Posted by: sustainabilityinpoliticspolicyandeducation February 2, 2013 Chicago, the Murder Capital of America: Why So Much Mayhem and How to Fix it?
Chicago has finally achieved the infamous distinction of being: The Murder Capital of America, a title that might be pegged to any other major urban-inner city at any given time. (Note: At the end of January 2013, the city had recorded forty-two (42) murders and counting, one of which garnered international attention; the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, a drum majorette who had recently returned from participating in President Obama’s second term inaugural parade. Hadiya was a 15 year old sophmore and honor student at King College Prep High School located on Chicago’s south side, a college bound young lady with a very promising future whose life was cut short by a gunman shooting into the group she stood with under a canopy in the Oakenwald Community, also located on the city’s south side.) How a city could acquire such an infamous reputation is arguably linked to numerous reasons, but we will address two (2) of those that we believe deserve a spot at the top of the list of systemic socioeconomic problems that trumpet the pack. As a backdrop we will begin with a dialogue that the author of this blog recently had with a young 25 year old African-American male, a dialogue spawned by the question: What is the root cause of all the violence being perpetrated by some African-American males? For purposes of confidentiality, we will call our young man “Tory”.
In response to our inquiry, Tory stated that: (1) The guys committing the killings are very angry, actually mad as the result of feeling short-changed, unloved, devalued and hopeless because their home environment has denied them emotional and social support; typically there is no father in the house, and the female who birth them is most often a teenager who knew little and still possesses a brevity of information about parenting; tragically, she is bringing her limited sociological, psychological and lack of financial preparedness to the experience and (2) that same male population invariably attends schools that mirror the same behavior they are experiencing at home: The school environment makes them feel valueless, that they are about nothing, that they are not worth the time to try and teach and that they are a lost cause. The resulting dynamic is that those male children are passed through the primary grades, including kindergarten, not being properly prepared to successively navigate the more critical academic rigors of middle school and beyond. Moreover, Tory said he is cognizant that the children who lack the foundation skills really begin to demonstrate their inability to compete by the time they pass to the fourth grade, and, he said he is equally aware that the same children get trapped in a very precipitous academic decline. Tory also noted that the male children with such a profile are a prime target for gangs, the reason being everyone wants to be loved and to belong, and, if both the home and school environments of those children are denying them those experiences, they will fulfill their needs elsewhere.
The African-American male Tory described who typifies the person committing the mayhem on our urban-inner city streets is at the core of the public policies we must address. Accordingly, we will provide a series of recommendations focused on (1) pre-school through grade 12 education, (2)girl and teen pregnancy and (3) the development and opening of social centers.
(1) There are studies which have confirmed that pre-school education for children ages three through five has tremendous merit. The problem is education at that level is not mandated at least in the communities wherein the children are the greatest at risk. While the logistics need to be determined, state boards of education must establish a policy wherein pre-school education is mandated where the need is most prevalent, and an accountability system must accompany it. (Note: Re-inventing a portion of the wheel is unnecessary because there is substantial data that details the academic preparedness that pre-schoolers should possess prior to entering kindergarten.) Concomitant with the requirement to mandate more pre-school programs must be the establishment of such programs in existing school buildings, particularly neighborhood and charter schools.
Not only must pre-school education be increased, but there must be a return to all neighborhood schools of the breadth of college preparatory courses, (i.e. four years of english, inclusive of writing and literature, three years of high school mathematics (i.e. algebra, geometry and special topics), three years of science (i.e. biology, chemistry and special topics), four years of social studies (inclusive of African-American History, where desired), two years of a foreign language, a fine arts program offering band, orchestra, theater, drama and ballet), a physical education program, honors classes and electives). Further, school districts must contract with organizations such as the Foundation for Critical Thinking (i.e. not an endorsement) to bring support to classroom instructors and administrators on how higher order thinking pedagogy should be integrated with all subjects. Additionally, school based vocational programs must also be re-integrated as part of the core curriculum consisting of trades training in construction, and then the inclusion of 21st Century classes in solar thermal and solar electric installations, and the rudiments of information technology and digital courses. The point of such comprehensive education programs is to educate the talented 9/10th, not simply the talented 1/10th as maintained by W.E.B. DuBois. Retooling the academic climate of schools will require equally bold action relative to the socio-pathological environment that has been encouraged in too many schools, that is the issue of young girl and teenage pregnancy.
(2) Girls who become pregnant must not and cannot be allowed to attend school with the regular day population because it sends the wrong message, namely that out-of-wedlock pregnancy is acceptable. We do not of course want those who unfortunately become pregnant to be denied their education, and, accordingly, there should be either an evening program for them to attend or a special day school available. Once a young lady births a child, and if she desires, the established district policy should allow her the option of returning to the regular day population. Further, it is critical that girls who become pregnant, and who attend one of the specially designated schools, have available to them, parenting classes. Such classes would be available to both the girls as well as the fathers of the children. Moreover, if necessary, there should be community housing complexes created to provide subsidized rentals for families, be it the mother and baby or mother, father and baby, with the stipulation that if it is a nuclear family, they must marry.
(3) Social centers must be re-established in communities. This is not an anomaly because it is no more than what healthy communities offer their young people. Community centers should offer a plethora of sports such as racquetball, volleyball and table tennis, arts, crafts, fashion designing, home economics and other activities.
Someone will immediately ask, where will the money come from to support the ambitious programs described above? For one private equity companies can provide the capital. One such company, for example, Bain Capital, recently financed the formation of a thriving daycare. So is the above possible? The answer is absolutely. Is it a pipe dream, absolutely not. Finally, drastic problems require drastic measures. We can keep fueling the socio-pathological sickness that is engulfing our at risk communities or we can operate on a moral authority that we must change the societal woes that ail us, and that are wiping out the Hadiya Pendletons of the world.