“Once you’ve decided that people are incapable of responsibly exercising their right to vote—you know, the kind of thing they used to say to keep women and black people from the polls back in the day—it’s not a huge step to deciding that they don’t possess the skills necessary to understand when their own water is poisoning them.”
This is exactly what Great Lakes Education Project (#GLEP-MI) executive director, Gary Naeyaert, did yesterday at a public policy forum on Detroit’s schools. Mr. Naeyaert spent 10 of his 12 minutes blaming Detroit’s
citizens for the problems with the city’s schools today—based on his reporting of adult illiteracy rates in the city, and a litany of offenses committed by Detroit residents back to the 1970s—the
other minute was spent whining that he didn’t have enough time to trot out all of his PowerPoint slides full of insults about Detroit.
This is not dissimilar from the action's of Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder, in the nearly year since news broke about the Flint water poisoning crisis. Gov. Snyder has managed the rare feat of simultaneously "apologizing" for the lead poisoning of Flint's children while heaping scorn and derision on everyone from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality staffers, to Democratic presidential candidates, to the very doctors and scientists whose research finally broke the story of the magnitude of the poisoning. I didn't think it was possible to "take responsibility" for something at the same time you were insinuating someone else was to blame for that incident, but Mr. Snyder has proved me wrong.
But back to Detroit...It was clear at yesterday's forum that Mr. Naeyaert, and the wealthy Michigan conservative leaders that bankroll GLEP, have already decided that Detroit’s residents are incapable of responsibly governing their city or their schools, and deserve whatever Gov. Snyder’s parade of Emergency Managers decide is their fate...
Crumbling schools? Check.
Black mold and mushrooms growing on classroom floors and walls? Check.
Schools with no working furnace in winter, forcing teachers and children to wear their winter coats in the classroom? Check.
Running up astronomical debt and deficits through wanton EM mismanagement? Check.
My friend and fellow blogger, Nancy Flanagan, has collected and shared more horror stories from the front lines of Detroit's teaching force, recently republished here by Diane Ravitch. Both Nancy and Diane refer to these teachers as heroes, putting their careers and even their own personal health on the line to call attention to the conditions in which they and their students have been forced to exist. And rather than acknowledge the sacrifices these teachers have made for their students, Mr. Naeyaert continued to place even more blame on the victims, incorrectly identifying the "causes" for the sickouts to suit his political agenda.
Mr. Naeyaert spoke nary a word about the Governor’s decisions to strip local control for the schools away from Detroit, the disbanding of the elected school board, or the disastrous working and learning conditions in Detroit’s schools that have necessitated the recent sick outs in the city.
According to Mr. Naeyaert’s view of Detroit, it’s simply a matter of “those people” not being capable of making their own decisions. There was not a moment of his talk in which he mentioned children, learning, teaching or
For Mr. Naeyaert and GLEP, the only thing left is to determine how to divvy up the spoils. His answer? Use the recent sick outs as an excuse to totally dissolve the Detroit Public Schools.
My answer? You don't get to call your organization an "education project" when your goal is to dissolve public education.