Freedom Schools for Adults
A Call to Mobilize and Organize Positive Educational Experiences for Detroit Children
Governors Engler, Granholm and Snyder, Mayor Duggan and their appointed Emergency Managers have ruthlessly pillaged the Detroit Public School (DPS) system. The system’s immense debt is directly attributable to the racist policies, financial malfeasance and theft of these irresponsible education “reformers” and Lansing politicians. It is impossible for our children to receive an education in the wreckage that is left. We have to respond to this crisis with our own ingenuity and community self-determination.
The first stage of the current schools crisis began in 1999 when Governor John Engler dismissed the duly elected Detroit School Board, and in its place appointed individuals who would cooperate with the City and State power elite to plunder the recently passed bond funds in a public school district that was running a $1.7 billion surplus at that time. Following that outrageous violation of democratic process came the appointments of one Emergency Manager after another (the most recent being retired bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes), administrators whose slash-and-burn tactics, greed and malfeasance wrecked Detroit’s public education system beyond recognition. Now Governor Snyder has decided to divide what is left of the system into two “separate” boards—an “old” board saddled with the formality of paying the enormous debt, which under Snyder’s scenario is the currently elected Detroit School Board and a “new” board consisting solely of mouthpieces appointed by Snyder and Duggan until far into the future. There is a further legitimization of for-profit charters in Detroit and the theft of Detroit schoolchildren’s money by suburban districts and charters by the creation of an overseeing Detroit School Commission to cover up the destruction and assist parents and children in further abandoning DPS.
Corporate policies and strategies and the racist political objectives have thereby ensured that several generations of our children have been robbed of an education. Thousands of Detroit children have suffered through years of disorganized curricula and sporadic class schedules, administrative corruption and irresponsibility under Emergency Management, ineffective school-parent communication, and poorly maintained, unsafe facilities.
There is nothing in such a degraded system that can provide the knowledge, skill sets and social development that our children need. We support the actions of hundreds of DPS teachers who refuse to cooperate further with the Emergency Management’s failed policies and systematic destruction of the school system. These policies deprive our children of an education as they fatten corporate interests and the pockets of depraved appointed administrators who are not accountable to our communities or our local elected officials. We support the teachers’ stand against further exploitation of Detroit’s school children.
Quality public education for our children has been swept off the agenda by City and State officials—just as the people’s need for homes and water has been inhumanely denied. What response can we the people bring to this abandonment of government responsibilities?
We can take the initiative as communities to uphold our children and make every possible effort to counteract wide-scale disillusionment and hopelessness. It is time to mobilize individuals, groups and institutions in our communities to respond to this crisis. Assuming a spirit of community self-reliance and self-determination, we propose these immediate steps:
- Let’s build a united Freedom Schools Movement by working to coordinate efforts among organizations already committed to ensuring education to our children: Keep the Vote No Take Over, Detroit LIFE Coalition, D-REM, DPS Board in Exile, and other community groups. Through this united effort, we can build a city-wide network of education hubs/Freedom Schools in numerous sites, all sharing support of various kinds, including volunteer tutors and teachers, teaching materials, technology, etc. This movement will bring together teachers and parents devoted to the community to help educate school-age young people in safe and nurturing environments. There will be tutoring in core subjects, art activities to inspire the children, the opportunity to learn useful skills, and learning experiences to help develop the children’s understanding of community issues.
- Let’s reach out to high school students who are feeling frustrated, disengaged, and angry. Let’s help them realize their own talents and leadership capacity and support their demands for quality education. Let’s encourage their partnership in working with teachers, parents, and younger students.
- Let’s appeal to churches and community centers to make their facilities available immediately to those who want to provide afterschool tutoring or Saturday Freedom Schools for the children. Let’s encourage churches and other religious institutions to join a “Let the Children Come…” campaign.
- Let’s appeal to college students, resisting teachers, retired teachers, retired school administrators and concerned volunteers to create a Freedom Schools Teachers Corps to respond to the children’s needs by organizing classes in core subjects and extracurricular activities in sites in their neighborhoods or at their churches. College students can play a very important role in supporting and motivating our high school students.
As cultural workers and concerned citizens, let’s strive to initiate new, effective teaching and learning modalities.
We can take the initiative as communities to uphold our children, and make every possible effort to counteract wide-scale disillusionment and hopelessness.
It is time to mobilize individuals, groups, and institutions in our communities to respond to this crisis in education.