Yesterday an "idea" was announced. Promoted today as intrepid was a plan for what school systems and social service agencies call "at risk" youth. And it made the front page of The New York Times.
It took six months and a team of eight people in a global U.S. city called Chicago to figure out this $60 million seeming innovation. The idea came after sixty-seven kids died violently in 2007-2008, mostly youth of color, and after one death was captured on tape and broadcast to the world via YouTube.
The Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) plan for youth follows death, murder, and a global financial collapse, just some of the many repercussions of globalization.
The plan comes during Chicago's massive urban "transformation" and public school "renaissance." Social housing projects have been torn down in the city, wiped away to make room for supposed "mixed-income" housing too unaffordable for most of the neighborhoods' former public housing residents.
Chicago moved its poor and working poor, mainly African American residents out and into the suburbs of Chi and the city encouraged predominantly white global financiers to move into newly colonized "communities" re-made just for them. One hundred schools were shut down with the hope of birthing 60 privately-managed ones. But none of this "development" stuff helped the kids who were regulated inside schools that were designed to "transform" them. The youth along with their families got pushed out to the margins of Chicago's new gentrification complexes of entertainment, business, and condos.
But yesterday, the CPS plan came in the form of something akin to a miracle, one not without the usual contentions, yet one promulgated on the basis and merit of Science.
"We were hoping the analysis would reveal what we should do, and in fact it has" said CPS CEO Ron Huberman.
Once again, CPS begins an educational renaissance . . .
Like Richard Dawson on the old Family Feud announcing what that great LED screen holds, the work of analysts was announced and survey says!
Youth of color who are living in poor and/or working poor families need an aggregation of (love) emotional, economic, and political support.
Absolute genius on the part of the Chi-Town Team of Eight who came up with this revelatory information! And, they did so in only six months and after an analysis of only 500 students shot. Wow! Now, that's a smart group of people.
What I say to Chicago is this: Duh.
The plan is to provide almost 10,000 kids that CPS cataloged (and filed away) as "at-risk" what they should have received all along and what all poor and working poor people should receive unconditionally: social and economic support that is intentional, systematic, and ongoing; more adult attention; a 24-hour adult advocate; and a "paid job" ("Focus in Chicago: Students at Risk of Violence," NYT, 6 October 2009).
Yesterday, on the heels of the Derrion Albert murder, the political support for this project was rallied in typical mediated fashion. Huberman made the announcement of his team's discovery. He declared CPS's new approach for the city's "at risk" youth, and the media duly publicized the plan.
The data analysis on which the new, aggressive method is based is supposed to help illuminate for us a particular social problem of which I believe we've always already been aware: poor and working poor African American and Latin@ kids need not just Big Brothers and Sisters, The Boys & Girls Club, community centers, and the community "service" exploits of undergrads in need of CV entries or guilt reduction, they need active, ceaseless social, economic, and political advocacy.
One concern, though, Huberman is a former police officer and transit exec and so he leans toward regulatory principles. As well, most CPS/City of Chicago interventions come in the form of youth management and control, or rather the intense policing of African American and Latin@ bodies.
The plan is directed toward "10,000 high school students with the highest risk of becoming involved" in "violence as victims . . . or even perpetrators" (NYT, 6 October 2009). It "involves the coordination of various city departments and agencies, including the Police Department and Department of Children and Family Services, and local nonprofit and community groups."
And as Huberman notes, don't forget about the kids: "the students will also have 'to bite.'"
Hmmmm, it might be a bit difficult to take a bite from the hands that have historically harrassed you.