Friday, June 5, 2009

The "emergency"

I'm pretty neutral about most of the things discussed in this article from The Detroit News, but one quote really ticked me off:
"[Robert] Bobb [Detroit's public school emergency manager] on Wednesday formally requested assistance from the federal government and asked that Detroit be placed under a "special Presidential emergency declaration" to allow the district to receive emergency funding to improve academic achievement."

First, I'm not certain what it means when an "emergency" happens in education. Flash floods are an emergency. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados. Nothing of such similar suddenness and unpredictability really ever occurs in education by the very nature of the subject.

Second, assuming an emergency situation can actually happen, why did they wait until it turned into a huge mess to fix stuff? Does this mean other schools that are straddling the fence between "emergency" and being "ok" needs to drop a few standards to get what help they need? I admit I'm totally being a pot and calling the kettle black here. I also don't know all the details of previous decisions made to try to help Detroit's students. Perhaps the dragon was just way too big to slaughter, and they only slowed it down a little.

Third, once again spiffy, shiny buildings and tech and stuff are what this funding will be spent on first. I'm not a big fan of Suze Orman, but I agree with her when she says,
"People first. Then money. Then things."

Fourth, don't think Detroit schools will just get this money for nothing. Oh no, Detroit schools must make "drastic changes" first. Because the government isn't going to bailout the Titanic, nope. There isn't a precedence for that at all.

One of the changes Duncan (US Secretary of Education) hinted at was longer school days. Because keeping students in a place they really don't want to be at is going to help them learn better.


Not that everything said in this article is a bad thing. The leaders do sound very hopeful and energetic and optimistic and leadership-ful and know way more about their situation than I ever will. I wouldn't be surprised if they improved their schools by sheer force of will; best of luck to them too. I just don't like the direction the wording is hinting at.

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