May the twenty-seven students who lost their lives last academic year eat their grandmother's cooking in the after life, go to prom in the next world, their lives and deaths not be forgotten in vain.
May the bullets intended for the chests of children this year veer into Lake Michigan or fall from the air like dice. May the fingers on those triggers, rash or tickle before fire. May we humanize the gun holder, many of them kids whom school didn't speak to, who were left behind, kicked out, dropped out, pushed out by our failure to educate. May the gangs that take them in return to their political street organizing roots and give to the community more than they taketh away.
May the police who patrol the neighborhoods protect themselves, yes. But may they not harass and degrade, may they not brutalize and make false arrests and false judgments. May their nightsticks sock them into thinking before use. Let sergeants not coerce confessions, let judges not convict the innocent, let our children not be criminalized.
Let the teachers teach this year. Let them teach to educate and inspire life learning not manipulate to standardized tests. Let them individualize their lesson plans based on the learner, not on a bureaucrat's stat book in Springfield or Washington. Let the teachers dream and share what they love about learning, let them listen to the kids in their class, give them time to engage and disagree and come to school everyday not just to receive a check and a pension but to challenge and grow themselves, their students and their institutions.
Let the architects and engineers of the Chicago Public School system leave their offices and luncheons and travel in the same day to Northside College Prep or Walter Payton and then to Wells or Clement or Kelvyn Park or the school formerly known as Orr, or most public schools and the alternative schools like Prologue and E Cuarto Ano or Bronzeville, which seek to serve the forgotten, and let all these suits swear they believe in equity. That this gross disparity is abhorrent and unjust, that kids on the West and South Side deserve what kids in Lincoln Park and Lakeview deserve.
Get Arne Duncan out of the health club. Let him and the progenitors of Renaissance 2010 do more than revamp failed plans. May they consider the whole student body of CPS, not just those with clout and high tax bases. May they find the wisdom that the closing and redistricting of schools sends kids across gang lines they are not accustomed to crossing and that this might be one of the factors in the rise of deaths this past year. Let them admit this system is inadequate, that only fifty percent of CPS students who start high school will finish and of these only one third will go to college and of these a small percentage will graduate. This is not the education they would want for their children. Even Obama's daughters go to private school.
This year, may the parents of CPS students have sick days and health care, may they have job security and livable wages, may they take interest in their son's and daughter's lives, ask them questions about what they learn, have time to take them to the library or Millennium Park or read with them for an hour a night while the TV rests, or cook with them and laugh with them and have time to attend their chess matches or swim meets. May the parents of CPS students get tax breaks and flex time during the summer and spring and winter break to spend more time with their kids. May they let their kids live their own lives and only demand they walk the world fairly, that they are loved and the future is more endless than CTA lines, the world, theirs to explore.
This year, on the first day of CPS, please let State Senator Meeks act just as hard and righteous when the cameras are off, let his crusade continue beyond week one. May the students he brings to Winnetka see the gigantic inequity in public education, and have the courage and communal counsel not to feel bad about where they come from but to demand wrongs turned right. Perhaps they will not be turned away by fire hoses and German Shepherds, but they will still return to a quarter of the public funding spent on some suburban schools, they will still return to racial-profiling, a proliferation of prisons built to house their bodies and non-livable wage service sector jobs, they will return to the shackles of neighborhood segregation and canyons of disparity which have not disappeared since Little Rock but have grown and will not magically vanish when a democrat is in the white house.
May this year be about the students we seek to educate. May they be asked questions as much as and more than they are told answers. May their lives be made relevant and visible in the educational space. Let us ask them to become present in the classroom by bringing their present circumstance into the learning process. May those who put on blue jeans and white tees, those whose uniforms look like training for a life-time of institutional living (whether it be fast-food or county jail) let them transcend the expectations this system has of them. Let them walk safe to school and home to their stoop or ball field or playground or mother's arms, let their interest in learning perk and peak and lead them into the library or museum or oral histories of their families and communities, let them strengthen their language and critical thinking to prepare themselves for the wars waged against them by Mayor Daley.
Let them speak for themselves and may we listen. May they learn that Chicago and America are brutal and beautiful in the same moment, let them care deeply for their minds and bodies, may they know they are and can be great and extraordinary individuals and citizens, that the world is bigger than the block, that we live on a Great Lake and if they go to the shore and look to the east, and see the point where water and sky merge, that their imagination is bigger and wider and more beautiful than that, and that meeting of the heavens and earth is where they are from and where they are free to dream and realize the immensity of who they are and who they will become.