A Spectacular Failure


49536119.jpgThe Delicious
apple is a beautiful specimen, with its oversized promise, and the waxy shiny
skin.  But it is an inferior apple,
mealy and unsatisfying.  It is a
compromise, and eating it results from diminished expectations or a lack of
choice.  Chicago is like that
apple:  dazzling, beautiful on the
surface, but letting the city's residents down in myriad ways.

I do not have
to contend with the day-to-day vagaries of city life.  I am planted in the green belt of suburbia.  My schools are good, the town is mowed
and well managed, and the schools are rock-steady.  We do not dazzle out here, but we can do without the
drama.  My sons all reside within
Chicago, and they take the pecking of city life in stride.  Parking tickets, sewer back-ups,
littered neighborhoods, security issues- these are minor abrasions on their
tough young hides.  City life has
not drawn blood with the pecking yet. 
I expect that it will, if they live there long enough...like when they
have children, and wish to send them to safe and excellent neighborhood
schools.  

Yes, I am a
suburban wimp.  I could not make it
through the Fenger tape-where young people bludgeon each other-without turning
away.  What I saw was hopelessness
from kids, and blindness from the adults who are charged with their safety. Who
can conceive of the emptiness that lets this happen?  All accounts are that the mix of students from the
neighborhood and Altgeld Gardens was unsteady.  The final dismissal of the day required Altelgeld students
to walk to transportation, with menacing interaction.  All hell broke loose after a day that included a
shooting.  And now a Derrion Albert
is dead, bludgeoned, kicked and abused by a pack of mad dogs. 

 How do young
people become so immune to pain?  It
is almost a cliché:  daily
violence, absent fathers, gangs as substitute families, hunger, no role models
of success except drug merchants.  They
wither by living a life that makes going to school life threatening.  And remember- these kids are going to school- they are still trying
to chase a dream.  Chicago Public
Schools has an enormous burden, but they have a responsibility.  If this mix of neighborhoods was
volatile, they had a duty to provide some inspiration and leadership to get the
kids home.  Some ideas:  dual release times, school busses to Altgeld,
better trained security and a much more integrated relationship with the police.  Kids want a reason to trust the
police:  put a police liaison in
the walls that functions as an advocate and not an adversary. Yesterday the Chicago
Public School District imposed some of these ideas.  Where were the visionaries in education as kids were
threatened on a daily basis?   No wonder CPS kids don't dream in
Technicolor any more. 

There will be
no teachers willing to risk their lives if the schools are not a safe place.
Kids cannot learn if they are focused on survival.  The parents who turned the memorial into a shouting ordeal
on Monday gave a very poor example, and did little to honor Derrion or comfort
his family.  Kids are the seedlings
for the future of city.  It is time
to stop being blinded by the shiny surface and start working at the root level
here in the city.  Barren fields are never a goal.

Dreams by
Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken winged bird

That cannot fly. 

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow. 

 

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