Adisa Banjoko of the Hip Hop Chess Federation penned an interesting essay titled, “Illusory Protection: Education & The Prison Industrial Complex”. This piece deals with his own experience as a security guard at John McConnell Elementary School and some of the disturbing trends he saw amongst Black and Latino students.
Co-written with Arash Daneshzadeh, the crux of the article points to the failure not merely the students, but with the system that is supposed to serve them. It is this failing system that sets the students in to a cycle of waywardness, crime and prison. He points to the failed system being a feeder into “The New Jim Crow” which is a reference to Michelle Alexander’s best-selling book. Banjoko points out the stark reality…
We get up every morning, kiss our kids on the head and go into work. Most of us feel like they are getting an education that will give them an edge. The truth is, that is not happening. These schools are giving parents and children a sense of illusory protection, simply because they attend. With the dropout rates as high as they are, it’s clearly not a safe move to keep on the path we now stand. The structural imbalance between communities and school personnel is reflected in broken relationships that, at times, fester into symptoms related to the school-to-prison pipeline. And students are blamed for resisting curriculum that fails to acknowledge their autonomy and their cultural loam. In short, “school norming” is a euphemism for cultural erasure and student defiance amounts to self-defense.
Thus, the remedy that Banjoko proposes is one of a teaching that instills discipline. In fact, his Hip Hop Chess Federation has as a primary tenet the notion of combating this malaise by teaching students how to make batter decisions through chess, hip-hop and martial arts, three oxymoronic metaphors for non-violence. The essay is an interesting read and perhaps there needs to be an empirical study done in the newly-formed Journal of Chess Research. There is certainly enough initiatives touting the same message.