Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stop the Violence around Crane. Is Police State Mentality the Answer?

Today and yesterday the Chicago SunTimes featured two-page stories in response to the shooting of one student near Crane High School, and the severe beatings of two others. You can read 3/17 here and 3/18 here.

These stories focus on the immediate response of setting up police escorts to get kids from one public housing area to the school, because the kids fear retaliation from kids who come from the neighborhood of the youth who was killed. That's a good show of force by our new Police chief. But it's not enough.

Last week an article in the SunTimes focused on the new book chosen by the Mayor and the Public Library that everyone in Chicago is hoped will read. Why couldn't the choice have been the articles in the Tutor/Mentor Connection web library? Maybe if more people read these we can begin to get more people involved in solving the problems that plague our inner city neighborhoods.

I'm sure the stories about Crane High School are selling newspapers. But, why aren't the editorial and education writers doing stories about how kids who fear for their lives aren't going to be focusing on learning and how this affects the future of Chicago's economy because we're leaving too many kids behind who we need to fill positions in the 21st century workforce?

Why aren't we asking John, Hillary, and Barack what they are doing to engage people in this type of complex problem solving?

Over the weekend I browsed a publication in my library, titled "Wanted: Solutions for America. What We Know Works. An overview of research about what works (and what doesn't) in social service programs." This was published by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change in 2003.

In the conclusion the article reads "Equipped with reliable information about what works, how do communities move forward to tackle tough problems? If so much is known about promising approaches, why haven't we come farther faster in connecting all citizens to hope and opportunity."

As the authors of this report conclude, "Change doesn't just happen. It demands gifted and persistent leadership." There are no short term answers to this. Putting an army of police around this school won't solve this problem. It's a band aid. And it won't address the same problem in the area around many other big city public schools.

In many of my blog articles I use maps to illustrate the wide geographic areas where poverty is concentrated in Chicago, and where there are poor schools, gangs and youth on youth violence. I use graphics and concept maps to illustrate what the Pew Partnership was referring to when they said "We have focused too narrowly on specific interventions without confronting the complex interrelationship of issues in a community."

In the links map of the Tutor/Mentor Connection library I illustrate the four components of the T/MC library, in an effort to draw together people from different silos, and in an effort to expand the thinking and problem solving ability of people who focus too narrowly on just one part of this problem.

Why mentoring? Because mentoring is an adult form of service learning. It can engage adults who don't live in poverty directly in the lives of youth who do. If we can support the growth of hundreds of volunteer based programs around the city we can grow the number of adults who begin to understand this problem, and begin to use their time, talent, networks and wealth to contribute to solutions.

I host a May and November conference with a goal of drawing people who read or write these articles and host these web sites, into face to face networking, and to create public awareness that draws more people to the Internet where they can read these articles and connect with others.

If you're in health care, law, higher education, engineering, workforce development, or if you're a leader, or volunteer, or donor who support tutoring/mentoring programs, I encourage you to use the conference as a meeting place and the T/MC library as a resource for complex problem solving.

If you're the new head of the Chicago Police Department, I encourage you to look at the T/MC as your own strategy. There's no way you can keep an army of police around every high school in Chicago, throughout every school year.

The SunTimes articles show that the problems of gangs have plagued Chicago schools for 20 years and more. It's almost taken for granted. Why?

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