Monday, April 29, 2013

What's the not-so-hidden curriculum at Walter Payton College Prep?

I know that Payton kids score high on standardized tests. The question is, what are they learning? What's the hidden curriculum?

Payton was in the news twice last week. Once for being the school of choice for the rich and powerful within CPS's two-tier system of supposedly public education. The other for its refusal to allow their baseball team to play a game at predominantly-black Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep in Roseland. Don't you love all this College Prep stuff?

Whether it's billionaire clout monger, Bruce Rauner buying his kid's entry through Payton's back door, from Arne Duncan, or parents' racist elitism (what else could it be? No north-side student has ever been harmed playing sports at Brooks) the school, which admits a third of its students from private elementary schools, has now become a poster child for this city's apartheid education system, a system that will only be reinforced through the mayor's closing of 54 schools, nearly all in the African-American community.

Walter Payton graduated high school in Mississippi in '72.
Kudos to Brooks coach, Herbert Redmond for calling the Payton snub for what it was -- "racism", and to coach Bryan Street for refusing to schedule any more games with Payton's baseball team. As a high school coach myself, I think all our school teams should follow suit and boycott Payton.

Shame on CPS liar-in-chief Becky Carroll and CPS officials who tried to cover-up the incident, telling the press it was a "scheduling and transportation problem."

Payton, which was built on the ruins of the formerly black community around Cabrini Green, should also be forced to change its name. Their actions dishonor the name of Chicago Bears football legend Walter Payton, who graduated high school in 1972 and had to play within Mississippi's segregated system of school athletics. Payton's own school, Jefferson High in Columbia, was "integrated" with neighboring Columbia High School, but Payton and his teammates boycotted spring practice when their head coach, Charles L. Boston, had to take an assistant's job to Columbia's white coach. Payton's battle against segregation left a lasting mark on him as I'm sure it will on many Brooks' snubbed student/athletes.

In fairness, it's not the students who are the problem here. Payton students have a great track record when it comes to speaking out against racism and elitism.


  1. Yes, boycott Payton until they are willing to compete against ALL Chicago high schools, black, white or brown.

  2. They should change their name to Rauner/Duncan Patronage High.

  3. Because the vast majority of Payton kids are neither rich or connected, is it fair to tar them with the same brush as Bruce Rauner, whom we can thank for funding Stand for Children, Rahm Emanuel and SB7?

    Payton kids always play every team on the schedule. The night ball game had been rescheduled Wednesday, and there was no bus service to get kids to Pullman, where, btw, two men had been shot and killed last week.

  4. What do you mean, "no bus service"?

    All the coach or A.D. has to do is call the bus company and reschedule. Doesn't take much. Chicago sports teams do it all the time. No, they didn't cancel because of a bus. They cancelled because parents had preconceived notions about Brooks and the black community.

    As for shootings, unfortunately they occur weekly near almost every school. If you play a sport in the city, you are always playing in or near a neighborhood(including Payton's) where a violent incident has taken place. But playing on Payton's baseball team is one of the safest things a young Chicagoan can do.

    The cancellation was wrong. But nobody is blaming the students. See the last paragraph in my blog. It's a small group of powerful parents with cowardly acquiescence from coaches and administrators, who have muddied Payton's reputation.

    1. Hi Mike. I'm a former student of yours. Coach Witleder forgot to order the bus for that Saturday. He should have just apologized for THAT. But he was already in trouble with the AD for budgetary issues, failure to comply with scheduling requests -- I can provide you direct proof of that in person should you be interested -- and many other, astonishing at times, breaches of professionalism. His official policy with students and other coaches is "no email," so there can be no record of his lightning quick schedule changes and general negligence. Every student of mine who played for him has attested to this, unsolicited. So he painted the parents as boogeymen in the press hoping the media storm and presumption that a "selective enrollment school must be elitist" would cover his butt. There were a LOT of rainouts this year, so he was surely feeling the schedule pinch, too, after this flub and did something desperate. This is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Payton is very far from a racist institution, and this is manifest in every aspect of student life. Witleder cancelled the game. This was on him in every way, and NOBODY else. With all well-earned-and-due respect to Coach Redmond, racism was a specter floated by one irresponsible and manipulative narcissist, not anyone who spends their time at Payton or raises the varied and remarkable, thoughtful individuals who put everything they have into the work done in its classrooms. And lastly, many parents at many schools -- even in the Ozzie and Harriet suburbs -- have serious, if sometimes overprotective, reservations about 15-17-year-olds riding a bus at night. Having met several such parents in the city, and having chaperoned teams on public trans, race NEVER came up. I hope all is well with you and yours.

  5. Not that I have to justify anything, but here goes....I live about 4 blocks away from the former Mendel Catholic High School, now Gwendolyn Brooks. It's a beautiful school, and they've never had any problems up there nor in the surrounding community (unless you count the fact that Brooks is not funded in the same way that Payton and Northside are; see Catalyst articles from a few years ago, as well as others, for info about that).

    Roseland has indeed changed over the years, but there's irony in this change because the very reason Payton stands where it does today is because low income people from the Cabrini Green, etc were displaced to make way for the school and the eventual whitening of that area. Over the years, displaced residents were steered to communities like Roseland, Englewood, Chatham, etc, without the assistance and relocation help promised them by the CHA. So now people like the Payton parents want to blame US for resulting problems and look at us like we are the problem when in fact they and their compadres in city hall set all of this in motion years ago. But I digress because what do they care? Please, just stay away.

    As Mr. Klonsky notes, there are quite a few rich and powerful parents at Walter Payton. When my daughter applied to various city high schools, we looked into Payton. I can tell you that 2/3 of the students there attended private elementary schools (Parker, Lab, etc come to mind). This was straight from the mouth of the woman heading the PTA at Payton at that time. From the information we gathered (and it looks like it is about the same today), 30% of the school population is economically disadvantaged (compared with may CPS schools that are higher than 85%), so I beg to differ with Anonymous in saying that the majority of students attending Payton are not well-off in comparison to students at the majority of our schools. In fact, attending an open house at Payton is a great lesson in schmoozing and pandering, with parents openly asking teachers what it will take to get their children admitted to the school, and students so smug and unaware that they didn't understand that their school had amenities (extra sets of books, actual working computers, a 16:1 student/teacher ratio which I think was 15:1 when we visited, floor to ceiling windows and air conditioning) that other schools only dream about.

    Shootings occur in a variety of places. This weekend, for example, there were several shootings on the Near West/Near North side areas. Perhaps their children shouldn't attend school or go anywhere at all, as violence occurs throughout this city.

    If the good people at Payton don't want to come to the Far Southside of the city, please don't feel obligated to do so. We have enough problems without having to endure the hatred and bigotry that comes with racism and racists.

  6. A lot of heat, but not much light here.

    No bus service was offered to the team for that make-up game on Sat. night. Kids or parents would have to drive.

    Been nice if you'd put your last paragraph first; would have set a more reasonable tone.

  7. That's ridiculous anon. Bus service is in the school budget. To blame this insult to the Brooks community on the bus service makes it even worse. Not surprised that you wouldn't sign that comment. If that was the case, why would your coach be apologizing? Why would the narrative be about how dangerous Brook is? My paragraph, whether last or first makes no difference. I made it clear that it was not the students who were the problem, but rather, the victims -- on both teams. Payton's administration owes Brooks and apology, not an excuse. And there should be some consequences by ISHA.

    1. The game is rescheduled for this Saturday evening at Brooks (see Tribune). Payton has never refused to play a game because of the neighborhood. The coach had failed to reserve a bus for this game. The team had just played an afternoon game with Von Steuben. The coach's suggestion was to take public transportation. Parents voted no. Perhaps the coach should apologize for calling the media instead of the bus company.

  8. So the game has been rescheduled ... as it should have been in the beginning if the sole objection was transportation or being mad at the coach for being disorganized or lacking in communication skills. From the very beginning parents framed it as a "safety" issue. Why are BBB and Rahm jumping in if not to rewrite the narrative to make it about transportation? FYI, I'm a Whitney Young parent and it's accepted we don't have buses on weekends. And, with all of the rainouts, we often get 24 hours notice or less about games. And we deal with it just fine. Ever hear of car pools?

  9. From today's Sun-Times:

    On Saturday, Payton head coach William Wittleder told the Sun-Times, “About three, four parents [came] up to me, saying they’re not letting their kids go down there.” Wittleder called the decision to cancel the game “one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had.”

    Payton Principal Devine said the cancellation had nothing to do with “race or purported violence in the Roseland community.”

    Which is it? The Roseland community or "down there".

  10. Mark Konkol at DNAInfo:

    One parent, a former South Sider, said the neighborhood “isn’t what it used to be.”

    If you’re from Chicago — the most segregated city in America — I don’t have to tell you what that means. You’ve heard it before.

    Read more:

  11. Why doesn't Ald. Beale take positive action on crime and protest the mayor's refusal to add police. The CPD is down 2,000 officers.

    Why doesn't Fr. Pfleger take positive action and protest the mayor's closing down 54 schools, firing hundreds and hundreds of A.A. teachers, while crowding 30,000 black kids into huge classrooms with very high student teacher ratios?


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.