Today, The Chicago Tribune reported that “Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he wants to require Chicago public school students to get letters of acceptance from a two- or four-year college, a branch of the armed forces or a trade program in order to graduate from high school, he announced Wednesday. He was quoted saying “"You won't be able to graduate ... unless you show that letter of acceptance to any one of the four outlets we talked about: college, community college, armed services or a trade,"
“Emanuel and Janice Jackson, chief education officer at CPS, characterized the acceptance letter requirement as a way to focus children all over the city on their post-high school plans.” Unfortunately, they were unable to look past their own privilege and personal experiences to realize this one size fits all approach might not be best for every single CPS graduate. I am assuming this is a half-hearted attempt to address some of the violence, delinquency, and truancy issues we have here in the city, which is comical seeing as he closed over 50 schools in predominately black and brown neighborhoods. But I digress.
Now, do I know the value of higher education? Absolutely. However, despite whatever ‘good intent’ that folks claim is connected to this, it is very dangerous territory when you put stipulations on peoples lives (and the ability to advance themselves socially and economically--- which having a diploma does). So while it may sound like a good idea to some people, and okay for those who are already going to be unaffected, it’s actually insidious and would be a discriminatory practice if put into place.
"Approximately 85% of CPS students are Latino or African-American. The student body includes 87% from low-income homes", so essentially this new ‘policy’ targets poor and minority youth in the city and is basically forcing them to make a particular choice they may not be mentally or financially ready for ( including joining the military against their own volition because they feel obligated in order to receive a high school diploma). College is NOT for everyone. Some students are not interested in accruing student loan debt immediately. Especially as they look around and see people our age complain about student loans while barely making ends meet. Some students actually do need to take a year off (and it's okay with some parents). Some students don’t want to start school again until they are ready for the rigors and responsibility and know that about themselves. Others may want to work in family businesses, travel, or pursue other endeavors---endeavors that no one questions when you are a child of privilege. And what criteria will determine what an ‘acceptable’ trade is or isn’t?
I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken to and heard high school graduates of affluent families or a large number of my well off white constituents say things like "oh I'm going to take a year off to travel" or "I'm taking some time to figure out what I want to do", etc post graduation. Receiving their diplomas (especially after meeting all the academic requirements for graduation), would have never been in question or after the fact contingencies placed on them in order to receive it. We already know Rahmpoleon is a jerk and does not care about a certain sector of this city outside of election time, but Janice Jackson should have known better. She should have been able to look past the surface of what this looks like versus what it really is. She should not have supported this bullshit. This is a sugarcoated infringement on our children’s choices in regards to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Also, if the Mayor is so focused on a kindergarten to College plan for CPS students, what is going to be put in place in terms of follow-up? If you are going to demand enrollment letters will you be there to help a student whose financial aid has not cleared in time and can’t register or afford their books for their first semester? Is the city going to be invested and responsible or is this some more shit you will use to fake brag about how much better our youth are doing on paper when in reality nothing changes.
So, what probably will happen is students will make sure they get enrollment letters (just to have them) and still do whatever the hell they were going to do anyway. I pray the Board votes against it for the reasons listed and so many more. You can’t force goals, aspirations and drive on an individual, just like you can’t assume someone doesn’t have those things simply because college, trade school, or the military is not a part of their plan. And under no circumstances should you not give them their diploma because you don’t see or appreciate what they want for their own life.