Another two years gone, and still the same old song in 2010.
The Philadelphia Inquirer of August 28, 2008 reported that the State of Pennsylvania identified Vare Middle School as “persistently violent.” When I attended the then called Vare Jr. High in 1955 and 1956, I saw a kid’s hand run into a bandsaw by the resident gang members. I and my buddies paid extortion fees every day at lunch to the same thugs right under the noses of the teachers. Also, the same hoods forced us to run naked through many a gauntlet of wet snapping towels -- and an occasional belt -- in the locker rooms.
I graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1960, also listed as dangerous in the 2008 article, and saw little violence personally. I was in the Academic Track and somewhat isolated from most of the school. But I did see a teacher, with great deference, carry the books of the son of a local judge. The son was driven to school on occasion in a limousine, became a State legislator in his adulthood and spent some time in prison for various offenses. A high-class hood.
Also on the list of persistently violent schools was Edison High, where my wife in 1966 witnessed a boy being dragged down a corridor spraying blood from a neck artery. My wife spent part of her career in several other of the listed schools and ended up in Frankford High School, also on the list of dishonor. She took early retirement three years ago rather than continue to work where her car was regularly vandalized, the principal’s leg was broken by a student and reports of fire-fights – with real bullets -- were not infrequent.
Seventeen other schools were listed. What is most curious is that over the years from 1955 to 2010 many a new superintendent has come and gone: each time with great fanfare and newpaper reports of high promise. Each one has left, with overweening praise for his or her accomplishments filling the local papers. And yet these same papers, clucking and mooing loudly, seem not to tire of reporting how student achievement is falling and violence is rising.
Can school systems deal with such things? If not, why pay superintendents such high salaries? Why cover it up in the newspapers?
To examine these issues further, see School Violence, Punishment, and Justice