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“What but design of darkness to appall?” — from Robert Frost’s Design

How can you teach children in a community that is hungry for food? I’m talking about kids suffering from severe hunger. Children who — also — have no way to secure proper medical attention when they’re sick. Little ones whose parents can’t find work.

Since Martin’s time things have gotten worse. Socially and economically. Spiritually too. I shouldn’t have to spell out how. I won’t.

Linda Lutton went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, like I did. Though much later than my freshman year of 1960-61. Also, unlike me, she’s won lots of awards. At least one of them came from Columbia University’s realm of journalism, the institution which granted me my M.A. back in 1965… long before she was born. Still, we have been crossing paths, you might say, at different times… until today, when I listened to her “The View from Room 2005.”

She got to me with her portrait of William Penn Elementary School, lodged in a very poor, violent section of Chicago. And I’ve already left messages for the Principal Dr. Sheryl Moore-Ollie and Congressman Danny Davis of the 7th District of Illinois, hoping to make an offer they can’t refuse. One which would have me relocating to Chicago to serve their educational purposes, while — simultaneously — finding a way to serve FOOD to the youngsters through regular donations I would solicit from the richer citizens of Chicago. Nutritious food, not the insufficient fare that’s handed out by the federal government through its WIC program… some of the most highly educated folks in the country unaware of the serious downsides of what’s recommended and offered, absorbed and applauded.

But that can be addressed — the WIC worries — another time. Just like there’s time to prepare the children to pass the tests which are imposed on them by the federal government and its counterparts on the state level. First, good food.

Prepare-Persist-Perfect reads the byline in the school’s online presentation. Can’t do any of that if you’re hungry, can you? And even if you secure decent food, or any food at all to fill your tummy, you’re not going to be likely to honor the byline if you’re living in fear, if violence rules your neighborhood, are you?

Well, I’m going to do something about all that. If the influential in Chicago will invite me out to their Cook County realm to cook up a perfect storm. Here’s hoping I have better luck than my colleague has had with the authorities in New Orleans recently. He wrote an article for this site recently describing his interest in doing in Louisiana — essentially — what I want to do in Illinois: Change the focus of Education, meaningfully address matters which are being ignored, upset the apple cart… the one containing the fruit which constitutes what’s as American as apple pie in academia.

He’s only come up with unrequited outreach thus far, and that’s been the experience of a number of colleagues in my quarters who have tried to volunteer in besieged realms across the country. Of course, their volunteer gestures would have been welcomed if they had offered to prop up what’s currently in place, but that wasn’t the case. They were — quite clearly — intending to introduce a new paradigm for the education of youth, and consequently learned that no one was interested in giving them the time of day.

I referenced Dr. Martin Luther King above; he used to live near where William Penn School presently sits, savagely segregated into violent, degrading quarters, a realm which seems to have been designed to bring about failure by the powers that be.

I tell you here and now, given half the chance by those calling the shots on the Local School Council for William Penn School, either I will venture to Chicago or one or more of my colleagues will, and attempt to create the watershed in history which is now necessary.

It is the appalling Grand Design of Darkness which we must find a way to undermine.

Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at aptosnews@gmail.com.

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