By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher
The new year: 2010. How surreal the date seems, having traveled a decade into the 2000s. Reflecting back and forward, many are not sure how to feel about the quality of our future in the international, national and local realms. Crises seem abundant, and solutions scarce.
All politics and society ultimately become soiled or heavenly on the local level—an education in hard knocks or heart soaring. Our most critical crisis bringing us down to earth in Rockford looms too often with violence wracking the buses, hallways, classrooms and campuses of our public schools.
Gangs—the Aryan Brotherhood, Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples—represent each race and breed racism in absolute contradiction to the goals of our educational system that they parasitically destroy.
Why are gangs growing so strong in our schools? First, their leadership has been deported from Chicago to Rockford by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who has emptied his public housing crisis. Even as Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) cleans up our public housing of felons and drugs, it’s too late; they’re already here, spinning off into the community.
One Gangster Disciple was heard to say recently: “We own this town. Police know it and can’t show it.” As the Barmore tragedy shows, racism handcuffs both sides. Balance remains to be proven on the streets and in the courts; but in the schools, the gangs are indeed very strong.
Gangs do what families should do. They provide protection. Parents are not in school. Teachers are restrained. Principals are viewed as failures if they suspend or expel too many.
Gangs do what families should do. Gangs provide a sense of belonging, offering praise and values, and most importantly, unwavering discipline. Gangs seem strong, and drugs provide money. Even the drug songs rap out gangs’ coolness to white wanna-belongers. Ethnic pride reinforces separateness, degrading standard English needed for societal success.
Uncool, too many parents struggle with one or just a little income in these economic doldrums. Single parents or grandparents raising babies and competing against gangs must have spines of steel.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Babies raising babies.” Gangs know these babies are future income and power. Gangs have focus. They don’t give up, praising attention-hungry, insecure individuals for outlandishness. Act up and out into the arms of power!
We have given the gangs the power. We have tolerated their pants around their knees, their abuse of language, their misogynistic music, their violence as style, while failing to provide true alternatives that can compete and win out over the appeal of gangs.
As this paper has purported for years, an arts-based curriculum stands as a spectacular alternative. As the manufacturing base of this community has purported for years, skilled workers are needed in our apprentice programs. As organizations like YouthBuild have proven, youth can be reclaimed. Arts and status, jobs and money, new approaches and success win young minds.
But we do not stress the status of the arts enough; we do not show and offer the earning power of our manufacturing enough to our students; we do not approve Green Charter Schools for new energy conservation and creation; those who are risk-adverse whimper and complain and fail in the stagnant pool of the status quo and their own fear.
Courageously, any community group that teaches any kind of parenting skills should offer their assistance to our public schools. Arts groups, manufacturing groups and alternative education groups need to approach District 205’s school board with offers and ideas, and make sure you send them to this paper, too. We will help in any way we can, and we will continue our commitment to the public’s right to know what is really going on in our schools.
With our resources of many kinds of education and creativity, our future really exists in our children. Look forward through their eyes to the new year 2020. Will our children have grown out of this soil to reach new heights? What will be abundant? What will be scarce? Will 2020 be the vision of happy new year? We all will see.
Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here in 2010! What the heck do we care!?????
From the Dec. 30, 2009 – Jan. 5, 2010 issue