CONCERNING THE 48,000: The rat-infested schools of the living!


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.

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.
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.

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 Naep
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
Good 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.

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 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.
The children in question are the living. The conditions in question are these:
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.

"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.
In the face of these conditions, Professor Miles lies awake, many a night, torturing herself about the lives of the honored dead.

What would the honored dead think about that? Homey don't play those cheap games!

Tomorrow: Baltimore and Flint


  1. Well, hopefully in a couple of weeks we'll see the Donald killing NAFTA, automobile industry comes back, and Detroit schools get better.

    Or, is there, in your mind, some other way, short of a bolshevik revolution? And if so, how d'you imagine it'd work?

    1. "automobile industry comes back"

      All you got to do is ask, and Obama will have taken care of it (despite Republicans) years ago.

    2. Yeah Mao, wasn't it Obama who bailed out the auto companies, and has been attacked for that by your Tea Party guys?

    3. You might want to read something about the global crisis of 2008-2009 and governments' efforts to survive it. To acquire a more nuanced view, y'know.

      Though of course it's hardly relevant to the discussion of the poor state of public schools in Detroit today. But of course, judging by your lib-zombie commenting style, you don't really care. Or is there a serious point you're trying to make?

    4. I did. It was caused by fraud on the part of bankers and Wall Street financier firms.
      You know the bankers and Wall Street financial firms, Mao. They're the "Establishment" our President just signed a huge tax break for.

    5. E. Zombyist Jr. f/k/a AC/MAJanuary 12, 2018 at 2:37 PM

      Per usual, a complete deflection, Mao. Answer to cause of global crisis issue you raise supplied by anon 12:31.

    6. Oh dear. I'm afraid both of you have failed the Turing test again. Please contact tech support in Pune and ask to perform diagnostics.

    7. Oh dear. Nice try, comrade.

    8. "Oh dear. I'm afraid..."
      Of the truth.

      We have the same problem with half of the United States.

  2. Mao, you tell us how bolshevik revolutions work.

    1. Mao Cheng Ji (aka Famous Russian Troll)January 11, 2018 at 3:28 PM

      Вот тут уже начинает проявлять себя уважение, понимание. Пара к этому времени уже через многое прошла. Супруги хорошо знают характеры, привычки друг друга, умеют выходить из сложных ситуаций без конфликтов. Оба научились делать приятное и нужное. Им хорошо и интересно вместе. Период дружбы иногда может длиться годами и десятилетиями, ведь супруги чувствуют себя вполне комфортно. Чаще всего дружба проявляется ярко тогда, когда дети уже немного подросли и у родителей достаточно времени друг на друга. Бездетные пары приходят к дружбе приблизительно в то же время.
      Читайте больше на

  3. While this post contains a decent first attempt at discussing the issues as Somerby sees them,
    I still think his framing of this issue, critiquing a history professor (and calling her "homey") for caring about the history she has studied all her life as his way of showing the failures or hypocrisy of liberals, is at best a distraction from the real issue, and at worst a malign slur that threatens to derail any real attempt at discussing the problems of these school kids. As the last thing typed in this post, this statement ("In the face of these conditions, Professor Miles lies awake, many a night, torturing herself about the lives of the honored dead."), becomes the takeaway from it. What did Prof Miles do to deserve this treatment from Somerby? And by the way, how does he know or surmise that Prof Miles *doesn't* care about the schools, just because she is not talking about them at that moment? So, bottom line, decent post until the inevitable assholery at the end.

    Another question: do you think our Education Secretary (coincidentally from Michigan) could show some leadership here and bring some national attention to the problem?

    1. I've been trying to defend Bob on this series, but you make excellent points. His last sentence is nearly inscrutable, but may be talking about himself.

      Assholery indeed.


    2. Noam Chomsky responding in 1988 to a challenge of his ethics by then Canadian journalist David Frum:

      "The principal of morality that I think we should follow is not the one you stated (i.e. that all wrongs should be of equal concern to an individual). It's a very simple ethical point, you're responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions, you're not responsible for the predictable consequences of somebody else's actions.

      The most important thing for me and for you is to think about the consequences of your [own] actions, what can you affect. Those are the one's you ought to be primarily concerned about. Of course every corpse [of a victim] is a corpse [that has been wronged] but there are some [stemming from circumstances] you can affect, there are others you can't do much about.

      I can be worried about things that happened in the eighteenth century but I can't do much about them."

      Noam Chomsky in a June, 2003 appearance on CSPAN:

      "Suppose you're living under a dictatorship and the dictators carry out some horrendous act, say you're living in Stalinist Russia and Stalin carries out horrible crimes, are the people of Russia responsible for those crimes? Well, only to a very limited extent because living under [a] brutal harsh terrorist regime there isn't much they can do about it. There's something they could do and to the extent there's something you could do you're responsible for what happens.

      Suppose you're living in a free democratic society with lots of privilege, enormous, incomprable freeedoms and the government carries out violent brutal acts. Are you responsible for it? Yeah, a lot more responsible because there's a lot you can do about it. And, therefore, the cost- if you're responsible, if you share responsibility in criminal acts you are liable for the consequences."

      Later Chomsky explains what can be done LINK.

    3. Last night, after reading what I wrote, I realized that Bob has no concern with breaching taboos. Sort of what comedians are expected to do.

      The first quote from Chomsky speaks to Bob’s point. The second seems an indictment against Bob, because he’s just not doing enough.

      What is he doing besides hosting this blog? A lot more than I am, that’s a surety. He must be doing something right when he focuses on student achievement, despite his stilted approach.

      And when commenters post Chomsky, I kind of feel that I’m in a good place. Makes you think a bit.


    4. And then, he might be due to read this.


      Thanks, Cmike

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Do you have a list of your own for '18 to share, Leroy?

      As for Somerby, I'll use your remarks for myself, "What is he doing...? A lot more than I am, that’s a surety."

      Back in the late nineties when Somerby launched the Howler I think there was a lot of merit in the notion that blogs would be a medium that could make a difference. To that end Somerby's been very disciplined in maintaining a steady, actually a remarkable stream of output. I, myself, have learned a lot from Somerby over the years, though our host, no doubt, has been hoping to educate people who, unlike myself, have some influence over policy. In what I always knew would be a naive expectation, I think Somerby thought if the quality of his work warranted it- and do think it has -some pockets of the mainstream public affairs media would start taking some of their cues from his work.

      Long story short, it turns out that television is a medium that just overpowers print in setting the national agenda- its on air talent doesn't have to take their cues from anyone other than ownership, in fact they dare not.

    7. I believe the homey was a reference to Homey D Clown, from the TV show, “In Living Color”, not a slur on the professor.
      Homey don’t play da clown, just because his parole officer makes him dress like one.

    8. Cmike –

      I’ve never been a fan of the New Year resolution thing. Resolutions (commitments) are much better done on the fly. Real resolutions, which in my view have a moral dimension, are born of necessity. Having said that, #23 on Nathan’s list is perhaps something to embrace, morality be damned.

      Also #10. I’ve never slurred Bob until recently, and I cheapened myself. I’ve been reading him almost since the beginning. Like you, I’ve learned a lot from Bob over the years, and gotten much enjoyment from his humor and analytical style. The meister helps me out here, in that I undoubtedly misunderstood Bob’s intent. Which goes to show that not just TV can mislead the thoughtless. The anon I responded to made good points, but missed the forest for the trees, as did I in this instance.

      I shared the Current Affairs piece because I thought it was hilarious, a tongue-in-cheek list written by a writer, for writers. Whether Bob reads the comments or not, it was something I thought he’d enjoy, and if he didn’t, others might. I don’t remember how I found that site, it may even have been shared here. So I’m going to steal numbers one and two from the list, because I enjoy writing. I also like numbers 5, 8, 11, 16, 18, ah hell, it’s all good. The last two in particular. The very last, shades of Paul Kurtz, whom I miss.

      My resolution, if I were to make one, is as it’s always been. To become a better person. This site, and the commenters I share it with, help me along that path.

      Btw, whatever happened to his book? I aim to find out.


    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    10. Cmike, I just went back to the video you posted of Chomsky, and noticed you occupy the clip's byline! Far out, man. Now I have a new site to peruse. Really enjoy your postings of Chomsky, and you've created clips of a lot of other interesting thinkers and authors. And now I understand the meaning of your posting moniker. Thanks again.


    11. Who's Steve Sueng? I'm confused.


  4. All races practiced slavery.

    But Whites were the first to actually abolish it.

    Support #WhiteValues

    1. Hey Mongrel:

      Here's something for you to read, assuming you can -

  5. I would prefer more posts that make me feel good and confirm on my beliefs.

    1. I'd prefer more posts about WHY the corporate-owned, Right-wing media doesn't allow smart liberals to report news.

  6. Bob,
    You couldn't give a shit about black youngsters. Except to pretend.
    Admit it and get on with your life.
    How many of those you taught are dead or imprisoned?
    It's the liberals fault for holding those in power responsible.
    Why aren't liberals more like MLK, Ghandi and Mandela? Dead or in prison.
    Enjoy yourself.

  7. I thought Bob's idiotic post 6 months back during the 4th of July criticising the NYTimes for having an article on the best hot dog in town was idiotic enough.

    Now he criticizes Professor Miles (a historian) for focusing on history. Perhaps Miles should demonstrate her liberal credentials by doing what Bob does

    1) Defend Roy Moore valiantly
    2) Defend Donald Trump
    3) Attack Rachael Maddow
    4) Attack Mika Brez.
    5) Attack the NYTimes
    6) Attack liberals

    In short, act like a true Trumptard to demonstrate one's liberal creds.


    1. 1100 word article and, other than repeating that it needs to improve to attract students from more affluent households, this was the sum total of the discussion of the state of academics at Spain Elementary-Middle School and what to do about it:

      [QUOTE] Spain is one of three district schools that is now offering Montessori classes to kids in preschool and kindergarten—a program that is one of the district’s key initiatives to attract middle-class families.

      In addition to rebuilding the performing-arts programs, Cannon says he created new computer labs and is adding resources to help bring up test scores, which have been low in recent years. In most grades, fewer than 5 percent of the school’s students tested proficient in math on the state’s M-STEP exam last year.
      [END QUOTE]

  9. I graduated from DPS.... class of 1970. When I checked on the status of Spain Elementary-Middle.... one of the first posts is from the Atlantic....also coverage by Detroit back up and running looks pretty good.