It may seem like violence is all about crime and values, but overlooking the role of decades of poor educational models impacting Chicago’s communities only continues the onslaught.
Say what you want about bad parenting, bad unemployment numbers, and bad news in many of Chicago’s neighborhoods and areas like the Windy City around the nation. They do play a role in today’s crisis in Chicago. Much of the violence that has paralyzed the city’s south and west sides to the tune of over 250 murders in 6 months has a lot to do with these social ills.
Yet, to ignore the impact of Chicago’s woeful educational system would be akin to ignoring the bullets buzzing in many of the neighborhoods making up the third-largest city in the nation.
This is not to make one scapegoat responsible for the mountain of problems facing Chicago’s Black communities, particularly with the crime. However, it goes without saying that without looking at a viable, honest, and effective new approach to education in the city, the problems of violence may lose its deadly spike in 2012, yet the culture that has bubbled as a undercurrent of death for years in those communities will continue.
The issue of education must be more than merely teaching youth how to interact with each other. The failure to press the current institutions that impact young people the most during 9-10 months a year – namely, schools and their prevailing cultures – only continues to trap many of our youth in a cycle that leads to dropping out from school, dropping out of the active work force, and dropping right into the conditions that lead to despair and death.
The failures of educating our youth to be properly prepared to compete in the 21st century has been well-documented. This sobering reality only hits home harder when looking at the situation in Chicago, where nearly 40% of the students drop out of school. And while the tie between inadequacies in CPS (from school facilities to academic performance levels) are overlooked whenever violence grabs the headlines, missteps such as a possible looming strike of the Chicago Teachers Union would only serve to stroke the 2012 numbers for violent crimes even higher while guaranteeing that the continuation of the crib-to-cell-to-coffin cycle for Black men in Chicago stays entrenched.
It is imperative that Chicago leaders and leading Black advocates alike ensure that the standard of excellence in education is elevated and upheld immediately. This must be the primary focus of these individuals. It must be more important than pleasing the teachers unions and other administrators in the next round of contract negotiations and agreements. Without an educational model in place that smashes the paradigm of expectations currently in place for Chicago’s Black youth, there is no possible way to eliminate the high level of dope-pushing and ongoing destruction taking place in our communities. At the current pace, there is not enough investment from government dollars or philanthropy to overtake the issues choking off Chicago’s communities of color through violence. It will not stop until the educational level and applied aptitude of the average resident rise. And, of course, that cannot happen without the attitude and approaches towards education changing in these communities, either.
It must happen quickly.
One could say that it starts in the home, Yet, there are also plenty of examples in the world – from Black children growing up in poor households in the 1940s and 1950s to well-known leaders such as President Bill Clinton – that consistently show us that the value of good schools and educational opportunities often can mean more than a perfect home life, thus being enough to overcome bad home lives often times. Family values provide much-needed morality, while even low-paying jobs provide stability. Yet, it is education that provides the most potential for mobility from poverty and plight to prosperity. Any escape from the devastation that is crippling Chicago’s most troubled areas must have at its core a resolution to shift priorities away from pleasing teachers unions and bureaucratic allies within the school system, moving its attention back to uplifting the standard of education for students at all costs – including financial ones for all parties involved. Elevating the standards – and performances – within the school structures within Chicago (from student to teachers) not only improves home lives and employment numbers, but will have the biggest and longest-lasting impact on cutting down the violence as well.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic 365 featured on CNN Newsroom, CNN’s “Early Start”, and “CNN Saturday Morning”. He will be the guest host on Chicago’s Vocalo Radio at 5pm EDT on www.vocalo.org and 89.5 FM in Chicago. Catch Lenny’s latest via the new LennyMcAllister.com website.