Part of the "NFT/BFI Film Classics" series, this is the story of life in a New York slum school, where young hoodlums develop their crude ways, and their teachers fight a vain and losing battle to bring a semblance of decency and honesty into their lives.
A first novel of a New York city vocational high school is more than a liberal education in itself and a raw, frightening commentary on a system for which there are no easy correctives- Richard Dadier, in the first year of his first teaching job at the North Manual Trades High School (the Broax) is to learn his lessons the hard way- and while dubious that "there is no discipline problem here" (the department head) he is also unwilling to accept the statement that the vocational high school is only a "garbage can... to keep the filth off the streets". His first day begins with the innocent insolence of "Teach" and "Mr. Daddy-oh" and ends with an unintentional act of heroism when he prevents the rape of Miss Hammond, an inviting tramp, on a stairwell. The boys have their retaliation and Dadier is jumped, and badly beaten up, along with Josh, another teacher. In the weeks which follow, every effort to reach the boys is blocked; for Josh, the sense of failure is too great, and he quits; and at home, Rick's wife's first pregnancy imposes an additional strain- needled by the anonymous letters of a troublemaker. The death of the baby completes his despair- and an ugly scene in the classroom confirms not only his loss of control- but his loss of hope- until the help of the boy he'd tagged as a troublemaker vindicates the position he has taken...A highly dramatic if devastating demonstration of the unequal job of education in an area such as this; of classrooms in which nothing can be taught- since there is no desire to learn; of teen-age delinquents equipped with switch-blades, not pencils, sullen, illiterate, and resentful. Mr. Hunter establishes an unmistakeable immediacy and identity here, and writes in the vernacular which is in this case an eloquent medium, while The Amboy Dukes will indicate the potential market here. (Kirkus Reviews)