The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Where's the outrage?

In the wake of a report on stunningly low dropout rates in several major cities, Nolan Finney, editorial page editor of the Detroit News, wrote an op-ed piece asking what would be done about Detroit schools' worst-in-the-country graduation rate of 24.9%:

Bulldozers ought to be rolling across Detroit, leveling public schools that are trapping children in poverty and ignorance.

An army of civil rights lawyers ought to be marching up the steps of the federal courthouse on behalf of students being denied their basic right to a decent education by a chronically incompetent school system.

No other response is adequate to the report that Detroit Public Schools graduates just 25 percent of its students. That news last week should have rocked this city with outrage.

and:

Not another dime of taxpayer money should go to subsidize this failure. Nor should the future of another Detroit child be destroyed by a school system that will never get it right.

If a 25 percent graduation rate doesn't make Detroit parents angry enough to demand radical change from the education system, nothing will.

Well, at least somebody's outraged.

Unfortunately, he seems to be one of a select few: aside from a flurry of news articles published last week when this report was released, I've heard almost nothing about this new data, and certainly nothing along the lines of Mr. Finney's demand for real action. The Indianapolis Star, whose city schools saw a 30.5% graduation rate, wrote a mealy rally-round-the-troops editorial titled "Let's look forward to brighter education future"; the Cleveland Plains-Dealer, whose urban schools boasted a 34.1% graduation rate, wrote nothing at all.

Why is that? How can we, as a society, see systemic failure in these and other cities, and respond with a collective yawn?

I don't have the answer - but I can tell you that if we don't do anything, if we don't demand accountability and change, then those individuals perpetuating, enabling, or defending these failures have no incentive to change, the human costs be damned. If we can absorb reports like these with nary a word said, then we have proven to them that we're fine with what they're doing, and tacitly given them permission to keep doing it.

Is that what we want? Even if it doesn't affect your kids directly - even if you've got yours - is it really acceptable to allow this to happen to so many other children? Is it better to keep up appearances, not ruffle any feathers, than to demand dramatic change?

Where's the outrage?

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