I grew up in Southeast Michigan, just outside of Detroit in a Middle to Upper Class Neighborhood. I received the best opportunities in life because of where I grew up, and truthfully because of the color of my skin. I am a white man, and anyone that says color doesn’t matter, or that being white is not “being privileged” is not seeing what I am seeing. I understand that things in this country have changed over the last 50 to 100 years as it relates to diversity, but I do not believe that this is by any means an equal country. It is far from it!
I know live 8.5 miles from the school I work at in Detroit, my son attends a high school in that district that is no more than 10-12 miles from the high school I work at, yet the differences between these two schools, these two neighborhoods, is night and day. The featured picture is of one of the blocks across from my school. I think we can all agree that the neighborhoods that most of us live in do not look like this, yet this is Detroit. 8.5 Miles from my home where there is not one abandon house, no medical marijuana depots, no strip joints and no gun fire.
The School my son attends is well taken care of, has many electives, plenty of teachers, and no metal detectors. They have books, computers, copy machines, cold drinking water and plenty of drinking fountains to choose from. My school, has 1 out of 3 boilers working, and many of the classes in the winter are so warm that I sweat through my shirts and sometimes my pants. Our windows do not open, and the drinking water is, well not available. There are a few water fountains that work, but kids will not drink from them because of the taste and the look. I am not sure of the quality of the water, but perception is power and the water fountains look bad. This means that most of our students are probably dehydrated, which to be a successful learner, the first criteria is that you need to be hydrated, have decent nutrition and have decent shelter. Here, those are well either not here, or very poor.
The next step to being successful in school is to have a feeling of safety, and well Im in the 9th Precinct in Detroit and safety is most definitely an issue in their neighborhoods and the community. Our school, I would say is fairly safe from violence, and I think I can say that the students here are as safe as the students at my sons school to a certain degree, while in the school building. Outside of the school though is other story. Kids do not feel safe walking to and from school. Kids have been robbed, mugged, had guns put to their heads, and always have to be aware of the stray dogs that roam about Detroit.
Since starting work here, these are some of the things that I have heard from kids; One student while walking to school had a gun put to his head and was told to hand over everything he had. Luckily this student was not injured physically, but psychologically, emotionally, he was scared. Another student was telling me about her home, she lives with her Auntie, who has been ill, she has been in and out of the hospital and has not been able to work. This also means that this young lady (15 years old) has to take care of her younger siblings, helping them with their school work, chores, dinner, and preparing them for bed, a job which in most households outside the city would be done by an adult. She is also working 20-30 hours a week on top of attending high school full time.
I know of at least 4 current students that are living in abandon houses either with family or friends because they cannot afford housing. They have limited heat, and limited water sometimes no power, yet these kids still make it to school.
These are just a few of the cases, and they are by no means the worst cases. If you or I were in these situations could we truly focus in class, could we learn effectively, or would we, like these kids struggle academically and behaviorally. I believe that no matter who you are, white, black, jewish or muslim, straight or gay, you would most likely behave in the very same way the kids in many Detroit schools behave. Your grades would suffer, your behavior would not be the best and your hopes and dreams would always seem to be just too far to ever reach.
So what is the solution, for Detroit and really for many of our schools across this great nation? How can we catch up with the rest of the industrialized world, one that currently we are in the middle of the pack. In Detroit, our kids are NOT career and college ready, and from what I have seen from many of the schools I have worked in, or been apart of neither are their kids. Our educational system is archaic, it has not really changed in a 100 years, other than technology. We are teaching the same skills as we did 50 years ago, during a time when many people would leave school and go into factory work, which is no longer a real option for most these days. The skills we are teaching are called hard skills, math, science, english, and history. Which are important skills, but by no means the only skills needed to be college and career ready. Please know that most high schools will have this statement in either their mission or their vision statement, and truth be told, students are NOT ready for either.
Let’s take a look at what soft skills companies are looking for these days:
- Communication Skills: being able to effectively communicate is something that is severely lacking with young people today which has a lot to do with social media and texting. Kids do not understand the importance of body language, tone of voice, eye contact and social cues. Most schools and classrooms that I have been in seem to follow the policy for students that you come into class, you sit down and you listen. This method of teaching is old and played out, it is not effective and certainly not preparing students to communicate effectively, let alone learn effectively.
- Problem-Solving: A skill which I believe is as important as communication. Problem-solving is a skill that should be seen as critical in all classes, but when kids are allowed to fail, not allowed to think in their own ways Problem-solving does not happen. Most of the time you are taught to do it the teachers way, and if you go on your own, you receive a lower grade.
- Self-Management: Students understanding self is almost never taught in school. It is something that is learned in the home, which is often taught wrong, and modeled inappropriately.
I could go on and on, but the truth is I am tired of the bull shit, I am tired of the politics in our schools and in this country, so I am signing off for know and will pick up this at a later date.