All other writing about exam schools, in general, and Boston Latin, in particular, must step aside, at least for a moment. Yesterday’s Boston Globe contained a front-page article called “Making Their Way, A Brotherhood of Two.” The article powerfully tells the story of two teenage boys from the Fields Corner section of Dorchester. In fact, they live on Geneva Ave., one of the city’s most famous (or infamous) streets, because of the incidence of violence there.
By coincidence, sort of, the two boys attend Boston Latin School. George is a junior and Johnny is a sophomore. Their story gives depth and meaning to the idea of “struggling” at BLS. It knits the school together with Fields Corner, Geneva Ave., the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, MBTA Bus #19, the Fairmont-Copley Hotel and the Tobin Bridge in a unique holiday gift to anyone who takes the time to read it.
In many ways, it is a 2011 telling of the traditional story of Boston Latin (and public education, in general) as a path taking talented young immigrants “up and out” of difficult situations. But one needn’t read beyond the first few paragraphs to know that the story goes well beyond the stock “by their own bootstraps” format.
The boys work after school because they have to. Johnny tries out for the BLS basketball team, but didn’t make it because he is too short. In the cafeteria, he points out a ninth grader who just harassed him because “he probably thinks I’m a seventh-grader.” The sacrifices they make to go to BLS are almost too extreme to believe, but, somehow, they make it. They lean heavily on each other and get more than a little help from their friends.
The Parent Imperfect won’t stop making generalizations about Boston Latin, but he will hope to make them more carefully. He hopes that Billy Baker receives an award for this story, and that he checks back in with George and Johnny five, ten and twenty years from now.