Chicago: meltdown

I saw this astonishing and yet not at all surprising piece by Rich Lowry.

But will anything useful be done about this?  Who wants to bet?

Chicago suffering social meltdown

For most of the country, July Fourth weekend means hot dogs, fireworks and relaxing time with family. In certain neighborhoods in Chicago, it means something very different. For the second year running, Chicago saw a spate of violence over the long holiday weekend that would generate headlines if it happened in Kabul.

“It’s Groundhog Day here in Chicago” is how Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy put it. This year, the tally of shame was more than 80 people shot and 14 killed. Last year, a slightly longer July Fourth weekend — the holiday fell on a Thursday — saw 75 people shot and 12 fatalities.

The astonishing numbers underline how Chicago, despite recent progress on crime, is still a byword for gunplay and urban chaos. It is a city where life, at least among young men living in the most dangerous neighborhoods, is cheap.

Chicago’s killings can’t readily be interpreted through a racial prism, so they don’t provoke gales of outrage from the nation’s opinion-makers. Only very rarely do they become national causes, as in the heartbreaking case of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, shot to death shortly after performing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration last year.

Chicago saw its homicides soar from roughly 430 in 2011 to more than 500 in 2012, before it got them back down below 2011 levels last year, thanks to more aggressive policing. They are running slightly lower again this year, although they are still higher than in New York City, even though Chicago is a third of the size.

Why is Chicago the nation’s murder capital? [BTW… Honduras, where Card. Rodriguez Maradiaga is prelate, is apparently the murder capital of the world.] Its officials always want [pointlessly] to talk about gun laws, and Superintendent McCarthy complained about their laxity after the latest shootings. This is bizarre, since Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and has been slapped down in the courts for trampling on the Second Amendment in its zeal to make it all but impossible to own guns. Chicago is a running illustration of the cliche that if you ban guns, only criminals will own them. [Exactly.]

Gun laws are beside the point. The tony Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park could have the same laws as gun-friendly Vermont and it would still be extremely safe. What Chicago is suffering from is not a random citywide phenomenon, but a specific, highly concentrated one.

Overall, according to Chicago magazine, the rate of nonfatal gunshot injury in Chicago was 46.5 per 100,000 from 2006 to 2012. But it was only 1.62 per 100,000 for whites. For blacks, it was 112.83 per 100,000. For black males, 239.77, and for black males aged 18-34, 599.65, or “a staggering one in 200.

A study by sociologist Andrew Papachristos shows that the shootings overwhelmingly occur among a small network of criminal offenders.

Chicago is grappling with the profound social breakdown of certain neighborhoods, where the two-parent family has been obliterated and where, too often, young men consider lawlessness the norm. It is here, as Heather Mac Donald of City Journal writes, that gang members define themselves not by “family, or academic accomplishments or interests, but ruthless fealty to small, otherwise indistinguishable, pieces of territory.”


One enormous problem: fatherless homes.

When you screw around with how God made us to live, through social engineering and programs which clearly promote a breakdown of the family, civic chaos will be the result.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Juergensen says:

    The good residents of Chicago just need to be patient and give the Democrats another 80 years to finish the job.

  2. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Who needs Planned Parenthood, when Gun Control Laws will do the job?

  3. Dennis Martin says:

    Fatherless homes, eggzackly. In a literal sense, the problem (out-of-wedlock births, single mothering) is growing rapidly among whites, who are catching up to blacks and hispanics.

    But it is also growing more insidiously everywhere else. I’ll give one example, which I know first hand: University education has been mommified and de-fathered. Students are no longer dealt with as adults (which one once was considered to be at age 18) but as adolescents. Are they doing poorly in class, binge drinking, acting out? Well, the problem has to be that they don’t have enough hand-holding “help” to help them make the adjustment from high school to college. Note that this, in effect, has reduced college to high school level rather than pushing the students to become adults, embark on a new stage of life.

    Disability assistance must be thunderously advertised, on every syllabus, around every corner. Hey, I never thought of my self as having a disability, but maybe I do–that’s why I’m getting a lower grade than my buddy. Not my fault. School’s fault. Teacher’s fault. They didn’t help me enough Mommy.

    Mommy, please make the bad MAN stop being so demanding. Please make the bad Man be nice. Mommy, bad Man hurt my feelings. Mommy, bad Man expects too much. Bad Man too legalistic. Bad Man has rigid rules and expectations. Please make him stop.

    College is marketed as an “experience,” a college experience, a group experience, like day-care, kindergarten, high school. Woe be to anyone who insists on rating individual performance firmly and grading comparatively, who insists on rewarding a few outstanding performances, which necessarily informs many others that they are doing average work. (Note, “doing average work”–which means conceivably they could improve their work. But instead of taking it that way, our culture takes it personally: he told me ny work was average, he dissed me as being merely average, he hurt ME. Dare one hope that people might appreciate being informed that their work needs improvement because that knowledge is a great advance ahead of not knowing, not realizing, that one’s performance has failings, which can be corrected?)

    The same applies to a dozen other aspects of our current (dis)culture. We have a fatherless POTUS who exhibits all these traits and has now orchestrated over several years of planning an influx of children (including 18 year old gang members) who need the Mommy State to take care of them.

    Without fathers a society will have no grown-ups. But it will have power-hungry, manipulative, super-smart narcissistic rulers. Not Fathers but Rulers. And Mommified Narcissist Rulers are the worst kind of all. And that’s where we are headed.

  4. incredulous says:

    This could be the Bride’s finest hour. Even the most unaware of us know just how bizarre and inhuman our country has become. The teachings of the church directly relate to every problem embodied in Chicago’s breakdown. Rather than making excuses for divorce, the planned Synod must double down on family, no divorce, and obedience to God.

    Why we need fathers. Why we need mothers. Why we need children. Why sacrifice is required and obedience to God. The opposite of Truth is embodied in the Domocratic party as well as liberalism both inside and outside the Church. Isn’t it time the Church took on these apostacies and that every pulpit should be promoting traditional Catholic doctrine?

  5. gracie says:

    There’s a study somewhere that rings true: Boys have a biological/psychological/sociological need to learn how to be a man. Normally a boy learns that from his father. If the dad isn’t available then other figures – such as uncles/older brothers/ coaches/teachers/family friends – can provide the instruction if they’re a consistent part of a boy’s life. However, when these sources are not available a boy – in his desperation to bond with older men – will turn to the only alternative left, which are the gangs in his neighborhood. Crime, thuggery, rough justice, may be the hallmarks of these groups but – at the same time – they are the last place where many boys can find the acceptance into the world of men that they crave. A woman, no matter how good a mother she may be, cannot provide the male example that a boy needs – only a man can do that. If a boy is left without good men then he’ll take the bad men that are left to him. It’s as basic as that. A society without fathers is a society in meltdown.

  6. lmo1968 says:

    Where were the militias all of these years when the inner cities needed them?

  7. pelerin says:

    Gracie is so right in what she writes. Fr Gordon MacRae in his inspiring Blog ‘These Stone Walls’ has written about the big problem of a society without fathers. He has found that a large number of the youths in prison were brought up without fathers which sadly seemed to have contributed to their turning to crime. The disintigration of the family is one of the biggest problems today.

  8. bookworm says:

    Lowry makes an important distinction that is often ignored by other commenters and that is that certain neighborhoods — NOT the entire city as a whole — are afflicted by these daily random shootings and murders. It is NOT happening in the Loop or on the Magnificent Mile, which is one reason why it is so easy for the powers that be to APPEAR to be doing something about the problem without really doing anything about it. They don’t really have to care whether their “solutions” work or not, so long as it looks good to the media and the potential tourists and corporate executives attending conventions, business meetings, etc. Nor do they have to care about the effect their proposed “solutions”, such as stricter gun control laws, have on people living outside the city or downstate when they are enacted in state law.

  9. RafqasRoad says:

    Dennis Martin commenter #3,

    as a former mature age university student (graduated this April last with a B.Theol) with significant vision impairment that necessitates the use of Braille, use of a guide dog and assistive technology to read and comment upon this blog, I find your characterisation of disability support services at the university level along with those who utilise them inaccurate and an insult to those who have genuinely benefited from support such as transcription of print material into Braille or electronic format that is compatible with abovementioned assistive technology, not to mention provision of note-takers for amputees, physical access for students who use wheelchairs, and the provision of sign interpreters for students with hearing impairment. it is this support that has enabled both myself and many students in similar situations to succeed. At no point has the bar been loered concerning the academic rigour expected of any student with a disability discussed in my comment.

    We don’t choose our disability; in my case surviving micro premi birth at 26 weeks back in 1970 that required hospitalisation for four months and cost me all but 3% of my eyesight is the reason. Any suggestion that ‘we’re not speaking about those like you’ does not hold water either due to initial broad-brushstroke stereotyping that is disingenuous in my thinking, and in the thinking of those students in similar or more profound situations to my own who daily must put in more effort by far to achieve good results than our supposedly ‘able bodied’ counterparts could ever manage.

    So I for one am most thankful for the hard working disability support officers, sign interpreters, scribes, Braille transcribers etc. without whom we’d be back to the good old bad old days of relying upon unreliable fellow students to do for us what their eyes etc. do for them without trying.

    May St. Lucy pray for you, and may Bl. Margaret of Castello also pray for you.

  10. annmarie says:

    How interesting for me personally to read this post and the comments. I just came home from a trip to the Mall in Tucson, sixty five miles north of the border and a sanctuary city which does nothing to stop in influx of illegal immigrants.

    The town is teeming with people from down south and it has been so for years now. No fathers? A crisis? A prelude to chaos? Yes, yes, yes.

    That is exactly what we are importing. The Hispanics with fathers out shopping with the children are those whose families have been here for decades.

    The vast majority of those coming now and in the last twenty years are single young men with tattoos and a swagger who congregate with others like themselves. Add in the single mothers who do not speak English. And we have a Chicago phenomenon in the making. All these thousands of children currently coming in illegally lack one or both parents.

    We will reap the whirlwind as the saying goes. Tucson is a laboratory.

  11. Amateur Scholastic says:

    England had no gun laws at all before 1920. You could buy, own and carry without any paperwork at all. (And it seems lots of people did — look up the ‘Tottenham Outrage’ of 1909.) And the murder rate was incredibly low. In 1903, in all of London, three murders were recorded, and yet this was high enough that the police felt the need to apologise.

    As well as sane, natural law-abiding gun laws, the England of the pre-war era had sane, natural law-abiding punishments for the worst crimes. If you were convicted of murder, you would swing, and the sentence would be carried out within weeks. No ifs, no buts.

  12. Johnno says:

    Everyone needs to understand one specific thing –

    Gun Laws ARE NOT and NEVER WERE about Crime prevention. Only dupes believe that.

    They were then, as they are now about PROTECTING THE CARTELS – those criminal families that call themselves Democrats & Republicans, or who are managing these political front groups from behind the scenes under a fake democracy, FOR THEIR OWN PROTECTION FROM THE CITIZENRY. These are not cartels & gangs like you find on the streets of America. They are the ones who control the creation of Money itself and who have the military as their personal guardsmen.

    Your establishment government and their cronies know very well what it’s doing folks, and it’s got nothing to do with your safety. But their safety from you.

  13. Pingback: Chicago Refugees | The American Catholic

  14. jflare says:

    An insane question perhaps, but I’ll ask anyway:
    Has the Church in Chicago considered asking for outside help of any kind to visit these most desperate areas?
    I have never visited the Windy City, but I’m told it’s maybe about 5 hours drive from where I live. I currently am up to my neck in a Master’s degree, but that should be concluded by sometime next year.
    I can’t help but think that someone like myself ought to be able to do some good for someone while taking a bit of vacation.
    Like I hinted earlier, yes, this is a touch of madness I suppose. I perhaps ought to be looking at the same kinds of needs in this city.
    Still… five hours drive isn’t quite so far as one might think….

  15. wmeyer says:

    Imagine how ridiculous the gun laws must be, if even the courts find they have trampled on the second amendment.

    Outside help is not what’s needed. A great cure would be for ordinary citizens to take advantage of the recent changes in laws to arm themselves. It’s remarkable what happens to criminals when they have to consider that their intended victims could kill them.

  16. Gail F says:

    Such a sad pathology — a twisted version of what manhood is supposed to be. Everything good twisted into a parody of itself, and destroying everything: the young men, their families, their friends, and their neigbhorhoods.

  17. jflare says:

    I’m not arguing that gun laws don’t create serious problems. I think they do. I have considered that, before I buy a pistol or seek a concealed carry permit, I may be well advised to move to another town; I think I’d prefer not to tell any municipality that I have a gun, because I don’t care to have it confiscated if some idiot declares martial law. Especially in that case, I think law enforcement lacks ability to defend my rights and my life.
    On the other hand, this posting strikes me as a commentary about the need for fathers, for appropriate adult, male guidance, especially for young, black men, or rather, younger to late teens. It seems to me to be almost as much about the need for mentorship for young people.
    Granted, my being a white guy might create a difficulty in that many black people seem to still consider a white guy to be a racist and a bigot, simply by virtue of being a white guy, not a black person, like them.
    Still, I can’t help but think that surely some of them can understand that we’re all human beings, we can all understand feeling abandoned, wanting to be able to talk to someone, needing some form of guidance, but not having any real idea of where to turn.
    Much of this violence appears as though it may be almost as much about gaining a sense of self worth as anything else. I’ve generally understood that many gangs begin that way, even though they ultimately wind up coalescing around other reasons.
    I keep thinking we, as Catholics, should be able to do something.

  18. Hans says:

    The problems in Chicago’s neighborhoods are real and profound, as cannot be denied, but there are also many good men in those neighborhoods working every day to bring about positive change. One of my classmates recently sent us this announcement:

    For the last four years the Association of Black Catholic Deacons has hosted a Sunrise Prayer Service at Chicago area beaches to fill the void of violence and hatred with reflection and prayer.

    This year for the fifth anniversary the Chicago Chicago Association of Black Catholic Deacons are uniting at the Oakwood Street Beach [just south of the 39th Street exit of South Lake Shore Drive] on Saturday, August 30 at 6:30 AM.

    Deacons and their wives, priests, members of religious communities, and parishioners are all welcome to join in prayer peace on our city streets and an end to gun violence.

    If you can’t be there in person, be sure to join them in prayer for the conversion of so many hearts.

  19. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    Listen well. You are ALL barking up the wrong tree. I was a trauma surgeon in Chicago for years in the very worst neighborhood there. The reason of the violence is THE SINALOA CARTEL. There is a huge drug trade going on in the city the city and out from it. The trains, the planes, and the highways make it the perfect distribution center. Everybody in North America from NYC to Atlanta to New Orleans to Minneapolis to Toronto to Kanasas City to Dallas to Denver lives within less than a one day’s drive from Chicago. About TEN MILLION people live within the metropolitan area, and million more within the Chicago-Milwaukee conurbation. That’s a great market in and of itself. Call a suburban police department in the area and ask about all the kids dead from overdoses recently. It’s not just an inner city problem. DRUGS WARS are the reason for all the deaths.

    That’s my boots-on -the-ground-once-upon-a-time assessment, but I promise to try to avoid the natural inclination to take my speculations too far. There’s a nice article below.

  20. Hans says:

    Dennis Martin,

    As a university physics professor, I take great exception to your comments about university disability services. I begin each semester telling my students that they won’t be coddled in my class, that “I am not your mom.” I tell them I am more demanding than the other physics professors, and we physics professors are a demanding lot. And they aren’t coddled. I’ve given many an F to students who insist to me that they are ‘A students’. I typically give roughly 5-10% of my students an A, and up to several times that will get an F.

    That being said, I also happily make accommodations for students with disabilities. But those accommodations are always (by every university policy I’ve ever encountered) aimed at making it possible for the students to show what they have learned, not toward making the course somehow easier or less demanding. They take the same test as the other students, generally at the same time.

    In twenty years, I have run across a few students I thought were trying to game the system, but I have found that such behavior is generally self-punishing. However, the vast majority of students who receive disability accommodations (and the numbers aren’t large, always well under 10%) both deserve them and work much harder than my typical student, if only because they must.

    I have had the good fortune and pleasure to follow the career of one such student in university and after for the past sixteen years. She now runs her own very demanding business and manages another. She is also very active in her community, including in matters charitable, and is well-regarded by all who know her. Yet she can only read, a few letters at a time, with the aid of a serious spotting telescope, which she has to carry with her at all times. Her accommodation was that she got preferred seating in front, where she followed my lecture through a telescope (which was an odd experience for me at first, rather like being followed by a camera), and a special copy of the exam printed large enough for her not to need her telescope during the exam. That was it. Same questions. Same mean grader (me). Same grading scale (she earned an A, as I recall).

    So, Mr. Martin, there are many problems with education in this country, and I can go on about them for hours and have done so, but disability services haven’t been among them.

  21. RafqasRoad says:

    hans, commenter #19,

    Thank you, thank you!!

    As a university graduate with a disability (my thoughts on disability support in the university setting have already been shared above), I thank you for defending we students, past and present, with disability.

    Re my own accomodations, I was permitted to record lectures ( custom blindness tech format unreadable by off-the-shelf equipment), received material in Braille and exams in either Braille or a reader. Due to transcription lag-time for some reference materials (two or three transcribers for a nation-wide Catholic university network) extentions were sometimes required but in such instances, I took every effort to submit work by due date, oftentime sacrificing access to transcribed material that became ready a week after the turning in of my work. Occasionally, the lecturers would read material for me – the student body were more engrossed in their various gen Y or gen Alpha pursuits and cleared out after lectures or tutorials, however other mature-age students if time permitted, teamed up. (spare a prayer for the mature age student today who often wrangles job, family and the cares of everyday life your average late teen student doesn’t even have on the peripheries of their social radar as yet – though exceptions exist and they will be the leaders of tomorrow)

    Additionally, the Viva Voce method proved incredibly blindness compatible – with the self same expectations re understanding of the topic tested for as the sighted students. (University lecturers/profs out there, Viva Voce is an amazingly blindness-friendly assessment method that you may wish to employ once you are satisfied that the student is competent re an appropriate level of written communication for the subject being taught.

    Concerning group work, more often than not, I wound up being ‘research-mule’ and didn’t mind a bit, though I’ve my own beliefs on the validity of group presentation at university level in fields other than journalism, advertising or education…

    Upon commencement of the US academic year, I intend to take a mathematics course through Hadley School for the Blind, who, among other things, provide internationally accessible distance adult education courses on just about every field of learning from beginners to community college level – Braille mathematics will be an interesting code to crack as my mathematics school education was absolutely woeful…is there a patron saint I can call upon??

    Anyway, enough rambling and once again, thank you for defending us! May Bl. Hermon ‘the cripple’ intercede for you daily!!

  22. SKAY says:

    New Orleans has the same kinds of problems for the same reasons.

  23. kimberley jean says:

    You know what’s wrong with Chicago? The people. It’s not gun laws, it’s not the government or green aliens. It’s the people. Maybe it’s due to the poison of welfare and the underclass culture but both are made of people.

  24. jflare says:

    Rafqas Road, Hans,
    As an alum of a stubbornly secular university, I take pretty unkindly to both of your comments.

    It may be, Hans, that you demand plenty from your students. I knew plenty of professors in my major who also were stringent and tough. You couldn’t survive in meteorology, chemistry, physics, or other natural sciences without knowing the material pretty well. In fact, my university had been known about 5 years before I attended for having an All-America football player who was also an academic achiever in biology. Sadly, such circumstances did not mean that ALL professors on campus necessarily demanded such talent from their students. I’m sure that the professors demanded academic rigor…as THEY saw it. Judging by the merits of the arguments that others tended to make, I’m forced to comment that I doubt if I would be impressed.
    Shoot! I recall walking into a classroom once after a women’s studies class had let out. Some of the material written on the board struck me as being straight of a radical feminist’s political talking points. And, certainly the University administration had an interest in promoting minority efforts, whether such minorities truly were ready for college…or not.

    Rafqas, I’m sure you did benefit from the various forms of help. Question is, who paid for it?
    I’d hate to guess at how many thousands of students go through school every year without the benefit of various forms of assistance. Either they cannot afford it, or else they find some other way. I’m not at all impressed with the attitudes of disabled people in the last 20 years.

  25. Dennis Martin says:

    For those who are offended, please read what I wrote. Disability services serving those who have clear disabilities are wonderful. I specifically referred to those who game the system, as one of my critics admitted does occur.
    Those who have clear disabilities already know about services. I have, in fact, had multiple instances of students who game the system.

    The parallel is with general government services. On big city radio stations we now have a constant barrage of “government is your friend”; go to .gov, you’ll never know what you find. Mounds of money is wasted trying to market services which, in themselves may be good but which are being marketed in order to justify the present level or argue for greater level of funding.

    I’m all for proper disability services and I cannot see anything, anything, in what I wrote that suggests that I am opposed to them, as my critics seem to think.

    The Mommy comments had to do NOT with students with disabilities but with students in general who are immature, adolescent and insecure. That is a generational thing, in no small part the result of fatherlessness.

    The EXCESSIVE marketing of disability services is one aspect of mommification. I may be permitted to criticize excessive marketing (because it contributes to mommification) without thereby opposing all disability services, may I not???

  26. Dennis Martin says:

    I spent hours last semester making possible an individual tutorial on my own time for a student with severe disabilities, permitting her to complete her degree because the course was otherwise not available.

  27. Dennis Martin says:

    Finally, during the same semester, last semester, I had a student who, 2 weeks into the course (instead of at the beginning), gave me the paperwork for disability assistance (exams to be taken in the disability center, which requires that I send a copy to the center in advance but that she also make an appointment for the exam at the center, upon which basis the center contacts me for the exam). She never did her part, took the exam in class, did well. I talked to her long before the second exam, reminding her to make the arrangements well in advance. She said that because she did well on the first exam, she might just take the second in class. She did, flunked it. So for the last exam, she made the arrangements, I sent the exam to the center, she never showed up to take the exam.

    These borderline cases, where acronymic learning disabilities that may or may not be serious are involved, are what I have in mind when I refer to gaming the system.

    One of my critics mentioned that those who game the system usually end up punishing themselves.

    EGGZACKLY. That’s what happened in the situation described above. But MY point is that these sorts of students might actually have done better had they not been bombarded with marketing of disability services. The basic services are fine, those with significant physical disabilities or severe learning disabilities usually have investigated what support is available long before they register. It’s those on the margins who are NOT well served by the marketing. And the same is true of the over-marketing of victim-hood in all its forms.

  28. Hans says:

    Thank you very much, jflare, for taking unkindly to our comments. Having read what you wrote in reply, I would likely feel dirty if you agreed with us.

    What you wrote tells me that you can’t tell the difference between the privileged status afforded (wrongly) to some student athletes and the equalizing factors provided by disability services for students who have to meet the same academic standards as others.

    What you wrote tells me that you can’t tell the difference between the almost-comical lack of intellectual rigor that can be found in some courses and fields of study and the equality-of-rigor (whatever it may be) required of students who receive assistance through disability services.

    What you wrote tells me that you suffer from a dangerously modernist and un-Christian attitude toward charity by applying a strict cost-benefit analysis to it, not seeing the person who is the recipient of it.

    So please, continue to disagree with me; I will revel in that as much as I would in the disapproval of the instructor of that women’s studies course you disliked so much.

  29. Hans says:

    Dennis, if you think putting a notice in a syllabus is somehow part of a excessive marketing campaign, then you have a cheerfully optimistic view of who actually reads syllabi. I view that announcement more as a form of a form of insurance against those students who come back later and tell me the should have received accommodation but didn’t inform me of it — it’s right there in the syllabus, and they should have acted on it earlier; that’s something that has happened with one of my students.

    (More presently, gotta run.)

  30. RafqasRoad says:


    Once again, thank you, and Dennis, thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty for your student with profound disability, thus enabling her to complete her degree.

    Jflare, re funding for adaptations to facilitate the participation of students with a disability at university, the setup that exists in Australia for the dominant Catholic university and many secular universities is similar. transcription (e.g. Braille, tactile graphics etc) is increasingly handled in house by the university printery as the costs of Braille embossers and translation software begin to fall. this is far more cost effective than delegating transcription work to external agencies such as Vision Australia. physical access for those who use wheelchairs is handled by the body who takes care of campus maintenance. Some universities have their own sign interpreters for deaf students, some delegate this work to external agencies. Re equipment, when purchased, this becomes the property of the institution and not the student, however, I have invested significantly in my own equipment over the past two years as costs permit; there’s a running joke concerning the costs of blindness tech – either double the price or add a few extra zeros. We the end users are as much at the mercy of prices that one could compare to highway robbery as universities and colleges.

    concerning any dispute you may have with attitudes of ‘the disabled’ over the last 20 years or so, even Blesseds have had to endure similar attitudes from the supposedly ‘able bodied’ (e.g. Bl. Margaret of Castello). As far as whittling everything down to pure economics, the logical end of that slippery slope has been ventured down in our not so distant past by nations considered civilized bastions of freedom (not your usual Western European suspects).

    Finally, gauging the academic level (or otherwise) of humanities-related university subjects/degrees based upon the field of ‘womens studies’ is akin to gauging the quality of Roman Catholic liturgy across the board based on one’s experience of the clown mass alone.

    during my second year of university , I had the privilege of meeting a student with significant cerebral palsy who relied on a wheelchair for mobility, had little use of his hands, and a marked speech impediment though after a reasonably short amount of time, I could understand him easily. This man required a personal assistant not just for manual ‘academic’ tasks, but more delicate needs. Would this have been expensive? very likely. Who paid for such assistance, not to mention adaptation of the campus for him and other wheelchair users? the university, with a degree of govt. funding. his family were humble, working class folk. the individual concerned was eloquent, keenly intelegent and most certainly up to the task of undergraduate, then postgraduate study. the economic rationalist strictly user pays model would have precluded him from even considering the possibility of university, despite his obvious mental agility. this individual served, and still serves to inspire me, and like the vast majority of we folk who live with disability, went about his business with patience, good humour and perseverance. We were both thankful that the prevailing attitude had shifted since our earlier years. I would challenge you to regard him as possessing a bad attitude. changes to Australian legislation post 2005 enabled both he and I, plus many others to finally have the opportunity to study, knowing that campuses and material would finally be truly accessible.

    PPS: A shout out to Lux, torpedo 1 and the several text transcribers/proof readers who comment regularly upon Fr. Z.’s blog. .

  31. jflare says:

    Thanks very much for demonstrating the typical academic’s attitude toward anyone who would challenge the academics’ point of view.
    If you wish to argue that those with disabilities are held to the same standards as anyone else, I counter that the grading may be the same on paper, but that doesn’t do much for upholding the same standards for all. I remind you that if two or more students would be treated equally, then all concerned must be given the same opportunities to excel in pretty much the same manner. If you’re offering some form of (extra) services to disabled persons, that inherently requires that such students already have a benefit of some sort that others do not, thus the playing field already has been caused to slant in favor of those with the disabilities, even if only slightly.

    If you wish to argue that I’m being unChristian, bear in mind that you have already insisted on treating two people differently, but most likely are charging the same rate for the education. In that case, you have already begun to undermine the dignity of the person who isn’t disabled, precisely because you insist on treating them the same, even though they clearly are not.

    If you wish to chastise me for applying as cost-benefit analysis, bear in mind that every school does precisely that in order to exist. If you want to blast me for that somehow, bear in mind that such utilitarian concerns are part and parcel to paying your salary as a professor.

    For what it’s worth, I might point out too that I recall reading over every syllabus I ever received at least once precisely so that I’d have some idea of what I’d need to accomplish to pass the course. It may be that mention of disabled services is part of that syllabus, certainly the syllabi I receive now do so.
    If you have students who don’t read the syllabus now and then, they probably discover the hard way that they should have.
    I agree with Dennis though, that schools seem to think that all sorts of people need all sorts of help. I recall being amazed at times that some college graduates could make a cogent statement. Some schools seem quite determined to ensure otherwise.

  32. jflare says:

    I still think it’d be interesting to find out how people from outside Chicago might be able to offer help to those parts of the Windy City that most need guidance from thoughtful people, especially men.

  33. jflare says:

    I’m glad to hear that you’ve invested plenty in technology and so forth and I’d be highly unlikely to discourage anyone from pursuing an education. Even so, I think we do all persons a very grave disservice when we go about insisting that everyone is equal, but then we learn that some are receiving special help. I’m sure the university provides many services, likely many with government funding. That’s my problem. Universities and colleges should exist to teach people something they need to know for the purposes of living life, not promoting a particular group of people for political reasons.

    I’m sure many disabled persons with talent have benefited greatly from various forms of help. I don’t object to that precisely, except that such help does cost something. If we’ve helped various disabled persons to succeed more fully in life, great. Just keep in mind that by doing so, we have also caused someone else who is able-bodied, but not athletic, to be unable to receive the same education. Someone else who could also succeed in life and contribute to society has also been denied the opportunity for doing so because we’ve placed our priorities in a different direction.

    A slippery slope? Maybe, but if so, we’re all living on it. Every time we set a priority to improve something, we should understand that by doing so we’re inherently detracting from something else.
    I don’t believe any economic pie is fixed in value, but I do believe that we too easily ignore the negative consequences of otherwise “virtuous” ideas.

  34. RafqasRoad says:


    I’ve read your latest response to my own comment and (if Fr. Z. as all-powerful and benevolent blogmaster will deign to permit me one more offering), find myself constrained to unpack your premise if I may. to do so, as I perceive it, requires a little drilling beneath the surface into the realm of disability education along with the massive shifts that have taken place in this field over the past 35 years or so.

    In Australia, prior to the 1980’s, ‘mainstreaming’ or ‘integration’ of students with significant disability ( sensory such as hearing/vision loss or physical) into ‘normative’ educational settings was rare (the first pioneer attempts however commenced in NSW during the late 1940’s), with a dropping off until the late 1960’s/1970’s. prior to and during this era, individuals with significant disability received primary and secondary education in specialised settings – schools for the deaf, the blind or attached ‘units’ within the larger mainstream setting for students with either hearing or vision impairment. Within these settings, students (ideally) received education in the alternate format required, learnt skills such as touch typing, Braille, use of residual vision in the case of folk with partial sight, increasingly paired with Braille, though this dropped off for around 15 years sadly in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, safe travel training e.g. use of long cane, and daily living skills beside the regular curriculum. Sports, the arts, and even music were all too often neglected. Furthermore, expectations were generally low re the achievements of students despite individual capacity. The Catholic system of special education that got started here in the late 1930’s fared better, mainstreaming its students with support offered from the specialist school ‘base’ far earlier than its secular counterpart.

    From what I understand, the US model was similar to the Australian model only 30 or so years ahead of us. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, on the eve of the international year of disability in 1981, educational ideology shifted to a model of integration, seeing students with a disability as a normal and natural part of the community, best educated with their non disabled peers. This required the various state depts. of education to ‘tool up’ in order to provide assistance for said students as they did not have an equivalent setup to that of the Catholic education (non Catholic blindness education, for instance, being offered by the Royal NSW institute for deaf and blind children) who continued to provide a bulk of the necessary transcription into Braille and giant print, though no in-class student support or adaptive tech – these expences handed to the dept. education.

    the Community College (TAFE in Australia) and university system never had this sort of investment; early pioneers such as Tilly Aston in the late 1890’s and Mercy Dickenson in the 1930’s relied on volunteer transcription of study material into Braille (tiley had to pull out prior to completion of her B.A. though Mercy succeeded, with the aid of the Queensland Braille Writer’s Association). If I have read you correctly, you would advocate the specialist education model that in the US, reached its zenith with Gallidet University for the Deaf (a comparable university for the blind was touted in the early 20th century but seen as too great a project to fulfil successfully) (though Hadley does an admirable job re adult education and could with adequate funding from its benefactors become a support and transcription hub for mainstream universities, along with American printing House for the Blind and National Braille Press), thus offering an alternative model to each individual university providing in-house support or having to foot the bill. I have my own views re specialist vs. mainstream education and observing the manner in which mainstream education of persons with vision impairment has deteriorated in NSW, I’d be on the wrong side of the ideological fence, I expect.

    I Hope this assists in fostering an understanding between us; I wonder how subsidiarity or a ‘third way’ option could keep the Acton institute types happy without ruling out the potential of persons with significant disability.

    Finally, may I suggest reading Exod 4: 10-12 – we are all made in God’s image.

    Blessings from Australia.

  35. jflare says:

    “This required the various state depts. of education to ‘tool up’ in order to provide assistance for said students as they did not have an equivalent setup to that of the Catholic education (non Catholic blindness education … ”
    “I wonder how subsidiarity or a ‘third way’ option could keep the Acton institute types happy without ruling out the potential of persons with significant disability. ”

    Seems to me you highlight the core problem of the problem with these two statements. Your posting seems to again assume that government should have the right and responsibility to offer education to all persons. I say that the state’s involvement in education should be minimal, as education, being the primary responsibility of parents, should not be in the state’s hands any more than is strictly necessary.
    Let’s not forget, education in general did not begin with government schools in most nations. Schools in the modern West began when churches, private citizens, and civic organizations began deciding that people needed to be educated. With that idea in mind, they began founding schools.

    I think your example of how state education departments began tooling up actually demonstrates a failure of subsidiarity. Someone decided that private education wasn’t adequate in their opinion; rather than collaborate with people to improve private education, they caused a bureaucrat–or group of bureaucrats–to be allowed to take charge of education, claiming that “they knew better”. Thus, parents’ rights as first educators began to be demolished outright or strongly subdued, held accountable to the State.
    I think this was the beginning of the end of the various nations’ understanding of what really needed to be provided for education.

    I agree that disabled persons have talent that should be developed. I remind you, though, that when such provision would be made by the state, that doing so inherently means that other people, those who aren’t disabled, but also have talent, will be shut out and whose talent will be ignored. If you’re going to complain that disabled persons struggle with life, I remind you that all other persons do so as well.

    I think Catholic education providing for the needs of disabled persons would be a great thing. I think that would reflect the best of subsidiarity and causing all persons to be recognized as dignified human beings. In that context, special needs that the average student may be properly addressed by people who’re interested in addressing those concerns.

    I take great exception to the idea that the state ought to be involved.

    PS. If you want to complain about music and the arts having suffered greatly prior to being mainstreamed, I complain that I keep hearing that music and the arts have been and are suffering in the public sphere just as much; secular school boards apparently aren’t so interested in allocating resources for orchestras and the like, but wish to emphasize athletics or something else.

    Private schools have suffered from these difficulties for some time too.

  36. jflare says:

    As an aside, this whole problem with education is, in fact, a symptom of a serious problem that I see in society today; it’s the reason why I ask whether the Church in Chicago has raised the question with anyone outside Chicago. I think it’d be truly marvelous to see millions of us taking some time to offer our time, treasure, and/or effort, as private citizens, to help Chicago.
    No state or federal program will ever be able to replace a concerned citizenry in terms of promoting the cause of human dignity.

  37. Hans says:

    I see, jflare, I’m a mean academic and I hide behind reason, and now you’re going to go cry to your mom? Your arguments had, as I pointed out, nothing to do with your conclusions; instead what you did is argue that bad things happen, so this other thing (disability services) is bad also. Yes, I did notice that.

    I do wonder where in Christian doctrine there is a requirement of equal treatment of all. Please tell me, or try to, because you won’t find it. The commandment is to love your neighbor, not to treat them equally. Dives wasn’t sent to torment in Hades because he ignored the needs of other rich men but of poor Lazarus. And the Samaritan wasn’t commended because he helped the priest and levite step over the the robbers’ victim but because he helped the helpless victim. Equal treatment as such is far less important than love of the person. Go and read what Catholic teaching is on utilitarianism; you will, I suspect, be surprised. (It is, in short, a form of neo-paganism.)

    All that being said, the primary goal in evaluating students is to get a measure of how well they understand the material in question; speed plays a secondary role in that measure — it would be stupid to make it primary. If a right answer arrives after a wrong answer, it is still preferable to the wrong answer. If a student has an impediment unrelated to his ability to understand such that it takes longer to express that understanding, then it is actually leveling the playing field to give them a reasonable amount of extra time. If learning and education were merely a race, then you would be correct in saying it is unfair, but it is not in both regards.

    That said, don’t try (again) to suggest that I’m defending the many stupid things that happen on university campuses with distressing regularity, but on the whole disability services shouldn’t be included in that category.

  38. Hans says:

    Dennis, I had a longer argument, but I’m afraid the longish homily I gave this morning comparing Ahaz and Hezekiah (who, admittedly, doesn’t show up until Friday’s first reading) seems to have taken its place. The gist of the lost argument was that it seems to me that allowing students the freedom to fail as a result of their own actions (or inactions) is a form of treating them as adults.

  39. RafqasRoad says:


    Re the state’s provision of education, in Australia (a series of UK colonies until our Federation in 1901), prior to said federation, henry Parks among others saw the state as a central player in the provision of secular education in the years leading up to the 1880’s, a pivital decade in the provision of state-based secular education in Australia. Prior to 1947 in NSW, secondary education was non-compulsory. In Tasmania, state-based secondary education did not become free to its citizenry until well after WWII. Education of folk with sight loss was not ruled compulsory until the mid 1920’s in QLD and 1930’s in NSW. From Federation, it could be argued, that (especially in the view of those in the US), Australia’s model of service provision has been a government model that may be considered socialist with Govt. ownership of banks and even airlines right up to the 1990’s. The same has been true of utilities such as telecommunications and electricity, the latter still part govt. owned. With two or three exceptions, all Australian universities are public institutions (witht the leading Catholic university also in receipt of govt. funds, as have been Catholic and many elite non-govt. schools from the 1970’s onwards, on the grounds that parents who sent their children to said schools were tax payers also who believed that they deserved a cut of the pie). We have had a national health service for decades and the various states have always payed for the building of hospitals and training of doctors/nurses (outside of the Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist systems). This tradition goes back to the founding of one of Australia’s oldest hospitals during the earliest days of the colony. Trace our history back to Governor Lachlan Macquarie during the colony’s formative years in the early 1800’s and you’ll have a better feel for the manner in which our nation has developed, along with the role Australians see as fitting for the government to hold, on both sides of the political aisle, though this has changed somewhat over the last decade or so as we turn away from our English heritage and begin to more closely resemble the US.

    I welcome other Australian readers/commenters contributing to the discussion as they see fit.

    Blessings from the Antipodes.

  40. Hans says:

    EoinOBolguidhir, it’s not something I know about personally, but there’s a great little cigar shop near campus that’s popular with CPD SWAT and other such ‘special forces’ (I sometimes call it “the safest place in the city of Chicago”), and what I hear there tells me there is merit in what you say. But there is also a strong correlation (a trend but not a hard rule) between the lack of a strong father-figure in a family and greater involvement in street gangs.

  41. jflare says:

    Good Evening, Hans,
    As I said before, I think your views typify the attitude that I’ve heard from academia at large, and I do think it travesty.
    I agree that Christian doctrine does emphasize love, not equality, but I think you’re gravely mistaken if you think a college or university operates exclusively from a viewpoint of loving charity. By virtue of a need to pay bills, every school charges tuition, room and board, and books. Other needs will be filled by other charges as students carry on with studies. In this sense, each school must answer to the need to treat all students equally.
    If you want to argue that a right answer that comes after a wrong answer beats never receiving a right answer, or if you want to argue that speed is not as important as content, then I suggest you demonstrate that with your grading. I suspect that if a student does not provide the correct answer within the amount of time allotted for a test, you most likely do not change the grade if a student might remember that correct answer two hours later and informs you. That being the case, it seems to me that you don’t follow your logic about time and equality when it counts most.

    I think your argument about leveling the playing field sounds like a typical…reason provided. An impediment that a student might have cannot be completely presumed to be irrelevant. Real life doesn’t allow for such dismissals. If a man can’t see very well or can’t reason through a problem adequately, he’s going to learn the hard way that life doesn’t offer second chances quite as easily as a college. It may not immediately cost money, but it will cost something, perhaps credibility for next time. Those can add up quite quickly.

    I could try offering better examples perhaps, but suffice to say, I don’t think disability services benefit people or society nearly the way some might wish.

  42. jflare says:

    It may be that government sponsored education would be the status quo in Australia. I question whether this needs to remain the case. If it’s true that non-secular schools have begun receiving government funding for providing education and/or that Catholic interests have sought funding from state resources on grounds of having an equal share, well, much the same happens here in America.
    I find this to be a lamentable circumstance!

    I think it would be better if people would cause their federal and state governments to cease spending as much, thus allowing taxes to be cut, thus allowing various interests to found their own schools as they see fit.
    I seem to be sadly in a state of being a definitive minority in this matter; most Catholics, clergy and lay alike, but especially our bishops and their Conference, seem to think we need government to address these issues, though I’ve never come across a competent reason why.

    I do wonder how we intend to be a government or nation Of, By, or For the People, if we constantly lean of government resources for everything.

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