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Boggs Center NEWSLETTER – Debriefing/Mayoral control?

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   Living For Change Newsletter
July 25 -  July 31

                   Don't Miss "A Breath Of Hope," Stories from Detroit, FLYPmedia, no. 23

                                                            jim_grace100kb 2.jpg 

                         Boggs Center to nurture community leadership

                                     "Radical action requires hope and the knowledge of alternatives, not merely
                                             desperation." – Alfred E. Young:  Beyond the American Revolution. 
LIVING FOR CHANGE
Debriefing the 2nd USSF
 
Wednesday evening, July 14, Detroiters met at the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership to “debrief” the 2nd USSF. It was one of many similar discussions taking place all over our city.

At this meeting we were both thrilled and humbled that our city has become for growing numbers of Americans, a place where people are making a way out of no way and where a new vision is emerging for the country we love at a time when the U.S.  empire is in obvious decline, 

We realized that this raises a multitude of new and more challenging questions for us.

People wanted to discuss:
 
•    What’s next? Where do we go from here?
•    What will a cultural revolution look like in Detroit?  What is revolutionary culture?
•    What kind of leaders do we need to become?
•    How do we deepen relationships with other Detroiters? Go beyond the “usual suspects” to reach more "regular" folks in the community?
•    How does the USSF energy reach elected officials?
•    How do we create regional/national relationships? (A few people from L.A. and Chicago were present).
•    What kind of practical work do we engage in while keeping the grand vision in mind?
•    What does it mean to say, “ Detroit is the Chiapas of North America”?
•    What role do Art and Culture play in imagining a new Detroit?

To discuss these questions we broke up into small groups.   Their reports told us that:

•    We need to redefine Practical to be as grand as the spirit and dreams of the USSF.
•    Individuals who were never involved returned to work saying they were “transformed."
•    We need to be clearer about why this time is “Movement’ time? How does it differ from previous movements in our country?
•     The USSF was intergenerational.
•    Artists are important in imagining the future.  
•    We need to distinguish between Social Service and Transformational organizing.
•    People loved the incinerator march with its creative and focused approach,
    bringing the USSF beyond downtown.
•    The Local is important in a period of dying Empire.
•    We need to root ourselves deeper in the community and local work.
•    Find local ways to act, like taking money out of banks and putting them in local credit unions or local community banks-
•     The 2nd USSF was more advanced than 1st USSF: Historic first of UAW and Disability Justice participation; Boggs Wallerstein dialogue was historic.
•    Importance of public space, the Commons, land policy, squatters, converting old schools,
•    Generosity of Detroiters; the Love of Detroit.
•    The spirituality workshops and the Ambassador from Bolivia who talked about the rights of Mother Earth-

The meeting was a Sharing/Listening experience.  No activities were planned. Everyone was grateful for the tremendous work that had been done by the planning committee and the anchor groups. Some folks were very interested in the continuation plans that will emerge from the anchor groups in September.

Essentially people at the meeting wanted to explore “How will we re-imagine and actually assume responsibility for rebuilding our city and region as a city and region of hope. ”
 
As someone put it. ”The USSF was like placing lightning in a bottle for five days.
 It expanded, inspired, challenged us to become the new kinds of leaders needed for the period ahead.”

 My sense from the meeting is that we now need community organizing that is radically, i.e. historically, different from the “Alinsky” protest organizing of the past. 

More on that next week.

THINKING FOR OURSELVES
Mayoral control?  By what right or reason?
By Shea Howell

In spite of claims by the Detroit City Council that Mayoral control of Detroit Public Schools is a dead issue, New Detroit is rallying forces to bring renewed pressure on the Council. We hope the Council has the wisdom to resist this anti-democratic effort.

Why are people pushing to shift control away from the elected school board?  Surely it cannot be because this particular Mayor has shown himself to be an exemplary executive. A close look at Mayor Bing’s major decisions shows a man with a penchant for surrounding himself with cronies, mismanagement of the police force, failure to follow the basic consent decree governing it, and turmoil in the transportation system. The man didn’t even get EPA clearance for the houses he planned to knock down.

By what stretch of logic has New Detroit, yet another unaccountable foundation, come to the conclusion that the move to mayoral control will “make sure our children get the education they deserve so they can find a better future?”

This is nonsense.

The very best that can be said about Mayoral-controlled schools is that it is too early to tell. Supporters like Kenneth Wong of Brown University admit, “there is a long way to go before (mayoral-controlled) districts achieve acceptable levels of achievement.” Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute concluded after a review of previous studies that mayoral control is at best “inconclusive.”

The only thing that every researcher agrees about is, as David Hursh of the Warner School of Education says, mayoral control represents “a decline in public input, a decline in accountability, a lack of debate over what schools should be doing.”

At a time when we need serious rethinking and broad discussion about what kind of education will develop creative citizens who will be called upon to solve problems yet unimaginable, with ideas and tools not yet created, foundations and business elites are trying to eliminate any possibility for this public conversation.

They are acting as though everyone agrees that Mayoral Control has been proven to work. These same elites, who proclaimed the value of data driven decisions while trying to shrink our city, are now pretending data is irrelevant to their desire to control our children.

Last week we shared the conclusions of careful, peer-reviewed research into the two school districts with the longest history of mayoral control. In both cities, New York and Chicago, the test scores used to claim success were clearly manipulated.  New York tested a narrow range of standards and test results stayed the same from year to year. In Illinois, the state got more students to pass by lowering the passing score.

When we look at National Tests that are not subject to such easy manipulation, both cities look terrible and show little progress. This is especially true for African American and Latino children.

Even the Chicago business elite who backed Mayoral control concluded in a June 2009 report that the effort was an utter failure. They said: “ [M]ost of the improvement in Chicago’s elementary school scores over the past decade appears not to be due to real improvement in student performance. It appears to be due to changes in the tests,
most notably those made in 2006 when a new testing company was brought in and a new State test was implemented, with new formats and test substance, and lower cut scores (most notably in 8th grade math) along with new testing procedures.”

The Chicago Tribune acknowledged that Mayoral control has not led to progress. Responding to Mayor Daley’s boast that Chicago was on the way to “becoming the best urban school district in the nation,” the editorial said,  “They must be teaching some new kind of fuzzy math at Chicago Public Schools. More children passed because that the state board had lowered the passing score for eighth-grade math from the 67th percentile to the 38th.”

Data does not support a shift to Mayoral control.  By what right or reason do these foundations and the forces that support them lay claim to our children’s future?

 
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Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US

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