera says, comes from working on a project “that allowed them to see that what they were learning could be applied to the real world.” They were also “lucky enough to be part of a school where it’s cool to be smart.” If it can work in the South Bronx, or in Newark, he says, it can work in other places too.

Pedro Noguera points out these schools don’t succeed in isolation. They require the investment and expertise of businesses, hospitals, universities, retired people, all working to support schools. And it’s not about charity. “It’s in our economic interest, it’s in our political interest, and it’s certainly in our social interest” to all help these students.

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