The subject of public education is extremely sensitive in the United States. In Michigan, the long arms of the DeVos leadership as Secretary of Education is felt in this changing atmosphere for many public institutions. Detroit, my birthplace has found itself in an ongoing reduction of student population, funding, test scores and overall morale. It is not fair not correct to condemn the many fine teachers, educators in this school district. Morale? How can it be anything but low? Just today the Detroit News headlines a young former graduate leveling a lawsuit against Detroit school district. The young man, Jamarria Hall, 19, is claiming he was not educated, prepared by Detroit School District. As a professor I can clearly see a major difference in the vast majority of students in the classroom. This problem is very complex and entangled for many reasons. The abandonment by politicians, educators and communities is not confusing as much as it is dishonest, if not criminal. Yes, I am calling the watering down of public policy in some cases actual conspiracies to mislead, handicap and manipulate funding, resources and deliver sexist, racist, classist rhetoric. Many of my critics scream insults, denials and comparisons to challenge my observations, research. Indeed, many poor school districts be they rural, suburban and urban fail at the very start of the process. The picture, headline in the Detroit News says it all. I am painfully reminded of another time when the very talented point guard from Detroit Northwestern High School Curtis Jones attempted to suit the school district because he graduated with no academic skills to allow him entry, success in any post high school institution. Not fair to do a drive-by since like many stories there were other factors allegedly involved like illicit narcotics addiction (Ha, like the current so-called epidemic of opioids (in 1967 it was simply dope addicts, junkies, heroin, savages and criminals. Not an ounce of humanity was applied to this drug ridden population). Jones, had many problems regardless of polished basketball skills. Mental health, poverty played a role with many youth at that time as it does today. The wreckage of the families in America is part of this jigged puzzle.
The response of America society led by the patricians has been what? Blame is plentiful, the present cast of players like emergency managers, politically divided school boards, grass root organizations, angry parents and a confused, low morale base of teachers produce a ragged outcome. I am today very grateful for my public education at Crossman Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary, Durfee Junior High, and Central High School. The system worked for me in 1958, perfect no, suffice to say enough to allow me a strong foundation that parallel my neighborhood, Sunday school and parents education. I am telling you that is ancient and forgotten history. Many are entering college with poor skills. Worse, more young people never entered or completed successfully K-!2. The economy has left us confused in this post industrial America. I am reminded of one of sage advisors, a public school advocate, a man who taught Detroit students successfully for decades. LeRoy Rowley, a music educator, loved teaching life lessons infused with his formal instructions to his beloved students. We have had many conversations over the past decade. I shared my disbeliefs, my concerns about the changing climate in the schools. I wondered out loud to his sage knowledge what is happening to public education. He painfully replied with a wounded heart that it seemed the best practice was to eradicate the whole system. Blow it up! Indeed, he passed this past year. I miss him dearly in the physical. I am just one of many who found this remarkable educator a lighting rod in his lessons of life. Public education historically was cornerstone to American Democracy. It is the ladder to allow those who want, need to improve their lives an opportunity to become part of the American Dream. Without public education many people of sorts in multicultural experiences could not have become successful. The system is outdated, not connected to the complex communities nor the people, youth. For those who insist it is not our job to educate or have any quality in educating understand you are building a deviant Frankenstein. Shootings, deranged folks, ignorant denizens, violent communities, mentally unstable folks that will contribute nothing good to society. An uneducated person is limited, restricted and will cost society regardless of religion, education, or families. American Democracy is lagging in equality which public education is the first constructed means to combat ignorance. I am not disrespecting anyone. My criticism is the system that allows an emergency manager to enter communities like a Roman Emperor with lots of personal bodyguards, fat pay, rich accommodations and wicked useless policies. Detroit, Flint and other industrial communities nurtured a working class that was very successful. Robotics, automation is the new technology so be it…the human beings need real real skills. Then and only then will our communities be able to enjoy our democracy.