For all the hand-wringing that occurs in Forest Park over the existence – or lack thereof – of outdoor basketball courts, the hoops are simply a symptom. The bigger issue is the relationship between the Park District, the municipality and the schools.
Recreational and social opportunities for kids in Forest Park are favorite subjects for all three taxing bodies. “What about the children” is always a popular refrain during elections. In many cases the schools, the village and the parks have each proven themselves deserving of praise and scorn when it comes to providing services for Forest Park’s youth. Still, we think it remains to be seen whether a more thoughtful relationship can be forged. The hardwood – or in this case, asphalt – seems as good a place to start as any.
Two of the primary subjects in the discussion of who should be doing what deal with responsibility and money. Arguably, the village has plenty to do without further dedicating its resources to recreation, which is the sole function of the Park District. Kids spend an amazing amount of time at school already, but each year society asks a little more of its educators. No one wants to be fingered for shirking their duty to kids and teens, but where are the boundaries that tell us which agency gets the bill?
Only a cooperative partnership moving toward specific goals will spell that out.
In answering the cry for outdoor hoops the Review would like to suggest that the courts must be regulated in some fashion. During the Wednesday evening hoop sessions at the middle school, a village committee and the police department have agreed to keep an adult onsite. They’ve also established an age limit. It may not be possible to provide 24-hour supervision at a permanent court, but lighting in the evening, unobstructed views and part-time supervision may be part of the solution.
Organizers may also need to acknowledge prejudices. Anyone turned off by the idea of public basketball courts for fear of black teenagers congregating in their neighborhood needs to acknowledge that prejudice. Kids who can’t follow the rules, refrain from swearing or causing some other nuisance should not be allowed to play.
Now that’s Progress
It hurts to get your consciousness raised. Our biases and blind spots are real and deep. As a society one of our abiding prejudices has been toward those with disabilities. It is the prejudice of looking past people, of stereotyping and assuming.
For 20 years now, the Forest Park-based Progress Center for Independent Living has been keeping the steady drumbeat for change in our nation’s and our village’s treatment of those with disabilities. From small things like curb cuts to a wholesale rethinking of tendencies to warehouse the disabled out of sight and mind, the Progress Center has been an insistent voice for change.
We offer our thanks.