Posts Tagged ‘public school’

Lambs among wolves: Blind generalizations hurt all our youth

The other morning, I woke up to a news story that caught me off guard. There had been a series of violent attacks against students who attend Urban Prep, an all-boys college preparatory high school here in Chicago. The network of schools has three campuses and boasts very impressive numbers in terms of graduating college-bound students. Its students must embrace a culture of mutual respect, accountability and nonviolence . So no doubt the basic premise of the report caused me to shake my head in dismay. For goodness sake, how disgraceful is it students on a path to be their best selves are targets of ruthless, loose aggression…every day?

As a mother of a soon to be high school student, I can’t begin to imagine how I would encourage my child to adhere to a school’s creed of being non-violent while bearing the brunt of fists. I’d be livid…not to mention frightened out of my mind. In fact, this acute fear has reached me on a personal level. Over the last few years, my children and their classmates who attend another network of Charter schools here in the city have faced similar incidents involving children from neighboring schools or who hang out in the area surrounding their schools. Thank God the incidents at my son’s middle school last year resulted in nothing more than a bruised jaw and ribs. That was mild in comparison to the many violent robberies of laptops that have happened, shootings at the high school. None of this initiated or provoked by the students.

So as a parent I completely identify with the outrage of the Urban Prep parents who want something done. One of the most attractive facets of charter schools is that parents’ voices are solicited and embraced. And these parents were not shy about voicing their concerns. Point blank they want their children to learn in peace; free from stress and worry of the long way home. Their children do not deserve to deal with this type of trauma. They expect community support including police presence to put an end to it all. More than that, though, they are willing to step up themselves.

That is a beautiful thing.

Still, there is an ugly side to all this…. a path that leads us back into the defeated cycle of failed community. And it is imperative that we fully examine and rectify every angle.

When I heard this story, what caught my attention more than anything was the reporter’s lead and characterization of the youthwho attacked the students. The reporter stated that the motive behind the attacks was the Urban Prep’s impressive academic reputation. I’m sorry, but I find that hard to believe. Other remarks followed describing the youth as gangs and thugs.

First of all, Urban Prep is a non-selective enrollment school (thank God for that, Chicago needs more schools that serve all its students equally with the expectation of success. But I digress). So there is nothing determining whether the children donning the Urban Prep uniforms are any smarter or any more proficient than those throwing fists. Nor was there any irrefragable proof that they all live in housing projects and belong to gangs (and which gang have deep seated rivalry with innocent school boys?)

When we allow media to frame our stories and direct our course of conversation, it reinforces stereotypes our community homologates about ourselves, especially concerning our youth.

The bottom line is this, for all who saw the movie Waiting for Superman, or for those who are living the movie; whether it be concerning decent education, housing or basic quality of life, we all are aware that the youth are the ones who suffer and it breeds a spirit of anger and resentment when for no other reason than socio-economics you are left out by design.

What thought process goes into building a shiny new school in an area surrounded by devastation while neglecting to do any community outreach and engagement? What were the expectations of dressing students up in crisp uniformed suits to walk with heads high amongst those who can only look low for loose change and lost hope? I ask again what was expected?

Too often we want to walk among the community, but not with the community. Community is not a neighborhood. It is not only about geographical boundaries. It is about common goals, shared values, thought or communicative exchange.

So now today parents and school officials must scramble to do what is absolutely necessary given the initial dilatory negligence.

See, we must understand the children at Urban Prep are there but for one reason, they have advocates. Either their parents, grandparents, neighbor, mentor or church family is making sure they have every opportunity to keep them eligible for fair play in the game of life. This does not make them any better than the children who reside in the nearby public housing, nor the ones who used to live there before their respective families were forcefully evicted, yet they still come back to the old ‘hood misdirected.

No. None of our children are better than the other, save but the grace of God they could switch places at any moment.

They have more in common than we would like to believe. And I would affirm they are all capable of greatness. They all have the potential to excel. Every one of them needs love and guidance. They all need model standards and mentors.

So what are we going to do about our youth…about our babies? Because at the end of the day, you can proceed ahead believing that your child is better than a child based on your income level or the fact that their parents are recipients of section 8. You can believe your nephew is promised a bright shining future because he attends the best ranking school in the nation. But, here is the reality check chickens come home to roost. So you can build up the few to fall to the many.

Here’s my two cents.

Hold community meetings and symposiums with the COMMUNITY; you provide resources like mentoring opportunities for neighborhood youth; job opportunities or free legal advice

Open the gym for basketball tourneys

Host peer mentor session partnering students w/community youth

Our view of the world is only as good as our point of reference. How we choose to view our youth will tell us for sure what our tomorrow holds. Are they all either good or ghetto? Perhaps they are either nerd or thugs? Is every at risk child an incorrigible monster destined to fail?

The Interrupters, a Sundance Film offers a clear view of solutions. Watch it and use as a beginning to address this issue in your city.

Fixing the broken reality of a few is akin to bandaging an open gunshot wound. You get the picture?

Closing Catherine Ferguson Academy: Robbing the Cradle of Hope & Promise

NOTE: This post has been updated since its initial posting.

 

Here’s your friendly announcer, I have serious news to pass on to everybody. What I’m about to say, could mean the world’s disaster… could change your joy and laughter to tears and pain…” Stevie Wonder-Love’s in Need of Love

I’m so feeling Mr. Wonder on that, cause this piece here, more than anything I’ve ever took pen to, needs to get your attention. In past weeks I’ve seen sister bloggers and academicians  go hard to defend Beyonce and Rhianna’s respective artistic and creative prerogative.  Then too, there’s been much commentary clouding the internet with the age-old dark-skinned vs. light-skinned schism.

Even still, Black-focused magazines have posted countless pictures of Halle Berry and little Nahla, they’ve got really adorable piccs of JHud cuddling with her baby. They’ve spent loads of bandwidth flaming trite, yet popular discussions.

Alas, like Stevie sang, my news announcement is not fluffy and pretty. Nope, I’m here to interrupt the beauty salon flow and girlfriend rhetoric, boldy stating it is time to stop and desist with the mindless chatter. Though passionate and definitely tied to some serious “issues,” it is time to reshape our girl talk.

We can start by getting familiar with the young sisters who attend Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school for young mothers and their children which is on the brink of closing.  Repeat-the school, Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, is schedule to close June 16, 2011.

I recently attended the screening for Grown in Detroit, a documentary examining the implications of a learning environment that promotes urban farming; taught healthy parenting skills (including benefits of breastfeeding); mandated college admission as a prerequisite to graduating; and encouraged self-sufficiency. That was just for the teen mothers.

Their babies are also attending the school in a nursery/preschool developmental center. If there were a tag cloud for this school the words would include nurture, belief, hope, persistence, resilience, tenacity, strong, open, energy, village, fresh, direction, counsel, practical, free.

It is such a powerful concept, everyone who attended the screening wanted to literally and figuratively plant it in every impoverished community. Obviously that has been the overwhelming sentiment of  folks who have seen/heard about CFA, as the school earned the Breakthrough High School award in 2004 given by the National Association of Secondary School Principals for outstanding achievement among schools with high poverty rates.

Even Oprah took note and featured the school in the April 2008 issue of O Magazine

So how could closing be the fate of this nucleus of hope and promise for many of Detroit’s most marginalized youth? Girls who dropped out of other Detroit Public schools now maintain a 90% attendance rate while at CFA, a notable feat as the school’s location requires many students to take 2 buses and travel more than one hour each way…with babies and strollers.

Young sisters who would otherwise be left discarded by society, have flourished in the village of CFA where they’ve been given the basic yet most important tools for success.

Yet it is scheduled to close this week. In two days from the posting of this blog. But, we can help save this school and the fate of these mothers and babies. This is where our lip service needs some real gloss.

In April, some of the students were arrested in the halls of CFA after silently protesting the closing.

Rachel Maddow has dedicated a significant portion of her MSNBC airtime to this travesty.

http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/04/23/6517421-more-about-the-catherine-ferguson-academy

Let’s join her in using our voices to get folks moving to advocate for the children.For more information on what you can do to help save Catherine Ferguson Academy, call 855-ASK-BAMN or emaildonna.stern@bamn.com.

UPDATE: Catherine Ferguson Academy was saved from closing. Detroit Free Press reported on the decision and next steps.

Still let’s continue this discussion, we should begin building this very same model in our cities. Would you be down with that?

Stay posted for part II. I have much more to say on this.