Jake Turner ’11 – They call Chicago “The Windy City.” Well, today the appropriate moniker would have been “The Rainy City.” While the weather was not perfect today, my experience so far at Whitney Young High School has been flawless. WYHS is a magnet school on the near Westside of Chicago that is extremely diverse. The school’s enrollment of roughly 2200 students consists of 31% African-American students, 21% Latino students, roughly 18% Asian students, and 30% Caucasian students. In regards to racial diversity, this is a far cry from Crawfordsville High School, which was where I did my student teaching this past semester.
I am observing and teaching in the English department. My host teacher has three English 9 classes and two Speech & Debate classes. For the most part, the students seem eager to learn and excited about school. In the English classes, the students are reading and discussing The Odyssey, while in the Speech classes, the students are participating in debates. I watched a debate today over whether or not Physical Education should be required for all four years of high school. It was an interesting debate on a fascinating issue, and the students performed admirably. After the debate concluded, I was able to participate in a class discussion and probe the students about their true feelings on the subject.
By in large, the students seemed to agree that while exercising and living a healthy lifestyle are important, the students should have the option of choosing – or not choosing – to participate in Physical Education classes during the latter part of their high school careers (currently, WYHS students are only required to take P.E. classes during their freshman and sophomore years).
Through only two days in a CPS school, I have already learned many things. First, students in CPS schools, or at least in WYHS, are very similar to the students with whom I am familiar in Montgomery County schools. While there is much more racial diversity in the CPS schools, the issues – such as student apathy and tardiness – that students and teachers are forced to deal with here are similar to the ones with which their peers deal with in Montgomery County. Also, like so many other schools across the nation, CPS schools are being forced to deal with budget cuts. Just this past week, over 300 WYHS students staged a walkout in order to show their support of the teachers whom will be cut at the conclusion of the school year. Despite the fact that it is such a large school, the students at WYHS actually seem more involved and engaged in their academics than the students from back home. This is refreshing and inspiring to me.
I believe that many inner-city schools across the country get a bad rap. However, Whitney Young High School and its students have proven to at least one future educator that the will to learn and succeed transcends and supersedes racial and social boundaries.
In Photo: Turner talking with Education Professor Michelle Pittard.