Thursday, April 03, 2008

Detroit's Comeback: Education Equals Success by Akindele Akinyemi

Detroit will never in a million years have an excellent school system until revolutionary changes are made.

Education in the age of technology is a whole different ball game from education in the age of machines. Why? Because the rules of society and business are changing. The sluggish, bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all, school systems we have today are not keeping up. If you think I am joking take a look at the warehouse schools Detroit Public Schools are running. Even Cass Tech and Renaissance High Schools should be smaller in size and capacity.

To help prepare our children to compete and succeed in the information age economy of the 21st century, we need to give parents the freedom choose schools that work - schools that are safe, clean, highly personalized, academically challenging and that reinforce rather than undermine the moral and spiritual values parents are trying to teach at home.

What's more, we need to give teachers the freedom to create such schools - freedom from top-down rules and regulations, and expensive, out-of-touch bureaucracies.

So the big question now is this: Can parents and teachers can wrestle schools away from the politicians and bureaucrats and insure that Michigan's children can compete and succeed in this information age economy? Of course but it is critical that Michigan elects state representatives, state senators and a governor who is a true friend of parental and local control of education - because the special interest groups who oppose more parental and local control of education are too powerful to be faced all alone.

Detroit Public Schools are still in the Machine Age of education. This was all about bigness - big factories, big companies, big unions, big cities and big government. The Information Age is dynamic - anti-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian, anti-centralization - giving us more freedom, more personal control and more choices in our lives.

Enter the small business explosion. New technology is giving people new options, and Detroiters are eagerly seizing them. People will increasingly use sophisticated (and inexpensive) technology such as personal computers, fax machines, cell phones, the Internet, management and accounting software and the like to run national and global operations out of their homes and small offices. Huge discount office supply stores are now just down the street. Copying centers and business support companies like Kinko's are springing up everywhere. This puts further pressure on big corporations who must constantly fight to stay nimble and innovative in a highly-competitive national and global economy.

That's why it's so critical that our children receive a world-class education that truly equips them to compete and succeed in this new information age economy. Because knowledge is power. Human capital is now the source of real wealth. If a child masters the basics - reading, writing, arithmetic, and critical thinking - and truly learns to learn, he or she will experience more opportunities and a higher standard of living than we as parents can possibly imagine.

So how come Detroit Public Schools are only graduating 32% of its students into the information age? Try an agrarian approach to education. DPS are still stuck on 19th century educational tactics. Therefore, the danger is that children in DPS who are not equipped with a solid grasp of fundamental skills may very well be left behind in this new information age economy. Children who slip between the cracks of society in schools that don't work - with roofs that leak, books missing pages, and classrooms devoid of discipline and moral instruction, run by bureaucrats obsessed with "values-clarification," "invented spelling" and "new math" - will suffer greatly. They will be cheated out of the opportunity to pursue the American Dream, which is to discover and develop to the fullest their God-given potential. They will find themselves unable to comprehend - much less compete in - a society in which the mastery of information, not muscle, is the new source of wealth and power.

Suburban and rural areas are not exempt. Today in too many of these schools test scores and basic skills are also dropping. High standards in reading, writing, and math have been systematically watered down. At the same time, too many schools are teaching a set of values that contradict what parents are trying to instill at home. And rapidly growing educational bureaucracies are diverting valuable resources away from classrooms.

So what can we do?

The answer is to take control of education out of the hands of politicians and bureaucrats and put power back in the hands of parents and teachers. That means allowing parents the right to choose which school is best for their children, and giving teachers the freedom to create quality schools. Monopolies don't work in business, and they don't work in education.

The key to improving education is increasing accountability, and that means putting control of education dollars into the hands of parents and letting them choose for the best school for their children.

Parents and teachers all over the country understand - even if the establishment politicians don't - that as we head into an exciting new century and a rapidly-changing global economy, we need to prepare our children to compete and succeed.

Our job now is to remove the political obstacles that stand in the way. It won't be easy but I am hoping our candidates who are running for state representative here in Metro Detroit understand the importance of expanding the charter cap and implementing alternative teacher certification requirements in the State of Michigan.

2 comments: said...

C'mon, now. Any school system that has a guy like the good "Reverend" on the school board can't be all bad.


maidintheus said...

Mr. Akinyemi,

These are some of the roots to the problem. Your dedication for things that lead to success is appreciated and sorely needed.

Your (win/win) approach is a breath of fresh air.

Always, I look forward to what you have to say.