Chicago Public Schools: Substract Real Education and Solve for X

Rahm takes teaching into his own hands

A recent study of Chicago politics proved that math is hard.

In the midst of a tense and hilarious stand off between Chicago politicians and Chicago Public School teachers, fighting over pay increases from money that simply does not exist in the City State, Mayor Emanuel announced that the city’s schools will open earlier than ever before and stay open later in the day for children, including announcing the hiring of 477 more teachers. Apparently, Emanuel is pursuing the “If it is broke, just keep doing it for longer and throwing more people at the problem” approach to educational reform.

This development comes amid heated rhetoric on both sides of the debate. The Chicago Teachers’ Union flabbergasted the city with their insistence on a 30% pay raise. Surprisingly, they did not accept the counter offer of 2%. A strike that would paralyze the already paraplegic CPS system seems imminent.

Before you get fired up about how overworked and under-appreciated teachers are, Chicago teachers earn on average $74,000 a year. Changes a few things, huh?

Important side note: if you haven’t looked outside, the economy sucks. Need proof? Ask your boss for a 30% raise. 0% of other professions can pull this card.

The union bases their demands on many aspects, notably including the lengthening of the school day from 7 to 7.5 hours. Of course they did not think to ask for a 7.14% raise, the actual increase in the day’s length, because if they learned math in a Chicago school, that would seem impossible. Easier to just round up to the nearest absurd number.

So Mayor Emanuel, facing crisis, kicked out the Teachers’ Union’s moral pulpit and announced that the city would simply hire new teachers to adjust for the length discrepancy. Rahm, who has already said that the 30% raise is “not connected to reality,” will probably use this move to side step the demands. The hiring of nearly 500 new teachers would add another $50 million to the CPS’s $667 million dollar deficit. When questioned about if the city could afford this addition, Emanuel replied “We can’t afford not to.” Apparently math isn’t anyone’s strong suit.

The real issue lies in both sides supposed solutions for the real problem of massively failing urban schools that have recently raised their graduation rates to 60.6%. Congrats, CTU, you are earning a D-. Obviously the teachers are not asking for merit pay on this one.

So implicitly, there must be an aspect to these teachers’ demands that were they to be given this 30% raise, they will do better. (They almost couldn’t do worse). They cannot seriously expect such a substantial raise for another half an hour. At its heart, then, the CTU’s stance is “put the money in the bag and maybe we’ll teach little Jimmy how to read.”

On the other end, the city thinks that the reason students are doing so poorly in such a bad school district is because they’re not in it long enough. When 39.4% students are failing out of a high school district, the benchmark for competence in our society and a pretty darn easy feat, I have a feeling that an extra art class isn’t going to turn it all around.

While anything is better than letting the kids out in the streets of Chicago, where math is being taught with murders in the hundreds to a terrified city, Chicago Public Schools are in the need of top-to-bottom, wholesale reform, not some slap it together the night before science project demonstrating the shortsightedness of politicians in an insolvent city.

And I hate to spoil the ending before it slaps Emanuel and the CTU in the face, but none of this will come to any real, long term fruition because there is the whole matter of the massive deficit (come on now, negatives aren’t that hard!) Whatever programs are won now in the short term, whatever raises tacked on to Chicago’s already inflated Teacher salaries, will surely be slashed whenever a mayor with any fiscal sense is elected or someone mails Emanuel an abacus. Until then, the city will be too busy scoring political points and filling the quick sand pits of the teacher’s pensions before they start considering how they will actually teach.

The Nonpolitics of Chaos

In an Aurora, Colorado, theatre on Thursday night, James Holmes broke into a midnight release of The Dark Knight Rises, filling theatre with bullets and gas bombs. Fifty-eight people were injured, twelve killed, including a six year old girl. Some reports claim that the AR-15 Holmes employed jammed; if true, this would suggest that the death toll could have been much higher. His gun, due to upgrades he himself attached, could hold over 100 bullets.

Holmes seems to be a sick man by all accounts. He was a twenty-four-year-old graduate student. Descriptions of him have varied from highly intelligent to introvert. Police investigation thus far suggests that he has been planning the attack for months. This might be the most troubling of the details we’ve been presented so far: someone who was engaging in society, who went to the market and to classes and probably met with friends and had drinks and texted girls also planned a whole-scale slaughter that could have resulted, had a gun not jammed, in hundreds of deaths.

His apartment was filled with explosive, his stereo set to go off at midnight. Perhaps he intended for police to knock on the door for a disturbance call, maybe force their way in, to add a few extra casualties long after he had been gunned down.

But, luckily, things worked out differently. Though the loss of life is tragic, it could have easily had been higher. His goal was accomplished, however, in its sick parallel to the second Batman movie’s villain, the Joker: he inspired chaos.

This is what we now know about the case. Sadly, there is not going to be any more answers. Like the school shootings in Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, I have a solemn feeling that there is going to be no good answer for why such a tragedy befell Aurora. Maybe Holmes was bullied, maybe he was medically unstable. One thing remains indelibly clear: Holmes is insane, in either the medical definition or simply by the terms we’ve come to explain such things. That might be the best we come to.

I was disturbed to hear this news Friday morning. I was disheartened to see that, by ten a.m., many stories included loaded political angles into the discussion. One story implied that Romney’s support from the NRA would now be a liability, another questioned how President Obama’s usual reserved demeanor would affect his polling. It only took moments of shock for the journalism machine to churn the event into the political hay. As if the tragedy has no real resonance except for the repercussions in November.

Other reporters used this as a launch board to reopen the national debate over gun laws. Hotheads on both sides shouted each other down on the radio, insisting that conceal/carry laws would prevented this or that tighter gun regulations would have stopped Holmes. Some went so far as to blame Hollywood for the violence with which we are inundated on a daily basis. While times like this massacre are the instances when we need to take a serious look at the society we are creating, the answer will not be there, either.

Political policy exists in a vacuum. In this vacuum, conceal/carry laws leaves Holmes dead on the floor when he walks in the door. In this vacuum, 100% of the guns Holmes attempted to purchase are stopped by stronger gun regulations and he gives up, pays his taxes, and has 2.5 children. In this vacuum, Holmes never watches a violent movie and never even considers murder in a crowded theatre to be an option.

Political policy has a .000% failure rate in our discussions over the radio and in print. In real life, there is a .001% chaos rate we need to recognize. Sometimes, terrible things happen. And there may not have been a way to prevent them. Regardless of all the buzzwords, all the statistics we can pull out, reality proves time and again that some events are too nebulous to fit easily in our political philosophies.

Harder yet are reactions to the death of the six-year-old.  No, she was not supposed be there. How many people have lambasted the parents on comment boards and personal conversations, maybe even to the parents themselves? And it is easy for us to say now how foolish it had been. But those parents will never wake up before their daughter’s death again and never go a day without questioning their actions.

People react violently to events like what happened in Colorado. Through their own viewpoints, the events make sense. The tragedy could have been mollified or prevented, had America only been a different place. But this is not the time for a soundboard about how our own views would have changed things, its a time to understand the events as they unfolded and not mar the memory of the victims by turning them into playthings of political policy. We should talk less because of this, not more and louder, more entrenched than ever.

Instead, we should internalize this event, its message about the chaos of the world, about the uncertainty of life, and specifically, the heroism. Three separate men, Jon Blunk, Alex Teves and Matt McQuinn attempting to protect their girlfriends, were among the twelve killed. Their respective girlfriends survived.

If there is a political message in that, it is that, short of some perfect formation of policy that prevents horrors like this, at least we have commendable citizens who can react righteously in an instant when facing months of evil intentions.

Fiats! All The Fun of Bipartisanship, None of The Hassle!

As I was spending Friday immersed in an in-depth investigation of alcohol’s effects on the body (results: positive), the Obama administration quietly mentioned that they will be rewriting 1996 Welfare-laws in order to make it easier to obtain Welfare. Imagine both my and my spit-take coffee covered computer’s shock when I discovered that I had awoken into a Post-Republic America.

How has Welfare-for-Work been changed? Like this: now it is Welfare-For-Work. See how the hyphens just keep going? Ingenius. By the President’s fiat, the rules that determine what the definition of work is have been expanded to include the following: massages, exercise, journaling, bed rest, helping a friend or relative with household tasks and errands.

I think my time spent recovering from my earlier investigation would now be considered work. Welfare please.

And it is interesting that the president is gutting a landmark accomplishment by a democratic president. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, represented a Bipartisan accomplishment of the highest order in the Clinton Administration. They were tasked of reworking Aid to Families with Dependent Children, AFDC. President Clinton, knowing the difference between the Legislative and Executive Branch, and having a commendable respect for the Constitution, knew that he’d have to pursue changes through Congress.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle, (start taking notes, future candidates) were forced to work together, conceding some points on each side to bring together a hotch-potched monster so hideous it would bring a tear to Dr. Frankenstein’s eye. But the moral of the story is that on both sides, while neither party was completely satisfied, both went to bed knowing at least the other was not, either. And they came out with something that was not awful, which merits a gold-star on Congress’s forehead.

How immensely terrible will the effects of this fiat be? So catastrophic that we’re all already dead.

Not really. In fact, we will not really have a clue for at least a few years if this new leniency allows states to better implement Welfare programs or if, as I think is more likely, the new leniency will open more doors to welfare abuse.

But the real damage lies in the means, not the ends.

Again we have borne witness to the acts of a president who feels at ease circumventing constitutional writ in order to more immediately put his schemes into actions (and more immediately see the effects on his constantly falling approval numbers). Earlier this month, President Obama announced that immigration will not be pursuing illegal immigrants who were brought to the country in their youth. This is another great example of an incredibly gordian problem being hacked at by Obama the Great; we all want a solution, but no American should want that at the cost of the Constitution.

Had our previous president so openly ignored the Constitution (as many in the media accused him of doing), he would be  decried a tyrant, calls for his impeachment hounding him, whereas President Obama’s goon-squad in the press throw it back in people’s face, with snide articles titled like “Republicans Attack Obama for Giving States Flexibility On Welfare Reform.”

Welfare reform is not the issue and those writers know it. The issue is the infringement on one branch of Congress by another. ‘Checks and Balances’ are written in to keep everyone honest, but this is much more a blind-side nut-tap which leaves everyone wheeling, panting, and asking “Can he really do that?”

Constitutionally, no, but you’re watching it live, folks. It’s no longer a Republic. Republics rely on groups of elected officials adhering to Constitutional procedure. What we are seeing, unfortunately, is the outgrowth of our culture propagated by our expectation for immediate satisfaction. Who has the time nowadays to wait for a bunch of tired old men to agree? Why doesn’t the president just do it?

Those who take note of historical precedent should keep in mind Julius Caesar’s ascent to power. A tactic of his was to demonstrate the ineptitude of the Senate to solve an issue only to deal with it on his own, like soldiers’ retirement packages. In doing so, Caesar made it painfully clear that the Roman Constitution had become irrelevant, and the power of the Government shift to one man.

I am not saying that Barack Obama is the next Julius Caesar, but I instead exhort you, gentle reader, to keep an eye on the Constitution. The Constitution only has power when we invest that power into it. Every unchallenged infringement against the guiding document weakens it and encourages those who would do away with it to stop believing it will ever bite them back. Even if today you agree with what President Obama has done for welfare, consider what might happen when someone against your beliefs acts in the same manner with Obama’s precedent as guide.

Chicago Mayor Tries New Approach To Combat Crime: Scold Crime

One more murder, Chicago, and you’re going to bed with no dinner.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made headlines Tuesday in an interview with CBS Evening saying that the murder problem in Chicago “is about values.” Shortly after, he reprimanded the Sun for being so hot, reportedly saying “come on, man, this isn’t who you are.”

Only one of those is true, while both make me laugh. But the flippancy is well-intended: is this the point we have reached? Is Chicago so doomed that we are relying the mayor’s wag of his finger? If I knew that this was the plan, I’d sooner have voted for a Jewish mother, who at least has the training to deal with the situation. (You’re still a gang banger? You know, your cousin is a lawyer and he’s very successful.)

Glibness aside, it’s a scary result of an even scarier situation. I’ll have to check my numbers on this, but my understanding is that the mortality rate in Chicago is so high that it is more dangerous to be in the city than to be in Iraq. It is only slightly less dangerous than being in outerspace with no suit. I believe we’re at 275 murders this year, but I think the guy who counts the murders just got murdered so I could be off a few.

Emanuel evidently believes he can turn them from the Dark Side, claiming “Don’t I don’t buy this case where people say they don’t have values. They do have values. They are the wrong values.” Unless “Being a Gangster” is a new value I did not hear about, then I do not see any evidence to support Emanuel’s theory. Selling drugs, robbing, killing, raping, encouraging young children to drop out of school to work for them, when did I miss the Vice-Lords having a church bake sale? When the Gangster Disciples hosted that 5k? What, in the history of Chicago gang-warfare, made Rahm think that all they needed was a stern talking to?

Here’s the truth of the situation: gang members have no values. Gangs crop up in areas with a large number of poor, disaffected youths who were never given any attention, let alone values. And all it takes is a successful, savy young gang member who, mirabile dictu, actually survived this poverty and has a way out for you, too. And with parents who love you for the welfare check, and with teachers willing to strike for a 30% payraise in a bankrupt city, this little attention is more than enough to win over a child into a gang that promises a better chance of success than anything else. And when that kid finally gets into his gang, his only real loyalty, with what he’s done to get there and has to do to stay, there no longer has the moral resonance that those of us inside society feel.

Emanuel is wasting his breath preaching values to a valueless section out of society. America has enough difficulty getting its law-abiding citizens to live with any values. We now express more surprise when celebrities can stay together than when they cheat on each other. Even Rahm “never let a serious crisis go to waste” Emanuel has the moral compass of Machiavelli.

If the mayor wants to talk about values, talk to the community. Every gang member has a mother and a father, a reverend, a teacher who at some point was commissioned with the task of integrating these people into society. At some point, they screwed that up, but it is not his job to fix. He was elected mayor, after all, not daddy.

To push his point, the Mayor asks the gang members rhetorically “Who raised you? How were you raised?” I do not think he really wants the answer, so here it is. These gang members were raised on the public dole, in a school system that graduates less than 50% of their students, and less than 30% at grade level. A school system that now supplies breakfast, lunch, and dinner because their parents will not feed them otherwise. They were raised on a welfare and food stamp program rivaled only by New York and L.A., so what’s the difference between taking a handout and taking from others? When did they learn, when did they ever have a chance to learn, to take care of themselves in a law-abiding manner?

“How were you raised?” In short, Rahm, by Chicago.

Mitt Romney Speaks Truth To Power At NAACP

Can a confirmed conservative convince the chilly civil rights crowd of the merits of free-market capitalism? No, a recent study found, but he can damn well try.

Mitt Romney popped up in the crosshairs of the media today for being booed while giving a speech at the NAACP after mentioning that, yes, he still intends to repeal the nation’s largest tax-hike and Pelosi-Obama lovechild, universal healthcare. While I love how surprised most newspapers act about this (wait, you’re telling me they didn’t like that stance? Stop the presses!), today’s speech is actually a very telling moment for the presumed Republican nominee and his honesty of his campaign.

In today’s speech, Romney gave the same postions that he has given anywhere else in the country. In interviews, in town-halls, in small towns in Ohio and now in front of the NAACP, he makes it damn clear that he stands for a return to fiscal discipline, strong national security, and a reduction of superfluous and wasteful government programs, like free (except for the tax) healthcare. You’d think that the NAACP of all people would respect that Romney is not pandering to any one demographic. Especially Jesse Jackson, you know how he punishes “talking down to black people.” 

Mitt Romney used to be famous for his flip-flopping in the 2008 campaign, and now he’s Jim Carey from Liar Liar. He did not brush over or gussy up the plan (maybe we’ll… uh… fix obamacare?), but out-and-out calls the program “non-essential” as much as any other government program and will remove it.

Now that’s the candidate I want to see. For Mitt Romney to go into a lion’s den like that, in which he is going to make few friends and probably a good number of enemies, even before Barack Obama takes breaks between fundraisers to stop by, just to inform everyone that he has not changed his mind, that takes balls. Good thing he got in there before he ran across Jesse Jackson.