Can our inner-city “lost generation” be saved?

I’ve had to deal in person with a very wide variety of rebellious teenagers.  They’ve ranged from young gangs in South Africa’s townships, politicized as well as criminalized to the point where they’d kidnap, torture and murder without compunction (witness, for example, the misdeeds of Winnie Mandela’s so-called ‘Mandela United Football Club‘), through the teenage (and sometimes even pre-teenage) child ‘soldiers’ of the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, through inner-city gangs in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other US cities.

I’ve tried to assist some of the latter in adult jails after they grew up.  Many of them bitterly resented the fact that up to the age of eighteen or thereabouts, they could commit almost any crime and get away with a slap on the wrist;  but the instant they were charged with the identical crime as an adult, they were hit with a multi-year jail sentence.  They regarded that as immensely unfair – and frankly, I couldn’t blame them.  They should have been hit with a custodial sentence much earlier in life, when they might have learned something from it.  Because they weren’t, many (perhaps most) of them were no longer capable of learning at all.  They’d grown too set in their ways.

That’s why, when I read a report about Ed Boland’s attempt to help inner-city kids in a New York school, and the book he’s written about his experiences, I felt a wave of near-despair wash over me.

The New York Post reports:

In 2008, Ed Boland, a well-off New Yorker who had spent 20 years as an executive at a nonprofit, had a midlife epiphany: He should leave his white-glove world, the galas at the Waldorf and drinks at the Yale Club, and go work with the city’s neediest children.

The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School” (Grand Central Publishing) is Boland’s memoir of his brief, harrowing tenure as a public school teacher, and it’s riveting.

There’s nothing dry or academic here. It’s tragedy and farce, an economic and societal indictment of a system that seems broken beyond repair.

The book is certain to be controversial. There’s something dilettante-ish, if not cynical, about a well-off, middle-aged white man stepping ever so briefly into this maelstrom of poverty, abuse, homelessness and violence and emerging with a book deal.

What Boland has to share, however, makes his motives irrelevant.

Names and identifying details have been changed, but the school Boland calls Union Street is, according to clues and public records, the Henry Street School of International Studies on the Lower East Side.

Boland opens the book with a typical morning in freshman history class.

A teenage girl named Chantay sits on top of her desk, thong peeking out of her pants, leading a ringside gossip session. Work sheets have been distributed and ignored.

“Chantay, sit in your seat and get to work — now!” Boland says.

A calculator goes flying across the room, smashing into the blackboard. Two boys begin physically fighting over a computer. Two girls share an iPod, singing along. Another girl is immersed in a book called “Thug Life 2.”

Chantay is the one who aggravates Boland the most. If he can get control of her, he thinks, he can get control of the class.

“Chantay,” he says, louder, “sit down immediately, or there will be serious consequences.”

The classroom freezes. Then, as Boland writes, “she laughed and cocked her head up at the ceiling. Then she slid her hand down the outside of her jeans to her upper thigh, formed a long cylinder between her thumb and forefinger, and shook it . . . She looked me right in the eye and screamed, ‘SUCK MY F–KIN’ D–K, MISTER.’ ”

It was Boland’s first week.

There’s much more at the link, depressingly so.

I confess that I have no answers to the questions Mr. Boland raises, except for one – and it’s not a politically correct one.  I can think of only one way to salvage these ‘lost kids’ – and that’s to be tougher on them than they’ve ever experienced before.  They don’t understand or respect common human decency at all.  They’ve never encountered it.  The only thing they respect is the ability of stronger people to make them suffer if they get out of line.  Very well;  if that’s all they respect, then let’s use that to help them change.  If they won’t learn the easy way, let them learn the hard way.  Give them an even tougher inner-city equivalent to the US Marine Corps’ Boot Camp, and keep on giving it to them until at least some of them learn better.  They, at least, will grow up to be more worthwhile as human beings than they would have been without it;  and society as a whole will be the better for it.  Those who won’t or can’t learn better . . . well, they were probably a lost cause by then, anyway.

Harsh?  Certainly.  Ruthless?  You bet.  However, if you don’t like it, then give me another method that will work for the hundreds of thousands of these ‘lost kids’ who infest our urban ghettos.  So far, no-one’s come up with one.  Don’t tell me I’m being cruel, or heartless, or despicable, when inaction is merely perpetuating the problem and dragging other kids down into the same morass of hopelessness.  I’ve seen this too often, in too many countries, and from far too close a range to be in any doubt about it.  The reason many kids grow up to be adult monsters is that no-one deals with them when they’re still little monsters, and able to learn better.  Mr. Boland tried to do it the nice way.  You can read for yourself how far it got him.

In Africa, I saw many people trying to help kids like these.  Some tried the nice way.  They didn’t get very far.  Others used tougher methods, and had greater success, as far as I could see.  Basically, the kids had to hit rock bottom and realize that it was literally a case of ‘change or die’ before they’d exert themselves to improve.  Many of them didn’t.  Most of the latter died, either through the violence of their own kind, or because they chose their next victim poorly and learned – too late – that weapons can defend the righteous as well as threaten them.

Those kids in Africa were – and still are – the result of what happens when a broken society like that Mr. Boland describes is taken to its logical conclusion.  There’s a documentary called ‘Cry Freetown‘, which examined the civil war in Sierra Leone and the conduct of the child ‘soldiers’ there.  You’ll find the trailer here, but I urge you not to watch it unless you have a strong stomach.  Right from the start, even in the trailer, you’ll see murder being done.  If you want to see what children such as those in New York can and do grow up to be, get hold of the full documentary and watch it for yourself.  If you can’t find it, a more sanitized, less brutal documentary is ‘Sierra Leone’s Cocaine-Drugged Child Soldiers‘.  It sounds unbelievable, but it’s real.

When you’ve learned enough from those documentaries, look at the crime figures for New York, and Chicago, and other big US cities with large numbers of young people such as those Mr. Boland describes.  Where do you think the thugs and gang-bangers and murderers in those inner cities are coming from?  Right out of schools like his, and families such as he describes – that’s where.  They’re behaving in almost exactly the same way as the child ‘soldiers’ of Sierra Leone.  That’s not an exaggeration.  That’s the truth.

I think Mr. Boland’s book is a very important one.  It will open people’s eyes to the reality of far too many of our inner cities.  Whether or not we do anything about it is up to us.  If we leave it to the politically correct . . . nothing will ever get done.



  1. But they're just "gentle giants" and "unarmed boys" or "rowdy adolescents"! They wouldn't harm a fly! (Unless flys have started carrying money, that is) Oh, and "Valentina" *must* have been telling the truth, because suggesting that girls and women ever (ever!) lie about sexual harassment etc is…is…badthink! And proof of "internalized misogyny"! /sarcasm
    …pardon me, I need to vomit. …that's better. I think I killed a few million brain cells just *pretending* to believe that bullsh*t! How do people who actually *believe* it survive without functioning greymatter? Are they the walking dead? 😛 Seriously though…that's deeply depressing, even if it doesn't surprise me one bit. God bless.

  2. "Inner city culture" – meaning "predominantly poor black culture" – has become so dysfunctional by the standards of western civilization normalcy that it's gone beyond "dysfunctional" to "toxic" and has begun to metastasize throughout our society. Entirely a self inflicted condition – on both sides of the equation – but no less toxic for that.

    I'm afraid, Peter, that you're suffering from Terminal Compassion Syndrome on the issue. The only corrective action for the overwhelming majority of the people you describe is 168 grains of Remotely Applied Attitude Adjustment. For those in that environment who may be salvageable – and it's a stunningly small percentage – any degree of success is predicated on completely and permanently isolating them totally from the toxicity and its effects. Which means the toxicity cannot be allowed to exist because any surviving toxicity will re-metastasize because that's the nature of such toxins.

    That requires a much, much stronger correction than anything you've suggested, or even contemplated.

    Let me know when you've found an oncology surgeon who advocates dealing with a malignant tumor by relocating it to a different part of the body instead of excising it completely.

  3. I am in my second year as a high school science teacher. My students are rural and small town children- mostly white and middle class. Most of the problems mentioned in the story are familiar, if a little less violent.

    Claiming sexual harassment is a common tactic of young girls. Sex is rampant, with some kids skipping class to have sex in the stairwells. The only thing parents care about is that their kids get good grades so they can get into college. They don't actually care if they learn anything, they are just chasing the great GPA.

    Principals look the other way when it comes to student behavior. We are constantly told that there are no bad kids, only bad teachers. Kids get expelled for dealing drugs, only to be allowed back in the next year.

    We are losing our kids, and no one cares. You can't get tough on them, because you will be seen as mean. One thing is correct: there are no easy answers.

  4. The problem of undisciplined, violent and abusive students is not limited to the ghetto's, it's just more blatant there. Most youth today have grown up with little guidance and more importantly little accountability. Their parents are either incapable or unwilling to keep them in check and this starts at a young age. I often have patients who are preschool…..and it's incredibly common to see these
    little Nazi's doing ANYTHING they want with mommy or daddy….or very often a grand parent….impotently pleading with them to behave and cooperate, with virtually no effect. Too many parents want to be
    friends' with their kids, they fail to realize that is impossible, so the effort fails and the children grow up as feral monsters with the parents role more one of zookeeper. And it doesn't help that if the rare parent comes along who WILL keep their child in line they have to constantly look over their shoulder for fear that CPS and the courts will take the kids away and lock THEM up for imposing discipline. As a society we have lost the ability to control and teach our youth…..that means as a society we are doomed.

  5. I'm sorry but it IS NOT DISFUNCTION! It is genetics. The African black is acting exactly as the African black has always acted and refusing to even consider that African black violence is and always was a fact of life for the black African THROUOUT ALL HISTORY is stupid at best. NOTHING Europeans do, have done, or can ever do will change this FACT. But every time anyone brings up the FACT that the exact same actions , test scores, rape gangs , and criminality have been observed in every country that has a black African population or has allowed black African immigration leads to instant cry's of RACIST!!! It is not poverty. It is not "Race". It is not the "white devils". It is the genetic makeup of the black African. Censorship and "do good" programs will never change that. –Ray

  6. Rather than delete Ray's comment (at 7:17 AM), I'm simply going to point out its fallacy. Precisely the same criminality of thought and action have been observed in every racial, ethnic and cultural group. For all the savagery in Africa (much of which I've observed personally), Africans didn't invent or participate in the Nazi concentration/extermination camps, or the Siberian gulags, or the Cambodian 'killing fields', or Balkan 'ethnic cleansing', or any of the myriad other examples throughout history of man's inhumanity to man. For that matter, Africans weren't part of the institutionalized barbarity of the so-called 'First Nations' in this country, or the sometimes equally violent and barbaric response to them by the first European settlers (look up the 'Mystic massacre' for yourself).

    It's not about race. It's not about genetics. It's about an environment, culture and ethos that destroys our humanity – well, not so much destroys it as makes sure it can never grow. If that environment is allowed to flourish, no-one trapped in it can flourish. One can either escape, or allow the environment to overwhelm you. I've seen that far too often to doubt it.

  7. On Rays comment, somehow the Uk has created the chav's that have many of the same cultural characteristics of the us inner city youth.

    Another Anon

  8. That is a fearfully dangerous labor pool to have sitting around idle.
    All it needs are the right leaders to be put to some horrible actions.

  9. Sorry; more of your programed liberal/christian double think showing Peter. Until you can stop using straw man arguments and face the bitter reality that every effort to "change the African black" that has EVER been attempted has failed , the real problems cannot be addressed. The Germans failed at civilization ONCE. The African has failed at civilization for 50000 years. You and the other " social environmentalist" can throw other peoples money at this (and then blame them for the failure) for eternity and not change a thing. You will call everyone that tells truth about the African black "Race haters" till the end of time. You will do exactly as Europe has done for seventy years and is still doing, and come to exactly the same end. Cultural, genetic and physical suicide. Obviously your religious and political bias has blinded you to one of the most glaring of truths in our world. Social engineering does. not. work. Man cannot change his genetic predispositions. That and I think you are deluded by the idea that there are no "races" only "cultures" and culture can be "modified". That may be the most widely held of all the Marxist dogmas, AND Its just. not. true. Until you and the others like you face the TRUTH you will not be able to act effectively and you will continue to make things worse for western civilization's until you break them forever. The dogma of "Multicultural society" does. not. work. It never has and it cannot be made to. If you believe all of this "multicultural" nonsense so much why don't you live in the great Multicultural South African paradise? Or England? Or Sweden? Or Germany? —-Ray

  10. Most interesting post and comments.

    Ray has some valid points about how there are differences in the races, each race having developed its own level of advancement, society and culture. Each race has different levels of average IQ, which pretty much determines their culture and the level of civilization they can reach and maintain.

    I personally have concluded that the black race can – and does – exist and prosper somewhat on the fringes of western civilization, but given the opportunity to lead and control – as in Detroit – cannot maintain it, and will inexorably slide back into a tribal mindset and savagery.

    Black leaders, such as Kevin Orr, Kwame Kilpatrick, Carolyn-Cheeks Kilpatric, Ray Nagin. Tyrone Brooks, Eugene Walker – just to name a few – had the opportunity to advance the cause of the black race, to run cities like Detroit and New Orleans with the good of the citizenry in mind. Instead, most have been accused and convicted of multiple counts corruption at every level of government.

    Black youth have been conducting black-on-white crime in multiple cities for years without consequence, the knockout "game", flash mobs – you name it. Just because the bleeding hearts and the media refuse to report it does not means it doesn't happen, and on a widening scale.

    What to do? How to change hearts and minds?

    It's far too late. Even now blacks whine and cry "racism" because a black didn't get an Oscar this year. Blacks will continue to push the limits, and with the encouragement of shortsighted and foolish enablers, inevitably push once too often, a bit too far, and there will be racial violence unseen in history.

    People enamored with the siren song of multiculturalism and diversity need to note that throughout history mixing races and cultures has always resulted in war: Vicious, bloody, no-holds-barred war. And we today are no different than those in the past. Just because we have I-Phones and liberal arts colleges does not mean we are any smarter or wiser.

    We saw it in south Africa. We see it this very minute in the Middle East, where the endless clash of race, religion and culture will not stop until one side is crushed and perhaps exterminated. It has happened again and again.

    When the white population, in whatever nation they may be citizens of, has finally had enough of all this, there will be hell to pay.

    The fate of Europe and America is in doubt, pushed to the very brink by simpletons who believe we are all one race, one culture, one people, and that we can all live in peace and love if only…. if only what?

    The "only what" seems to be if the white race and western civilization allows itself to be invaded and overwhelmed by invaders from failed nations and societies, invaders that want to repeat the mistakes that destroyed them in the first place, but they want to do it in Europe and America, and they want to dominate and control their citizens in the process.

    Think that American blacks aren't a part of it all? They are identifying with their black Muslim "brothers" and joining them in their unifying hatred for the white race, Christianity and western ideals in general.

    Our last chance to prevent the coming conflict and it's incredible slaughter was with Lincoln, when he recommended that all black slaves be repatriated to their nations of origin, to their homelands.

    We didn't do that, and from that moment on, the pot started to boil.

    just my opinions, but reached after 75 years of observation.

    Am I right, or am I wrong?

    Doesn't matter. We are in for some terrible times, and many nations may not recover.

  11. Depressing. I blame the War-On-Drugs for many of our problems. Were things better when the Mafia was distributing the drugs instead of just fronting the money to the blacks? Or maybe the drug business has just gotten so big and murderous culture of big money drug dealing has expanded so much that large sections of many large cities have gone to hell? If you want to have a civil society, you need to have civil rights, which means not fucking with people over chickenshit things like drugs.

  12. I'm waiting for the reality TV series where the show plops a dozen white people down in a place like the Hough neighborhood in Cleveland or Watts or rampart in LA. I'd watch if the show chose our typical liberal progressive bunch from the herd. Until you go there you don't realize how divorced those kids are from western civilization. I saw that the Detroit teachers went out sick to play with Obama when he came to town but with only 8% of Detroit's school children able to read, I'm not sure it made any difference or would if they took off the rest of the year. I don't think there is a solution but it is intriguing to watch what happens when two groups outside of the norms of our civilization collide with each other. It's like "being there" when the Huns drove out the Goths or when the Mongols destroyed the Caliphate.

  13. We obeyed our teachers because we were taught respect for authority at home, and the Asst. Principal had a cricket bat-sized paddle in his office and could use it. Plus, the worst troublemakers were shunned.

    Any problem at school was followed up by our parents and Dad's punishment was likely more severe than the school's.

    Every leg is missing now:
    – no respect for authority being taught
    – troublemakers are heros
    – no meaningful enforcement by the schools
    – no followup by the parents
    – few or no fathers to lay down the law…

    Not much hope until many things change, or the worst offenders are hauled off to a custody-level bootcamp environment.

  14. remember the Jesuit saying? "give me a boy until he is seven and I will show you the man"? To change anything here, we gonna have to start young.

  15. It's not limited to inner cities. My wife spent her first few years teaching on an Indian Reservation. The parents there didn't care what their kids did, it was just childcare for them. Anytime the kids acted out, or refused to do their homework, she could send them to the office, but kids didn't care and neither did the parents. 3/4 of the parents never showed up for conferences. If any non-Indian teacher reported disciplinary problems about a child the first response from the parents was racism. It didn't matter what the kid(s) did, the parents response was _always_ racism. When visiting schools showed up to play football or basketball games, the visiting coaches made sure all the kids changed on the bus, because as soon as the horn sounded the team was leaving. There was more than one occasion where shots were fired into the bus as it was pulling away.

    The Tribal officials were just as bad as the parents. She had a couple of kids who were being physically and sometimes sexually abused by family members. But when presented with the evidence, the tribal leaders put the kids back into the home with the abuser. At least once they were told 'it's not the white man's business what goes on here'.

    It's not a new attitude. Twenty years before one of my uncles worked for a company that had a contract building houses on a different reservation. The company switched from copper pipe to plastic because any house that wasn't secured behind walls and locked doors anything metal got stolen when they went home at night.

  16. I am not sure what can be done about the inner city youth.

    White Girls Bleed a Lot
    is depressing. He has a book on Amazon, and came out with a new book.

    I subbed for over a year, and it was eye opening. This included continuation schools. I remember a comment was made they were basically warehousing some students till they hit 18m since they could not be saved. I did my student teaching at LAUSD at a school with a 40% drop out rate, that was 99% Latino. I would like to know more about the academy that Jerry Brown set up in Oakland. The movie waiting for Superman shows the huge potential of charter schools. Same students types, some win a lottery and get into a charter school and do amazingly well, and others go to the regular school and go no where.

    I see the problems as:

    1. School model built on a mass production Prussian model.

    2. Forcing everyone to go on the college track. Unfortunately, this does not work for everyone.

    3. Teacher Unions and Union Rules. In California it's hard to over estimate the Teacher Unions political power. And they are an integral part of the democratic party.

    4. Regulations up the Wazoo.

    5. A scarlet letter culture for Prison releases.

    6. An unwillingness to address the culture issues in the inner city. Bill Cosby started too, and flamed out.

    7. Where Blacks basically only vote for the Democratic Party. One party rule with no real competition does not work.

    8. Prison Unions in California. Tough on crime with police unions.

    9. War on drugs.

    10. The widespread acceptance of Critical Theory in the education establishment.

    11. The centralization of control through funding. See Serrano vs. Priest

    12. Creating rules through lawfare. It has made running a school very hard.

    13. Textbooks / curriculum based on the latest fads. Whole Word, New Math, etc. Why are tried and true methods being abandoned? Phonics, using repetition to learn basic math?

    14. Teacher accreditation that focuses more on political correctness, than results.

    Where I see hope:

    1. Increase in home schooling.

    2. Use of distance education.

    3. Discussion outside the MSM. Go Drudge!


    Another Anon

  17. Peter , concentration camps were basically invented by the British as you well know. However what you are missing is that they are orderly, They were (in context of the society at that time) legal as well.

    The Killing Fields too were marginally systematic as was the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

    They were purposeful actions in wartime done for a reason and to decrease general disorder if only in the long term. They aren't street crime in any way shape or form and have far more too do with say the mass bombing of Dresden than a homicide the inner city.

    The random thuggery of the inner city is in fact much removed from any of these.

    Now to your question, unless realism is in play you can help anyone.

    You need a system of disciplined strong father headed families with basically no out of wedlock births or single Moms (maybe take way welfare?) little access to inebriants of any kind other than tobacco (which will it can cause cancer is behaviorally beneficial) and ample work for people with below average IQ's and somewhat limited impulse controls

    Its more complicated with Black people who in the US have a average IQ around 85-90 and when young very high time preference and poorer impulse control than most other groups. In some sense they are maladjusted for living in a society built by and for Anglo-Saxons and close kin.

    However the same same basic stuff will work across cultures and ethnic groups , it works with all humans though more IQ and impulse control and a lower time preference make it easier

    If you can do that, you can manage to fix the issues. Good luck with it though. Beyond the fact that cultural Marxists would not allow or tolerate actual Social Conservatism, many parts of the US can barely manage roads and we don't have enough decently remunerative work for college grads much less below average people.

    And as for limiting intoxicants, we can't stop meth much less crack down on softer drugs. Our culture won't allow it.

  18. Don't subsidize what you don't want; punish it.
    Don't penalize what you DO want; reward it.
    tell the kids, and their parents: not in school, or there but a discipline problem, no welfare check. no government subsidy of any sort. No academic progress? No $$$. Kids don't learn, then educators don't get paid, either. And NO, they don't get to self-report the kids progress, and YES, they can carry and shoot in self-defense if a student tries to "convince them" to give them reasonable grades. Start ejecting them from school, and enforcing strict but fair and clear discipline, from first grade on, with basic (age appropriate) behavior training. Ditch the PC and diversity crap, be full-on "my way or the highway! Get with the program or get run over!"

    Make school a better option TO THEM, based on THEIR value system, than not playing along, and safer than gang life. Cry all you want, but being "nice" isn't a solution if they only see you as a sucker to be bled white.

  19. 1:48 not wrong but also like my broader proposal politically impossible.

    The key to well behaved children is an healthy intact moral for life family and decent work. Our entire society is set up around feminism, anti-religion easy divorce and downward wage arbitrage , in other words the exact opposites

    You are going to lose way more kids till either the system implodes or someone with enough force and the right moral system is able to eliminate political freedom and impose this kind of system

    Call it fascism if you like, that's kind of a noise word now but its evocative enough

    It wouldn't be very easy though, a lot of people would happily die for unrestrained capitalism and more worthily for political freedom, the later being well worth fighting for.

    Post collapse societies often don't improve, they just become 3rd world and the US taking a variation of the route South Africa took , a few pockets of nice, the rest falling apart or just falling apart is a real possibility.

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