Hiding the Violence: 'Silver Bullet' on the streets of Chicago
Education Secretary Arne Duncan may be right that no "silver bullet" will cure the ills affecting the nation's education system, but the "silver bullet", the metaphor used by Duncan in making his point, is in fact taking the lives of youth across America. In particular, the deadly city streets of Chicago, where minority youth are dying weekly.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger has ordered the American flag at St. Sabina Church hung upside-down - a historic sign of distress - to symbolize the growing death toll among the city's youngsters.
So far this school year, 36 children and teens have been murdered -- more than one a week -- and Pfleger is among a chorus of weary Chicagoans who say the slayings aren't getting the attention they deserve.
Had 36 kids died of swine flu this year, "there would be this great influx of resources that say, 'Let's stop this, lets deal with this,' " Pfleger said.
Instead, because violence is driving the epidemic, "We're hiding it. We're ignoring it. We're denying the problems," he said.
Duncan, who now serves as President Obama's secretary of education, said "all hell would break loose" if these killings took place in one of the metro area's upscale enclaves.
"If that happened to one of Chicago's wealthiest suburbs -- and God forbid it ever did -- if it was a child being shot dead every two weeks in Hinsdale or Winnetka or Barrington, do you think the status quo would remain? There's no way it would," he said.
Yet the problem has only worsened since Duncan publicly shared his observation. With about a month left in the school year, Chicago's public schools have topped the number of students slain in the 2007-2008 and 2006-2007 school years -- 27 and 31, respectively.
Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis said scuffles among youth have become more violent and a conflict that 20 years ago would have warranted a pushing or wrestling match now sometimes results in gunfire.
"There's simply too many gangs, too many guns and too many drugs on the streets," he said. "We've got a problem with some of our young people are resorting to use of weapons and violence to solve any type of conflicts they may have."
Weis said he concurred with Duncan's remarks from two years ago and bemoaned that society had become desensitized, almost to the point of acceptance, by the violence in some of America's major cities.
"That is a very sad state of affairs," he said.
Not all officials are convinced that the level of violence against children is unique to Chicago.
Mayor Richard Daley said the numbers appear worse in his city because the public school system considers teenagers students even after they drop out.
"The rest of America doesn't count them. You're a dropout forever. We don't think they're dropouts. They're students," he said.
He further said Chicago's problems are no worse than those in any other American city.
"It's all over, the same thing," he said. "You go to a large city or small city, it's all over America. It's not unique to one community or one city."
Despite Daley's remarks, CNN has learned that none of the city's 36 victims this year was a dropout.
Also, Daley's statistics on the number of youths killed in other cities don't appear to match reports from American cities.
Los Angeles, California, notorious for its gang problems, is larger than Chicago. It has reported only 23 child slayings this school year. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is about half the size of Chicago, but it has witnessed only a ninth of the child slayings: four this school year.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have put forth their plan for REFORMING AND STRENGTHENING AMERICA'S SCHOOLS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. Perhaps our nation's school children would be better served if they first identified the root causes of violence in America's schools -- educators who are lying to the American public -- (from under-reporting violence to inflating graduation rates, to fudging test scores). Without this identification and a resulting plan of corrective action, reforming and strengthening America's schools for the 21st century will fail, and the nation's children will continue to be murdered both on the streets and in schools.
Additional reading: How Schools Cheat
Watch how Chicago is struggling with the violence (Diane Latiker, founder of the community group 'Kids off the block' began a memorial on a vacant lot in Chicago).