Friday, November 20, 2009

Book Recommendation: The Assist

I recently finished a great book, Neil Swidey's The Assist. The author shadows a Boston high school basketball team and their driven coach. Along the way, the author examines busing, racial issues, the judicial system, and the code of the streets. Imagine Hoop Dreams crossed with Boyz in the Hood.

On white flight in Boston's neighborhoods: "The sad fact, she said, is most whites aren't comfortable being in the minority, and unless they can be guaranteed a school where they are in the majority, most of them won't return to the public schools." (page 107, paperback, Public Affairs, 2008)

On the origins of basketball: "In December 1891, James Naismith, a thirty-year-old phys-ed teacher at the School for Christian Workers, nailed two half-bushel peach baskets to the edge of an elevated indoor track, divided his eighteen stir-crazy students into two teams of nine, and taught them to bounce a fat ball and toss it at their side's basket. There were no holes at the bottom of the baskets, so Naismith kept a ladder nearby for use after each score." (page 87)

From an experienced school administrator: "Kids are no damn good!" [Headmaster Michael] Fung would tell all the wide-eyed recent college grads he hired to rejuvenate his faculty. "They leave the school a mess. They don't listen. They swear." Then he would pause for effect. "That's why we have to work hard to make them good." (page 168)

Fung advised the teacher[that] students must be taught to respect boundaries. No, the teacher replied, she wanted teach them that they are respected and trusted. Not long after that, her students stole her lunch. Then her credit card. Then her $300 jacket, which they set on fire. She no longer worked at Charlestown High. (page 171)

On Criminal Law: "Do we have a Bruton problem?" he asked, invoking a Supreme Court ruling that had become shorthand for trials of co-defendants that get stuck in a goulash of blame. (page 292)

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