Friday, September 19, 2014

No ‘Obama High’ anytime soon, at least not one within Chicago proper

It seems there won’t be a high school any time soon in Chicago named for President Barack Obama.


For months, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had made such a suggestion, saying that a new school building to be constructed near the site of the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex would get the president’s name.\


OF COURSE, THAT aroused the anger of those individuals who don’t want anything that could be perceived as a tribute to the current president. But it also outraged the majority African-American population of the city’s South Side; who believe that any school bearing the current president’s name ought to be located somewhere south of Roosevelt Road.


It certainly shouldn’t be located in an area so close to the Gold Coast where the perception was that the demolition of Cabrini-Green was done more to chase black people away from the wealthy part of Chicago, rather than any concern for the area’s future development.


It probably would result in a majority white enrollment at such a school named for the nation’s first president of African-American racial origins.


The perception was that Emanuel was offering up the idea of an Obama school as a gesture of sorts to African-American voters, many of whom are still disgusted at the notion that many of the school facilities that were closed in recent years were in their neighborhoods.


AS THOUGH THE problems with Chicago schools exist because of the high black enrollments, rather than neglect of such schools by past and present administrations.


Black voters seem to have saw through the tactic. At least one alderman wondered why the mayor didn’t try to focus on getting a decent supermarket into some of the more impoverished neighborhoods of the city – ones that such chains often avoid like the plague.


Others wonder why city officials couldn’t build a new high school with college preparatory programs somewhere on the South Side, rather than the near north where some think there already are enough quality schools – this one would be just a few blocks from the Walter Payton College Preparatory School in the River North neighborhood.


Although it should be noted that while Emanuel is backing off his talk of naming a school for Obama, he’s not giving up on building a school near north in Chicago – a facility that supposedly will accommodate about 1,200 students and will be built by 2017.


NOT THAT THERE won’t be school facilities in the Chicago area bearing the Obama monicker. Officials with Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 in the south suburbs announced recently their plans to rename a couple of existing schools.


One will be called the Barack Obama School of Leadership and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, while the other will now be the Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts.


Perhaps Emanuel’s real mistake was in not including the first lady in his plans to pay tribute to his former boss (the mayor is the former White House chief of staff).


Maybe South Side Chicago would have been more receptive to paying tribute to the South Shore neighborhood native than to the guy who came to us following a childhood in Honolulu?


PERSONALLY, I’M WARY of naming buildings or streets for people. It can result in too many trivial types getting honors. How many Carol Moseley-Braun schools are there in existence that wish they could “take back” their choice of a name that a couple of decades ago seemed like a natural tribute?


Then again, I went to elementary schools named for World War II generals George S. Patton and Dwight Eisenhower (along with a junior high school named to be a memorial to that war’s soldiers). Perhaps I’m just too engrained to think that the modern-day politicos whom I have written about can’t possibly be old enough to be worthy of such a designation.


Just as I can already envision the political fight of the future when somebody proposes naming a school for Emanuel himself!



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