LIVING FOR CHANGE
Another Education, NOT Another Controller
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Aug 1, 2010
For the last 50 years Detroiters have been struggling over who controls our schools.
In the Black Power movement of the 1960s, as part of the struggle for more blacks in city and state government to represent a growing majority black population, we struggled for Community Control of Schools.
As whites moved to the suburbs (via the freeways built in the 1950s). Black students were clearly becoming the majority in Detroit schools. So we thought we were entitled to black school board members (there were none), more black administrators (there were few), and a black school superintendent (unimaginable in the 1960s).
That is what we meant by “Community Control.”
In 1967 Detroit black youth rose up in righteous rebellion against the overwhelming white police force (which they viewed as an occupation army), and their own increasing expendability in a de-industrializing society in which robots were replacing human beings on production lines and factory jobs were being sent to other parts of the country or overseas.
As a result of the 1967 Rebellion, more blacks were appointed as school administrators, elected school board members became majority black, and Detroit school superintendents have all been black. So we won “community control.”
Yet our schools are obviously failing our young people. Detroit kids have been dropping out by the tens of thousands, many of them ending up in prison
In 1999 a Republican governor and state legislature gave control of our failing Detroit schools to a state-appointed CEO. But things only got worse. So in 2005 control was returned to the elected school board. A few years later, the situation hadn’t improved. So a Democratic Governor, Jennifer Granholm, appointed a DPS Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb.
Now Bobb has become such an embarrassment that we are being dragged into a struggle over Mayoral control.
When will we stop fighting, like cocks, over who’s in control? When will we realize that our schools are failing not because of who is or isn’t in control but because they were structured a hundred years ago to provide a rapidly industrializing society with a disciplined work force. That relatively stable and disciplined 20th century city, with those relatively stable and disciplined schools, are gone forever.
Our challenge now is to create another kind of education to prepare our kids to participate in creating and governing a new 21st century city.
In today’s Detroit, what we urgently need is NOT Another Controller but Another Education, whose purpose is to prepare young people NOW to become active partners in rebuilding, redefining and respiriting Detroit from the ground up.
This has become especially clear since the 2nd USSF which told us that for growing numbers of Americans, Detroit is becoming a city where people are making a way out of no way and where a new vision is emerging for 21st century American cities.
What we need at this point is actions, programs, demonstrations, and discussions. That makes clear to us and to the world that “Another education is necessary, another education is possible, and another education is happening.”
We do not lack for models. In 1964, during Mississippi Freedom Summer, SNCC activists created Freedom Schools so that black youth could become first class citizens by participating in the civil rights movement.
In 1992 we created Detroit Summer as an intergenerational multicultural movement to enable young people to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up.
In Humboldt Park, Chicago, the Pedro Albizu Campos School is creating an alternative to traditional education by organizing its curriculum around Social Ecology, Urban Agriculture; Social Emotional Learning and Community Engagement.
In a People’s Movement assembly at the 2nd USSF, as I reported in my July 16 column, 300 people from around the country discussed “Another Education.”
A new 82 pp spiral bound pamphlet, Another Education is Possible, with articles by Julia Putnam, Shea Howell, Grace Lee Boggs, Shari Sanders, Emma Fialka-Feldman and Bill Ayers, is now available, $5+$1 S/H from the Boggscenter. The articles can also be read online at our website www.boggscenter.org