Aidan’s College Essays and The Lottery.

Students' quest for a spot in the Harlem Success Academies is the basis for The Lottery.

We’re relaxing here at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, courtesy of yet another fabulous deal that Dunreith, aka wifey, wifey, identified for us.

As even occasional readers of this blog know, I am prone to revisit place and reflect on the memories that rise from within.

This hotel has a number of them, for it was here that our senior prom was held.

Going to the room where the event took place, though, far from bringing up images of that evening, left me instead with a hazy uncertainty about whether I was in the right place.   This feeling did not leave me even after I determined logically that I was indeed in the correct room.

As a result, rather than going in what sometimes is a standard direction of thinking about then, now and what has transpired in between, I found myself instead with a different kind of unsettled feeling.

My mid-life ruminations notwithstanding, today Mike, Jon, Eric Harvey, Justin and I are heading down to Wellfleet for our annual Tradition evening and ensuing morning of drinking gin and tonics, playing Scrabble and many other prescribed activities in way that approaches, but does not quite rival, the precision involved in caring for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

While I am there, Aidan will be working on his final college application essays.

In a little more than five short months, Aidan will be graduating from Evanston Township High School with hundreds of other students.  Our sister-in-law Cathy has already pledged to counter her fear of flying to make it to the big day.

While Aidan’s elementary and secondary career is winding down, with his plans to attend college firmly in place.

But far too many young people in America face a different, less certain and less positive future.  Growing up in far less affluent circumstances than Aidan, they face serious barriers to graduating from eighth grade, let alone attending a university.

The Lottery is a documentary film that follow four families in Harlem as they attempt to help their children have access to a better education.

Their goal: to have their student win a coveted spot in the public lottery at one of the Harlem Success Academies.

A key part of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, the academies are headed by Eva Moskowitz, a Harlem native and former elected official. Moskowitz and her teachers weather extensive and hostile opposition from members of the City Council and some community residents in a school into which the Academy wants to move.  Teachers unions are portrayed as another staunch opponent.

The Lottery gives a lot of space for Moskowitz and other charter supporters to debunk some of the anti-charter arguments such as the schools have a lower percentage of special education students or cream the top students in the community.

It also develops the characters of the children, each of whom is delightful, and their parents who are laboring so hard with them and praying so fervently for what amounts to a wisp of a chance.

Moskowitz explains that the lottery’s public nature is to show that there is such a demand among parents for the type of education the academies provide.  While that’s true, and while the build up to the event and the big day itself supplies dramatic tension, there is a lot of pain in the room as the vast majority of families wait in vain to hear the child’s name be called so that he or she can join the t-shirt wearing, balloon-toting faculty and receive their certificate of admission.

In some ways, the deepest shame of the education system is articulated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker.  In one of his cameos, he notes that the ingredients for an outstanding primary school education-high-quality teachers, lots of time in school, a clear delineation of high expectations for which students are held accountable, and the exposure to many different varieties of experience- far from being mysterious, have been known, shown and demonstrated time and again.

As a result, he says, the responsibility for the failure to provide this type of education to all students lies with us, rather than with the children.

From my perspective, this notion is a hauntingly accurate one that will stay with me as Aidan works on putting the final touches on the essays that we hope will see him gain admission to the college of his choice.

The families each are heavily involved with their children’s education.


4 responses to “Aidan’s College Essays and The Lottery.

  1. Have you and/or Aidan read The Other Wes Moore? – hope that’s the last name. If not, just google The Other Wes…. A wonderful book that encapsulates just what you are referencing. Love you.

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Thanks, Ginna, for this tip and your wonderful gifts. I was just thinking today that I had to contact you and thank you! 🙂

      Hope your ride down South went well.

      I have seen, but not read, the book.

      Let’s talk soon.



  2. Trip to the South has been wonderful. We are now staying at an incredible place, The Cloister, on Sea Island in GA. We are not worthy. It is way too elegant for folks like us. We will, nevertheless, pretend that this is the life we were born to and deserve. Tomorrow we are off on the last leg of our roadtrip and should arrive on Longboat Key sometime mid to late afternoon.

    Loved being with you three. Hope your trip home is safe and uneventful in any negative way. In a positive way? That’s something else again.

    Love you.

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Thanks, Ginna. Glad to hear that you are enjoying yourself and your luxurious surroundings so much.

      It was wonderful to see you, too. Look forward to doing it again soon!

      Happy 2011.



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