Open letter to CPS, Chief Education Officer Jackson, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, et al:
I am a graduate of LaSalle Elementary (1972, now LaSalle Language Academy) and Lane Technical High School (formerly boys only; I was one of only two girls picked from LaSalle to enter Lane in 1972, graduating in the second co-ed class in 1976; it is now Lane Tech College Prep), and I am one of two parents of a straight-A Walter Payton College Prep sophomore. For more than six years, my assignment has been to handle warrants and summons for crime victims at the Belmont/Western courthouses.
At first I was puzzled by the announcement that CPS would seek to teach about Jon Burge and his heinous practices. Within moments, I became enraged. While of course it is necessary to cover history’s mishaps and crimes, I fail to understand how a course devoted to this one man and his more-than-misguided mission can purport to serve primary and secondary students.
The Chicago Police Department being the size it is, comparable to a big town, I never worked for nor even crossed paths with Burge; I have neither defense nor sympathy for him. The proper venue for his actions is not CPS, but rather the criminal justice program of the University of Illinois or any similar (I am perhaps partial to UIC since I finally obtained my BA there in 1986 (going on to a MSLIS at Dominican University in 2011).
For the youngsters, it would be more appropriate to take them on field trips to the Police Memorial in south Grant Park, and to police awards ceremonies and/or cadet graduations, for sober reflection on a career in public service and on sacrifice. If boys and girls in war-torn Syria can be Scouts and Guides, so to can our kids, with the addition of the Police Explorer program. The Girl Scouts of Chicago & Northwest Indiana are always looking for supplies and volunteers, especially leaders, and places to hold meetings. All teens – not just those diverted from the court system – would do well to sit in on a peer jury.
Students these days are far more aware of what’s going on in their city and the world than I was at their age. In every profession and job category there can be bad seeds, slackers and a few true psycho/sociopaths. Certainly Burge falls therein, but it is not necessary for things like this which are common knowledge to take up class time. To the best of my knowledge, their days are already full to the brim with crucial material, some of which they need to know for statewide exams – nowhere else in Illinois will the kids have to sit through this. Having a week or whatever on Burge will detract from Chicago Public School students’ studies, emphasize that they are a captive audience, and risk lowering their grades.
Even though the world grows ever more complicated, things like this should not be soaking up any more class time than is absolutely necessary, especially when their brains, teeming with ideas, could be put to better use figuring ways (for example) to craft bioplastics from weeds or thwart the likes of Kim Jong Un.
These things need to become instinctive in every person: kids and teenagers especially need to know what is base power and what is noble power. This is something martial arts are uniquely suited to teach. Children need practice to restrain their impulses and figure out how to deal with feelings such as rage, jealousy and envy — so at the very least they don’t grow up to electronically harass, smash the windows of, slap or spit on someone they disagree with — meaning too many of the named offenders I hear about and have to get ordered into court.
There are many styles of martial arts which could be taught in school, along with the verbal judo we all need to practice on life’s offenders (not least among them Jon Burge). You might not like the hours or the instructor at the first dojo/martial arts academy. Keep searching until you find a style that you feel you click with, and then — stick to it!