>September 1, 1999
>To: Detroit Free Press
>From: George N. Schmidt, Chicago Teacher, on behalf of myself and hundreds of others
>Re: Support for the striking Detroit teachers
>Dear Freep:
>On behalf of myself and hundreds of other Chicago public school teachers --
>most of us in the high schools -- I am extending my support for Detroit's
>teachers in their strike for professional working conditions, lower class
>size, and decent treatment from Detroit's school board. A solid union
>contract will be the best thing to protect the schools from the hypocrisy and
>hype which will have been passed around as "school reform" in Detroit and
>elsewhere in the coming years. The future of your public schools, especially
>those serving the city's poorest children, is at stake in this strike, and
>the striking teachers and the ones showing true concern for the education of
>It is sad that teachers must take to the picket lines to stop the hypocrisy
>of "school reform" in its tracks.
>It is better that this be the case than that Detroit's teachers, schools, and
>children suffer the long-term horrors of what is being exported from Chicago
>nowadays. Were your reporters to spend as much time talking to those of us
>who have been factually critical of Chicago's so-called "school reform" as
>you did to the carefully staged public relations events you reported last
>Spring, the terms of the present debate might have been easier for the public
>to understand.
>One of the most important things left out of the recent Detroit discussions
>of "school reform" is that the Chicago "school reform" model has been a
>failure in everything but public relations, political patronage, and
>dictatorial politics of the most undemocratic kind. For inner city schools,
>teachers, and children, Chicago's much hyped "school reform" is a disaster
>which has replaced classroom teaching with test mania and a professional
>commitment to gradual improvement with cheap public relations tricks,
>political patronage, and personal vendettas. Chicago's miracles are all based
>on claims that arose from gains in one set of standardized tessts (the Iowas
>and their high school equivalents, the TAPs), something that Detroit already
>knew was a bogus way of measuring schools and classrooms.
>For Detroit to adopt the "Chicago model" was a travesty of what large urban
>school systems need for long term improvements and not just short term hype.
>For anyone who cares about the education of urban children and the lives of
>their teachers to claim that the recent adoption of Chicago's "model" is
>anything but an attack on minority teachers and schools has ignored the facts
>of recent Chicago history. Political dicatatorships will not result in
>improvements for public schools in a democracy.
>The striking Detroit teachers who are demanding reduced class sizes are in
>the real leadership of educational improvement and the real heroes of the
>moment. "School Reform" here in Chicago has been anti-teacher, anti-union
>and an attack on long term improvements in our most needy urban schools and
>classrooms. The expensive public relations and political hype from here in
>Chicago should be ignored until it can be reexamined in detail, rebutted fact
>for fact, and then consigned to the dustbins of public relations and
>political history.
>Please talk to Chicago's classroom teachers -- especially those of us who
>have been under attack in the high schools and those of us who have faced the
>horrors of Chicago's lies and hypocrisy -- before you report, as your
>newspaper has, that the present teachers' strike threatens "school reform" in
>Detroit or anywhere else.
>The strike is the necessary salvation of teaching and learning in Detroit,
>just as the adoption of "school reform" Chicago-style would have been the
>beginning of a long journey to perdition had the teachers not had the courage
>to resist these hypocrisies, even at the risk of putting their paychecks and
>careers on the line.
>George N. Schmidt,
>Chicago High School Teacher (30 year veteran)
>Newspaper Editor,
>5132 W. Berteau
>Chicago, IL 60641
>P.S. If you wish details of the statements I have made regarding the
>hypocrisy and hype of Chicago's "school reform" please feel free to contact
>me and I will send you as much material as you can fathom. You can also hit
>my name (George N. Schmidt) and the name of our newspaper (Substance) tofind
>out some background. The current Teacher magazine also includes a story
>detailing the conflicts and complexity of the Chicago story.