A group of shirtless young men ran down an otherwise quiet Austin street, followed by several persons brandishing guns. The men with the weapons shoot, endangering the lives of everyone in the area.

A movie? No. This is real life in the Austin community. Austin needs more than a few cameras. Clearly, aldermen Mitts, Carothers and Smith should hold a summit with church leaders, block clubs, CAPS, Chicago Public Schools, the Department of Children and Family Services and Juvenile Court officials. The objective? To put an end to the senseless violence that threatens the quality of life of this community and which is destroying Austin’s children.

To achieve a permanent reduction of crime, African-American communities like Austin must find a way to increase the educational level of the young. The sad reality is that most of the persons who are in the streets selling drugs and perpetrating violence on the community are a part of the large mass of educationally deficient persons who either dropped out of school or graduated without a sufficient education. These young men and women are often functionally illiterate.

This problem was recently documented in a report prepared by Derek Neal, a University of Chicago economist. An April 28 article in the Chicago Sun-Times indicated that between 1997 and 2004, the gap in reading and math scores widened between black and white students in Chicago. The gap in 2004 was around 40 percent.

It is a disgrace for which African-American leaders and families must take full blame. Black youth deserve better than to be intellectually second-class citizens. In the past, this could have been blamed on white people. Today, however, African Americans must shoulder all of the responsibility. Chicagoans have had the opportunity during the past 20 years to elect a black mayor, black superintendents of schools and African Americans as chairman of the board for CPS.

But black parents and leaders sold out the inheritance of Chicago’s African-American children. Blacks with important positions took care of the teachers, the corporate segment of the city, and their own selfish concerns while neglecting the substantial needs of Chicago’s African-American children.

According to Neal, the factors that potentially impact low scoring by African-American youth include:

1) High unemployment rate,

2) Lower wages for low-skilled workers,

3) Growing prison rates for black males,

4) The crack epidemic,

5) Differences in black and white investment in their children, and

6) How blacks parent.

Too often, African-American parents have failed to invest in their children’s educational futures. These individuals have spent millions of dollars on expensive gym shoes, jewelry, electronic equipment and clothes?”but not a dime to foster cultural intellectualism.

The current African-American culture runs counter to what older blacks grew up with. The old ways promoted the idea of obtaining an education as the one thing that no one could take away from you. African Americans sought to be the best and to be dignified and respectful.

Those who are selling drugs and engaging in violent behavior know none of this. For them, teachers are not teaching and parents are not creating an atmosphere where education is revered. To save these young people and stop the shootings, I would urge aldermen Carothers, Mitts and Smith to take leadership in formulating further changes in the law that will foster respect for education by children and their families

Parents of failing children ought to be fined or made to do public service. Any child whose education has been seriously neglected by the parents should be considered “abused” and the parent or parents prosecuted. Furthermore, state law must be changed so that teachers and principals are absolved from any liability resulting from spanking or punishing unruly children.

Finally, any child who is found to be disrespectful to an adult, teacher or principal has to serve not less than a day in a juvenile detention center.