Sub: My Years Underground in America's Schools is a sort of enhanced diary of those encounters and a fascinating window on what really goes on in public schoolrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a delight. I laughed out loud often. Meanwhile, almost insensibly, Gallagher's deeper concerns show through: these schools, despite most people's best intentions, are failing too many young African Americans. And closer you come to that reality, the less easy it is to imagine easy improvements.
And so the beat goes on. The kids think Gallagher looks like Jack Nicholson; some like him a little, some don't. He "yells at children professionally."
He is willing to suggest that maybe African Americans having arrived in this country involuntarily as slaves has something to do with the black kids' troubles -- but he is not on some doctrinaire riff. He's just busy trying to cope.
Can the adults learn to talk with each other more honestly about race and education? Gallagher offers plenty to chew on, entertainingly.