By Jay Holmes
United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently declared that the Detroit, Michigan school system is a national disgrace. He is right. Some politically sensitive types in Detroit were offended by this. They should, instead, be offended by their educational system.
When Duncan was selected as Secretary of Education, I wondered how qualified he was. After all, he had been a professional basketball player in Australia for ten years. He also has a sociology degree from Harvard. Red flag to me. Most of the sociologists who I have met in government are anxious to quote statistics and salivate at the possibility of discovering more statistics. When I ask them for an action plan, they give me a blank stare. In fact, they often act as though they have been shot by a poison dart whenever action is required.
Another red flag to me was the fact that Duncan came from the hideously corrupt political system in Chicago. After a closer look, though, it became evident that, as the CEO of the Chicago school system, Duncan had played a part in significantly increasing test results for students in Chicago. Obviously, the hard work of the kids, the parents, and the teachers made it happen, but until Duncan showed up, the Chicago schools were well on their way to hell with no redemption in sight.
The improvement in Chicago test scores was on both the national standard testing for all grades and on the ACT. Also, the number of Chicago youngsters graduating increased, as did the number of Chicago youngsters entering colleges. These were real results. Duncan obviously wasn’t the typical school superintendent claiming victory after leaving a school system in shambles.
Ok. So red flags aside, and without knowing about or giving a damn about his politics, the guy won a major battle in one of this nation’s most important wars, and he showed up sober to fight that battle where the enemy held the high ground and outnumbered him badly. I’ll give credit where it’s due. Given Secretary Duncan’s history of success and the pathetic results produced by the Detroit school system, I take his statement about Detroit seriously.
Now that we have identified a priority target, what shall our tactical plan be? I am a bit out of my league here. This is a battle that I am willing to fight passionately, but I lack the best weapons and training to ensure victory. I’m willing to listen and learn.
As someone who is not a trained teacher, though, even I can easily identify a few facets of the problem in Detroit. Some of the issues are external to the schools. Detroit is a failed, Rust Belt city with chronic, long-term high unemployment, high crime rates, and no signs of recovery. OK, we know the battleground now. Do we evacuate the children to refugee camps in Canada, or do we make a stand and fight? It looks like we are going to stay and fight.
We are dealing with children who live in fear of violence and economic uncertainty. Many of the children have no real parent, or an undereducated parent working overtime at a back-breaking job. Ok, that’s most of what we need to know about the innocent hostages in question. So we need a solution that can rescue the greatest number of kids. Is it “fair” that you and I need to rescue them instead of their parents doing it? Hell, no. But you don’t want to share your national budget, your health care system, your economy, or your streets with uneducated children. Even if you don’t care about them, if you care about you at all, take a look at what’s going on.
Who is the enemy? Who is the hostage taker? Is he from Yemen, Pakistan, or southern Egypt? No, he is from America. He/she is the heartless politico who makes millions of dollars vanish from the Detroit school system each year. He/she is the lazy, self-protecting, responsibility-avoiding slime bag who collects a salary and produces no work in his or her day.
You know what they look like. You have met a few of them in your child’s school or in the company or government agency where you work. They tend to be highly informed about the latest nuance in political correctness, and at the moment they are very busy explaining why everyone needs to join their new initiative on “Azerbaijani cultural sensitivity” or “preventing sexual harassment amongst preschoolers by dangerous four-year-old boys,” or they are busy organizing this year’s Save the Whales Day. At least the kids have fun at the Save the Whales Day, and the whales suffer no impact one way or the other. But this type of useless schmuck “administrator” is not only wasting a salary slot that could go to a live employee, they are preventing sentient beings from running the schools.
Now let’s see how education in Detroit matters to the big picture.
One of the few signs of hope in the stone-age environment in Afghanistan is that, in some locations, children are starting to attend something like real schools. Based on UNICEF numbers, 18% of reading-age girls in Afghanistan can now read. This heartbreaking number is actually good news. A few years ago, the number would have been about .5%. Approximately 49% of reading-age Afghani males can read. This number is also an improvement as compared to 10 years ago.
Literacy matters to national security in any nation, both internally and externally. Better education makes for a stronger economy and fewer criminals on the home front, and when countries become more educated, their citizens are less willing to join any jihad activities. In short, a well-informed nation is less likely to tolerate living under anything like Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
Here’s a real shocker for you. Almost all mobsters and other types of gang members do poorly on any test that measures thinking skills, reading, math, or problem solving. You’re not really shocked at that, are you? Few people abandon real jobs to become foot soldiers for the mob or meth dealers for the local crack King/Queen. By having educated citizens, we have fewer criminals. When other nations have educated citizens, the risk of their citizens joining criminal enterprises like Al-Qaeda decreases. Education is obviously not the only factor in deciding an individual’s path or a nation’s path but it is one of the big ones.
The current estimate for functional literacy of adults in Detroit is 53%. Unlike in Afghanistan, the numbers are not improving. If Detroit does not change directions, we will soon end up searching for volunteer teachers from Afghanistan to teach kids and adults in Detroit to read. When you find yourself asking the question, “How can those people in Someplaceville elect that piece of garbage for a fill in the blank?” a large part of the answer is ignorance. Ignorance is a dangerous enemy of progress, justice, and democracy. Ignorance is the best friend of human suffering.
The anti-West factions in the Chinese oligarchy don’t care much about literacy in Afghanistan, but they and other enemies, such as Al-Qaeda, are happy to see decay in education in the United States. Al-Qaeda and other organized crime groups know that people who cannot read are more easily scammed into supporting their criminal agendas, and they are more easily victimized by those criminal agendas.
The combined adult literacy rate in Pakistan is 58%. People in Pakistan can read better than people in Detroit. Yes, Pakistan. That country in turmoil with no real education system where Al-Qaeda is trying to gain control of the government. The government that Al-Qaeda currently has to pay lease rates for. Perhaps Pakistani immigrant applicants should be required to teach reading in Detroit schools for six months before gaining full visas.
The battle in Detroit and in other school systems in Western civilization matters. I’m ready to put my boots on and go fight. I recognize some of the weapons available to us. There are some exceptional, highly motivated teachers. There are some passable teachers who aren’t going to join any “special ops” efforts, but they are fighting on our side, and they can contribute. There are some administrators who are not avoiding the fight, but not enough of them, and there are some parents who have the motive and means to help their children. We are not without resources.
So how do we win this battle? That’s a real question for you, readers. Tell me, because I am desperate for the answer, and because your future depends on it.