Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Politics & Multiculturalism in Chicago

Finding advantage in Liberalism's inherent contradictions

Parents in Little Village, a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood in Chicago situated about 5 miles southwest of the Loop, are unhappy that a new high school campus in their neighborhood won't be able to accommodate all the area students who wish to attend:
"Why have they divided our children?" asked a tearful Maria Ibarra, whose 14-year-old daughter is attending a private school because her home is outside the boundary line. "We feel violated, defrauded, after suffering so much to fight for this school."

Officials said they drew boundaries to make the school racially diverse enough to meet federal desegregation rules and to avoid overcrowding by keeping classroom populations reasonably sized. The Little Village neighborhood is overwhelmingly Latino, while the (adjacent) Lawndale neighborhoods are predominantly black. As a result, the roughly 400 freshmen on the campus are about 73 percent Latino, with the rest being black, school officials said.

The debate underscores just how difficult it is to draw boundary lines for new schools in a city that is as racially and ethnically segregated as Chicago.

The issue is coming to the forefront now because parents with children approaching high school age are learning that they live outside the boundary lines. And they have found a sympathetic ear in state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who wants to redraw the boundaries to include the entire Little Village neighborhood
It seems to me this issue is coming to the fore now because the Illinois primary is two months away and there is political advantage to be had in raising the issue.

What I find most interesting about this story is that it is rife with liberal/multicultural ironies and contradictions. There are four schools on one campus, partly to keep enrollment at each managable but partly to allow each to offer a unique curriculum. (See below.) Much to the consternation of Little Village residents, the student body of each school must be diverse enough to satisfy federal desegregation rules. But the champions of diversity seem silent on the matter. Where are they? Considering the names and descriptions of the four schools, perhaps they're busy indoctrinating the students:
Multicultural Arts School — focuses on the arts, in particular drama, visual arts, radio and dance. The school partners with community organizations, such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and artists to provide a strong arts environment.

Infinity High School — links the school to the North Lawndale and Little Village communities. The school creates a community-based and student-centered learning environment. Students are taught to celebrate their community’s strengths and study its contributions and challenges.

Greater Lawndale/Little Village School for Social Justice — prepares students for post-secondary education. The curriculum is designed to support students in reflecting on real-world issues. Students will be required to complete investigations on real life social issues.

The World Language High School — offers a college-preparatory curriculum, accompanied by an intensive study of world languages and career-preparatory opportunities. Students take part in job shadowing, internships, the College Bridge and College Excel programs.
Perhaps the students of the four schools could put together a community presentation that focuses on the costs of achieving 'diversity' and explains why racial classifications are so important in designing school boundaries. Or maybe they could just perform a multilingual play celebrating the real-world effect multiculturalism has in achieving social justice for their particular community.

La Raza notes the impact CPS's restrictive enrollment policies will have on some by offering this example:
Martín H. Fuentes was an exemplary student, one of the most outstanding graduates from Ruiz Elementary School, noted for his unprecedented dedication to earning the very best grades. An example to be followed, he was also hostile to whoever contradicted his view of the world or accidentally got in his way. He was one of those who need to be placed under the magnifying glass, as he would jump from one extreme to another at any time.

Martín was part of the school scene until he found himself rejected by Benito Juárez High School for continuing his education.

Student overcrowding at that well-known institution situated in the Pilsen neighborhood was why he was denied permission to enroll. Instead, they offered to send him to a high school located over an hour away from where he lived.

At fourteen years of age, he found in that decision the reason to leave school. He would go to the neighborhood school or cease his studies. The latter option won out.

At that age he was arrested for taking part in a fight which left others severely injured. He spent two years undergoing correctional treatment. He got out last August on good behavior. During the course of his social rehabilitation, he became severely distant from school. He is now a free man but is openly against going back to classes. This rejection changed his life.

(Emphasis mine.)
Maybe La Raza or some articulate left wing activists could explain why the lesson in the tale of young Mr. Fuentes isn't that he would have been better served had he recieved a voucher to attend the nearest private school. From the Tribune article:
Sandoval said he is simply giving voice and political muscle to upset parents.

"It is very arrogant of [the alderman] to think I wouldn't do this for anybody, especially when their lives are at stake," Sandoval said. "I am not blaming anyone in particular. I am joining with the moms in calling for change. I can't fix the past. I just know that today, the children of the Little Village community cannot attend Little Village High School. That is a problem and I am going to try to fix it."

Ibarra, her voice cracking amid tears, said she is working nights and using savings to pay for her daughter to attend a private school. That money will soon run out, she said.
The Archdiocese of Chicago's Catholic school system, once the 11th largest in the country and still the nation's largest non-public school system, offers a solid, cost effective education. According to the Archdiocese, 93% of its students go on to attend college. But enrollment has been shrinking and the Archdiocese has been closing schools at an accelerating rate. Considering the plight of people like young Mr. Fuentes and communities like Little Village, this is a terrible shame. Would that reporters, rather than simply accepting at face value the motives of pandering politicians, actually questioned them about things like this instead.


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