Friday, January 20, 2006

"Boys of Baraka" - Posing a moral dilemma

Boys of Baraka is the name of a film that was reviewed on NPR this morning. Here is a brief synopsis from the website of the 48th International San Francisco Film Festival:

Boys of Baraka, The

Directed by Heidi Ewing Rachel Grady 

Mavis Jackson tells her Black male Baltimore high school audience that they have three options by the time they reach age 18: “An orange jumpsuit and bracelets, a black suit in a brown box or a black cap and gown.” Eighty percent of Baltimore’s African American boys drop out of high school, with 50 percent of them ending up in jail. From this at-risk group each year Jackson selects 20 boys to attend the Baraka School in the bush country of Kenya. The boys may as well have been sent to Mars. They’re subjected to early-morning calisthenics, long walkabouts and encounters with elephants and hedgehogs as well as native Africans. No TV, Game Boys or junk food. On the other hand, there are no shootings or police helicopters, and the only screams in the night are from hyenas. Despite acts of rebellion that range from the hilarious to the disquieting, the boys undergo a profound transformation. This exhilarating film documents two years in the lives of some inner-city kids faced with the only break they may ever get.

Though this is not the film’s major theme, the reviewer highlighted a moral dilemma it raises. ‘Eighty per-cent of Baltimore’s African American boys drop out of high school, with 50 per-cent of them ending up in jail. Why is it necessary for these boys to travel to Kenya to get a decent education. Is there no place in the US where this could be provided. Who is being held accountable for the quality of schools in Baltimore and other areas. Who is holding those charged with administering and teaching you men in the State of Maryland accountable.

In my book Paradise Poisoned I call attention to the plight of young men, militant movements prime recruits, in developing areas. I argue that as matters of practicality and cost effectiveness, the well being of young men should be a top development priority (and it is not). Obviously this is a problem that is not unique to nations such as Sri Lanka.


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