A few months after the baseball team on the North Side of Chicago won its last world championship, Daniel Burnham famously launched The Plan of Chicago—a grand slam of a city plan that brought order and dignity to a region nearly destroyed by the ascent of the wretched Cubs. Or so a version of history goes. Never mind that Mr. Burnham’s Plan and the health of the Windy City were hardly swayed or threatened by the Cub’s ephemeral flirtation with beautiful baseball 102 years ago. What’s important here is that once upon a time Daniel Burnham cried foul and an entire city straightened its swing.
South Side (White Sox) to North Side (Cubs) slurs aside, Daniel Burnham’s Plan did indeed rescue a city in dire need of correction. Mr. Burnham’s Plan was the primary document that roused feckless politicians and galvanized civic reformers into re-imagining and re-configuring a city that poet Carl Sandburg would soon thereafter proclaim as having risen from under the smoke…under the terrible burden of destiny…laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle.
More than a hundred years, and countless battles later (*mostly mayoral and aldermanic hustles-cum-clashes—save the occasional, “shoot to kill” directive…), Chicago stands tall as a global player. Yet this city will again spend 100’s of millions more this year than its $6 billion budget allows. Moreover, on May 16, 2011 an eponymous Machine will build, break, and rebuild the City that Works for the first time in 22 years sans Daley diesel. Instead, a man brazen enough to call shotgun while a well-appointed seat was still very occupied by Hizzoner’s son—will brace for a cacophony of millions of heavily taxed and intolerant—and no longer laughing—citizens ready to fling magnetic…catcalls from the backseat: ‘Where are we going? Are we there yet? What’s Your Plan? Are we There Yet?’
“Asking Questions and Living Into the Answers” wasn’t one of mayor-elect Rahm Emmanuel’s campaign pledges, but it should be a guide to meeting unprecedented challenges on the 5th floor of City Hall and throughout Chicago’s 50 wards. However, if sending a dead fish to a political rival remains Mr. Emmanuel’s most creative response to crisis, then Global Citizenship Experience (GCE) founder-director, Eric Davis will not have to worry about pressures from Chicago’s politically incorrect to share his rights to a winning maxim.
Capturing the spirit of Daniel Burnham’s Plan, Mr. Davis presents GCE—a secondary school thriving in its first full year—as a progressive remedy to neglected turf (Chicago-area education) in need of repair. Mr. Davis explains that while his work with Educational Endeavors and Camp of Dreams (also Davis-led initiatives) has more than capably satisfied programming interests in approximately 100 schools in the Chicago area, GCE is an attempt to give students a more complete education.
Mr. Davis, like Mr. Burnham, has assembled a team of brilliant innovators, who cannot resist the opportunity to help him fashion a more productive, and eminently more satisfying urban domain. GCE Chicago High School has thus become a living laboratory—an open answer to the question of how teenagers receive a quality education that is grander, better organized, and reflective of research promoting understanding for tomorrow.
But there are side effects: a stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth has infected many who’ve indulged in learning at the friendly confines of GCE on the North Side of Chicago, and word is spreading that the Curse (Success!) of GCE has legs, a bus pass, and no time to lose. As summer beckons, GCE—like the Chicago Cubs—will work feverishly to achieve success before taking off most of June and July.
Relax. It’s all part of the Plan.