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Detroit Schools: “A National Disgrace”

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 21, 2009 5:32 AM |

Our country is kidding itself if it thinks it can maintain a position of longstanding economic strength with an abhorrent urban education system.

I initially addressed this topic last October in writing, “Give a Man a Fish…”

I followed that writing in mid-May by specifically comparing and contrasting the dire state of the Detroit public schools with a fabulous academic/work/life program known as Domus in Stamford, CT.

I wrote Secretary of Education “Arne Duncan Visits Detroit; He Should Visit Domus.” Well, the Detroit school system is in the news again and it is not for good reason as the Wall Street Journal writes¬†Detroit Schools on the Brink:

Detroit’s public-school system, beset by massive deficits and widespread corruption, is on the brink of following local icons GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy court.

A decision on whether to file for protection under federal bankruptcy laws will be made by the end of summer, according to Robert Bobb, Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager. Such a filing would be unprecedented in the U.S. Although a few major urban school districts have come close, none has gone through with a bankruptcy, according to legal and education experts.

But in Detroit — where U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan dubbed the school system a “national disgrace” this spring — lawmakers and bankruptcy experts see few alternatives, given the deep financial challenges confronting the district and the state.

Those inside and outside of the Detroit system can easily find convenient excuses for the sorry state of the Detroit schools in particular and urban education in general. While macroeconmic developments are outside of our individual control, in my opinion, though, the fact that our urban education system has a graduation rate of 50% (Detroit’s graduation rate is 25%!!!) is an indictment of our entire society, including:

1. Men who father children without taking responsibility for their offspring.

2. Mothers who get pregnant without intention of starting a family.

3. The mass media which glorifies sexual promiscuity and degrades any semblance of moral values.

4. The media which does not highlight the pathetic statistics of urban education.

5. The teacher unions which put a stranglehold on politicians.

6. The politicians who cowardly will not more aggressively support school choice, via both charters and vouchers.

7. Those fortunate enough to help who turn a blind eye.

Is Detroit a unique situation? Anything but. The WSJ highlights:

Some experts say the Detroit case could be the first in a string of Chapter 9 bankruptcies among school districts and other public entities battered by the economic crisis, and it could help shape that area of the law. “Given the state of public finance,” says Samuel Gerdano, executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute, “I think the wave is coming.”

Make no mistake, though, there is also significant fraud and criminal activity involved in this nationwide education debacle. The fraud must be rooted out and individuals held accountable. It would be excessively naive to think that the fraud does not cross into political offices. These individuals must be prosecuted.

Over and above these individuals, though, our nation as whole is collectively guilty for allowing the moral decay at the core of this situation to propagate.

Guilty as charged and we are all paying whether we know it or not!!


  • Aaron kramer

    Arne Duncan is not any better his record is nothing more than slight of hand. He raised performance in Chicago by lowering the difficulty of the exams and by not counting drop outs as drop outs. Doing this he improved the test performance of students and lowered drop out rates. Mayor Daley said ‘We haven’t given up on the students who don’t attend school for extended periods, so they are not drop outs. They might have given up on themselves but we haven’t.” Well the mayor might not have given up on them but the city certainly stopped counting them.

  • Larry Doyle

    Aaron….interesting you raise the topic of not accurately counting students. I was at a family party this weekend and a friend of a friend involved in education in CT said the same thing. He said almost every city misrepresents their student population for purposes of getting more federal aid.

    Point being, as bad as the dropout rate looks…it is actually worse.

    Thanks for the insights on Chicago.

  • Aaron kramer

    One of the greatest quantitative errors in education is not including Asian students in the minority numbers, instead they are in a completely different category. Many educators will give the reason why this occurs as being because it more accurately reflects the diversity of the student body, but the Hispanics and African Americans are grouped together. The true reason is that if Asians were included in the numbers than the numbers would look very different.

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