thumbnail of Chicago Week in Review; No. 1347; 1991-05-25
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<v Announcer>[intro music] Issues, events and people in the news. <v Announcer>This is Chicago Week in Review with Joel Weisman. <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>Welcome to a special edition of Chicago Week in Review. <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>In this The Year of the Child, we devote our entire program to issues relating <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>to children. One of every five children in the United States lives in poverty. <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>In Chicago, it's higher: one in every three. <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>What's it like to be a child in a neighborhood that doesn't allow you to be one? <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>What effect will budget cuts have on Chicago schoolchildren? <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>We'll tackle some of the pressing problems facing our children, including gang violence, <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>cuts in community and health services, and examine the status of today's family. <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>Sharing his insights is Alex Kotlowitz of The Wall Street Journal, author of There Are <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>No Children Here. Leslie Baldacci of the Chicago Sun-Times tells of the <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>problems facing latchkey kids. <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>Karen Thomas, education writer for the Chicago Tribune, opens the book on problems <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>facing Chicago schoolchildren. <v Joel Weisman, Moderator>And Mary Galligan, editorial writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, offers possible solutions
<v Joel Weisman, Moderator>to myriad children's problems. <v Joel Weisman>Alex, your book has gotten quite a lot of attention. <v Joel Weisman>What was it you did in that book and how does it pertain to this the year the children? <v Alex Kotlowitz>Well, my book follows, uh, two young boys who grow up in a public housing complex on the <v Alex Kotlowitz>west side of Chicago. And essentially, it allows readers to spend two years, uh, <v Alex Kotlowitz>with these kids and understand what it's like and, uh, some of the horrors of growing <v Alex Kotlowitz>up in a place like the Henry Horner Homes, which I write about. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And the, uh, ultimately, I think what you see is particular among the young kids that I <v Alex Kotlowitz>write about, the kids who have not yet entered adolescence, this is enormous tension <v Alex Kotlowitz>between one on the one hand wanting to hold onto their childhood, wanting to do all <v Alex Kotlowitz>the things that we all did as children--?inaudible? go on dates, shoot marbles, play <v Alex Kotlowitz>basketball, hunt for snakes, and yet having their childhood snatched from them at a very <v Alex Kotlowitz>early age. I mean, having witnessed all the violence, having lost older siblings, <v Alex Kotlowitz>in some cases parents to drugs, um, growing up in a, a physical environment <v Alex Kotlowitz>that is just, uh, dehumanizing and, uh, would you lose some sense of dignity?
<v Alex Kotlowitz>And you can see these children at that age really trying to hold onto their childhood. <v Joel Weisman>Is it a universal, though, feeling, are, aren't there some people that come out of this <v Joel Weisman>just fine? <v Alex Kotlowitz>I don't think as much as it used to be. <v Alex Kotlowitz>There used to be a time when pe-, when kids were able to make it out of a place like <v Alex Kotlowitz>Henry Horner. I think it's extraordinarily difficult now for children to make it out of <v Alex Kotlowitz>neighborhoods like that intact. <v Alex Kotlowitz>Uh, you can see, for example, just the vi-, the enormous toll the violence takes on the, <v Alex Kotlowitz>on the children. I talked to one boy who was 13 years old and talked about actually <v Alex Kotlowitz>having flashbacks of having watched his cousin shot in a gang war. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And what was your worst yet is here's his 13 year old boy telling me that he wishes he <v Alex Kotlowitz>were 8 years old again, telling me he wishes he were a child again. <v Joel Weisman>What about the, the family situation, Leslie? <v Joel Weisman>You write about families for the, for the Sun-Times. <v Joel Weisman>Is this typical that that that violence and despair have ruined <v Joel Weisman>the childhoods? What segment of the population would say that's true for? <v Leslie Baldacci>I would say it's, uh, almost a universal problem. <v Leslie Baldacci>I think that the people that Alex is dealing with are seeing this in a very concentrated
<v Leslie Baldacci>dose of violence and being exposed to drugs and and maybe not growing up with <v Leslie Baldacci>families intact. But these are problems that are faced by more <v Leslie Baldacci>children than not, growing up in either with a guardian <v Leslie Baldacci>or with a single parent or in blended families growing up, uh, <v Leslie Baldacci>in a in, where they may be in danger going to school. <v Joel Weisman>Let's, let's talk about-- <v Leslie Baldacci>And under a lot of other stresses that middle class and even upper class children are <v Leslie Baldacci>vulnerable to. <v Joel Weisman>Well, we're going to get to some of the middle and upper class stresses in a moment. <v Joel Weisman>How does this play out in school? Uh, is there a chance for the school to, uh, salvage <v Joel Weisman>some of these children or deal with some of their problems of, say, in the public housing <v Joel Weisman>projects? <v Karen Thomas>Well, I think that will be the challenge of the schools. <v Karen Thomas>I think what has happened so far is, is that kids in society <v Karen Thomas>has changed, too. Well, kids haven't, but their family structure in society has changed. <v Karen Thomas>And the kids are going to bring all of that into school. <v Karen Thomas>I mean, that doesn't stay at home when they walk through the school doors. <v Karen Thomas>Schools, by and large, have stayed the way they have been for a very long time.
<v Karen Thomas>They have not yet risen to the challenge of meeting that. <v Karen Thomas>There's some interesting things going on where hopefully we're starting to see the <v Karen Thomas>beginning of that. <v Joel Weisman>Is it too much to ask, though, for the schools to, to, uh, to deal with the mammoth <v Joel Weisman>psychological and economic problems that the baggage that these these children bring? <v Karen Thomas>It's a heck of a lot of to ask the schools to do. <v Karen Thomas>But I think what the schools can do and can probably do well is to serve sort of as a hub <v Karen Thomas>for agencies to come in and, and to deal with this. <v Karen Thomas>I mean, someone, there's still the really vital fabric of certain communities. <v Karen Thomas>And if you use that, if you tap into that, if you could just be a resource wealth <v Karen Thomas>that's sitting there and hasn't been developed. <v Joel Weisman>Mary Galligan, what would, what would the people who have the money say about these <v Joel Weisman>problems? I mean, if I'm a taxpayer living in DuPage County and I've seen my taxes double <v Joel Weisman>over the last six years, do I want to kick in more money to let the schools deal with the <v Joel Weisman>problems created by public housing? <v Mary Galligan>You might want to kick in some extra money. <v Mary Galligan>The problem is in a, in a year like we're facing this year and in Springfield, there <v Mary Galligan>is no extra money. Uh, we're going to be lucky to see the, uh, the surcharge
<v Mary Galligan>on the income tax passed this year. <v Mary Galligan>Governor [James] Edgar has asked for about 30 million dollars more put into the general <v Mary Galligan>state fund, but he's not really coming up with any new programs that would go to schools. <v Mary Galligan>And we know the Chicago Public Schools face an enormous budget problem. <v Mary Galligan>So there are examples all over the city of some very good programs <v Mary Galligan>going on at local schools or outside of the schools that want to get <v Mary Galligan>into the schools. But you know, who's got the money for it? <v Mary Galligan>That that's really the key question. <v Joel Weisman>Well, what about it? Is it really just a matter of money, Alex? <v Joel Weisman>If, if the CHA [Chicago Housing Authority] had X more dollars, uh, could the example <v Joel Weisman>children that you wrote about have a better life? <v Alex Kotlowitz>I think money would make an enormous difference. <v Alex Kotlowitz>I think we make a terrible mistake if we suh- suggest that we look at back <v Alex Kotlowitz>at, let's say what did the Great Society programs and look at all that failed and say, <v Alex Kotlowitz>oh, well, it didn't work. And let's not throw any more money at the problem. <v Alex Kotlowitz>But in fact, there were programs that did work. I mean, you look at Head Start, for <v Alex Kotlowitz>example, uh, enormous successes. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And we do need, uh, some resources.
<v Alex Kotlowitz>And in fact, the cities and states are enormously strapped, as Mary points out. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And I think it's going to take some some federal involvement. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And that is going to be very difficult in this political climate. <v Joel Weisman>Well, but if, uh, if we take that attitude that it takes more money and it takes federal <v Joel Weisman>involvement, state, city involvement, and so on. <v Joel Weisman>Is is that somewhat of a cop-out from not trying to solve the problem with the resources <v Joel Weisman>that you have and say that until we get more money, we're gonna, uh, we're just going to <v Joel Weisman>have to accept the situation? <v Alex Kotlowitz>No. In fact, I think we're sort of at an unusual historical juncture because you look at <v Alex Kotlowitz>the vacuum that was created during the Reagan years and you look and you look in <v Alex Kotlowitz>neighborhoods like on the west side of Chicago and you see these sort of grassroots <v Alex Kotlowitz>organizations and efforts that have sprung up during that period and that have been <v Alex Kotlowitz>enormously successful in their own limited way. <v Alex Kotlowitz>I mean-- <v Joel Weisman>Give me an example. <v Alex Kotlowitz>Well, an example of the community development corporations on the west side of Chicago, <v Alex Kotlowitz>Bethel New Life, which has actually helped families on public aid move into <v Alex Kotlowitz>brand new homes and become first-time homeowners. <v Alex Kotlowitz>Um. Or you look at what uh, James Comer, who is a professor of,
<v Alex Kotlowitz>of, I believe, education at Yale, who has come to work in four Chicago schools and, and <v Alex Kotlowitz>as Karen suggested, use the schools as a, as a central community hub. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And you have social workers work with the families out of there. <v Alex Kotlowitz>These are enormously successful programs, but they need some assistance. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And I think we're at an unusual period in time where we can take advantage of that <v Alex Kotlowitz>and take advantage of these organizations that have sprung up out of this vacuum that <v Alex Kotlowitz>we've created-- <v Joel Weisman>So in other words, out of the vacuum, out of the stop, as stopgap things try to <v Joel Weisman>permanentize them by giving them some money? <v Alex Kotlowitz>Right. <v Joel Weisman>Ah, what about the the idea of the family? <v Joel Weisman>Everybody talks about the traditional family values have disappeared, and <v Joel Weisman>you can't keep a family together. High divorce rate, mothers working, latchkey kids. <v Joel Weisman>You write about the families. What's the status of the family today, this year? <v Leslie Baldacci>Everybody agrees that families today are under tremendous stress, more so than they've <v Leslie Baldacci>ever been before. They've pretty much hit the skids, is a very bad time for families <v Leslie Baldacci>of all economic, uh, all income brackets.
<v Leslie Baldacci>It seems that the children that Alex wrote about, uh, are under these sort of stresses <v Leslie Baldacci>all the time. It's like a permanent situation with violence and bad schools and all these <v Leslie Baldacci>other things thrown in. And then when you look at the typical middle class family, <v Leslie Baldacci>they may not, they may have all those problems yet with none of the supports, <v Leslie Baldacci>you know, maybe no subsidized daycare. <v Leslie Baldacci>Maybe, uh, they are, don't uh, have grassroots <v Leslie Baldacci>groups at their disposal in their neighborhood working with them. <v Alex Kotlowitz>Right. And I think one of the difficulties we've had in this society, both poor and rich, <v Alex Kotlowitz>is to figure out how to deal with the institution of the family. <v Alex Kotlowitz>It's been a sacred institution that we refuse to have any involvement with. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And I think we need to really begin to rethink our involvement-- <v Joel Weisman>But who's the we that's supposed to be rethinking it? Is it the government? <v Joel Weisman>Is it the church-- <v Leslie Baldacci>But we're stuck in this-- <v Alex Kotlowitz>I think the government and agencies that are working with these, with these groups-- <v Leslie Baldacci>Government's trying to get involved in it. <v Leslie Baldacci>I mean, just this week or next week, when Congress reconvenes after the break, <v Leslie Baldacci>they're going to be talking about the parental leave bill. <v Leslie Baldacci>And, you know, we hear a kinder and gentler words about the sanctity of the family and
<v Leslie Baldacci>how important it is and, and building strong families. <v Leslie Baldacci>And this'll make strong kids-- <v Joel Weisman>Politicians run on that. <v Leslie Baldacci>--able to to fight off all the bad around them. <v Leslie Baldacci>Well, great. But if George Bush will again veto the ?inaudible? <v Leslie Baldacci>bill and other-- <v Joel Weisman>But let's not blame George Bush. What about-- <v Other participant>But there are other-- <v Joel Weisman>What about mom and dad? What are they, what are they doing or should they be doing? <v Leslie Baldacci>They're working. <v Joel Weisman>And what does that have to do with kids then? <v Leslie Baldacci>They're working because out of economic necessity to support their families, to keep <v Leslie Baldacci>them in the neighborhoods where they feel they are not in harm's way. <v Leslie Baldacci>And, uh, they are time starved. <v Joel Weisman>And so how does that adversely affect the kids or for that matter help them? <v Joel Weisman>Maybe to be independent. <v Joel Weisman>Earlier. <v Leslie Baldacci>I'm surprised to see that um, as far as the latchkey issue, that a child who is left at <v Leslie Baldacci>home more than three hours a day, that's considered a risk factor in, to growing up. <v Joel Weisman>A risk for what? <v Leslie Baldacci>It puts them at risk for a number of things. Juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, <v Leslie Baldacci>this sort of thing. The more time they have on their hands, I guess, is the theory, the <v Leslie Baldacci>more time they have to get into trouble.
<v Leslie Baldacci>And uh-- <v Joel Weisman>But but some would argue that, uh, our kids are too programed, that every moment <v Joel Weisman>of their time is spoken for. Because they have music ?inaudible?-- <v Leslie Baldacci>They're stressed out because they always-- <v Mary Galligan>But don't we have the extremes, though, right now? I mean we have the kids who are, who <v Mary Galligan>get all the, the daycare programs and preschool, and they get all <v Mary Galligan>the extra classes at one end. <v Mary Galligan>And then you have a lot of people in the middle, a lot of the, <v Mary Galligan>uh, middle-income families who don't have that extra money, who depend on <v Mary Galligan>government-subsidized daycare programs of, you know-- <v Leslie Baldacci>Or people in the middle who are working and who get their kids into the park district <v Leslie Baldacci>programs just to take care of them while they can get home. <v Leslie Baldacci>And maybe what they'd really like to do is work a four-day week and have a flexible <v Leslie Baldacci>schedule and spend more time with their children. <v Joel Weisman>But they can't, they-- <v Leslie Baldacci>Raising their own kids and they can't do it either because of a corporate, uh, <v Leslie Baldacci>attitude that says no. You have, we, it's a five day a week operation here <v Leslie Baldacci>or, um, simply because they can't afford to. <v Joel Weisman>Can't afford to give up that day. <v Leslie Baldacci>That's right.
<v Joel Weisman>So what happens when the kid is alone? <v Joel Weisman>What uh, what what what goes on? You talk about latchkey. <v Joel Weisman>That's the person who, the child who comes home and is alone? <v Leslie Baldacci>Yeah. And a lot of times-- <v Joel Weisman>Where do the rest of them go that don't do that? <v Leslie Baldacci>Well, a lot of them are not even allowed home. <v Leslie Baldacci>A lot of them don't wear the key around their neck because they're supposed to be at the <v Leslie Baldacci>library, or supposed to be somewhere else where there's an adult around <v Leslie Baldacci>to keep an eye on them, and they do their homework. <v Leslie Baldacci>And in talking to some librarians about this and a lot of, uh, libraries in Chicago and <v Leslie Baldacci>the suburbs are dealing with this problem. <v Leslie Baldacci>They said that, you know, it's really hard after kids get out of school. <v Leslie Baldacci>They want to go burn off some steam. <v Leslie Baldacci>And here they are being shushed in the library. <v Leslie Baldacci>Do your homework. Do this. Be quiet. <v Leslie Baldacci>You know, they're running in and out and they really need something beyond this. <v Leslie Baldacci>But this is the only option open to them. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And part of the problem, too, is not only sort of the breakdown of the family, but the <v Alex Kotlowitz>breakdown of community. Because there was a time when kids could come home. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And at least if their, both their parents were working, at least there might be other <v Alex Kotlowitz>people-- <v Leslie Baldacci>There were neighbors home on the block. Right. <v Alex Kotlowitz>There were neighbors, right, who could sort of watch after them. <v Joel Weisman>Or other kids on the block to do constructive things with.
<v Alex Kotlowitz>Right and you see, and <v Alex Kotlowitz>you see it amplified 100 fold in neighborhoods like Henry Horner, where, in fact, the <v Alex Kotlowitz>kids will, when you ask them whether they have any friends, they say, well, I don't have <v Alex Kotlowitz>any friends. I only have associates, friends you trust. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And there is this enormous sense--. <v Joel Weisman>Is that really how kids talk at Henry Horner? "I only have associates." <v Alex Kotlowitz>Yes. <v Joel Weisman>That's sounds like they work for a law firm. <v Alex Kotlowitz>But that's how they refer to their peers as associates. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And it's because of this sense of, of distrust. <v Alex Kotlowitz>Now, it's, it's amplified a 100 fold in a community like Henry Horner, where <v Alex Kotlowitz>you have the enormous violence and, and where people have sort of given up not only on, <v Alex Kotlowitz>on themselves, but on each other. <v Alex Kotlowitz>But uh, but you can see the breakdown of community and communities in the suburbs, for <v Alex Kotlowitz>example, and the kids don't have that uh-- <v Joel Weisman>Well now, the suburbs are a little different story. <v Joel Weisman>Their income may not be quite as vital. <v Joel Weisman>And why, then, are those children left as latchkey or wards of the library, if <v Joel Weisman>you will? <v Leslie Baldacci>I don't know that they are. I think that this gets into the area of children who are now <v Leslie Baldacci>referred to in some books that have come out lately as the overprivileged <v Leslie Baldacci>and, uh, are under stress because maybe their lives are too structured.
<v Leslie Baldacci>Because so much is expected of them, because they have all these advantages, and <v Leslie Baldacci>maybe because their parents are very high-profile people who are very busy and <v Leslie Baldacci>are not at home a lot of the time. Maybe these are children who are raised by nannies <v Leslie Baldacci>and, uh, don't have a, a family, <v Leslie Baldacci>a tight-knit family-- <v Joel Weisman>But the common thread I get through all this is that there's no parental time, regardless <v Joel Weisman>of class, or less, less time. <v Joel Weisman>By parents for children. <v Karen Thomas>Can I say something about that? <v Joel Weisman>Sure. <v Karen Thomas>Because I think, you know, I come from a family where both my parents worked extremely <v Karen Thomas>long hours as a child. But I had a grandmother and a great grandmother within my <v Karen Thomas>household-- <v Leslie Baldacci>That's a really important point-- <v Karen Thomas>--so we were never, ever at home by ourselves. <v Leslie Baldacci>And right now, there are not, grandmothers do not live in the same town. <v Leslie Baldacci>Grandmothers are out living their own lives now in a lot of cases. <v Joel Weisman>So what's the solution here? <v Leslie Baldacci>They have a lot more options than any grandmothers before them, is worth pointing out. <v Joel Weisman>Well, a lot of them drive and speak English, which wasn't the case for mine. <v Leslie Baldacci>My, well my mother's a grandmother and she's on her third <v Leslie Baldacci>or fourth career now.
<v Joel Weisman>So what can be done to change this? <v Joel Weisman>I mean, uh uh uh, is it a matter of raising consciousness, at least in some of these <v Joel Weisman>cases that parents-- <v Leslie Baldacci>I think that in the corporate sense it's, it's uh, definitely a matter of raising <v Leslie Baldacci>consciousness. And proving that a lot of options can work. <v Mary Galligan>That's one of the needs for the family leave legislation, is because there are, contrary <v Mary Galligan>to what the perception is, that everyone has good insurance <v Mary Galligan>and medical benefits. <v Mary Galligan>They're about 40 percent of, of women who have children who do not <v Mary Galligan>have, uh, a chance to take a 6-week paid <v Mary Galligan>leave of absence from their job as they have a baby. <v Mary Galligan>And, and I think that sets up this big vacuum then, where <v Mary Galligan>government has to step in and say you should give <v Mary Galligan>your workers, men and women, a certain amount of unpaid leave with, you have a <v Mary Galligan>child, or if you adopt a child-- <v Joel Weisman>But that's really just a part of the child's life, I mean-- <v Mary Galligan>Of course. Of course. <v Joel Weisman>and that's only six weeks, once every few years when you have a child.
<v Mary Galligan>But that's how we operate it with public policy. <v Mary Galligan>It seems like when it involves children and families. <v Mary Galligan>We go piecemeal. <v Joel Weisman>I want to go back to the question about raising awareness. I wasn't really thinking in <v Joel Weisman>terms of ways in raising corporate awareness. <v Joel Weisman>I was thinking of raising the parental awareness that's important that kids need parents' <v Joel Weisman>time. <v Leslie Baldacci>There are a lot of people who believe that that there should be parenting classes taught, <v Leslie Baldacci>and you can't, you shouldn't be able to graduate from high school without taking a <v Leslie Baldacci>parenting class. <v Joel Weisman>What about that? Are there, there are such classes are there not? <v Karen Thomas>There's some. I mean, it's not a requirement. <v Leslie Baldacci>It's not a requirement, no. <v Joel Weisman>And, and I think there are also classes on budgeting and things like that, which some <v Joel Weisman>people say that should be a-- <v Karen Thomas>That everyone should get F this year in those. <v Leslie Baldacci>Well, I think though-- <v Joel Weisman>Well, the teachers who teach 'em probably should or the administration should. <v Karen Thomas>The financing one. <v Mary Galligan>One of the best things I think about Chicago school reform is it brought parents into <v Mary Galligan>the school. It was a requirement. They had to serve on the school council. <v Mary Galligan>They had to show up for various activities. <v Mary Galligan>And I think some of the local councils that have been the most successful have found ways <v Mary Galligan>to get-- <v Joel Weisman>To involve the parents-- <v Mary Galligan>--the parents Involved. Whether it's to, uh, actually take classes in parenting or to
<v Mary Galligan>maybe learn how to, to read or to improve their own skills <v Mary Galligan>along with their kids. I mean that's what-- <v Joel Weisman>Well you've led us very, very, uh deftly into the next segment here, which deals with the <v Joel Weisman>Chicago school crisis and Chicago school children. <v Joel Weisman>Uh, uh, I think there is a lot of euphoria a couple of years ago when they passed school <v Joel Weisman>reform and everybody thought that Johnny was really going to read better and somehow the <v Joel Weisman>schools were going to work better. <v Joel Weisman>And here we are, not even two years later, and we're talking about all sorts of cutbacks. <v Karen Thomas>Well, see, first of all, I think everyone tends to forget that this law is just the first <v Karen Thomas>step. It was never meant to be the total solution to what was wrong with the Chicago <v Karen Thomas>public schools. That it dealt with governance issues. <v Karen Thomas>It did not really deal with the classroom issues. <v Karen Thomas>It's supposed to clear the way so you can get to the classroom. <v Joel Weisman>And when are we supposed to get to the classroom? <v Karen Thomas>Well, see, now we've been sort of sidestepped in the middle of all this. <v Karen Thomas>So-- <v Joel Weisman>So we've been sidetracked. <v Karen Thomas>Whatever you want to call it. Yeah, of course. <v Joel Weisman>Over the budget follies. <v Karen Thomas>The, well, the budget and, and we had a setback with the state Supreme Court ruling, <v Karen Thomas>with the, the vote, uh, situation with the council.
<v Karen Thomas>So, yeah, I mean, there's been some major blows to what's been put in place. <v Karen Thomas>What really amazes me about all of this is the level of enthusiasm that still seems to be <v Karen Thomas>out there among the council members. They have really endured. <v Karen Thomas>A lot if you ask me to still be involved at this point. <v Joel Weisman>Well what does it mean, uh, uh, if, to the, to the actual children? <v Joel Weisman>Uh, the fact that there are crumbling schools and that there are, uh, budget <v Joel Weisman>cuts and that, uh, the teachers, are uh, worried about losing their raises <v Joel Weisman>and the engineers and all the other unions involved? <v Karen Thomas>You know, what always bothers me about that is, the kids are always at the bottom of that <v Karen Thomas>particular list. You just named everything up top, and we talked about the kids last. <v Karen Thomas>And that's how school systems have operated. <v Karen Thomas>And that's where the problem is. The emphasis is never on the child. <v Karen Thomas>It's on all the other things that make schools go around. <v Karen Thomas>And that has nothing-- <v Joel Weisman>Well, that's administration and what you call the governance-- <v Karen Thomas>Right. <v Speaker>--process I guess. <v Mary Galligan>And it's not like children don't notice this. <v Karen Thomas>Of course they notice. <v Joel Weisman>Do they notice? <v Karen Thomas>I mean, how would you feel if you were sitting in a classroom and it's graffitied and has <v Karen Thomas>holes in the walls and-- <v Joel Weisman>I'd still be counting the minutes 'til recess.
<v Karen Thomas>Yeah, but you would also realize that no one was taking a real interest in your <v Karen Thomas>education. It was a low priority on somebody's list. <v Leslie Baldacci>It's the same in the Chicago public schools and CHA [Chicago Housig Authority]. When you <v Leslie Baldacci>look around you and everything is devastation, how could you think anything except <v Leslie Baldacci>there is no value to this? <v Karen Thomas>Right. <v Leslie Baldacci>And there is no value to me. <v Joel Weisman>Uh-huh. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And one of the things that struck me working on my book is just the enormous silence on <v Alex Kotlowitz>the part of these institutions that are meant to serve the children. <v Alex Kotlowitz>I mean, these very institutions, you take the juvenile courts, for example, which is <v Alex Kotlowitz>perhaps one of the worst-case-- <v Leslie Baldacci>The Kremlin. <v Alex Kotlowitz>--examples. Right. But I mean, here, for example, in my book, I follow one of the boys <v Alex Kotlowitz>through juvenile court, and he was arrested with four others for breaking into a car. <v Alex Kotlowitz>And they were represented by one attorney, one public defender, and had all, who had all <v Alex Kotlowitz>but but five minutes to prepare for trial. <v Alex Kotlowitz>Now, under the best of circumstances or under even under the worst of circumstances, they <v Alex Kotlowitz>should have each had their own attorney and uh, and certainly should have had more time <v Alex Kotlowitz>to prepare for trial. Well, as a child, you, you, you see all that that's going on. <v Alex Kotlowitz>You see that that silence, you, you hear it. <v Alex Kotlowitz>I mean, it's, and it's the same with the schools.
<v Alex Kotlowitz>You go into a school building and you have, you don't have a music class. <v Alex Kotlowitz>You don't have an art class. I mean, you, you miss that as a, as a child. <v Alex Kotlowitz>Um, and I think it make, and, what the awful thing is, it makes these kids terribly <v Alex Kotlowitz>cynical. <v Joel Weisman>Well, how do you, how do you then change the focus, Karen, uh, to, off of <v Joel Weisman>these subjects such as, and, and part of it, I have to say, is the media's, uh, <v Joel Weisman>to blame because we focus not on, on individual courses <v Joel Weisman>or learning. We focus on the budget. Is there crisis? <v Joel Weisman>Is there a strike? What's the average teacher wage? <v Karen Thomas>Right. You do, because those are the political issues-- <v Joel Weisman>We do. <v Karen Thomas>--that. Yeah, uh well, yeah. I mean, I do. <v Karen Thomas>You do do that. That's kind of what drives the news. <v Karen Thomas>And it's unfortunate. I mean, I've tried to do some classroom stuff within my reporting, <v Karen Thomas>but not enough education writers really get freed up to do that, to go into <v Karen Thomas>a classroom, really understand how curriculum works and what's going on. <v Karen Thomas>I mean, we're so much dealing-- <v Joel Weisman>But again, we're we're we're blaming outside, uh, uh, reasons for lack of success within <v Joel Weisman>the classroom. And I'm sure they play a role.
<v Joel Weisman>Can we, assuming we have no power to change these things, uh, nonetheless, <v Joel Weisman>improve the quality of education, improve the quality of teaching if you will? <v Karen Thomas>Yeah, I think you can. And I think what happens in Chicago, particularly with a system <v Karen Thomas>this big is, it happens in a school-by-school basis. <v Karen Thomas>You get one terrific principal in a particular building. <v Karen Thomas>Certain things happen in that particular building. <v Karen Thomas>The teachers are energized. They get freed up to do certain things. <v Karen Thomas>And that's what happens. And so often I hear of a really great project over here and <v Karen Thomas>there's another school over here that has some of the same problems. <v Karen Thomas>Well It doesn't have any idea what the school over here is doing. <v Karen Thomas>And that's one of the problems. It just kind of gets lost in the-- <v Joel Weisman>Okay, well well, couldn't you solve that problem by, say, introducing a certain standard, <v Joel Weisman>or level, or incentive, or merit pay, perhaps? <v Karen Thomas>Merit pay. Uhhh . . . <v Karen Thomas>I don't know. <v Mary Galligan>Well, there is an incentive built in to the, uh-- <v Joel Weisman>Well, how do you how do you get someone who is, is not a particularly good teacher <v Joel Weisman>to be a better teacher? Who has a lot of job security because of her union and
<v Joel Weisman>what have you? <v Karen Thomas>You provide training that goes on through. <v Karen Thomas>I mean, a teacher shouldn't just go to school and then enter the classroom. <v Karen Thomas>And then 30 years later, the teacher has had no update on her training. <v Karen Thomas>I mean, look at what has happened in world history alone. <v Alex Kotlowitz>Provide some dignity to the profession. <v Karen Thomas>Right. <v Alex Kotlowitz>I mean, that's what, uh-- <v Karen Thomas>That's the other thing. I mean, teachers also feel either probably feel they're next on <v Karen Thomas>the list-- <v Joel Weisman>Sure. <v Karen Thomas>--after for the kids. I mean, it's, you've, we just haven't provided any sense of <v Karen Thomas>priority for them either. <v Karen Thomas>I mean, we're talking about policy issues. <v Joel Weisman>How, how would you do that? How would you provide the dignity? What do you do? <v Alex Kotlowitz>Well, I think, for one, you can pay teachers. We can certainly pay teachers more than we <v Alex Kotlowitz>pay them. We could, as as as Karen suggests, we could offer retraining for teachers. <v Alex Kotlowitz>I mean, periodic retraining. I don't th-- <v Joel Weisman>Well, I, I think your first uh, um, <v Joel Weisman>suggestion is, is not borne out by the budgets. I mean, we apprently we can't pay them <v Joel Weisman>more-- <v Alex Kotlowitz>Well, I don't think we've put anywhere near enough into the into the schools. <v Alex Kotlowitz>I mean, you look, I mean, Bush came out yesterday and suggested that we ought to create <v Alex Kotlowitz>all these innovative school programs once, one innovative school program per <v Alex Kotlowitz>congressional district. Well, my God, the existing schools need so much help.
<v Alex Kotlowitz>How can we afford-- <v Joel Weisman>Right. <v Alex Kotlowitz>--to go out and create these, these other, uh, parallel institutions? <v Joel Weisman>Are any of you in favor of this voucher system? <v Mary Galligan>Oh, heck, no. <v Joel Weisman>On the premise that, uh-- <v Mary Malligan>No. <v Joel Weisman>--that schools wanting the vouchers or the payments would, <v Joel Weisman>would become excellent? <v Mary Galligan>No. I think, you know, there will be some individuals, students who are going to benefit <v Mary Galligan>just as any individual student whose parents or family has the <v Mary Galligan>goal of really getting a good education for their, their child and makes an effort. <v Mary Galligan>I mean, look at the, uh, the drop in the census here in Chicago of black <v Mary Galligan>families. Now where do they go? <v Mary Galligan>A lot of them went to the suburbs because of schools, or they left the whole <v Mary Galligan>area, went to the Sunbelt for better jobs and better schools. <v Mary Galligan>So, I mean, people are voting with their feet, but with vouchers, uh, <v Mary Galligan>in Milwaukee, they're having uh, kind of a mixed experience because they've had some <v Mary Galligan>of these schools, uh, be created overnight. <v Mary Galligan>You know, some of them have, uh, been falling away overnight, too. <v Mary Galligan>And so you're going to have those kind of problems that, uh, happen because there aren't
<v Mary Galligan>enough private schools in the city of Milwaukee to take all those kids. <v Joel Weisman>We're down to our last two minutes. And I think if people had only listened to what we've <v Joel Weisman>said so far, they would think it's just horrible. <v Joel Weisman>It's all gloom and doom for those kids out there. <v Joel Weisman>Why were they ever born and what do they have to look forward to? <v Joel Weisman>Give me positive things, Leslie, that uh, in this Year of the Child that uh, reasons <v Joel Weisman>for optimism. <v Leslie Baldacci>Reasons for optimism. <v Leslie Baldacci>Oh, boy. Um, I think that uh, there are some really good things, uh, <v Leslie Baldacci>that could happen in the legislature. Um, one of the things that we're gonna be starting <v Leslie Baldacci>to see very soon and probably saw this past year was the cocaine babies starting <v Leslie Baldacci>kindergarten. These are children brought into the world drug-impaired <v Leslie Baldacci>and are going to have probably developmental problems all the way along. <v Leslie Baldacci>Um, there's legislation pending that would encourage women to get treatment during their <v Leslie Baldacci>pregnancy. Instead of go to jail and hide out and give birth to a <v Leslie Baldacci>drug-addicted baby. <v Joel Weisman>Any other, uh, positive things? <v Leslie Baldacci>I'm happy about that and the parental leave, uh, some <v Leslie Baldacci>17 states have them now, even if it's not a national law. <v Joel Weisman>Anybody else got any reasons for optimism?
<v Karen Thomas>I think the fact that we're starting to talk about this, that the focus is sort of <v Karen Thomas>shifting there is very encouraging. I mean, I think there's been a lot of tension in this <v Karen Thomas>year in the last couple of years on this. <v Joel Weisman>Any reason for hope at the CHA? <v Alex Kotlowitz>Yeah, I think there's a lot of hope, uh, reason for hope at the CHA. You look at what <v Alex Kotlowitz>they did in Rockwall Gardens, one public housing complex where they secured all the <v Alex Kotlowitz>buildings and made it safer for the kids-- <v Joel Weisman>Sweeps. <v Alex Kotlowitz>--sweeps and the test scores of the local elementary school. <v Alex Kotlowitz>The kids went up dramatically. No magic. <v Alex Kotlowitz>I mean, the kids felt safer. <v Joel Weisman>What do you see as optimism? <v Mary Galligan>I like to beat up on Congress a lot. But I think there is hope even, uh, in Congress <v Mary Galligan>this year, where both Democrats and Republicans, uh, want to take on the child <v Mary Galligan>welfare system. And this affects the whole realm <v Mary Galligan>of problems from the crack babies to foster families and juvenile court. <v Mary Galligan>Because the whole federal system is, is backwards. <v Joel Weisman>So you, you feel that awareness is somewhat encouraging? <v Mary Galligan>Yeah we're, yeah we're paying, you know, to spend all this money for foster care in the <v Mary Galligan>courts and we're not paying hardly anything on prevention. <v Joel Weisman>Well, you've all paid your dues and done an excellent job.
Chicago Week in Review
Episode Number
No. 1347
Producing Organization
WTTW (Television station : Chicago, Ill.)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
This is an episode of Chicago Week in Review. The program is a panel discussion hosted by Joel Weisman. "We devote our entire program to issues relating to children. One of every five children in the United States lives in poverty. In Chicago, it's higher: one in every three. What's it like to be a child in a neighborhood that doesn't allow you to be one? What effect will budget cuts have on Chicago schoolchildren? We'll tackle some of the pressing problems facing our children, including gang violence, cuts in community and health services, and examine the status of today's family. Sharing his insights is Alex Kotlowitz of The Wall Street Journal, author of There Are No Children Here. Leslie Baldacci of the Chicago Sun-Times tells of the problems facing latchkey kids. Karen Thomas, education writer for the Chicago Tribune, opens the book on problems facing Chicago schoolchildren. And Mary Galligan, editorial writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, offers possible solutions to myriad children's problems."--soundtrack.
Series Description
"CHICAGO MATTERS, a three-year-long project exploring issues of concern to the community, focused on children in 1991. A unique mixture of programming examines some of the [problems] facing children today and offered viable solutions. "Included in this series are PROTECT YOURSELF: TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT AIDS, which addresses one of the leading threats to our youth and promotes prevention through education; WHAT'S OUT THERE FOR J.R.', which explores the state of the social service networks that provide help to youths in crisis; the CHICAGO MATTERS TOWN MEETING examines the community support systems available to children, bringing together city officials, park district representatives, parents, children and child development experts in a live 'town meeting' setting."--1991 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Producing Organization: WTTW (Television station : Chicago, Ill.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Chicago: “Chicago Week in Review; No. 1347; 1991-05-25,” 1991-05-25, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “Chicago Week in Review; No. 1347; 1991-05-25.” 1991-05-25. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Chicago Week in Review; No. 1347; 1991-05-25. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from