Saturday, June 14, 2008

Use . . . Your Children Well . . . .

(That song used to say "teach," but that wouldn't be The Chicago Way.)

So I heard from Armed and Safe the other day that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was planning to install astroturf at Soldier Field this week. When will they learn?
Well, they did it. They bused in CPS students--the original article said 1,200 district buses would be used--to fill Soldier Field. They hired a rapper from Chicago (Ben One--never heard of him) and painted empty chairs to sit at midfield and stand for the 26 "CPS students" who've been killed this year, because as everyone knows, those people were killed by a lack of state funds and state-level gun control. Then they lined up Mayor Daley, Jesse Jackson, and the all the usual suspects (including Arne Duncan, the CPS Superintendent) and let them harangue the captive audience.

None of this is surprising. The Mayor of the City, the Superintendent of Schools, and the President of School Board are all on board, so who's left to stop it? Only voters, and in Chicago, voters don't care about much of anything as long as the garbage gets picked up and the potholes fixed--and that can only happen if you vote the way Boss Daley's cogs tell you to vote anyway.

What surprised me a tiny bit was the Chicago Tribune's coverage of the event, and I wrote to the reporter to tell him so. There was no indication--not even a hint--that anyone in Chicago might have thought this "rally"--a public school district using district funds to arrange to use its students as props to bully politicians--was a bad idea. Was there NO ONE who disagreed with this great idea? How is that possible?

I hope you'll read the piece by Carlos Sadovi and see what you think. Am I off base here?

"Crane Tech High School sophomore Marcell James nearly jumped from his seat Tuesday in Soldier Field as Chicago recording artist Ben One hit the stage in a school district-sponsored anti-violence rally designed to squeeze more funding from state officials."
Using the loaded word "squeeze" is as close as Sadovi comes to indicating that there could possibly be anyone who opposes such a blatant use of students--or that there's any reason to oppose it.

"Daley called the rally "the largest civics class in history" and encouraged students to discuss the rally with their parents and others to try to drum up support in Springfield for more school funding."

This sounds insane, I know, but actually he's right. It's a lesson in Chicago civics, what the less enlightened call "The Chicago Way." (I stole that term from John Kass of the Tribune, one of the least-enlightened.) The students are taught that they have no power of their own; they have power as part of the collective--and ONLY the power that the collective ruler (that would be Daley) grants for temporary, carefully-defined purposes. In this case, the students have the power to come together and speak out--but only as long as they stay on Daley's carefully-scripted message. More state money for a district that spends money hiring rappers for rallies for more state money. More gun-control laws to cure violence in the city with the strictest gun control laws in the nation (well, after Heller v. D.C. is decided) and the highest rates of violence to go with it.
Go along with this program, use your political power in approved ways, and you get a free bus ride to Soldier Field to listen to minor music stars--as long as you look respectful during the political harangues.
'"Year after year, we go to Springfield to ask for more money, we go to Springfield for tougher gun laws. . . . Year after year we are told, 'We'll do what we can,' " Board of Education President Rufus Williams said.'
And it's a crying shame, too, because if a Board of Education President can't get gun control passed in his state, what does he have to fall back on? Providing education to students in his district? One shudders to contemplate it.
I think I've had a change of heart. I think I'm all in favor now. Think of it this way--they're trying something entirely new here! It could start a Cultural Revolution! Maybe even a Great Leap Forward!
Maybe we should make a Five Year Plan.

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