I listened to both parts of the series, Chicago radio station WBEZ about Harper High School in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. It is not something I normally would’ve listened to, but my good friend Tereza Eliasz-Solomon (The link for Tereza covers her post about listening and I will let you read it and not give it away). was upset when she heard the show and the problems of the kids at Harper High School, so I thought I would listen. I also looked at the website
I agree with my good friend that we have to take care off our kids, but I came away with a sense from this two part series of not being sure if anything CAN be done.
Please allow me to being with some questions for discussion.
1. What percentage of Harper’s students graduate high school?
2. What percentage go on for further education?
3. What sort of employment does your typical Harper student get?
4. What percentage stay in the Englewood neighborhood?
5. What about the honor students at Harper? How do they survive?
6. Why does Chicago have such a high murder rate?
I did look at the curriculum on the website. I am not picking of the teachers and staff. The Principal Leonetta Sanders and the Guidance Counselor Crystal Winfield Smith can only be seen as brave and caring.
Why then did I say, I am not sure if anything CAN be done? Part One spoke about the gangs in the past leaving the honor student and the athlete alone. Now everyone on a block is considered a gang affiliate. That is insidious.
In Part Two, the show talked about the extra money from the Chicago Turnaround, started by now Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, when he ran the Chicago Public Schools. It seemed to show with the turnaround money, the problems improved, but it did not solve it.
What would maybe not solve the problems of the gangs and the shootings? Much of it seems to be teenage bravado (yes, I was guilty of it too). I hate to sound like Nancy Reagan and her drug policy from thirty years ago, with “Just Say No,” but I am going to. The kids themselves have to agree not to have the guns around and get involved in that. Otherwise sadly, Hadiya Pendleton will happen again. Once was bad enough. Our world can’t afford to lose kids like that, but it has to start with the kids, pushing together, avoiding the gangs, going to school in getting an education.
I need to ask the reporters and producers of the radio show, what would they like the audience to take away from the show and what action would they like the audience to take? I should also be asking this question of the school staff and the students.
Thank you for your time and please feel free to ask me questions and disagree with me.
- Chicago Kids Say They’re Assigned To Gangs (npr.org)
- The rules at Harper High (kottke.org)
- Did you read about Harper High School, Tammy Duckworth, and Banksy? (chicagoreader.com)