GOOD BOOKS: PART 2; Influential Nonfiction

The Florida Times Union, January 2, 2010 | Go to article overview

GOOD BOOKS: PART 2; Influential Nonfiction


Note to readers: The editorial page occasionally turns to books for background and reference material on major issues. These authors often help shape our opinions. In any case, these books are worth reading by readers with an interest in public affairs. What follows are summaries. Part one ran a week ago.

The big idea behind The Harlem Children's Zone has captured a nation's fancy.

And with the Obama administration promising grants to 20 cities that follow its lead, the attention has only increased.

The Children's Zone focuses on this central idea: Children can't be led out of poverty unless there is a continuous assembly line of services from prenatal care through college education.

This assembly line is the work of Geoffrey Canada, whose messianic approach has captured national attention.

A recent study reported in Education Week reported that students attending the Children Zone's charter zone scored higher than their peers on standardized tests.

Just exactly what caused the higher scores is not known. The theory of the Children's Zone is that one single ingredient isn't responsible for success; it takes a long-term project with a variety of support structures along the way.

This secret is explained in the book Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough. The author visited Jacksonville at the Bridge of Northeast Florida.

Jacksonville's own model is going to differ somewhat, because there is no individual at the moment with Canada's charisma to lead the effort, nor the massive funding available in New York City.

But we can take current service providers, focus them on one small area like New Town in West Jacksonville, and provide such an assembly line.

Meaningful projects are under way. A strategic plan awaits.

Tough's book is an essential reference for anyone who seeks to understand the trend.

AUTHORITY FROM IRAQ

Who writes with authority and objectivity on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Not many people.

One of the best is Bing West. He is a Marine combat veteran, assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. He took 14 extended trips to Iraq over six years.

The result was The Strongest Tribe, his third book on Iraq.

West, an occasional contributor to Times-Union opinion pages, describes how a change of strategy and more forces - both essential - helped to turn the tide of that war.

He has no ulterior motives, he simply wants the war to be conducted successfully in tribute to those who bravely fought there.

"No nation ever fought a more restrained and honorable war," West writes, authoritatively.

CARING FOR TROOPS

Concern has been rising as suicides and cases of post traumatic stress build for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a somewhat academic book, On Killing, Dave Grossman, a former Army paratrooper and Ranger and professor of military science at Arkansas State University, examines the traits that make American soldiers so effective.

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GOOD BOOKS: PART 2; Influential Nonfiction
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