Schools and Safety; What We Do When We Deny

School and Safety; What We Do When We Deny

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert empathyeducates

Look to the left. Look to the “right.” In respect to education each side is willing to talk about sensitive subjects. Granted the two sides differ in respect to the specifics and the solutions.  Nevertheless, either or each will dive deeply into a dialogue.  

In reference to the subject of Common Core, the Left and Right cannot get enough.  Many Republicans and Democrats want nothing to do with Federally imposed curriculum restrictions and requirements.  “Teacher Professionalism,” each embraces the topic, although again their values and views vary. But publicly state that Black and Brown persons do not feel safe in their neighborhoods and that this veracity has a profound effect on education and people will come after you!

The politically astute and apathetically proud alike, pounce when asked to ponder the problem of urban violence and its affect on parents and children in the community.  Cyber-bullying and bullying in general are constructs we can discuss.  But speak of the unspeakable and people will likely proclaim that you are being unjustly punitive, politically incorrect, or in short, you are a racist.   “Shhh” they say.  Let us not talk about that.  Other subjects, yes.  We can discuss those, but not how anxious an inner city resident feels when in their own home or community.  Instead, let us talk about Common Core, bad teachers, and great ones.  Those topics are fine; even favorites amongst the education elite. But how fragile life is for the Black and Brown persons who fear crime in their communities? Many say: let’s not go there – literally or metaphorically. The effects of crime on the psyches of children of color, and its impact on education, are rarely discussed.

Let’s not go there intellectually either, or at least not in any great depth. Skating along the surface will suffice.  Academics admittedly do not wish to tempt the fate that of the Moynihan Report [1965] on the Black family.  The mainstream too is timid.  On occasion, the Press will dip their toes in the waters of awareness.  Indeed, in recent months and in the last few years nationally Broadcasters gently touch that tender topic of “violence on our streets.” However, mostly these stories feature tales of mass carnage – the shootings in Tucson, Aurora, Milwaukee, and more recently Newtown, a white suburban Connecticut community, but none of these approach that dreaded third rail, violence in Black and Brown communities and its effect on education.  

Mentions of the circumstances that cause youth to use the term  Chi-raq when speaking of Chicago are scant and indiscriminate.   Even these, when discussed, rarely venture into the overlap evident in education.  Neighborhoods severely affected by violence are also the communities in which schools are forced to closed, poverty is high, hopes are low, and fear is ever-present.  

On one occasion recently, we were afforded a glimpse into what occurs in inner cities.  First Lady Michelle Obama paid homage to a teen who was struck down in the heart of the  Windy City. However, once again, the real issue was not on view.  Gun Violence supplanted the subject; frequently people of color, parents and their progeny, do not feel safe in their own urban homes.  And why would they?  Roadways are riddled with danger.  Playgrounds too can be quite perilous.  Incident after incident affirms what remains invisible from the masses.  The streets are not safe and too often, urban schools and surrounding areas are no sanctuary.

As she does at the end of every school day, Rakayia Thompson waited for her 12-year-old outside the Parkside Community Academy just before 3 p.m. last week.

“Next thing you know, gunshots,” she said.

As she stood outside with her 6-year-old son and her 7-year-old daughter, a flood of bullets suddenly came their way from East End Avenue, near 70th Street, next to the playground.

Panic followed the incident on Nov. 20, Thompson recalled. The stream of kids leaving the pre-kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school scattered in every direction.

“There were kids’ shoes everywhere,” said Angel White, who had been waiting for her three kids. “They ran out [of] their shoes.”

Thompson said kids were falling and busting their lips as they scrambled.

“They tried to shoot me!” her 5-year-old son interjected.

Real-life stories from Camden, Philadelphia. Detroit, Baltimore and St. Louis, rarely see the light of day and when they do the discussion is gun violence, not the root causes or the insidious effects of inner city violence.

Again, the public avoids the physicality that is the condition of our communities, and more importantly, emotionally we disconnect. Granted, we study the situation from afar and make recommendations. Experts engage in theoretical and methodological research.  Some study the fear urban residents feel, be it real or imagined. Scholars look at the individual’s sense of vulnerability.  Others examine social disorganization, (rate of marriage, racial heterogeneity,  familial disruption,  socioeconomic status,  and urbanization (core indicators of social disorganization)) and again, avoid the people.

The public favors assumptions.  Some prefer the numbers. Densely populated areas or drugs are to blame for violent behavior, although the statistics do not always bear this out.  Countless of our largest cities are relatively safe. An analytic examination reveals that disinvestment delivers the despair, despondency, and dread that at any moment, you too may be murdered.

Andrew Schiller, Neighborhood Scout’s founder noted that “in many cases, city centers, which benefit from development, an influx of people and more amenities, experience less crime than outskirts and even inner ring suburbs.”

Regardless of the look and separate from the literature, the consensus is the same; stay away from what frightens you. Gun shots. Children murdering children.  Crime on inner city streets, or the inner city itself, people believe these are the problem.  Indeed, a too constant refrain is  “It is those urban communities and the persons who reside within them who commit violent offenses and victimize their own.  Such statements preclude preventative policies. These serve as excuses for suburban and rural Americans who tend to think that people need to take care of their own.  

Oh, the more “sensitive” will say the reactionary rhetoric is not true.  Academics will defend the downtrodden. However, these individuals too take no real ownership. Poverty, the intellectuals will say, that is the problem; it is as simple as that.”  Simple? Safety and the reality that a bullet in the hallway or coming through the window will kill you or your child instantly  is not a simple subject.  Nor is it one that as a society we can rightly dismiss.

It is easy to place blame on a circumstance, or put the onus on the “other,” but perhaps there is more that can be done.  What might that be? Face our selves and our folly.  Ask yourself; will we ever dare do what is difficult; look at the ways in which we, or more significantly our silence contributes to crime in urban poor communities.  Could we acknowledge and accept that the greater paradox and bigger problem is that we do not even challenge our perceptions or see what is right there, in front of our faces.

The children cry. Parents plead; ‘see us!’  Feel our pain!  Understand that we fear crime in “our communities!”  Fifty-four [54] percent of Black adults see violence as a “very serious problem” in their communities.  Sixty-nine [69] percent believe it is fairly serious issue, one among many.  The presence of guns is a grave proposition, one that haunts adults of color each and ever day.  However, it is not the only issue that burdens our poorer and impoverished citizens. It is but the most obvious one, the one uppermost in the minds of persons who by circumstances are forced to question their mortality and it is also the one that is “safest” to discuss.

Fueling these concerns is the reality that for too many Black young children, there are too few safe harbors from these ills that plague their neighborhoods, schools, and for some, their homes. Children and adults alike identify neighborhood violence, drug-related violence, gun violence, and violence in schools as areas of significant concern.

When a young girl in Memphis was asked to name one thing that if changed would help her to achieve her goals for the future, she replied:  “To help me live through this dangerous world today so I can [grow up] to be a marine biologist.”  – Young person, age 11 to 14, Memphis, TN

The prevailing view among Black adults, caregivers and leaders is that today, the situation for people of color is worse than it was a score ago. Disenfranchisement and disinvestment have destroyed the fabric of their communities.   Guns only deliver a more deadly and frequently final blow.  The newer and insidious issues that have emerged in the last few decades,  have had a devastating effect on Black communities and the children growing up in them.  Economic isolation and unemployment.  Disproportionately high Black imprisonment rates, especially among Black young men, and then, of course, the older challenges exacerbate  the crisis’ that plagued Black communities. Violence.  Drugs and addiction.  Failing schools made more so by policies that presume failure before it is proven.  Negative cultural and media influences.  Fractured Black families and communities, which conceivably lead to a loss of moral values.  Teen pregnancy.

Adults, caregivers, and leaders look to the future and express guarded optimism.  Innumerable say they are hopeful, that is if they and the young survive.  According to Black Perspectives on Black Children Face and What Their Future Holds “Two-thirds of caregivers worry a great deal (45%) or quite a bit (20%) about their child or children they know being victimized and a large majority believe that many Black children will be victimized before reaching adulthood.

“I asked a 17-year-old the question you asked me: What do you see in 10 years?  How do you [see your life] in 10 or 15 years? And the bottom line was he said I don’t think I’m going to be living after four years.  Now that blew me away, because I knew the young man was serious.” Low-income caregiver, Washington, D.C.

The starkness of this thought and the reality that prompts such a dire reflection is all too common in disenfranchised communities. Yet, we do not discuss it. The subject is too delicate, or is it the thought that we might be criticized, as Patrick Moynihan was when he asked Americans to assess what their inaction and inattention condones.  Could we at least begin to have the conversations previously left behind?  In June of 2013, The Urban Institute chose to Revisit The Moynihan Report.   Might we?

Surely, silence and surface assessments have not served us, our children, or troubled communities well.  Indeed, Black and Brown people state that life in their communities is now worse.   Saying safety is not an issue for those who live in fear or that it is less significant than poverty as a whole is like saying my pangs of hunger have nothing to do with the reality that there is no food in my cupboard or money do buy fare.

Disinvestment, poverty and hopelessness are borne out of neglect.  Let us neglect no more.



References:…

Stop and Frisk the Research!

Stop and Frisk the Research!

By Betsy L. Angert empathyeducates

Mayor Bloomberg, your supporters, Attorney General Eric Holder, Mister President, the Justice Department, and all you other big city Mayors that think stop-and-frisk is fine please, sit down. Take a break. Stop and Think!   Breathe deeply and ask yourselves; is it not time to stop weighing Constitutionality and think psychology.  If pondering the science is a bit too weighty, please consider our children!  Our young men and yes, young women need to be seen not for the color of their skin, but for the color of their character!

If it is a challenge to see the beauty that is other than skin deep when people are out on the street, then contemplate the cash.  Juvenile Incarceration is costly; $5 billion to confine and house young offenders in “confinement” facilities despite evidence that shows alternative in-home or community-based programs can deliver equal or better results for a fraction of the cost.  As stated in the Annie E. Casey report “Juvenile correctional facilities do not reduce future offending.” These dollars might have been spent on education and could be if we choose to stop-and-think, read the research, or reflect.

Put yourself in the place of a young Black or Brown teen or remember when you were young.  When walking with friends down the boulevard, did adults look at you cautiously?  Did people step aside or cross the street as though they hoped to escape an altercation? When in a store did management follow you, even if only with their eyes?  Oh, it happens to white teens too.  When you are youthful you are fruitful in the sense that you are ripe for victimization.  If you are a young adult of color, watch out.  Consider the circumstances of a Community College student, Nicholas K. Peart, 23.

.

I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.

One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister’s house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!”

I was stunned. And I was scared. Then I was on the ground – with a gun pointed at me. I couldn’t see what was happening but I could feel a policeman’s hand reach into my pocket and remove my wallet. Apparently he looked through and found the ID I kept there. “Happy Birthday,” he said sarcastically. The officers questioned my cousin and friend, asked what they were doing in town, and then said goodnight and left us on the sidewalk.

Contemplate the cost on a young person’s life. Our youth live in fear of what night happen, as do their parents. Siblings too suffer. Reputations are ruined. Respect is lost. Commit a crime or not, once stopped, suspicion lingers.  Scars can be deep. The repercussions can fracture a family and also break the city’s bank.

If the personal is too touchy, and you think practical concerns must be our priority then let us look at the return on our “investment” and the results.  The dollars spent on mass incarceration impair our nation!  In New York City alone, in 2011, $185.6 million was spent to settle legal claims against the police department. This marked a 35 percent increase from the year before, according to a report by New York City Comptroller John Liu.  Liu stated that while it is impossible to calculate the exact legal cost of stop-and-frisk lawsuits it is undeniable that the expense associated with the policy is high.  Suits that address civil rights violations, excessive force and unlawful arrest, are frequently inherent in stop-and-frisk cases Liu said.

The New York Civil Liberties Union stated that, as of March 2013, the police department was nearing 5 million stop and frisks. Of the 4.4 million stops recorded, more than 86 percent of the people involved were black or Latino, and 88 percent of these interactions did not lead to an arrest or citation requiring a court appearance, NYCLU said. Twelve percent is quite the gain, you might say. Obviously, juvenile incarceration is worth the price or is it.

Again, let us stop and think. “Numerous states have closed facilities or lowered correctional populations, reaping significant savings for taxpayers without any measurable increase in youth crime.”

What is so wrong with juvenile incarceration? The case against America’s youth prisons and correctional training schools can be neatly summarized in six words: dangerous, ineffective, unnecessary, obsolete, wasteful, and inadequate. ~ No Place For Kids. The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Yet, the beat goes on.  Currently, the U.S. Offers Conditional Support for Police Monitor in Stop-and-Frisk Case.  The question is why “monitor”? Why not read the research or remember your own experiences.  We were each shaped in our youth. Were we presumed guilty even when innocent…innocent as 88 percent who stopped-frisked-and-let-go or as Nicholas K. Peart is and was.  Let us look at  Reasons to Act Now on Juvenile Integrity.


5 Reasons to Act Now on Juvenile Justice Reform:

Originally Published at API, Psychology Benefits Society June 13, 2013

by EFUA ANDOH

By Kerry Bolger, PhD (Public Interest Government Relations Office)

Did you know that the U.S. incarcerates more of its kids per capita than any other developed nation-and that we spend about $5 billion a year of taxpayers’ money to keep them locked up?

Is that because a lot more kids in America are committing violent acts and getting arrested for them?  No; they’re not.  It’s largely because our juvenile justice system incarcerates many young people for low-level offenses and technical violations, and shortchanges investment in evidence-based alternatives that can save money and make communities safer.

This can change.

Here are five reasons to act now on youth justice reform:

1. Overreliance on incarceration is unnecessary.

Many young people in juvenile correctional facilities are incarcerated for low-level and nonviolent offenses.  In 2010, for example, of the 59,000 youths under age 18 confined in juvenile facilities in the U.S., only 1 in 4 was detained or committed for a serious violent offense.  About 12,700 kids (1 in 5) were confined only for status offenses (such as truancy, curfew violation, or running away) or technical violations (such as failing to report to a parole officer).

A number of states have shifted their youth justice policies away from overreliance on incarceration, with no accompanying increase in juvenile crime.

2. Incarceration doesn’t reduce future crime.

Juvenile incarceration doesn’t reduce re-offending, but rather increases it, especially among youth with less-serious delinquency histories.

That’s no surprise, considering that youth in juvenile correctional facilities are exposed to more serious offenders and to widespread physical and sexual violence in confinement.

3. Evidence-based alternatives work.

A large body of research shows that alternatives to incarceration, including diversion, community-based supervision, and evidence-based interventions, reduce re-offending, even among youths who have committed serious offenses.

Youth who receive post-incarceration community-based supervision and services are also less likely to re-offend, and more likely to go to school and work.

For a minority of young offenders deemed a threat to public safety, the success of the Missouri model suggests that smaller facilities, closer to youth’s homes and focused intensely on safety, youth development, and family involvement, reduce recidivism and increase educational progress compared to juvenile correctional facilities.

4. It’s time for government to stop wasting our money and young people’s futures.

It costs American taxpayers about $88,000 to keep one youth incarcerated for one year.  In contrast, an evidence-based intervention such as Functional Family Therapy, Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care, or Multisystemic Therapy costs less than a tenth as much and yields a positive return on investment-while actually helping kids and reducing crime.

Incarceration often disrupts a young person’s education, and many youths don’t return to school after being incarcerated. Individuals incarcerated as juveniles are at higher risk (even after controlling for other factors) for being unemployed even years later in adulthood.  That doesn’t help anyone.

5. The American people get it.

According to a recent national survey, 3 out of 4 Americans agree that the juvenile justice system should focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration and should provide youth with more opportunities to better themselves.

How can you act now to reform youth justice?

Connect with groups working on state-based reforms.

Stop and Frisk the Research!

Stop and Frisk the Research!

By Betsy L. Angert empathyeducates

Mayor Bloomberg, your supporters, Attorney General Eric Holder, Mister President, the Justice Department, and all you other big city Mayors that think stop-and-frisk is fine please, sit down. Take a break. Stop and Think!   Breathe deeply and ask yourselves; is it not time to stop weighing Constitutionality and think psychology.  If pondering the science is a bit too weighty, please consider our children!  Our young men and yes, young women need to be seen not for the color of their skin, but for the color of their character!

If it is a challenge to see the beauty that is other than skin deep when people are out on the street, then contemplate the cash.  Juvenile Incarceration is costly; $5 billion to confine and house young offenders in “confinement” facilities despite evidence that shows alternative in-home or community-based programs can deliver equal or better results for a fraction of the cost.  As stated in the Annie E. Casey report “Juvenile correctional facilities do not reduce future offending.” These dollars might have been spent on education and could be if we choose to stop-and-think, read the research, or reflect.

Put yourself in the place of a young Black or Brown teen or remember when you were young.  When walking with friends down the boulevard, did adults look at you cautiously?  Did people step aside or cross the street as though they hoped to escape an altercation? When in a store did management follow you, even if only with their eyes?  Oh, it happens to white teens too.  When you are youthful you are fruitful in the sense that you are ripe for victimization.  If you are a young adult of color, watch out.  Consider the circumstances of a Community College student, Nicholas K. Peart, 23.

.

I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.

One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister’s house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!”

I was stunned. And I was scared. Then I was on the ground – with a gun pointed at me. I couldn’t see what was happening but I could feel a policeman’s hand reach into my pocket and remove my wallet. Apparently he looked through and found the ID I kept there. “Happy Birthday,” he said sarcastically. The officers questioned my cousin and friend, asked what they were doing in town, and then said goodnight and left us on the sidewalk.

Contemplate the cost on a young person’s life. Our youth live in fear of what night happen, as do their parents. Siblings too suffer. Reputations are ruined. Respect is lost. Commit a crime or not, once stopped, suspicion lingers.  Scars can be deep. The repercussions can fracture a family and also break the city’s bank.

If the personal is too touchy, and you think practical concerns must be our priority then let us look at the return on our “investment” and the results.  The dollars spent on mass incarceration impair our nation!  In New York City alone, in 2011, $185.6 million was spent to settle legal claims against the police department. This marked a 35 percent increase from the year before, according to a report by New York City Comptroller John Liu.  Liu stated that while it is impossible to calculate the exact legal cost of stop-and-frisk lawsuits it is undeniable that the expense associated with the policy is high.  Suits that address civil rights violations, excessive force and unlawful arrest, are frequently inherent in stop-and-frisk cases Liu said.

The New York Civil Liberties Union stated that, as of March 2013, the police department was nearing 5 million stop and frisks. Of the 4.4 million stops recorded, more than 86 percent of the people involved were black or Latino, and 88 percent of these interactions did not lead to an arrest or citation requiring a court appearance, NYCLU said. Twelve percent is quite the gain, you might say. Obviously, juvenile incarceration is worth the price or is it.

Again, let us stop and think. “Numerous states have closed facilities or lowered correctional populations, reaping significant savings for taxpayers without any measurable increase in youth crime.”

What is so wrong with juvenile incarceration? The case against America’s youth prisons and correctional training schools can be neatly summarized in six words: dangerous, ineffective, unnecessary, obsolete, wasteful, and inadequate. ~ No Place For Kids. The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Yet, the beat goes on.  Currently, the U.S. Offers Conditional Support for Police Monitor in Stop-and-Frisk Case.  The question is why “monitor”? Why not read the research or remember your own experiences.  We were each shaped in our youth. Were we presumed guilty even when innocent…innocent as 88 percent who stopped-frisked-and-let-go or as Nicholas K. Peart is and was.  Let us look at  Reasons to Act Now on Juvenile Integrity.


5 Reasons to Act Now on Juvenile Justice Reform:

Originally Published at API, Psychology Benefits Society June 13, 2013

by EFUA ANDOH

By Kerry Bolger, PhD (Public Interest Government Relations Office)

Did you know that the U.S. incarcerates more of its kids per capita than any other developed nation-and that we spend about $5 billion a year of taxpayers’ money to keep them locked up?

Is that because a lot more kids in America are committing violent acts and getting arrested for them?  No; they’re not.  It’s largely because our juvenile justice system incarcerates many young people for low-level offenses and technical violations, and shortchanges investment in evidence-based alternatives that can save money and make communities safer.

This can change.

Here are five reasons to act now on youth justice reform:

1. Overreliance on incarceration is unnecessary.

Many young people in juvenile correctional facilities are incarcerated for low-level and nonviolent offenses.  In 2010, for example, of the 59,000 youths under age 18 confined in juvenile facilities in the U.S., only 1 in 4 was detained or committed for a serious violent offense.  About 12,700 kids (1 in 5) were confined only for status offenses (such as truancy, curfew violation, or running away) or technical violations (such as failing to report to a parole officer).

A number of states have shifted their youth justice policies away from overreliance on incarceration, with no accompanying increase in juvenile crime.

2. Incarceration doesn’t reduce future crime.

Juvenile incarceration doesn’t reduce re-offending, but rather increases it, especially among youth with less-serious delinquency histories.

That’s no surprise, considering that youth in juvenile correctional facilities are exposed to more serious offenders and to widespread physical and sexual violence in confinement.

3. Evidence-based alternatives work.

A large body of research shows that alternatives to incarceration, including diversion, community-based supervision, and evidence-based interventions, reduce re-offending, even among youths who have committed serious offenses.

Youth who receive post-incarceration community-based supervision and services are also less likely to re-offend, and more likely to go to school and work.

For a minority of young offenders deemed a threat to public safety, the success of the Missouri model suggests that smaller facilities, closer to youth’s homes and focused intensely on safety, youth development, and family involvement, reduce recidivism and increase educational progress compared to juvenile correctional facilities.

4. It’s time for government to stop wasting our money and young people’s futures.

It costs American taxpayers about $88,000 to keep one youth incarcerated for one year.  In contrast, an evidence-based intervention such as Functional Family Therapy, Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care, or Multisystemic Therapy costs less than a tenth as much and yields a positive return on investment-while actually helping kids and reducing crime.

Incarceration often disrupts a young person’s education, and many youths don’t return to school after being incarcerated. Individuals incarcerated as juveniles are at higher risk (even after controlling for other factors) for being unemployed even years later in adulthood.  That doesn’t help anyone.

5. The American people get it.

According to a recent national survey, 3 out of 4 Americans agree that the juvenile justice system should focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration and should provide youth with more opportunities to better themselves.

How can you act now to reform youth justice?

Connect with groups working on state-based reforms.

Gentrification. Segregation. Poverty. And Education

© copyight 2013 Betsy L. Angert BeThink

In 2013 the issue of poverty is pronounced.  It is the cause of great debate and much conflict.  However, the conflict is mostly in interest, self-interest.  The one interest that receives far less if any attention at all is poverty and the extent of poverty. How to effectively end it is a question that few consider.  The conventional wisdom is there is a safety-net which will care for the impoverished. The reality is there are holes in the net.  Equally significant is the notion that we, as individuals, will never be among the poor.  Actually, one in two of us already are.

Perceptions explain why most Americans do not consider themselves poor.  The common belief held by 27% is the poor are lazy and I am not.  Forty-three percent of Americans surveyed said they believe people living in poverty can always find a job if they really want to work. At the same time, 38 percent of Americans have requested some type of help including food or financial assistance from a charity.  Thirteen [13] percent have spent a night on the streets or in a shelter.   Perceptions of Poverty counter reality. Nonetheless, these are notions we hold dear.

Mostly mired in self-survival, people, a large percentage of whom are the low-income working poor,have little time to attend to the poverty of others.  This affects our children and their education.  Not withstanding the desire, “low-income caregivers frequently do not know the names of their children’s teachers or friends. One study found that only 36 percent of low-income parents were involved in three or more school activities on a regular basis, compared with 59 percent of parents above the poverty line (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).”  Startling as it is, for calendar year 2011 the percentage of children (persons under 18) in poverty was 21.9 percent. The total number  that same year was 16.1 million.

This may be the truer silent and unseen majority.  When we do catch sight of the children, poor and wealthy alike, we perceive healthy, happy, bundles of joy.  Never do we imagine what we would not wish to believe exists, especially to the extent it does.

As Professor John Korsmo, PhD  observed in The Journal of Educational Controversy, Poverty and Class: Discussing the Undiscussible,  “Much like race, religiosity, sex, and a whole host of contrived privilege points in the U.S., poverty and class have remained for the most part don’t-go-there designations; topics that individuals, human service, and educational institutions often avoid openly discussing.”  Our intentional choice not to think about, talk about, or teach the subject of socio-economic privilege associated with class dilutes efforts to eliminate poverty and ultimately, our progress in doing so.  We do not associate with or support those who bear the brunt of income inequality.  Conveniently and again by choice, we drive down safer roads.

The vast majority of us sit in our cars, alone.  We travel on freeways, fast.  Were we to slow down we would still not see what exists behind what we call sound-walls.  We are sealed off and do not, cannot see the circumstances of the other, “those poor souls.”  The barriers we build both literally and figuratively are large and high; best of all for policymakers they hide the truth.  Black and Brown communities are ignored.  The only time we attend to what occurs in these neighborhoods is when we think to convert them. Take a blighted neighborhood, expel the residents, raze the roofs, and build beauty where blight once existed.  Where do we put the poor who once occupied the dilapidated homes?  That is a problem we will set aside, place behind a newer wall and never wonder about again.  Thus, is the situation today in Chicago 2013.

Excuses are made.  Officials invested in Charter Schools and gentrification projects say “Enrollment is down.  Schools are underutilized.”,  Neither claim can be substantiated without skewing the numbers.  Even some  High-performing schools are slated for closures; however only in already neglected Black and Brown communities.  Often children are being forced to travel long distances and cross gang-lines to attend a lower-performing receiving school.  Mostly, the young will walk. Transportation is costly and dollars for such a luxury are scant.   Parents and Principals at the “receiving schools” are perplexed and troubled. Classrooms currently in the “receiving schools” will become fuller,  basically overcrowded entities.  Bad as these concerns are, what is worst is the impending community effect of school closures.  Lifelines will be cut!

For Tzia, a third grader who is on the student council, afternoons at the neighborhood school on Chicago’s West Side are a variety show of ballet and martial arts, hip-hop and cooking class, tutoring and fund-raisers. Five days a week, sometimes past nightfall.

Much will be lost.  Mothers such as mother Shawanna Turner, 30, attended the school she now sends little Tzia to. Her family all graduated from this neighborhood school.  In the communities that face school closures, generations of families came together in their neighborhood learning centers.  Children found freedom and refuge, as did their parents in local public schools.  Events were planned in and executed around school activities. Neighborhood businesses in the surrounding area too were invested in these institutions. Children learned. Moms and Dads took classes too.  Extra-curricula activities expanded minds and supported strong bodies.  From the windows of these schools the winds blew and streets were safer because of the education little learners received.  Now, that solid anchor will be taken away.

Doors will be slammed shut. Windows shuttered. Building will be left to die or be demolished quickly.  We, those who do not wish to see or discuss what we do or what is done in our names will remain silent. That is the American way.  Do we drive by and shoot down all that supports a community?

Chicago is not alone. The difference in what occurs is only in scale.  Gentrification is the complement to segregation.  Segregation is the sister to poverty. Each shows up in our city schools.  Essentially, this is the story of school closures and the fight for education as a human and civil right.

Gentrification. Segregation. Poverty. Each cements the certainty that children of color will be underserved in society and underserved in our schools.  Education, which can be the cure, is hurt by each of these.  Lets us look at the numbers, and then seek out those sweet faces, our fellow Americans who flounder because of what we have done and are doing..

Perhaps, it is past time to tear down sound and sight walls.   Let us acknowledge the pervasive inequality and then, and always take action!  We might begin by thinking more thoroughly about school closings, the cause and effect.  Consider the circumstances in countless cities, Chicago, Philadelphia Detroit and New York…and your hometown. Is there a racial divide, a socioeconomic destabilization, and are children and education lost?

Perchance, if we ensure that education is a human and civil right we will establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, or we can settle or what is and stay silent.  Please ponder the following articles and statistics.  You may be surprised by what has been long blocked from view.


Poverty and segregation: birds of a feather

Posted by Steve Bogira on 06.08.12 at 04:01 PM

Ignoring the misery of the poor is easy because of our separateness.

“It’s incredible that we tolerate for a minute the reality of 6 million of us living on food stamps alone,” Laura Flanders observed last week in a Nation blog post. (Nationally, the average monthly individual food stamp benefit is $134.) “I suspect it’s because we’re experiencing a new kind of segregation,” Flanders wrote. “Somehow, neither policy makers nor opinion makers seem to know enough poor people well enough to feel them, living and breathing.”

Flanders is right that segregation is central to our apathy about poverty; it isn’t really six million of us subsisting on food stamps. But segregation isn’t new, nor is it limited to policy makers and opinion makers. It’s a way of life, in Chicago and many big cities. As we showed last year, most of our city’s African-Americans still live in 21 community areas whose aggregate population is a stunning 96 percent black. The vast majority of Chicago’s high-poverty census tracts are in these areas.

Then there’s our public school system. To look at the percentage of white kids in Chicago’s public schools you’d never know that the city is 45 percent white. The racial segregation of our schools is economic segregation as well: 87 percent of the students in the public schools are from low-income families. With such a concentration of poverty in classrooms, trying to solve the schools’ problems with a longer day or more rigorous testing is naive.

We’re also segregated, racially and economically, where most of us work. And our residential and economic separateness lead quite naturally to segregation when we eat out, and go to movies, plays, concerts, and ball games. White people often don’t even notice how pervasive segregation is, since, for the most part, we’re not the ones being harmed by it.

Becoming aware of how segregated we are won’t by itself change things. But it’s a necessary first step.

Chicago’s growing racial gap in child poverty

Posted by Steve Bogira on 10.04.12 at 10:23 AM

More than one in three Chicago children are living in poverty, according to newly published census data. But a closer look at those figures shows that “one in three” hides a striking inequality.

Fewer than one in 11 white kids here are living in poverty-compared with more than one in two black kids.

The news regarding white Chicago kids, in fact, is good: their poverty rate is significantly lower than the national rate for white kids. But for black, Asian, and Hispanic children, the poverty incidence is higher in Chicago than for their counterparts nationally:


  • Children 17 and younger. Data from American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed by Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance,/li>

    Moreover, the racial gap in child poverty in Chicago appears to be growing:

    PAUL JOHN HIGGINS

  • Children 17 and younger. Data from American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed by Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance
  • As the numbers show, child poverty has declined for Asians and gone up modestly for whites since 2000-while climbing significantly for blacks and Latinos.

    References and Resources….