In a second-grade classroom at a school in Spanish Harlem, the teacher told me that a child had come to class very upset: Someone she knew had been shot. The teacher then asked the students how many of them knew a person who had been shot—and every hand went up.
The children’s school was right next to a massive housing project were most of these children live. On top of the difficulties of such a childhood, half of the children in this class had “special needs,” ranging from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to the autism spectrum. I expected the atmosphere to be chaotic.»