Friday, March 26, 2010

The Making of An Edutropolis

I am getting phone calls and e-mails asking for my opinion on the upcoming gubernatorial election here in Michigan. Many people are asking me for my opinion on who would be the best Governor for the State of Michigan. They are asking for who I would support.

To tell you the truth I have not come out to support anyone. Not Mike Cox, Rick Snyder, Pete Hoekstra, Mike Bouchard or even my good friend State Sen. Tom George. I will not vote for a Democrat for Governor in Michigan.

I will say this. I am looking at two elements in this election. I would like to see who will have the strongest urban platform as it relates to infrastructure and who will take educational reform into the 21st century. Who is willing to reinvent urban communities in Michigan.

I have read Rick Snyder and Mike Cox's platform on education. Both Snyder and Cox have taken positions on urban infrastructure but it sounds like the same urban infrastructure that most Republican throw around during election season. I see that Cox is more open to lifting the cap off charter schools while Snyder is committed to transforming Michigan’s educational system is essential to prepare our children to compete globally in a knowledge-based economy. Both are needed to move Michigan forward.

Tom George is also committed to urban infrastructure in terms on reinventing urban greenspace and brownfield in urban areas such as Detroit. I also think this is necessary to build upon to create economic development.

I did not see a platform or ANYTHING on educational reform nor urban infrastructure from Mike Bouchard or Pete Hoekstra. So we will leave them out of the equation for now.

Well, whoever is going to be the next Governor of the State of Michigan need to support urban conservatives on the development of an educational empowerment zone called an Edutropolis. It is a concept that focuses on a K-16 network of academic institutions serving and supporting a multiplicity of educational, social, economic and cultural missions. This include the traditional triad of teaching, research and community service, and also, increasingly, community advancement and enhancement; i.e. economic development.

Most of our urban communities are brownfields. however, like what urban conservatives have been discussing for a while, we are sole interested in transforming urban communities into goldmines. We believe that an edutropolis in an area such as Benton Harbor, Northwest Detroit, Southeast Detroit or Northeast Detroit, Muskegon Heights, Saginaw, Flint and Pontiac will benefit from the edutropolis.

An edutropolis can help rebuild the middle class in these urban areas by reinventing failing schools into high quality institutions. Our aim is to draw students and faculty from an international pool of exceptionally qualified candidates and scholars. An edutropolis can serve an area like the Brightmoor district in Detroit with 21st century programs and academic courses that will improve their lives and advance their position in a competitive society.

K-16 education is a fundamental economic and cultural resource in urban areas across Michigan. Therefore, support for K-16 education will continue to be an important economic and social factor in Michigan's economic and social development, transcending partisan politics, public policy debates, and local, county and state elections.

What most people do not realize is the fact that the concept of campus and community has to be extended to embrace more than town and gown. It has to include the network of all the institutions of learning. This is why institutions such as Wayne County Community College should be allowed to authorize charter schools in Detroit.

The new 21st century model of an Historically Black College and Universities should be allowed to flourish in an edutropolis. That 21st century HBCU model is not based on the traditional school/campus model but now has been transformed into 100% online schools (cyber schools), small learning centers and an international model of education to help prepare students to compete globally.

There are office spaces all over the City of Detroit that are not being used in any capacity. Welcome to your new Historically Black College and University right here that is connected next to a high performing charter school which has a relationship to a high performing Detroit Public School that focuses on engineering. The private K-16 Christian school/college is training and developing new ways to reach a new ministry from a moral and spiritual perspective. When you have a network of these institutions working together they will anchor the middle class. When you develop a network this sophisticated it will begin to take shape in urban areas across Michigan with a high participation rate in education.

An edutrpolis must be able to educate our children in several disciplines:

Art and Design
Business and Management
Engineering and Technology
Medical and Dental
Music and Dramatic Arts

These core features are needed in urban areas to reinvent urban core here in Michigan. If we create a model here in urban areas such as Muskegon and Ecorse then we can take it to Newark, Los Angeles, Oakland, California and even Camden, NJ.

All too often, attempts to encourage urban renewal and get families to move back into cities fail to address one of the largest stumbling blocks: a lack of access to good schools. Urban conservatives strongly believe that the development of an edutropolis will help reinvent urban communities in Michigan. Working and middle class families with children are vital to neighborhood and city building because they have higher incomes and are more economically and socially stable.

The development of an edutropolis would also provide education alternatives to families through high performing charter schools and leaving the option of converting existing traditional public and private schools to Schools of Choice. As well as providing more educational options for parents, competition among those schools would prompt traditional public schools to improve. Quality education options also would reduce neighborhood income segregation as wealthier families would be attracted into low-income neighborhoods by high-quality schools.

We are not just limiting the idea of an edutropolis to urban areas in Michigan. We would like for urban conservatives to discuss this topic nationally and internationally. We no longer wait for the RNC, the Tea Party people or others to give us the green light to discuss our needs in our community. We have our own platform, our own issues that we need to address and create solutions for without asking for permission. The edutropolis should be on the lips of every urban conservative activist domestically and globally. The reason? Because urban conservatives do not look in the past for support (i.e. Ronald Reagan, Party of Lincoln, etc.). We acknowledge our past heroes on education (Booker T. Washington and Mary McCleod Bethune), our own past heroes on capitalism (Marcus Garvey, Madame C.J. Walker) and look into the future for leadership (Dambia Moyo, Muhammad Yunus, John Hope Bryant, and yourself).

So the next time someone asks you who you are supporting for public office ask them (1) an educational strategy and (2) and urban infrastructure strategy. Would they be willing to support the idea of an edutropolis and not only implementing this model domestically in urban Michigan but internationally in areas such as Lagos, Yaounde and Accra to create our own network and system of international educational excellence.

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