Stunned, but Not Surprised

I, like many others around the country are completely galled, though not necessarily shocked by the Board’s decision to close 50 schools to help alleviate the alleged $1 billion deficit. While I could spout research and sociopolitical arguments to explain my sentiment as to why this decision is asinine as well as insensitive, demoralizing and embroiled in race and class issues, I will approach it from another standpoint. 

This decision to shut down 50 schools is asinine as well as insensitive, demoralizing and embroiled in race and class; let me be real clear about this. As a native Chicagoan, former CPS teacher and former CPS student, we have always had unresolved problems of race, power, privilege and class. The Daley dynasty has proved that statement over the decades. If you were on the right side of the “machine,” you were “blessed and highly favored.” If you were on the wrong side of the “machine,” you were either cast into the sea of forgetfulness or into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Politically and socially speaking, of course.

We (Chicago residents) have had several high-profile challenges with educating our students for the last 25 years. That I’m actually old enough to recall some of these challenges is a blow to my ego, but I digress. We had:

  • White flight after failed desegregation efforts (created suburbs and city magnet schools)
  • An influx of children coming into CPS who ingested crack in vitro (Special. Ed)
  • Numerous battles between CTU and CPS, resulting in strikes (pay and working conditions)
  • Reconstituting schools (an academic and social nightmare)
  • Increased youth violence

What this asinine as well as insensitive, demoralizing and embroiled in race and class issues decision means is that:

  • The bottom line is the bottom dollar
  • The children at the left-end of the Bell Curve have an increased chance of staying at the bottom
  • The people making the key decisions at the board don’t have children who attend CPS schools, or for those that do, they are in high-performing areas
  • Those at the top haphazardly make decisions for those perceived to be at the bottom
  • The money the Board says it will save will be consumed trying to avert the impending disaster it has brought on predominantly African-American communities.
  • Revolution is here, if we can make order out of chaos

This is clearly a call for mayoral leadership that is sincerely concerned about the well-being for all its residents; the rich and the poor, the educated and the under educated, the white, black, brown and yellow. An entire city needs to consider this before the next election campaign, not during it.

I would offer a few simple (some might say overly simple) suggestions to continue the momentum:

Mobilize churches to increase their presence in the communities. Sunday mornings are nice, but after church on Sunday and the rest of the week, our children are dying (literally) for a more tangible expression of love, concern and guidance.

Mobilize community centers to help guide our children’s activities during summer vacation and the school year. They say an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Apparently, his enrollment for his tutees is overflowing.

Develop a strategic plan, similar to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, where we can shut down the entire city or state, outlining possible solutions to educating and socializing our children in a constructive manner.

If you could give the Board three suggestions, what would you tell them?

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