The Sweet, Sweet, Unrelenting Cowardice of Politics

7 Apr

Ah, Michigan. You swell and break my heart.

The Detroit Public Schools system is officially undergoing reconstruction. Called the “DPS Renaissance 2012 Plan” (It must be because we’re returning to a “Golden Age” in education), the plan will affect 45 schools. The ideal, according to Robert Bobb, the city’s emergency financial manager for DPS, is to see all 45 of those schools converted to charters. However, Bobb notes that if only five or six schools convert, the plan would be a success.

Detroit, since 2005, has seen a rapid decrease in population and has in turn, has closed 130 schools. This leaves us with 142 open, underfunded, overpopulated, overstretched schools. Robert Bobb is right. Something needs to be done.

Yet here enters a popular controversial education debate: the rise of charter schools. The topic is called a controversy for a reason – the public, the pundits, and the politicians have NOT found common ground on the issue.

Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding charter schools is the fact they use monies from public education funds to support a for-profit business. While not all charter schools are for-profit, the question must be raised: how does our government allow for the creation of a system in which the average woman’s taxes go straight from her pocket to the hands of a private business owner? Privately owned charter schools make a profit in part from the paycheck of the average person.

Yet this should come as no surprise, as it already happens wide-scale in (are you ready for this?) – private universities! You can check out my article on Gainful Employment or get real with the New York Times.

And just like we have people lobbying for for-profit charter schools, we also have, at a higher level, people lobbying against regulations on gainful employment. Of course, everyone’s slogan includes the words, “Putting kids first!”

Sometimes, I just choke on it all. Putting kids first? At least be candid in intention and spare the propaganda. If a business is going to make a profit from running a corporate style business in schools, partly on the backs of the taxpayers, I’d think the kids might be one of last images brought to mind. Or maybe the first – scores of toddlers tightly gripping hundred dollar bills in small fists, little money signs for eyes, running to suits and wriggling in childish enthusiasm as the businessman stuffs the money in his pockets and gently pats the child on the head with a chuckle. “Yes, your pint-sized head means $7,000 in public funds, little girl.” And the children go on their way. We’re for the kids!

Just like unregulated private universities creating bunk programs to attract student grant and loan monies are “For the kids!”

Just like allowing schools to cherry pick the best of the student population is “For the kids!”

Like inviting sharks into your backyard swimming pool is “For the kids!”

Detroit, while not extraordinarily close to home (about 8 hours), is my backyard. I’m a Michigander, through and through; I love this place with all my heart and because I care about education, I want the best for our kids.

I’ll admit it. I distrust charter schools, because I distrust big business. I do not endorse a business model in education.

However, personal opinions aside, an aspect of the “DPS Renaissance 2012 Plan” is particularly loathsome: the response to the plan by politicians.

What does Governor Rick Snyder have to say regarding the controversial plan? Detroit’s mayor? What advice is being offered up by our publicly elected officials, who deliberately campaigned for the tough moments like these? What are the icons of the public eye saying?

The Detroit Free Press reports: “Neither the governor nor the mayor took a position on the DPS plan. Sara Wurfel, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, said his office would reserve comment “until we get further details.”

I’m not too sure what further details the good ole governor is searching for, but the facts could slap him in the face. I also refuse to believe that major money-making companies are side-stepping into Michigan’s most depraved economic area without the careful scrutiny of one of Michigan’s most significant politicians. The reason why politicians are not taking a stand is not because of a lack or details or research, but simply because they are hiding their faces from the political backlash that comes with taking a stance. They have turned their spineless backs on the people that gave them the power to have a governmental voice.

Making decisions isn’t easy. It never was. There comes a time to grow up and stop hiding behind the euphemisms and inaction that capture the nature of too many American politicians.

The waiting game is over. The people need leaders.



More Info:

National Group to Recommend Charters for Detroit’s Big Conversion,” Education Week


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One Response to “The Sweet, Sweet, Unrelenting Cowardice of Politics”


  1. A Student, A Person, Not a Number « Education Ordo Amoris - August 8, 2011

    […] the percentage of public school students dropping? Could it be that we’re opening our doors wide open for private education ventures, closing hundreds of districts, and basically giving the fuck-all to the public […]

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