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October 7th, 2009
06:27 PM ET

The fix for our schools

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more on how to stop the violence in Chicago from Steve Perry, on AC360° at 10p.m. ET.

CNN's Education Contributor Steve Perry grew up in a public housing project and he founded the school to serve kids from similar backgrounds.

CNN's Education Contributor Steve Perry grew up in a public housing project and he founded the school to serve kids from similar backgrounds.

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Yesterday before the program Steve Perry, CNN’s Education Contributor, texted me.

He said he was in make-up and wanted to come down and meet him if I had the time. Two hours earlier we had talked on the phone preparing his segment with Anderson about the violence in Chicago and the changes that need to take place in schools around the country in order to curb inner city crime.

I was happy to make time. I’d heard a lot about Steve. He’s the principal and founder of Capitol Preparatory Magnet School in Connecticut. Before that he managed a homeless shelter, campaigned as a candidate for state representative and published three books, including the best seller "Man Up! Nobody is coming to save us". As a graduate of Newark public schools in New Jersey, I’m always interested in educators who are really trying to improve schools in big cities. I know first hand the need that exists.

When I walked into the make-up room. He was already in an animated discussion about education and the economy with Ali Velshi. Ali left for his live hit so I asked Steve what he thought of Jesse Jackson’s op-ed in which he wrote “…in many cities of the country, children are sensibly scared as they go to school. They should have safe passage to school. In Little Rock, Ark., when we first desegregated students, the federal government sent in troops to guarantee safe passage to school…”

“Is it time that the government take a different approach?” I asked, “Is that what’s needed to fend off inner city violence?

“No,” Steve answered.

“It didn’t work then and it won’t work today. Schools in Arkansas aren’t integrated today. The schools that failed the needs of our kids must be shut down. You can give kids access to schools outside their neighborhoods,” he replied.

“But critics say moving kids into neighborhoods is the problem because it fires up turf wars,” I said.

Steve disagreed: “The them-versus-us mentality starts only when you move a small number of students,” he said. “But the truth is all over the country kids find ways of getting along. At my school we have kids from 22 towns and cities. What we need to do is create better schools and that can mean shutting some in some neighborhoods down. Some schools aren’t providing the basics, teachers aren’t teaching and they can’t be fired.”

Then he said something that really struck me. “The kids who kill in Chicago don’t kill because they have no regard for the life of others. They kill because they have no regards for their own life. They don’t value their life. They have no plans no goals no future. Part of the solution are teachers who really teach, parents who get involved and male role models who don’t go missing."

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Filed under: Chicago Killings • David Puente • Steve Perry
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Rita Long

    I think our priorities are misplaced. Why are we as a society and the media so fixated on who's having an affair with whom etc. and not fixated on why we have lost 40 children to violence on the streets of Chicago?.

    Utterly digusting !t makes one's stomach turn. We have lost our moral edge.

    My heart and prayers go out to all the families.

    October 7, 2009 at 9:57 pm |
  2. JD

    It is good to look for better ways and ways to help, but even so it would take time. Children need safety now .... Yes I believe the National Guard should be sent in to secure safe passage, at least to school for the children ...Solving difficult problems takes time ... and it appears so many children may not have the "luxury" of time ... so until them ... give then a Guard.

    October 7, 2009 at 9:14 pm |
  3. Audrey Brodt

    Steve Perry needs to study social psychology and get over his lecturing on how parents have to take control of their kids. Don't you think they would if they could? This violence problem has many contributing factors and it's naive to simply blame parents.

    The culture of the community feeds violence, and for it to be controlled outside help in the form of vastly increased police and/or the national guard are needed. And then parents can be empowered to take control.

    If Perry's method of lecturing were effective we could withdraw from Iraq, etc. and simply tell those folks what they need to do.

    October 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  4. taisha

    I don't care what city your from its all nonesence about these turf wars. The reality is it doesn't matter where your from, they did not purchase that community, there name is not on the street signs, and no one is having a parade in there honor but yet they want to die for that block???? Does that really make sense??? Come on. What they need to do is pick up a book. I am sure these so call thugs don't even know how to read. Instead of worrying who is on the turf that they don't own, they need to worry about getting an education. But once again this goes back to the parents. if the parents don't instill the value of education early on what kind of out come do they really expect. Lets get real.

    October 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm |
  5. taisha

    I agree with Steve Perry. The problem is these parents. Do you think these kids just learned violence from movies and rap songs??? I don't think so. 9 out of 10 times these kids probably saw violence in the home. And rather then the parent making the hard sacrafice to either leave that dangerous environment so there children won't suffer, they opt to stay in it. We as parents i don't care if you are a single mom or not, we ,must stand up for our kids and get them into safe and healthy envirornments. Its called sacraficing for the good of your child.

    October 7, 2009 at 7:22 pm |
  6. Cessy, Chicago IL

    I agree with what Mr Perry said that the kids who kill have no regard for their own life...no goals...no care for their families... I can say this because I work with these type of children. most of these kids will either go to jail at a young age or die.

    October 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  7. Henya,

    I have great respect for Steve Perry he is doing a wonderful job with the kids in his school, what he is saying makes sense to me.

    October 7, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  8. Lori from IL

    Steve Perry is clearly misinformed is he thinks most of the violence in Chicago is not over "turf wars" – just read the Chicago Tribune article (front page, yesterday) where the kids from Fenger High School talk about what lead to the violent beating death of Derrion Albert.. I agree with some of what Steve said, but not all of it - he needs to visit Chicago and talk to these kids before he comments on their situation. Not all cities are the same, that's why no one solution will work....

    October 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm |