Figuring out what the question is can be the most difficult part of a job.
When we had a learning or behavior problem with a student, we would meet as a team to talk about it. Everyone who had some interaction with the kid met together and presented all kinds of data. Not just test scores, although that too.
What did we see? What did we know?
Sometimes someone would jump ahead to offer some intervention. But as often as not the team would resist coming up with an answer before we truly knew what the question was.
By the way, if you want to know what teachers do when we are not with students, this is what we do. Plus prepare for when we are with students.
The issue of coming up with the right question led me to think about Rahm Emanuel’s claim that in response to the terrible spike in Chicago’s murder rate he would hire a thousand more cops.
There was a sadly funny headline from the Onion that made the rounds last week.
“Rahm Emanuel Concerned Gun Violence Could Spread to Parts of City He Gives Shit About.”
It was funny but sad because it reflected the racism of our Mayor’s civic policies which favors the wealthy white neighborhoods over the working class and poor.
It also reflected the image of the city as wracked with gun violence and as America’s murder capital.
This image is so widely accepted that Donald Trump is able to use Chicago as shorthand for his Law and Order racist dog whistle.
However, the data suggests something quite different. Our violence is targeted. Our victims come from specific neighborhoods and are children of color.
The month of August set a two-decade long record of 91 murders in Chicago. All but nine of the victims were African American and Hispanic.
Half were under the age of 20. Our children.
The Englewood neighborhood on the south side was a particular hotspot for August murders. It’s one of the city’s poorest areas, with more than 40 percent of the residents living below the poverty level. This year, homicides there are up 171 percent over the same time last year.
Englewood is among four out of Chicago’s 22 police districts that accounted for about a third of August’s murders.
Look at a map of where the murders took place and they are concentrated in a couple of neighborhoods.
They are our city’s poorest neighborhoods. They are our communities where unemployment is the highest. They are the communities where the Mayor closed neighborhood schools.
Urban sociologists who are smarter than me have written about the changes in Chicago gang culture and how it has led to the proliferation of gun violence.
Let’s look at all that.
A number of studies have shown that any interaction between a police officer and a civilian increases the likelihood of the civilian getting shot or killed.
Black men are disproportionately killed by police. But his research suggests that the reason for this increased risk is the greater number of stops and arrests by police, what is known as “excess exposure”.
So someone tell me. What is the question here where the answer is more cops?