As I See It 6-20
Sunday, October 28, 2007

By Carol Baker

   Mr. Greg Jones recently authored an article slamming a local Lansing high school and Lansing parents (A Tale/Tail of Three (3) Schools, TNCP, Oct 14, 2007) Mr. Jones took his experience in a 9 day substitute teaching position and made many broad, inaccurate and negative assumptions that this particular Lansing high school has a culture of 'mob rule' and 'cultural anti-intellectualism.'  How does Mr. Jones substantiate, beyond his negative substitute teaching experience, that this is a 'dysfunctional urban high school'?  And then to compare it to the 'other planet' of Dewitt, with 'all modern equipment… students confident and not distracted' is an injustice that must be addressed.   
     Academic achievement has been found, over many years and with much research, to be higher when the family of the student has higher socio economic status.  This higher SES (socio economic status) is afforded by multiple generations of individual family education, generations of land and home ownership and generations of 'confidence' people feel knowing that the laws of the land were written for them (white males).  In the U.S., where wealth was literally built on the backs of slavery and land robbery, colonialism and racism, quite naturally there are groups of people who are more 'confident and not distracted' than others.  That is what secure employment, secure income, home ownership, money for computers, phones, high end technology, internet at home, cars to take children to after school programs and enrichment activities, nannies and lack of stress worrying about racism and how it will peek its ugly head at you, will do for you.  You will be able to concentrate on your education and imagine that it will actually lead you to employment in a lucrative field.  And it probably will…
   How does this actually play out today in high schools today?  Let's just look at the ones Mr. Jones mentioned - Lansing, Dewitt and Detroit.  All three districts list about the same per pupil expenditure - about $7,500 annually.  However, if Dewitt parents want to raise money for their child's school, they have access to high end fundraisers and grants afforded by membership in the good ole boys club.  How have I come to such a conclusion?  In Lansing, the median home costs $115,400.  In Detroit the median home cost is $99,800.  In Dewitt, the median home costs $209,400.  The median income in Lansing is $37,957.  The median income in Detroit is $32, 088.  The median income in Dewitt is $80,337. According to Rev. Jesse Jackson, in his speech in Lansing last week, there were over 40 foreclosures in Lansing this September.  These foreclosures will affect Lansing students! Becoming homeless will certainly cause a student 'insecurities and lack of confidence'.
     Why can our society spend literally billions of dollars on a foreign war that is not supported by the majority of citizens, but has to argue constantly about school budgets and school funding.  Why does our Department of Education continue to mandate meaningless high stakes testing like the MEAP and not properly fund the schools to make sure all kids can score well on the tests?  Why is asthma substantially higher in urban area students, as well as lead poisoning, but our society 'cannot afford' health care for everyone? 
     Mr. Greg Jones comparison of Dewitt to Lansing is truly comparing apples to oranges, or as he said, one planet to another.  Does this mean that there is a culture of 'anti-intellectualism' or 'mob rule'?  Of course not!  The majority of kids in our high schools are respectful and academic. If one thoughtfully scratches the surface, one can see that our society's injustices are simply mirrored in our schools.  Mr. Jones concludes that parents need to provide more guidance and the state needs to pressure the parents to be more accountable.  'The state', so to speak, is the exact institution that keeps the injustice ball rolling.  Mr. Jones would be better off finding a place where he could focus on making Lansing a stronger community for everyone.  We all need to work together especially hard these next few years to turn Lansing into a financially secure community with solid housing, a clean environment and employment options.  Blaming  parents, struggling workers or school staff will not increase academic achievement.  Ensuring economic and social justice for all Lansing residents will.


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