Walking up the steps at Fordham station, I entered the bustling world of the north Bronx. School is out and the streets were filled with young men and women making their way from one place to another. Drive a few miles west on E/W Fordham and cross the bridge, which just celebrated 100 years of service, and land on W 207th. Maybe move your way through a few lesser streets until you reach the famous basketball hoops of Dyckman Park.
The tenement buildings surround the area and there is a clear city feel. Latin American culture, from the music to the store fronts, mark Inwood or University Heights. From the stories told, Inwood needs schools of influence. Recognizing the need, charter schools are starting up and being formed. I am privileged to be helping a planning team write their charter.
After spending some time writing, the group took me, an outsider of the city and even state, for a tour of the neighborhood. I was struck by the dichotomy. As we moved north towards Columbia University's athletic fields, a marked change in landscape becomes evident. The tenement buildings become apartments which sell for a pretty penny, even in today's market. The street vendors disappear and internet cafes pop up. A true economic dichotomy.
Following the tour and before getting dropped off back at the Fordham station, the principle charter developer said something to this effect:
I love kids. They all put up the front at first. They can be real disrespectful. But I love 'em.
It struck a nerve in me. My own experiences with inner-city students--who aren't really living in an inner-city, just a poverty stricken town--have created a similar dichotomy in my own attitude. Like the charter's founder, I love students. And yet, I find myself less willing to endure the disrespect. So in a sense, I move emotionally. I moved north, to Columbia's athletic fields where I can be a part of the cvlture but sip my latte in the comfort of a well appointed internet cafe. It's a dichotomy of no less significance, if I'm being honest.