West Side of Chicago eliminates gangs! That Austin High School Homecoming Dance was not cancelled because the 'associates' were 'associating' violently at each other using live ammunition ... And those popping sounds outside West Side schools ARE NOT gunshots!

What happened to the Austin High School Homecoming Dance? And while we're at it, who was rumbling at the corner of Fullerton and Central after that recent Homecoming game. And those loud popping noises that are a regular feature of life in the Big City in an arc extending at least from around Hanson Park Stadium all the way out to Pilsen/Little Village...? No: It can't be that Chicago -- and Chicago's public schools -- has a gang problem. Rahm's Board of Education has solved that -- by another example of "redefinition." There are no gangs in Chicago's schools today: Now we have "associates."

A bit of current events and some history are necessary to fully appreciate how it's come to this in 2014 in Chicago...

Since 2004, when Arne Duncan and the late Michael Scott began to close the real Austin High School, under the pretext of "eliminating gangs," the gang problem in the West Side of Chicago has continued, but the community around Austin High School has been deprived of a real public high school thanks to the man who is now U.S. Secretary of Education. Above, the Vice Lords, which still operate as a street gang in various factions in what they call "Vice Lord Village" (the area around the Austin High School building) are cheering because the administration currently operating inside the Austin High School building has declared that "gangs" are not gangs, but should be referred to as "associations." And gang bangers are no longer gangsters -- but "associates." Such is the world of 2014 -- ten years after the Chicago Board of Education voted, on a recommendation of Arne Duncan, to stop admitting 9th graders to what was once Austin High School to end the problems inside the school caused by gang violence.Everyone who reads The New York Times and The Nation knows that the problem facing the USA today is that white cops are shooting black men. And so, while many well meaning citizens of America's third largest city were joining the pilgrimage to St. Louise as part of the "Ferguson" experience, the body counts in Chicago's poorer communities were building up -- but we were not supposed to talk about such things in polite progressive company.

Take the Austin Community, which began in 2004 to solve its gang problems by refusing to admit 9th graders to Austin High School, once on of the largest public schools in the United States of America. By 2014, Chicago's West Side was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the slow death closing of Austin High School by euphemizing the West Side's gang problem. Gunshots on Pine Street? Hundreds of bottles -- and other items -- tossed by riotous young people a few blocks north of the Police District? Every Monday out around 24th St. marked by a Body Count from the weekend antics between the Latin Kings and the other teams?

According to people familiar with the latest regime change at what are now being called "The Austins" (Austin High School building has recently had three or four small schools inside, but apparently that fashionable inefficiency has been efficiented), administrators have ruled that the word GANG is not to be uses: These are now ASSOCIATES. Honest. You couldn't reach the Power Point for this in your Teach for America or New Leaders for New Schools classes. Flash backward to the days when Arne Duncan was merely the "Chief Executive Officer" in Chicago's public schools. As everyone knew then, Duncan's qualifications for the CEO job included the fact that he was a clueless basketball guy from the University of Chicago's coccoon (called "Hyde Park" for the uninitiated). And that he had left the USA to pursue his hoop dream in Australia. And that... Well, Catalyst magazine and the honchoes at outfits like the Joyce Foundation liked Arne a lot, so next thing you know, he was a CPS executive, then the Chief Executive. And now he's the Chief Executive Officer of America's public schools. Corporate reform has been like that all along.

Still active on Chicago's West Side, and now in their fourth or fifth generation (even in the Darwinian world of Chicago's underworlds, many survive and breed), the Four Corner Hustlers routinely express their disagreements with the various factions of the Vice Lords (and others) utilizing gunplay and other serious forms of violence. But in 2014, the Austin Homecoming Dance was cancelled not because of recent gang shootings outside the school but because some of the "associates" were apparently "associating" in a rather untoward manner. Substance expects that by the November 19 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, one of the MBA executives now running the nation's third largest school system, will have a Power Point presentation to explain how those are not real bullets, no real dead kids, and not blood in those non-school non-hallways.But how does that relate to the fact that Chicago has eliminated its street gangs by sleight of Power Point?

As part of the hypocrisy of "Renaissance 2010", under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago's school leaders (then, Arne Duncan and Michael Scott) claimed with straight faces that the effective closing of Austin and Calumet high schools was the only way that the schools major gang problems could be solved. And so, in June 2004, the Chicago Board of Eduction voted to stop admitting 9th graders to Austin and Calumet -- over the unanimous objections of the organized groups in the community. (In those days, even Congressman Danny Davis was not yet a big fan of charter schools, as he is in 2014).

[Full disclosure: I know because I helped organize the community response from both schools as Director of Security and Safety for the Chicago Teachers Union. We said at the time that closing the schools was not being done to make the kids safer -- but to vacate the buildings so that the buildings could be given away to charter school operators. And that's what happened: Calumet went to Perspectives Charter Schools, and Austin to a menagerie of charter, smallish and other schooly fads.]

Over the years, Substance returned to Austin to cover the fact that the gangs were still active in the community and the buildings (after tens of millions of dollars of upgrades) had been given away to charters which excluded as much of the community as possible. One of our articles, by West Side community leader Grady Jordan, pointed out that the Austin community, as a result of CPS policy, no longer had a high school that all children could attend. The URL for that is:


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