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MEDIA WATCH: Independent media giving best coverage of Whittier while The New York Times continues to provide corporate spin and lies

Ohanian Comment: This is a remarkable story of parents standing up to power--fighting the city of Chicago for a school library for their children. Substance has been at the site since the beginning, and as George notes, national media are beginning to take notice. Previous coverage includes inspiring quotes from people in the community who are fighting for this library:

Whittier Library Holds Out... Chicago Teachers Union officers to donate books

Parents Fight for School Library [photo]

Chicago Board of Education officials continue to lie as standoff moves into second week

Community breaks police blockade, 'Camp Whittier' gets a second night to demand a library for the children

A professional librarian volunteer is working with parents to catalogue book donations, and, as the Wall Street Journal notes, books are beginning to come in. Wouldn't it be great if La Casita at Whittier Elementary received donations from every state in the country?

Do your part. Send a book or a box of books to:
La Casita
c/o Whittier Elementary
1900 West 23rd Street
Chicago, IL 60608

Please remember, these should be new books or used books in excellent condition.
Whittier Elementary is a dual language school [Spanish] serving PreK-7 students.

Please let me know if you send a book. I'll keep track.

You are what you DO, not what you say.

by George N. Schmidt

The most recent story to show the bankruptcy of the new New York Times approach to covering Chicago news became dramatically clear by Sunday, October 3, 2010, when the Times continued ignoring the major struggle taking place at Whittier Elementary School in Chicago, even after the Wall Street Journal featured the struggle (October 1) in its news pages.

Media presence throughout the La Casita struggle was key to keeping Chicago Public Schools officials from simply ordering Chicago police to clear the area. Four TV cameras were lined up just before the police were supposed to clear out La Casita on September 17 at approximately 2:45 p.m., awaiting the struggle. Substance was inside the building but had been warned that a bust was about to take place.

As Substance has reported previously, the so-called "Chicago News Cooperative" which replaced the Times Chicago bureau, for all intents, in bringing Chicago news to "America's Newspaper of Record" is controlled by the same corporate leaders who dictate that school news be always slanted from the point of view of corporate "school reform." It was no accident that one of the most prominent members of the New Cooperative's Board of Directors was Martin Koldkye, the millionaire venture capitalist who has promoted every privatization and racist scheme to "reform" what are supposed to be Chicago's "failing" schools, deliberately ignoring the vicious racial and class segregation that leave half the city's children living in dire poverty, as if the mechanisms of capitalism and the victims of those mechanisms could be solved by the mere waving of a media spun magic wand.

While the mainstream media have done a fairly decent job (led by Spanish language radio and TV) in covering the dramatic story of "La Casita" and the demands of the Whittier community. Supporters of "La Casita" include teachers, children, parents, and neighbors, helping raise the demand for a real library for their children.

The City of Chicago officially claimed that the building was dangerous to inhabit, but inside (see next photo) the building was clearly OK except for a leaky roof which could easily have been repaired. The notice above was posted on September 17, 2010, after CPS officials had gotten a questionable report from an engineering firm claiming there were problems with the building. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Whittier has a "walking library" like 159 other Chicago elementary schools; that means a teacher takes a cart of books down the hall once or twice a week and drops in on classes, while the children are deprived of a real library and reminded, once again, that poor children are truly second class citizens in the city that gave the USA Arne Duncan as U.S. Secretary of Education.

Like so much that was outright fraud and spin during the years since corporate school reform took over Chicago's schools (beginning with mayoral control under Richard M. Daley on July 1, 1995), the library question was ignored by the city's corporate media elites. While teachers and parents complained about all of these issues regularly (often to be threatened by city and CPS officials), the stories told by Chicago's corporate media were always based on the happy talk of corporate spin, first by the Paul Vallas regime (1995 - 2001), then by Arne Duncan's platitudes (2001 - 2008), and most recently by Ron Huberman (2009 - present) â all the white guys who became magically qualified to run the nation's third largest school system once mayoral control and the controlling corporate myths were firmly in command of the general narrative about urban public education.

The Whittier people had already begin repairing the building, while CPS was preparing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on demolition and millions on projects for the wealthy in other parts of Chicago (such as the complete overhaul of the Ogden school building on Chicago's Gold Coast). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But with the story of "La Casita" beginning to take center stage in the public mind, the narrative, too, may be changing.

Independent media (including Substance) have been covering the story without regard to the spin of the corporate versions of reality.

Some of the people who had been sitting in at La Casita for two days met shortly before the 2:45 police deadline for arresting them on orders of CPS officials Monique Bond and Michael Shields. Every decision since the September 15 beginning of the occupation has been made communally. And La Casita itself has tried to have its own website:


It is now possible to Google "Whittier Elementary School + La Casita" and get dozens of stories in English and Spanish that tell the real story about what's happening in Chicago's schools. 

— George N. Schmidt
Substance News





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