Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sixty Students

Facing financial meltdown, the Detroit public school system has been ordered to close half its schools, raising class sizes to as high as sixty students per high school class. Just another present to the people from our enlightened leaders in Washington.

It's not fair, of course, to blame this crisis entirely on the present Republican Congress. Detroit's public schools, like most big-city public schools, have been in freefall for decades.

But then, it's not inappropriate to suggest that the slash-and-burn mentality the current Republican Congress has brought to our nation's capital is the same that has failed our public schools over the past half-century.

To speak bluntly, our nation's leaders don't give a shit about poor black kids in Detroit's public schools. They never have. And witness the results.

I looked up the statistics on one of Detroit's public high schools, Barsamian Preparatory Center. (It was first on the alphabetical list.) Almost 100% of its students are black. Almost 80% receive free lunches. Its attendance rates are around 55%. Over 60% of its students lack proficiency (as defined under No Child Left Behind) in all subjects, including reading, math, and writing. That's actually a lot better than the district as a whole, where the below-proficient population is over 80%. And anywhere between 50 and 60% of the students in this "preparatory" high school drop out before completing their degrees.

Apparently, what they're being prepared for is the reality of being poor and black in America: no one gives a shit about you.

I have a prediction for the 60 students in each class at schools like Barsamian Prep. 30 will drop out and end up either dead on the streets, hooked on drugs, living off welfare, or working at minimum wage. Of the remaining 30, 10 will rely on public assistance, 10 will find low-wage employment, 5 will go to community college and obtain work as lab techs or clerical laborers, 4 will go to state schools and possibly manage to claw their way into the middle class, and 1 will go to Harvard, where, feeling hopelessly alienated and out of place, he'll commit suicide.

And our elected leaders in Washington will be chauffeured home to their mansions and townhouses, and wash their hands for dinner, and congratulate themselves on a job well done.

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