Society & Culture

‘Whatever It Takes’ author Paul Tough to speak at UGA Dec. 2

Athens, Ga. – Paul Tough, former editor of the New York Times Sunday Magazine and author of the critically acclaimed book, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, will speak Thursday, Dec. 2, at 5:30 p.m., in the University of Georgia Chapel. Following his presentation, Tough will accept questions from the audience, and copies of his book will be for sale.

Canada, the principal figure in Tough’s Whatever It Takes, is the 58-year-old president of the Harlem Children’s Zone-a non-profit organization that provides education and support for more than 10,000 children and their families across 97 city blocks -where he is testing new and sometimes controversial ideas about poverty and education in America.

Canada also stands out as a voice of hope in director Davis Guggenheim’s recently released documentary film on the failure of public education, “Waiting for Superman.” Canada’s conclusion on what it takes, reports Tough, is that if poor children are to be able to compete with their middle-class peers, everything in their lives must be changed-their schools, their neighborhoods, even the child-rearing practices of their parents.

The Harlem experiment involves creating an interlocking web of services targeted at the poorest and least likely to succeed children: programs to prepare and support parents, health clinics, a demanding K-8 charter school and a charter High School, support for students once they are enrolled in college, and a range of after-school programs for high school students. More information about the Harlem Children’s Zone is available at

Tough’s knowledge of Canada’s work is of recent local interest. A new initiative patterned after Canada’s work labeled Whatever It Takes Athens ( was formed locally to address the effects of poverty in the area.Whatever It Takes Athens established a goal that by July 1, 2020, every child in Athens-Clarke County will be on track to graduate from post-secondary education.

The University of Georgia’s College of Education and School of Public & International Affairs have been involved with Whatever It Takes Athens since its inception. Students, faculty and administrators from both schools are serving as committee members, interns and researchers. In addition, the initiative is allowing faculty and students to become more involved in the local community.

In October, the initiative won a $500,000 planning grant from the federal Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhood program. The grant was part of $10 million the Obama administration awarded to 21 neighborhood groups across the country to help plan their own versions of the Harlem Children’s Zone.

The one-year grant will be used by Whatever It Takes Athens to collaborate with local government, non-profit agencies and businesses to create a network of cradle-to-career services to boost the educational achievement and healthy development of children in the area.

President Obama currently is seeking $210 million to implement the program in cities around the country next year, although appropriations committees in the Senate and the House have earmarked only $20 million and $60 million respectively. If funds are approved in Washington, Whatever It Takes Athens will apply for more than $10 million to put its own local network into action.

Tough has written extensively about education, child development, poverty and politics, including cover stories in the New York Times Magazine on the Harlem Children’s Zone, the post-Katrina school system in New Orleans, the “No Child Left Behind” initiative and charter schools. He has worked as an editor at Harper’s Magazine and was the founding editor of Open Letters, an online magazine. He also has worked as a reporter and producer for the public radio program, “This American Life,” in which he reported most recently on the parents enrolled in the Harlem Children Zone’s Baby College. His writings have appeared in Slate, GQ, Esquire and the New Yorker and on the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

Currently, Tough is working on a new book entitled, The Success Equation, to be published in 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.The book explores why some children succeed while others fail-and what can be done to move individual children toward their full potential for success.

Tough’s appearance is co-sponsored by Whatever It Takes Athens, the UGA College of Education and the UGA School of Public & International Affairs Master of Public Administration program.For further information about the UGA College of Education, see further information about the School of Public & International Affairs Masters of Public Administration program, see