In her new book, Unequal City, Carla Shedd looks at race, schools and perceptions of injustice through the eyes of young people…
Jennifer Berkshire: I want to start by giving everyone a moment to order your amazing new book, Unequal City. Waiting…Waiting… OK. Here we go. You did something highly unusual in your book: you looked at how major policy changes in education and housing over the past two decades in Chicago have impacted kids. And you did that by actually interviewing kids. Where did you get such a crazy idea?
Carla Shedd: That was a big goal of mine, to really place kids at the center and think about how they understand these larger transformations in their lives. So often we have the numbers or we have snapshots of particular parts of the process and how kids are faring. But we really don’t listen to young people, and we never put their voices at the center of the conversation. How often are the people who are most impacted by these policies able to truly have a voice? In the book I argue that these young people are the city’s guinea pigs. They’re a walking experiment in an urban laboratory. Continue reading →
Just who is Mayor Rahm Emanuel playing to?
By Anthony Moser
Here’s something I bet you don’t know about Chicago: we still have a residency requirement for civic employees. Teachers, firefighters, police officers – they all must live in city limits. So must the mayor, a requirement that nearly disqualified Rahm from running in the first place. It means that the people who serve the city also depend on those services. Such requirements are designed to make sure that officials are also citizens; to create a natural alignment between the way that they treat others and the way they are treated. In short, it is to prevent the city from fracturing into *them* and *us,* instead attempting to create a true sense of *we.* Continue reading →
At some point the gap between press conference and reality becomes too glaring to ignore…
By Maria Moser
How on earth could something as silly as neighborhood public schools bedevil Rahm Emanuel right out of his incumbent throne as mayor of Chicago? The New York Times recently asked that question, and I’m happy to provide some answers. My home is on Chicago’s South Side, on a street full of cops and firefighters, and people still call themselves *new to the neighborhood* if they’ve been here less than 25 years. With only 9 years under my belt, I’m a relative newcomer. But traveling often for work, and seeing the gap between national coverage and reality on the ground, I’d like to try to answer a question that’s been asked a lot recently: What happened to Rahm? Continue reading →
Who gets to live in a neighborhood when neighborhood schools disappear?
When the city of Chicago shuttered some fifty neighborhood schools last year, officials invoked antiseptic-sounding words like “underperformance” and “underutilization.” But visit neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the closings, as I did recently, and you’ll hear that the battle over the city’s schools is about something much larger: the future of the city itself and who gets to live here. Parents, teachers and community leaders told me that the replacement of neighborhood schools serving the city’s poorest children with privately run charters that don’t, can’t be separated from the relentless gentrification that’s rapidly transforming Chicago into a wealthier, whiter city. Think urban renewal but without the bulldozers.
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EduShyster: Chicago, like many cities, is seeing big protests over police brutality. I’m wondering if you see any connection between these protests and the discontent over school closures in the city’s poor neighborhoods that continues to simmer today.
Karen Lewis: We don’t really like to talk about race and class, but they underpin both of these issues. I’m 61 years old, which means I went through the original Civil Rights Movement—it’s not just history to me. But I also know from history that the extra-judicial killing of Black men is nothing new in our society. The difference is that we have social media, we have recordings, and so you have a movement of people demanding accountability. What’s been really interesting to me is that you see the same concepts emerging whether we’re talking about policing or education: compliance, obedience and a loss of dignity. I’m going to tell you what to do and if you don’t do it, I’ll just take your life. The same with schools: if you don’t do what I tell you to do, I’ll just take your school. To me, this is a very interesting co-mingling of what justice really looks like and it’s very different for different people. Continue reading →