Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who Will Tell Government We Have The Tools They Need?!

My boss, Dan Bassill came by my desk today and exclaimed that "the media is ripe for our maps!"

See, the media is quoting politicians this week, tossing around a word that is near and dear to us at Tutor/Mentor Connection... Everyone seems to be talking about "mentoring" this week, as a part of a proposed solution to crime and poverty, in the wake of the Derrion Albert murder.

This an exciting development for Dan and myself. This is what he's dedicated much of his life to. And this is why he brought me here. My maps frequently show a need for mentoring, are designed to point people to tutor/mentor sites, and hopefully assist tutor/mentor-building strategies for political, business, and media leaders.

The fact that the media and politicians are saying "mentoring" this week is a rare thrill and opportunity.

But personally, I'm a little guarded in my optimism. In theory, this is a can't-miss partnership in the making... a slam dunk... a home run...

I mean, we've already spent the money and built a lot of the infrastructure that would push a big politically-led alliance.

For instance, we have the best tutor/mentor program data available. We can build maps that show high poverty, failing schools, and crime - all in proximity to existing programs (and thus, demonstrate where new programs are needed most). And we have databases full of community resources (churches, businesses, hospitals, etc.) - with strategies for each to employ in their specific capacity for developing tutor/mentor programs.

It's all right there on a silver platter waiting for politicians to run and lead with!

NOW if only someone with access to a large local and national audience would let politicians and other leaders know these resources already exist, and that we've done much of the work for them, before they run off wasting time and spending millions to reinvent the wheel.

Oh wait! Newspapers, radio, T.V., Internet! Of course!... These could each easily be the conduit that links our work with powerful community-minded business and political leaders, to support mentoring strategies that combat crime and violence... and make the world a better place!

So why am I so skeptical (and obviously sarcastic) if the media is talking about this all over the place? This is a good thing, right?

Well... kind of... maybe.

Dan's been doing this for decades and has seen the media and its fickle attention span come and go when it comes to violence. He reminds us in his blog today today - that,

had media been writing these stories since 1992 when Dantrell Davis was killed, and pointing to tutor/mentor programs, and encouraging people beyond poverty to give time, talent, and dollars, we might have more tutor/mentor programs, and fewer incidents of violence. We also might have more kids in college and careers, who were just starting first grade in 1993.
This happens a lot actually. Perhaps the only difference between the Albert murder and the other teen-on-teen violence the media reports and then abandons on a weekly basis (usually failing to point concerned citizens to those of us who are working on solving the problem, and could use the help)... is that this time, there was a camera rolling to feed our thirst for spectacle and supplement an otherwise typical story of crime in the ghetto.

We asked a panel of local media representatives at our last Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference back in May what their aversion was to discussing potential solutions to crime and violence - a complex topic - part of which, politicians acknowledged this week, includes mentoring.

We were told, after pulling teeth for many uncomfortable minutes, that our tutor/mentor stories are nothing more than "puff pieces," and are off the radar of many journalists' ambitions.

We were told by a different member of the same panel that [paraphrasing] "there just isn't enough space or resources" to dedicate to a discussion of tutor/mentor programs.

In other words, there is a strong liklihood that the media attention we see this week will fade off after everyone has gotten their fill of watching footage of kids killing eachother, like it has in the past, and there will be no sustained effort to continue promoting "mentoring" or any proposed solution to poverty or crime.

So I figured - confronted by these possibilities - that maybe I should just find a way to use existing media resources and technologies to reach out to potential soldiers in this cause myself.

My blog here is a pretty good public forum for this sort of thing. But I've seen others with higher traffic.

For instance, I noticed yesterday, after reading a Tribune article (about how ex-Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan was back in town to discuss violence and the need for mentoring), that there was a public forum at the bottom of the article.

So I added this piece of "puff" to the forum, wasting very few of their resources:

Many have asked here - Where's the solution?! How is a little money thrown to one school gonna fix anything long-term? Duncan talked about "the root of the problem." CNN's Rick Sanchez discussed "the core of the problem" on CNN last week after Albert was murdered too.

What IS the core of the problem? I'm aware it's complex, but I offer an idea that might be a piece of the puzzle.

I work as an educator and a mapmaker/strategist in Chicago's war on poverty.

I address this topic at length on my blog each week:

Yes - students' parents need to take an active role, but so can YOU if you're really concerned, through volunteering or donating to programs where people like us roll up their sleeves for a mere hour or so every week, working with students in these high-crime neighborhoods as mentors - helping kids make better life decisions (and meeting the majority of great and non-violent kids who live in fear and loathing of the select few hoodlums that the media typically features)...

With enough adults like us who have the job/college experience to tutor/mentor youth and prepare them for college and career... (or provide donations to programs where this occurs if you have no time)... perhaps these students will survive to be adults with cash in pocket, attracting businesses (and jobs), and revitalizing their neighborhoods.

Step up. As many of you have pointed out, politicians, tax money... historically, this doesn't help, and we're all tired of taxes, regardless of political affiliation. Roll up your sleeves and support programs that act through strength in numbers to SOLVE the problems of poverty and crime.

AND I WAS CENSORED by the moderators at the Tribune, my post never making it to the public discussion.

Someone mentioned that maybe it is because I posted a link. But there are links to YouTube there. So I have no option right now but to conclude it was because of my post's content...

... which is borderline infuriating, considering the moderators allowed a few posts like this:

No amount of emergency funds will tame these animals. Take the money, buy guns and one to each of them, including their mommas... and then let them go at it--until the last one drops. Only then will our streets be safe and clean again. -- AnthonynChicago on October 7, 2009 3:01 PM

Apparently, hatred is acceptable, but discussion of mentor programs (even when accompanied by an article about that exact topic) is taboo?!

Sigh... So what can I do now? Hopefully you are all telling everyone you know about this site. But meantime, I guess I'll just read a few more of today's Tribune articles... in apparent silence:

President Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan writes:

Somehow many of our young people have lost faith in the future. They've been denied love, support and guidance and have grown up believing that their life is not worth anything -- so no one else's life is worth anything either. It is difficult to love when you have never been shown love. It is difficult to build a positive future when you don't think you will live past the age of 18. That's a problem we cannot solve with money or by pointing fingers at each other or by looking the other way. We must engage directly with children -- starting at the youngest age. We must teach them that violence doesn't solve anything and that respect for others is the foundation of a safe and healthy society. All adults share this responsibility, whether it's teaching those lessons to their own children or someone else's. It starts with parents but it continues with others: teachers, coaches, mentors and friends.

The AP writes:

The Obama administration has asked for $25 million in next year's budget for community-based crime prevention programs, Holder said...Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said the administration's high-profile involvement isn't "show and tell," but a genuine commitment to address youth violence.

... You know... we can do SO MUCH with just a small chunk of that money...

Maybe I'll just scream as loud as I can from my blog... in hopes Obama, Duncan, or Daley or someone will hear....






(I still have a little hope.)

1 comment:

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

While it might be nice if the President, or the Mayor, were reading our blog articles, the people we're really looking for are business leaders who pay high taxes because of the costs associated with poverty, and who pay high workforce development costs for the same reasons. They should be investing in tutor/mentor programs because they are a way to reach kids and pull them to jobs and careers, regardless of what the school and elected leaders do.

Anyone can be a hero. Anyone can be a leader. Anyone can say "follow me." If enough people do this, over and over for many years, we'll make an impact on some of the problems the media are writing about. We'll create our own media.

We'll create new people to vote for.

Posted by Dan Bassill, President, Tutor/Mentor Connection. Mike works for me on the T/MC staff.