Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who is [as is Chicago Public Schools superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett] African American, has called the planned closures “racist” and “classist.”The government is that institution within a society that holds a monopoly on violence. Apparently the same government that can persuade the owner of a baseball team to back off on questioning Our President cannot maintain order in the bad neighborhoods, and the people within those neighborhoods have developed survival strategies to use in the absence of government control of the streets.
“What I cannot understand and what I will not accept is that the proposals I am offering are racist,” Byrd-Bennett said, prompting shouts of “They are!” from the often-raucous crowd.
“To refuse to challenge the status quo that is failing thousands of African American students, that’s what I call racist.”
Addressing safety concerns about children crossing gang lines to get to new schools, Byrd-Bennett said she has no patience for adults who use the “excuse of gangs to leave children trapped in failing schools.”
However, CPS itself considered the gang factor when it agreed with a school closings commission’s recommendation to keep high schools off the closing list out of concern for teens’ safety if gang territories were disrupted.
Most of the schools on the “hit” list are located in socio-economically depressed areas of our city. That is the root problem that needs to be addressed. WBEZ’s recent program on Harper High School recounts in stark terms how our children are suffering. For example, here’s a list of rules that the students recounted for how to survive in their neighborhoods located in gang territory:(Emphasis in the original). Apparently, walking in the street, risking being hit by a car, is safer than walking in the sidewalks. Does it come as any surprise that people might be fleeing schools in such neighborhoods?
These students recognize their school as a safe haven. We should celebrate and nurture that within our communities, not destroy it. I would ask that you consider delaying the decision until you have had time to explore other solutions that affirm our city’s commitment to the poorest communities, support their schools and support them in their struggles for a better life.
- Know your geography – you must always be aware of where you are and what gang controls that specific territory.
- If you must go out, never walk alone because it makes you the target of a gang member; never walk with someone else either because that makes you appear to be a gang member. Walk with someone but separately so that you have each other’s back.
- Don’t use the sidewalk, walk in the street to feel safer.
- If you hear shots, don’t run, fall to the ground.
- Watch what you say and do. You can be shot for big and small reasons (boyfriend-girlfriend stuff, money owed, petty stuff, he said-she said, retaliation, off your block).
- Never go outside if you don’t have to.
- Stay at school as long as possible.
In an editorial, the Chicago Tribume first quotes approvingly and at length from the statement by the superintendent.
First, the overwhelming majority of students in the CPS system are children of color. Any significant change in the status quo is going to affect those children. That is not racist; that is a fact.In the view of the editors, blaming the superintendent for the willingness of people to leave unsafe neighborhoods, and implicitly blaming the city government for failure to provide the proper environment, is a mistake.
Second, the greatest population losses in our city over the past decade have taken place on the South and West sides. School underutilization in those areas is the result of demographic trends, not race.
Third, and most important, to refuse to challenge a status quo that is failing thousands of African-American students year after year — consigning them to a future with less opportunity than others — now that would be racist.
This debate must recognize the population changes that Byrd-Bennett noted. Chicago's African-American population declined by 181,000 people from 2000 to 2010. The schools slated for closing are largely in communities that saw significant population declines.It's the failure of the government that I wish to address further. Not long after the Chicago school closings controversy erupted, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry made a foolish statement in a promotion for her network, which prompted Erick Erickson to fire back, "All your kids are belong to us."
As a school's population dwindles, so does its ability to muster resources to educate kids. Students in half-empty schools are more likely than other CPS students to be in split-grade classrooms. Forcing CPS to spread its resources too thinly "makes it harder to ensure that kids have art, music, physical education, well-stocked libraries and well-maintained playgrounds," concluded the school closings commission that was chaired by civic leader Frank Clark.
Students who have to change will go to schools with new libraries, new computer labs, air-conditioning in every classroom. How is that racist?
CPS will face a challenge guaranteeing the safety of students going to new schools and ensuring they get a better education in those schools.
This is amazingly stupid commentary. All of us who own property (real property, not children) pay property taxes to fund a public education system to educate our children. We have democratically elected school boards to make the decisions on how to collectively educate our kids to common, state approved standards.National Review's Rich Lowry offers a less polemical reaction raising similar points.
It is failing spectacularly. And I suspect that the tangible efforts to improve it, from neutering teachers unions to giving parents choices in where to send their children, are opposed by Melissa Harris-Perry.
I never thought I’d see the day when self-styled progressives advocated the state owning the people.
As the ultimate private institution, the family is a stubborn obstacle to the great collective effort. Insofar as people invest in their own families, they are holding out on the state and unacceptably privileging their own kids over the children of others. These parents are selfish, small-minded, and backward. “Once it’s everybody’s responsibility,” Harris-Perry said of child-rearing, “and not just the households, then we start making better investments.”Precisely. Witness the response of Chicago parents who can get out of those unsafe neighborhoods.
This impulse toward the state as über-parent is based on a profound fallacy and a profound truth. The fallacy is that anyone can care about someone else’s children as much as his own. The former Texas Republican senator Phil Gramm liked to illustrate the hollowness of professions to the contrary with a story. He told a woman, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.” She said, “No, you don’t.” Gramm replied, “Okay: What are their names?”
The truth is that parents are one of society’s most incorrigible sources of inequality. If you have two of them who stay married and are invested in your upbringing, you have hit life’s lottery. You will reap untold benefits denied to children who aren’t so lucky. That the family is so essential to the well-being of children has to be a constant source of frustration to the egalitarian statist, a reminder of the limits of his power.
In responding to her critics, Professor Harris-Perry concedes her critics' point, and inadvertently or not makes mine.
I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to the children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them. Of course, parents can and should raise their children with their own values. But they should be able to do so in a community that provides safe places to play, quality food to eat, terrific schools to attend, and economic opportunities to support them. No individual household can do that alone. We have to build that world together.Well, yeah. If the government has full responsibility, you get the south and west side of Chicago. If you grow up in Professor Harris-Perry's old neighborhood, you get parents involved in the life of their kids, and each other's kids. They're not absent or active in the gangs themselves or pinning their hopes on lottery tickets.
I don’t want your kids, but I want them to live in safe neighborhoods. I want them to learn in enriching and dynamic classrooms. I want them to be healthy and well and free from fear. I want them to grow up to agree or disagree with me or with you and to have all the freedom and tools they need to express what they believe.But to do so, Conor Friedersdorf notes (via the old 11-D site), the village must work with, but not undermine, the family.
Mother and father are in fact responsible for getting baby her shots, strapping her into the car seat, childproofing the house, noticing her allergic reaction to peanuts, and enrolling her in primary school. If they fail to do these things, or to find someone who'll do them on their behalf, baby suffers. A kindly passerby won't peek through the living-room window, notice the child crying, and attend to it. I suspect that if a young couple leaving the hospital, newborn in arms, were to ask Harris-Perry for advice, she would not tell them, "Don't worry, this kid isn't all your responsibility." The fact that most parents feel this responsibility deep within them is literally indispensable to our civilization. Kids whose parents don't feel or ignore it are often seriously disadvantaged.When the village doesn't care, it doesn't work well with duly constituted authority, and Chicago happens. When the village becomes too overweening, that's also trouble.
Recognizing that parents bear primary responsibility for their children's well-being isn't just important for most families. It is a collective necessity in any pluralistic society. Progressives are prone to talking as if optimal policies and methods can be agreed upon if only right-thinking people vest trust in appropriately enlightened technocrats. But outside the wonk bubble, Americans have deep, legitimate disagreements about what ought to happen. Child rearing is no exception. If kids belong to their families, some can spend their Saturdays taking piano lessons, others can mark the Jewish Sabbath, and still others can play baseball or attend Chinese or Korean school.
Maybe [Harris-Perry] merely is is inviting me to share my fatherly wisdom with America's children as if they were my own progeny. If that's the case I invite them to shut off the damn internet, finish their damn homework, and clean up those damn pigsties they call rooms.It's really old stuff:
To the extent that policy wonks of varying persuasion sound the same message: the bourgeois habits have the potential to reduce poverty, there is the possibility of developing income policies, and school policies, that might reinforce rather than undermine those habits.I'll give Dr. Ben Carson, in Henry Payne's column, the final word:
"There is your elite group of intellectuals who pass judgment on everything. They see the people who are on the lower end of society and they say 'you little poor thing' and they pat you on the head and say, 'we're going to take care of you,'" he says. "Of course, that just enables them to remain in that situation without real incentive to improve themselves. You need a lower class in order for you to be the elite intellectual."And, to complete a recent train of thought, you may need a lower class to persist as a way of retaining your power.