Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Broadband, Narrow Minds

I've been on this Earth and around this town long enough that virulent sourness about what sounds to my ears like positive lifting up of poor people and communities of color rarely surprises me too much.

Even so, I had a hard time swallowing the anger expressed in many of the comments following the Chicago Tribune's article about Mayor Daley's Dec. 21 announcement about the city's attempt to seek federal stimulus funding for a technology initiative in five neighborhoods that are part of LISC/Chicago's New Communities Program.

This will provide broadband Internet access, installation of public computer terminals, and technology education in Auburn Gresham, Englewood, Chicago Lawn, Pilsen and Humboldt Park, which research has shown have a relative lack of this increasingly vital 21st century infrastructure.

A bit more over the top than most, but not a whole lot more, was this screed by someone billed as "steadfast14":

I love how the first "Smart Communities" are most likely populated by some of the dumbest people in the city. What is the high school graduation rate for the people living in the first "Smart Communities?" How many have obtained college or professional degrees? I am sure Englewood has a disproportionately high concentration of MENSA members.

Isn't it great when you see a something that you have to pay for yourself given to those who haven't worked to enjoy it? Isn't even better when those same recipients come from the area of the city where much of the crime comes from and where the inhabitants use a disproportionately high amount of state services others are forced to pay for? Now parts of the city where you don't dare walk alone at night will have high speed internet access, on your dime. Brilliant!!!

(You can read them all here while they last, if you haven't already heard enough. Or, you can find links to the Tribune's and other news organizations' stories here.)

I will refrain here from any snarky reference to steadfast14's education level or likelihood of MENSA membership, but does it occur to him/her that increased access to job boards like or Craigslist might provide a path to employment for "those who haven't worked" -- who, by the way, are pretty numerous in communities of many stripes right now?

Does steadfast14 stop to think that the increased access to computers and skills they provide might provide hope for young people who might otherwise be tempted by the quick bucks that, indeed, cause certain communities to face disproportionate amounts of crime?

That the vast majority of people from these communities don't participate in that crime, and that many are trying to build communities where they can "dare walk alone at night"?

Would he/she really prefer, even if statistics back up the claim (and no references are provided) that residents of these communities continue to "use a disproportionately high amount of state services ... on your dime?"

Does the status quo better fit steadfast14's definition of "Brilliant!!!"?

Or, is it Smarter to provide infrastructure and supports to "teach a man to fish," 21st century-style?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Changing the Face of Science, One Neighborhood at a Time

I've blogged here before about the idea of community science workshops where neighborhood kids and families could go mess around, build rockets, and so forth. Earlier today my friend Gabrielle Lyon took the idea a few steps farther in an op-ed piece on the Huffington Post. Gabe is the co-founder of Project Exploration, which expands access to science by
connecting minority youth and girls with scientists and creating opportunities for youth to explore scientific problems alongside them. Project Exploration is one of Elev8 Chicago's extended-day providers. Their Sisters4Science program is going great guns with middle school girls at Reavis Elementary and Perspectives Calumet Middle School. For a taste of what they are all about, read the article here.