Jobs and education the hard answers to street crime

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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by Jack Crowe

Every weekend brings a disturbing body count. Recently, the Monday morning report from Chicago had 40 shot and an 11 year old girl, who was at a friend's house for a sleepover, killed. The grieving mother begged that there be no retaliation.
Oak Park has seen violence too. Recently, an Oak Park man in his backyard was held at gunpoint for 15 minutes while an accomplice drained his bank account at an ATM. The gunman threatened to shoot the man and his family.
There is a psychic price we pay when we hear about this violence. It keeps us on edge, clouds our brains and makes us less hopeful.
For those who are neighbors of the crime victims, it is something more. And for children in the effected neighborhoods, such as Englewood on the South Side, their sense of security is replaced with fear.
So what can we do? The short answer is I don't know, other than to say that we all need, in the words of Pope Francis, to "go into the favelas," go into the poor neighborhoods and work for positive change.
There is also a political response needed in Illinois. At the policy level, the violence stems from two things: a lack of jobs and a lack of education reform.
As the late Studs Terkel once said, "The key issue is jobs. You can't get away from it: jobs. Having a buck or two in your pocket and feeling like somebody."
While Illinois politicians give lip service to creating jobs, they do little to create an environment conducive to job creation.
I know people want to rail against the 1 percent as well as corporations and our Springfield politicians cheer them. But few grasp that we stink in Illinois when it comes to job creation, which is why our state, with an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, continues to lag both neighboring states and the national average for the out of work.
But Studs was only half right. Having policies to support job creation is only part of the solution.
The other thing we need is school reform. My teacher friends may cringe when I say this, but our public schools in Chicago that serve students from poorer families, are a disaster of epic proportions, and we are reaping the bitter fruit of that failure in the gun violence in our neighborhoods.
We have pushed too many young people in Chicago and elsewhere out of public schools and into a life of unemployment. We have failed to create an environment of high expectations in school – regardless of a student's home life. (I can hear some teachers say – "give me better students and I will give you better outcomes").
But we don't talk about school reform in Illinois. Instead, we talk about funding teacher pensions. We talk teacher union contracts. We need a discussion about how to empower families so that they can chose from a quality public school, charter school or private school. Many other states are having this discussion and enacting laws every day. In Illinois, it is radio silence.
We have an election for governor coming up, and my main criteria in evaluating the candidates will be which one will create more jobs and which will enact the most far reaching school reforms.

Reader Comments

9 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: August 2nd, 2014 10:26 AM

And education, IMO, must be extended to the industrial arts realm where the demand for trained people is high as well as the pay.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 2nd, 2014 8:08 AM

@ Jack and Island - now we are getting to the heart of the violent, dysfunctional part of our society. This problem is hard and there are so many easy feel good Band-Aids that we apply just to say we "did something." We have all seen this "Band Aid" approach right here in the WJ with the endless misdirected gun regulations demands from the GRA (Ken Trainor - et-al) without any willingness to place blame for violence on our society and its blame others approach. In a response to another letter last week, the responder suggested that we cannot expect inner city gang members to follow the rules of society because they "don't want to" The old TOUGH LOVE approach might be a better path to travel!

Island Dweller   

Posted: July 31st, 2014 2:18 AM

her friends. This was also in the dead of winter, and the baby with essentially freezing. DCFS obviously got involved, but such parenting is not an isolated incident of merely poor judgement, but also a result of dysfunctional cultural norms and not caring enough to make sacrifices for kids. There is also the issue with the lack of discipline, and passing on the attitude of entitlement. The problem with violence goes so much deeper than jobs and schools.

Island Dweller  

Posted: July 31st, 2014 2:10 AM

willing to publicly push for greater parental and community accountability. There are major cultural problems to over come, and it doesn't seem like it's a conversation that's reaching the parts of the communities that really need to be called out on it and accept responsibility for making substantial changes. An example of dysfunctional culture: A co-worker who lives in Austin talked about how her 16 year old grand daughter took her baby out on the streets at 1 a.m. so she could hang out with

Island Dweller   

Posted: July 31st, 2014 2:02 AM

Just look at the gap between minority and non-minority students at OPRF, yet OPRF has huge amounts of resources and funds each student equally with a lot of money. Now think about filling OPRF with all those students from the low performing CPS school, and I'm willing to bet that OPRF would sink like the Titanic with larger amounts of disciplinary issues, student infractions and low test scores. It's much easier to always blame the system, and the system does share the blame, but few are

Island Dweller   

Posted: July 31st, 2014 1:54 AM

results. I have friends that are school councilors in CPS schools, and what they tell me is that what the schools really need is therapy, and a lot of it. Many come from single parent homes with no positive male role models, from families that are themselves dysfunctional. The teacher not only has the task of trying to impart academic information, but also curb the results of dysfunctional parenting. We are basically asking out teachers to be teachers, councilors and parents all in one.

Island Dweller   

Posted: July 31st, 2014 1:50 AM

"no snitch" culture that's keeps the criminals on the street. I think it's a bit presumptuous of you to suggest that if you just fix the schools, and offer more jobs, everything will be hunky dory. It is a fact that many of the student going into these failing CPS schools are no where near emotionally and socially equipped enough to function in a normal school. Switch out the CPS teachers at low performing schools with teachers at a high performing private school, and you will get similar

Island Dweller   

Posted: July 31st, 2014 1:44 AM

the conversation that no one is truly willing to have is confronting parents for the lack of parenting that allowed their kids to end up in the position of committing crimes and being dysfunctional members of society. There is also a culture of excuse making when criminals are caught, with sentiments like "he was a good boy that made a mistake", or "he was an honor role / college student" etc. There is a lack of accountability that feeds into this culture of violence, and there's also the

Island Dweller   

Posted: July 31st, 2014 1:40 AM

Jack Crowe, You've addressed part of the issue, but beyond jobs and schools (which are typically brought up by liberals as the main reasons for violence? I'm a liberal too, btw), you've failed to mention parenting and the free will of the person committing the crime. There are no shortage of people who make excuses for people committing crimes, saying that t's because there's not enough jobs, or they went to bad schools etc. Which are the most focused on issues in high crime areas? But

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