[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: "Good Kid/Bad Kid"

August 31, 1999

Thanks for reminding me about "the hitting teacher." We had that in Chicago,
too, and probably still do. They were all for the hard core of the ghetto,
which was vast even in the 1960s (when I began teaching) and has been growing
since. The first one I met was named _______ (names don't matter, I think)
and worked at DuSable High School (or upper grade center, which was in the
same building, mostly) in the late '60s and early '70s. He was a gym teacher
who finally got his small moment of fame when a mother came in after he had
beat up one of the kids and stabbed him in the gut, almost killing him. As in
many cases like that, he was black and so were the kids he beat.

The second time I came up against it was at Tilden High School in 1978 and
1979. Tilden was in a very tough all white area that was bordered on two
sides by some of the roughest black ghetto in Chicago, and on the north by
Bridgeport, which was home to the mayor (Richard J. Daley, at that time). One
of the feeder schools for Tilden was John Hope Middle School, and I could
always tell 9th graders who had come to us from Hope because if I walked down
the aisle and raised my hand, not even quickly, but even just to scratch my
head or adjust my glasses, the kid would cover up his face and head as much
as possible. I finally figured out the pattern. The black male kids had been
"smacked" regularly, and in most (probably not all) of their classes at John
Hope. By 9th grade, when I got them, they assumed that any large teacher was
going to smack them, to they had a conditioned reflex. I had to explain to
them that I wasn't going to oblige them that way, and that they'd have to
study or flunk -- they wouldn't have the option of getting "licks" and
passing. It took a few months for them to get over their operant
conditioning, but usually by Christmas or so most didn't duck and cover when
I came by and scratched.

Once, when I was teaching 6th grade (briefly) on the west side (it was around
1974), at Grant School near the Rockwell Gardens Housing Project, a mother
came in and took one look at me and my belt and said, "You're the man to give
him what he needs. He needs to learn respect from a man..." She offered to
put in writing that I had her permission to discipline her son, who was
overage and far behind, but I declined. I tried to explain to her that I
didn't think it would work for the kid, but she just took that to mean that I
didn't care enough to discipline him and "make him mind" me.

In all these cases, class sizes in those places were at the maximum or above,
and the problems that rolled into the classes were enormous, almost all based
on racism and poverty and not of the kids' own making. The one thing those
schools had in common was that the poverty rate was as close to 100 percent
as you could get. I used to say that Chicago had decided I should spend my
teaching career at the epicenter of America's racial and economic disaster

I'll start working on recording all of these things, chapter by chapter, as
soon as we get out the September Substance.

Chicago is a "model" of educational, social and economic perversion, based
primarily on the exploitation of racial and ethnic divisions among people.
Any other model claimed for this town is a lie. We will be working over the
next few years to get more of these things into print, and we'll continue the
debate as necessary.

George Schmidt

To unsubscribe from the ARN-L list, send command SIGNOFF ARN-L