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Re: [arn-l Digest] Vol. 1 No. 426 Messages: 16




In a message dated 12/6/03 7:37:06 PM, LeoCasey@aol.com writes:

<< Just intellectual curiousity on my part. Anyone out there share
my puzzlement? >>

12//7/03

Yes, I share it.

The Nation piece is loaded with abstract rhetoric regarding school discipline
(and security) issues, including broad generalizations about impacts on
various student groups. Most of the quotes are from university professors and
similarly situated (and safe) pundits. For some reason, I would prefer something
from Spike Lee, referencing, perhaps, the opening minutes of "Clockers" (where
he runs the murder photographs...).

Where I've worked, and in other major urban school systems, the problems with
"Zero Tolerance" aren't that we are doing it too much to innocent children,
but that we're not doing it enough to protect the innocent (children and staff)
from some very nasty and very violent people (some of them quite young).
While I'm not up to speed on current fashions in critical theory, in the context
of that recent essay, it seems a way to dodge the smelly reality of murder,
rape and mayhem (each of which I have had to deal with in the real world of real
schools -- including mayhem, which is as ugly as any of the others) as they
play out under current economic and social conditions in our inner cities.

As you know, I spent the first week of November in New York reviewing New
York's discipline and security procedures with Union (United Federation of
Teachers) people in preparation for implementing a similar program here in Chicago
through the Chicago Teachers Union. In both cities, we are dealing with
dangerous criminal activities and trying to put the whole problem in the context of
our main mission, educating the children.

The school days (Halloween) before I arrived in New York, a teacher in the
Bronx had been hospitalized (fractured skull) after a school attack. The same
day, a student in Chicago had been shot outside one of our "safer" high schools.
I followed the New York case as an example to use here (i.e., how the union as
sists a teacher in such a horrible situation), then returned to Chicago to be
immediately embroiled in the subsequent death of the student, Gregory
Washington (who was over 20 years old, but still a high school student).

For ARN people who've expressed admiration for the "Zero Tolerance" Nation
article my question is this: How much real school violence have you faced,
specifically, not as an abstraction (or as some dsconstructionist intellectual
exercise)?

Nearly five years ago, I began my sojourn on ARN just before the Columbine
horror, and posted something here noting the fact that in Chicago we have the
equivalent in deaths of our high school students, because of street gangs, about
once a month.

I stated that the death of our students in the inner city because of the
epidemic of drug gang violence is ignored and speculated that the reason it's
ignored is that it doesn't correspond to the comfortable "progressive" ways of
viewing reality and because the decesased (all of the more than 30 I knew person
ally and could name to this day from my own years as a teacher) were Black or
Latino males. To this day they sometimes march through my nightmares like the
to-be kings in the Banquo's ghost scene, only a much longer procession than in
"MacBeth."

Apparently, there is nothing to address in the ongoing epidemic of murder in
our barrios and ghettos (much of it impacting on the public schools), so we
divert to abstractions like a well footnoted (all safe university academics, I
would note) Nation piece hammering "zero tolerance."

Although that Columbine piece of mine is widely Googled, there has never been
a response. Rather, the liberal response tends in the direction of the Nation
piece.

George Schmidt