CFA – An Important Victory By Grace Lee Boggs

By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, June 26-July 2, 2011

CFA – An Important Victory

The last minute decision by Detroit Public Schools’s Emergency Finance Manager Roy Roberts to keep Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy open as a charter school was an important victory because it was an acknowledgement by the power structure that the time has come for a paradigm shift in our concept of education.

The outpouring of local and national support to keep CFA open could not be ignored. CFA Principal Asenath Andrews was interviewed on Rachel Maddox’s popular MSNBC show. Support messages came from many organizations, including the NAACP, women’s groups, the Congressional Black Caucus. A contingent of auto workers wearing UAW T-shirts made clear that Labor is on the side of community-based education.

The tide is turning. The competitive and factory type schooling projected in the “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” proposals of the Bush and Obama White House has obviously failed.

By contrast, at CFA pregnant teens and teenage mothers attend school together, The teens care not only for their infants but for a garden, chickens, rabbits, a goat and a donkey. They have also built their own barn. These life-affirming activities encourage them to excel academically. 90% graduate and go on to college.

This paradigm shift to a community-inspired and community-caring concept of education offers the alternative vision that many people have been looking for.

Schooling decisions mean a lot for movement building in the U..S. Fifty-seven years ago the 1954 Supreme Court determination in Brown vs. the Kansas Board of Education that segregated schools are inherently unequal helped spark the prairie fire of the civil rights movement.

The CFA decision is equally historic. We can expect it to inspire community activists, parents and teachers all over the country to embark on a struggle to transform our schools from pipelines to prisons into Centers of Hope and our students from victims into citizens.

Many questions remain and are now being discussed and struggled over by local activists. For example, CFA will be run as a charter school by Evans Educators, a corporation headed by Blair Evans. Will CFA teachers be union members? Will the curriculum be place-based?

Recently during a roundtable discussion hosted by Feedom Freedom Growers at the Boggs Center , Evans supported place–based education. .We may have to keep reminding him that engaging young people in solving local problems as a natural and normal part of schoolingfrom K-12 is one of the best ways for students to learn from practice, which has always been the best way to learn, and at the same time rebuild and respirit our communities.

As I wrote many years ago, “ Just imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if, instead of keeping our children isolated in classrooms, we engaged them in community-building activities with the same audacity with which the civil rights movement engaged them in desegregating activities thirty years ago. Just imagine how safe and lively our streets would be if, as a natural and normal part of the curriculum from K-12, school children were taking responsibility for maintaining neighborhood streets, planting community gardens, recycling waste, rehabbing houses, creating healthier school lunches, visiting and doing errands for the elderly, organizing neighborhood festivals, painting public murals.”

It as an idea whose time has come