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Thursday, September 9, 2010

City Streets Invade Schools

I just learned that the Scholars at SWHS have formed a Scholar's Committee. check it out on Facebook:!/group.php?gid=157712014243496. Now this is handling business!!

The big changes in the Kansas City Missouri School District have resulted in some difficulties during the first week of school. Kudos to Superintendent Covington for personally dealing with the problems erupting at Southwest High School. This is a college prep HS located in the white and affluent part of town, that became an attendance-based school this year. The district closed another high school and 1000 new kids now join the existing 500 SW kids. That's a radical change for the neighborhood, the school, the kids. Change does not come easy. During the first week there have been fights at the school, significant student disruptions, and other incidents that look more like Central HS - in the urban core of KC. The Super has re-created an alternative school to ship out the disruptive students. I know a student at SW who started there last year. He's from the urban core and was very distressed that his streetlife was following him to this school. His first reaction was that he should flee to another school district. I told him to give it a week and luckily the Superintendent has not disappointed me.

But the issue here is not unruly kids or bad parents, which is what the news story comments state emphatically along with blog post comments. The unruly kids and bad parents are the RESULT of the complete neglect of the elephant in the room. White people have been just fine with treating black and brown people poorly, being racist, and neglecting poor neighborhoods. That damaging relationship shows up in unruly kids and bad parents. And guess what, those problems come right into the school hallways. And you wonder why DeShawn fights at school, but little Billy does not? Look at the streets people. The urban core has been neglected and abused for so long that residents now reflect that abuse.

Yes, government funds have been spent on the urban core. But there still are no jobs, no retail, and neighborhoods are used as dumping grounds.

Yes, the KCMSD spent millions on schools as part of the deseg case. But kids still can't read.

Yes, "programs" are run by well-meaning nonprofits, welfare flows, and do-gooders do good in the urban core. But those efforts have no impact on the core of the problem that is causing the need for those do-gooders and welfare. Racism, Bigotry, Classism, Fear, and the benefit of keeping a choke-hold on Disparity.

I've addressed all of this before. SWHS this week is a classic example of how this plays out. The public response is so predictable. The Superintendent has few options because his time horizon is right now, not 10 years from now. He has to make sure that learning goes on come Monday. So the thugs and trouble-makers have to go. They'll go back to the urban core and be tucked away so as not to threaten anyone else. In the short term, this seems like the only option. But it is not.

This city has the opportunity to begin healing if it will only take a bold step to do so. There are people in this city who could do amazing things with these kids, their parents, and all the communities involved. But white ego won't allow that to happen, because we are so, so, so invested in being right - THEY are the problem, THEY don't parent well, THEY are thugs, THEY don't want to learn. There is a problem, parents are not perfect, kids become thugs, learning seems meaningless when daily survival is paramount. We can't seem to see past the 3pm bell and then we get up in the morning and do it all over again the next day.

We need a circuit breaker. We need Ossco Bolton, airick leonard west, Jamekia Kendrix, Colleen Innis, and an assortment of other strong skilled people who get it, who understand young people and the urban core, who can spreak truth to power, and start healing this city. It's not a pipe dream, it's survival.

1 comment:

Sara said...

It makes me physically nauseous to read the comments on these news stories.. I've gotten to the point where I automatically collapse the comments section before I even start reading the article.

One went so far as to blame Lees Summit's inability to make AYP on "inner city kids they're bussing into the suburbs." REALLY? Now we're blaming *suburban* problems on the urban core too?!?

Dr. Covington continues to surprise me, though. I hold out hope, and just when the bubble has almost popped, he pulls through. I agree that alternative schools aren't the answer long-term. We can't just stash these kids away and expect that to solve anything.

But he seems to be taking parent and student concerns seriously, and that's a good step. There's hope, but it's a long, long road.