To the editors:
Steve Bogira's article on school desegregation [January 29] seems to be an article of "gosh, how I wish the 60s really did something." Apparently, he's not with the 80s.
In the 60s we had lots of great social experiments by people who had little or no idea of how to correct the problems of the poor and segregation. In the 70s we had the transition time of watching many of these programs fail. In the 80s, people are coming around to the fact that throwing money at problems and forcing people to do things that are of no benefit to themselves can make things worse.
Forcing parents to send their children on a potentially dangerous school bus to a potentially dangerous school in an area which removes the parent from close contact with their child's school is an idea most caring people would find repugnant. Obviously, most parents who could avoid this situation did, they either sent their children to private schools or moved out of the city, making the problem of segregation worse.
Another repugnant idea that's advocated is the idea of keeping the Chicago Board of Education in existence. If any organization deserves the dishonor of causing the destruction of more people's lives, causing more crime, more segregation and has done more to keeping the poor and minorities down and out in poverty, it's the Chicago Board of Education. It's done this by denying an education to those that need it the most, the poor--especially poor minorities.
This feat of creating one of the worst school systems in the country is accomplished by making sure the Board is filled with the politically connected, having bureaucrats disguised on paper as classroom teachers, padding the downtown payroll, ignoring parental and student complaints, protecting the worst of teachers by a system that causes more work and possible repercussions for those that try to remove bad teachers, possible repercussions on those trying to do anything that might upset the status quo and a host of other problems.
The Chicago schools are completely removed from reality and the disinterest of poor students shows it. The students know what their own world of poverty is like and most of them don't know how to get out of it or why they should want to get out of it. There hasn't been any apparent effort to try to tune the educational system to the needs of these children. They need to learn where to get, how to get and how to keep a job. They need to know what an education will do to benefit them, what they can do with their lives now and in the future. It's not the same as what's needed in middle or upper income families. When you're brought up poor, it's because your parents don't know to get out of it and what it's like to get out of it.
To put an emphasis on integration over education is a mistake and has been proven a mistake. The effort to force integration has done as much to segregate the Chicago area as it has to integrate it. The current school system has definitely done more to segregate than integrate. The poor schools forced a lot of parents to leave.
To have minority students go to suburban schools just for the sake of integration is another mistake. Many would go and do better because they understand that an education is necessary to do better in life. These schools allow students to fulfill their potential. These schools do nothing to benefit the poorest students with parents who are unable to give them additional help.
Chicago is not St. Louis and it's not Milwaukee. The neighborhoods in Chicago and its suburbs are among the wealthiest and poorest in the nation. The poor are more isolated, the wealthy are able to be more insulated and the middle class gets burned more often by the social programs that are forced on them by their government. If you want to solve problems, including the problem of segregation, you can't do it by forcing more burdens on the middle class. You can solve it by getting to the root of the problem. In the case of segregation in the Chicago public schools, it's caused by economic segregation and ignorance. Solve the problems of education in Chicago, and within two generations, you'll solve the problems of segregation. The only way to start to solve that is by eliminating the basic cause of that, eliminate the wasteful, unchanging and unresponsive Chicago Board of Education.