The recent official White House visit to Chicago by the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder weighed in on a scale somewhere between a joke and an insult. Everything about the visit was wrong. And unless there were unreported back room meetings, the question is "Why did they come?"
This was the worst public relations stunt of the Obama administration so far. How insensitive. Given that the Obama community organizing days were spent in Altgeld Gardens and the fact that Duncan hails from Chicago and was just recently Chicago Public Schools superintendent who knows the key players, I expected much more.
Chicago is developing into two cities: one white and one black. The city of neighborhoods requires unification.
The big dog meeting was held in one of Chicago's most expensive hotels, the Four Seasons. Why? Why wasn't the meeting about the crime epidemic held at Fenger High School's gym or auditorium, or a local South Side church? Were they afraid?
Why were the activists who have been battling this problem for years, like Phil Jackson of The Black Star Project, not included in the meeting and most of all listened to? Why were the parents, teachers and, most of all, the students left out of the meeting? The meeting could not possibly be of merit without these key stakeholders in the room.
Our children have gone wild. The occurrences of random killings seem to overshadow the education that's going on. Students are afraid to go to school, and teachers are afraid to teach. Adding more security enforcement to the school is not the best answer. Throwing money at the situation is not the answer. Educators and community leaders need to address the issue or admit that they can't. One thing's for sure: We have to get out of the military style situation.
The problem of kids killing each other, as Laura Washington, in a recent Chicago Sun-Times column, points out, is a black problem. It is a problem of destructive, dysfunctional families. Maybe even poor families. But it is not unsolvable. It simply needs attention. It is not a problem that the mayor, aldermen, police officers and, least of all, the president will solve. They, at best, will add a spotlight on the problem with a news conference and a comment, but the solution requires tough love and real behavioral changes that go beyond the brief moment of making the evening news.
There is gang warfare, gang recruitment and drug dealing going on. The police need to get on it. Install a special unit to tackle the depths of this issue. Schools need programs to develop talent and give kids something to do after school. Like sports, music, band and other character-building activities.
Maybe Fenger should be closed. Maybe boot camps should be developed. Maybe kids should be removed from their environments for a month and sent to Boy Scouts and YMCA camps in Michigan. Maybe the troublemakers need to be sent to Afghanistan, since they like to fight. Maybe the community colleges and local state colleges could have classes on parenting.
Maybe the kids should be uniformed to eliminate the dress test. Maybe male mentoring with tough love should be instilled in the schools. Maybe the National Guard should be brought in.
Maybe local churches should be funded for after school programs. Maybe a blue ribbon task force should be developed to give solutions to the issues. Maybe we should talk to the kids, parents and teachers for their valuable viewpoint and not disregard them. Maybe past school superintendents should meet and develop solutions.
Maybe we should stop ignoring the problem and began to deal with it realistically.
If I had my way ... and I mean really had my way, this is what I would do:
1. There would a dress code for all students, particularly boys. The new style model would personify corporate America -- shirts and ties -- and a new model of behavior would follow.
2. Carrying a weapon to school would mean on the spot enrollment into the armed forces. No jail. Go to the Army and fight.
3. The Nation of Islam would guard schools, inside and out.
4. There would be community control, consisting of policemen, and parents to take their children to school.
5. Retired police officers would head a special police unit that would offer solutions for respective issues within 30 days.
6. Paul Vallas would return to the school system.
7. The Olympic Committee would be ordered to put Olympic sports in every Chicago high school. In the summer, all schools would compete against one another, Olympic-style. Past Olympians would lead the charge and be assigned to a school.
These are my brainstorm solutions. What are yours?