Education Secretary Arne Duncan: Chicago youth violence 'devastating'

The most somber note in Wednesday's Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters came when Education Secretary Arne Duncan was asked about the murders of young people in Chicago.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast Tuesday that the US communities needed to rally against violence.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a largely upbeat message about progress on education issues when he met with reporters Wednesday. While noting there is “lots of hard work ahead,” he said in the past 20 months progress has “far exceeded my wildest hopes.”

The most somber note in Duncan’s meeting with reporters at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast came when he was asked about the murders of young people in Chicago. “The violence in Chicago and other places around the country is devastating. I thought it couldn’t get much worse than when I was there. I think in fact it has gotten worse. It is staggering,” Duncan said. “This continues to haunt me."

During his time as CEO of the Chicago school system, youth-related violence was “by far, by far the toughest issue that I dealt with. Nothing came close, nothing came close," Duncan said.

The Secretary admitted "I don’t have any answers on it.” He spoke of the need to “rally the community to become intolerant of this. How we rally the broader community to understand we don’t live in Iraq. That our children have to be safe coming home from school. There is clearly a huge amount of work to be done and a number of innocent kids that continue to be killed is staggering.”

While Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder were sent to Chicago by President Obama in 2009 to address the violence in the Windy City, Duncan cautioned, “It is not just Chicago. I was in Oakland, California two weeks ago, [which faces] the same challenges. This is a national issue and I think the public too often likes to turn a blind eye. That is part of the problem.”

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