Part 4—Professor weeps for the dead: This very morning, roughly 48,000 living people were enrolled as students in the Detroit Public Schools.
They're enrolled in what may be our most god-awful major school district. Concerning the district's academic failures, we'll present some basic data below. We'll also link to the very occasional report about the district's god-awful, run-down schools.
Back in December, we frequently thought of the 48,000 when we watched C-Span's videotape of Professor Miles' book event. Miles' book, which has been widely praised, in a history of slavery in early Detroit, when amazingly few people lived there.
As we've noted, Professor Miles strikes us as unusually decent and unusually smart. She also strikes us as perhaps unhelpfully drawn to the past. We'll admit that this strikes us as neither decent nor smart.
Professor Miles' book event was held in a bookstore in Detroit. The C-Span videotape runs 68 minutes. You can watch it here.
As we watched this bright, decent person discussing her widely-acclaimed book, when did we first think of the 48,000? It may have been at the 25-minute mark of the C-Span tape.
Professor Miles had told the story of an enslaved black woman who was separated from her son. She then told the story of an enslaved Native American woman, name and age unknown, who was imprisoned during a pregnancy, then had her baby taken from her.
Eventually, Miles made the remarks shown below. "Pani" was a term which referred to enslaved Native Americans:
MILES (10/6/17): What happened to the woman? We don't know.Professor Miles has quite a few of these (rather familiar) stories. Given the actual numbers she later revealed, we think she may have been giving a slightly misleading impression about the actual number.
I have thought about this, thought about her, many a night, about her being pregnant, enslaved. Probably, although the records don't tell us, probably the victim of sexual exploitation, giving birth in the cell and then seeing her child taken away by one of these two European men in the fort who wanted to possess that child.
The Ste. Anne's church records are full of details of the deaths and the burials, of, quote, "Pani" infants, "Pani" children, little babies, being born right here, in Detroit, to enslaved Native mothers, and dying, before they even had a chance at life.
As everyone has long known, these are terrible stories. By this time, we were thinking of the 48,000, and of their "chances at life."
A bookstore full of Detroiters were gasping at these stories of the honored dead. We were thinking about the dishonored living, whose interests and situations go unexplored by the multimillionaire corporate liberals who entertain us every night on our corporate cable.
What are the current "chances at life" among the 48,000? Consider the astoundingly bad academic achievement which seems to be occurring within their rat-infested, rundown schools—schools you'll never hear about from your highly entertaining corporate TV stars.
Good God! The National Assessment of Educational Progress—the Naep—is widely described as the gold standard of domestic educational testing. As best as can be determined, it's the testing program on which widespread cheating hasn't occurred.
The most recent Naep results come from the 2015 testing. Amazingly, average scores in Grade 8 math look exactly like this:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, 2015 NaepGood God! According to a very rough rule of thumb, 10-11 points on the Naep scale is often said to correspond to one academic year.
Detroit, black students: 242.03
Chicago, black students: 262.09
United States, black students: 259.85
United States. white students: 291.06
Washington, D.C., white students: 315.72
By that very rough rule of thumb, Detroit's black kids seem to be roughly two years behind their counterparts in Chicago. They seem to be performing at least four years behind the nation's white eighth graders.
We've included that average score from Washington, D.C. to show you what average scores look like among white kids who mainly come from professional families and homes. We're now discussing America's living, not its honored dead.
Those data provide a quick look at the "life chances" of the 48,000. Frankly, our own decency makes us unhappy with Professor Miles when she weeps for the honored dead in the midst of this ongoing moral disaster, a disaster involving the living.
The kids who took that Grade 8 test would be high school juniors today. Why did they perform so poorly on this test—so much more poorly than their counterparts in Chicago?
Why are the 48,000 doing so poorly in school? Consider CNN's report on a lawsuit brought last year by the 48,000's teachers.
Ray Sanchez penned CNN's report. He started out like this:
SANCHEZ (1/28/16): Detroit's beleaguered school system was hit with a lawsuit by the teachers union Thursday, calling for the removal of the district's emergency manager and accusing officials of allowing the conditions at schools "to deteriorate to the point of crisis."The children in question are the living. The conditions in question are these:
The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, is the union's latest salvo against a 46,000-student school system beset by teacher sickouts over decrepit facilities, overcrowding, insufficient maintenance and other issues. It asks the court to order immediate repairs for conditions that are relegating "children to spend their young lives in deplorable surroundings" and requests the creation of a capital plan to bring schools up to standard.
SANCHEZ: Thursday's complaint offers a disturbing portrait of a school system with rodent-infested school buildings that are crumbling, damaged by water and pockmarked with black mold.In the face of these conditions, Professor Miles lies awake, many a night, torturing herself about the lives of the honored dead.
"There are unrepaired bullet holes, exposed wires, and boarded-up windows," the complaint said.
"Heating systems are in such disrepair that many classrooms have temperatures below freezing or above 90º. Technology schools without Internet. It is not a surprise that due to this, and other reasons, including budget cuts and mismanagement, that DPS is dead last in academic performance with a majority of its students being left behind the rest of the country."
Exhibits filed in support of the complaint, which also names students, parents and teachers as plaintiffs, chronicle the deteriorating conditions at Spain Elementary-Middle School as well as others.
At Spain, photos showed "unrepaired gaps in the walls letting in cold air and vermin, elementary school students clutching themselves for warmth as they walk down the halls, severe water damage in the gymnasium that has remained unrepaired for years causing the gym floor to warp and wave as well as mold and fungus accumulating with trash in the ventilation ducts, and a rat infestation," the suit said.
"Defendants have...forced Detroit's school-age children to spend their young lives in deplorable surroundings risking their health and safety in the process and imposing on students and their teachers an atmosphere that interferes with their securing a minimally sufficient education," the complaint said.
What would the honored dead think about that? Homey don't play those cheap games!
Tomorrow: Baltimore and Flint