Letter to the Editor
RE http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006609070346 on Detroit Teachers' Strike

September 7, 2006

Dear Ms Pratt,

I have appreciated your reportage on DPS which I found incisive and fair.

This article, though, strikes me as otherwise. While it does deal with apparent crises within DPS, and hints at similar problems in the city, it really misses deeper issues.

For example, it is abundantly clear that doing school reform without doing social and economic reform is like washing the air on one side of a screen door. It just won't work. That is so easily seen, on the face of it, and now proved in life with a decade of bogus, one-sided, school "reform," that I think anyone who denies it, who suggests they can do school reform alone, is just stupid, or more likely, dishonest.

So, fixing the Detroit schools will require considerable changes in Detroit. It is clear that the city leaders, the ruling economic elites, and their elected leaders on school boards, the city council, etc, will not make the changes that are necessary. They are too corrupt, too greedy, too disinterested and racist.

The key players in changing Detroit are the teachers and other school workers who are centripetally positioned in the pivotal organizing point of most Detroiter's lives: schools. That is especially true because of de- industrialization, and the related collapse of the UAW.

It is clear, too, that social unrest, struggle, can cause change. An extreme example would be the Detroit uprising of 1967, which, despite all that is said about it, resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs, the relaxation of welfare regulations, and the expansion of education and health programs.

This is not to suggest another violent rising, but it is to say that masses of people acting in solidarity, taking direct action, can make change.

That is true in Detroit, now, as well. The state of Michigan is not bankrupt. It has money, and the state, as the teachers rightly have noticed, is responsible for many of the debts DPS incurred during the reign of the takeover school board.

So, on one hand, struggle, like strikes, can create the bottom up pressure for change, and on the other hand, the state has the money to respond to that struggle.

The leadership of the DFT may not have that kind of broad vision, but I know many teachers do, and, more than that, events like strikes can drive home pedagogical lessons that sometimes reading and research cannot.

So, I hope you will consider the possibility that while, on the face of it, things do look like they are spiralling downward, and the DPS and Detroit crises only deepening, it is more than possible that many good things will come of this strike.

In short, there are other, and I think more thoughtful and informed, sources out here...better than the people you interviewed.

All the best,

Dr Rich Gibson