Assault on Detroit

by TOM STEPHENS

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan labeled Detroit "ground zero" in education reform by video conference. He pointed out that Detroit students have posted the worst scores in the nation in math, reading and science, levels that shocked local and national education officials. Duncan said those results, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress Trial Urban District Assessment, caused some to view the city as having "no viable future if the status quo is allowed to stand." (From The Detroit News, June 21, 2011)

Hon. Secretary Duncan:

Your labeling of Detroit and its People, including our Children, in a five-minute video conference address on June 21, 2011, is much more than an egregious display of bad manners, arrogance and racism.

The education "reform" movement whose standard you bear may have reached a new low ? especially in your extraordinarily narrow and myopic, even obsessive focus on high-stakes testing of children and phony standards for "accountability" (standards that you apply to children, but never to the politicians and corporate interests who are pushing them). In short, you must have gone completely insane.

Permit me to explain this harsh judgment.

Many studies and competent professional educators have by now concluded that the infamous "No Child Left Behind" Act model of education has failed our children. Indeed, longstanding opponents of these "reforms" have been amply justified by experience in our original assessment of this model: it was designed to punish public school systems and children in low-income communities, predominantly of color, while generating enormous profits for corporate testing and turnaround ventures.

Even advocates of these failed "reforms" (most notably former Bush administration education official Diane Ravitch, in her bestselling book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education"), have evaluated the evidence generated by a decade of such "reform," and exposed its failure to promote effective education, and its success at enriching and empowering unqualified political operatives like yourself, who are nevertheless pressing ahead amidst wars and recession with a second decade of this failed model.

However, until now as far as I know no one has been so bold, mindless or irresponsible as to claim that the results of a single standardized test battery condemn an entire community to non-viability. Standardized tests have often been shown to be scientifically unreliable for assessing and intervening in educational programs. When used as overly prescriptive guides to policy, they produce wildly divergent results, condemning successful programs working under the most difficult conditions to the label of "failure," while rewarding far less effective educational systems in better-resourced communities. Perhaps even worse, the corporate "reform" mania for testing reinforces an anti-intellectual, reductionist and counter-productive praxis of "teaching to the test," instead of real, dynamic education in the modes of critical thought, agency and empowerment through intellectual growth. All this is more than enough to condemn the high-stakes testing regime for which you stand as the federal government’s top bureaucrat. But until now no one has publicly claimed that a community could be condemned to "no viable future" by poor test results. Shame on you!

Your five-minute video conference assessment of Detroit’s community was in support of the third state takeover proposal for Detroit Public Schools since 1999. The first two state takeovers are now widely acknowledged to have inflicted nearly catastrophic damage on this system and the children it seeks to serve, amounting to a peculiar form of institutionalized and politicized corporate child abuse. Now you support yet another ill-planned experiment with the intellectual and cultural welfare of Detroit’s children.

What do you even know about Detroit or its people?

What evidence do you have that Governor Rick Snyder’s new, and vaguely defined "Educational Achievement Authority" and ""Educational Achievement System" will actually improve educational outcomes for Detroit’s children, as opposed to institutionalizing the school-to-prison pipeline in "underperforming" schools for children labeled as "failures," underwritten by the biased, partisan agenda of the Broad Foundation and other members of what Ms. Ravitch appropriately calls "the billionaire boys’ club," i.e., the Gates and Walton Foundations?

Will you apologize to Detroit, its people and children for your abusive statements, delivered in the most thoughtless and insulting way?

School "failure" results from the failure of your "reform" agenda to create a new paradigm for education ? not a "race to the top," but a race to regain our humanity and become well-educated, effective citizens in a democracy. Of necessity, Detroit is learning faster than most places how real education can address the challenges of our community, and how these challenges are opportunities to engage children and people of all ages in educational programs that grow our souls.

I respectfully suggest that Detroiters and others with actual knowledge of our community, and especially Detroit’s children, many of whom are thriving in excellent schools, should write Secretary Duncan and inform him, in your own words, why we are a distinctly viable, creative, flourishing and beloved community:

Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Tom Stephens is a lawyer in Detroit. He can be reached at: jail4banksters@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Colin Todhunter
Hypnotic Trance in Delhi: Monsanto, GMOs and the Looting of India’s Agriculture
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Gary Corseri
Gaza: Our Child’s Shattered Face in the Mirror
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
Paula Bach
Exit the Euro? Polemic with Greek Economist Costas Lapavitsas
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington