Amid poverty and despair, Detroit’s poor children find a way to laugh, in spite of it all. During a time when they should be enjoying life- worry free- they have the lowest test scores, chronic absenteeism, health, and living environment in the nation-yet they endure. Regrettably, The Detroit News reports these children are living in the worst extreme poverty, more than all the nation’s 50 largest cities, (2/29/15).
Akin to Detroit’s children, the children of the Mania slums, even though they are some of the poorest in the world, they act like any other youngster by playing in a paddling pool and even tying rubber bands together to make bracelets (Sabastien Cuvelier/HotSpot Media).
Though they still manage to smile and laugh, Detroit’s children face a litany of challenges.
According to the National Test Scores, the fourth-eight graders lagged far behind all cities, in reading and math, four times in a row (2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015). Moreover, The Associate Press reports: DPS has the highest rate of chronic absenteeism in the US, which also impacts their test scores.
It gets worse, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported Detroit’s children having elevated lead levels in their blood, from being exposed to older dilapidating, homes built before 1978. These lead levels have proven to affect their learning, behavior, and future criminal potentiality.
Parents’ hope for their children are to be healthy, happy and successful; and to have a better life than what they had. Given the low public schools standardized test scores, parents line up to enroll their kids into good reputable schools. Many charter and privatized schools, cherry-pick and vet for academically successful students, to help the schools’ reputation and endorsements. Students with disciplinary problems- if by chance,-are accepted, their vouchers may be retained (for a stipulated window period), but for various reasons, many of these students return to public schools, voucher- less. This vetting process has been an on-going issue between charter schools and public schools. Unfortunately, special needs students are unlikely candidates for admission to these schools, leaving them little choice but to attend public schools.
Yet despite the state, local and community grappling on how to fund and best educate our children, they can be seen gleefully laughing, and playing in front of or near abandoned houses, exposed to pollutants, waste, and loosed dogs, while their parents may face eviction, shut off water notices and more. Public schools, before its numerous closings, offered them an alternative to escape these devastating surrounding and hardships.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.”
Nelson Mandela (https://www.brainyquote.com).
Charter and private schools do have the draw and appeal to better educate students (small class size, selected students and more). Public schools from its inception, and throughout the years, have played a variety of roles for children and the neighborhoods. For many poor neighborhood children, it became a home away from home -a safe place. Youngsters looked forward to early morning breakfast and lunch. For many, this was their only meals and place of warmth, especially for the homeless families Instead of a cold shoulder due to: truancy, suspensions, and low test scores, the public school teachers, and staff, generally made them feel wanted, and accepted (contrary to popular opinion, learning did take place; to what extent and under what conditions, is for another discussion. Nowadays, data shows increasing numbers of charter and private schools under similar scrutiny).
Given sufficient lawful safety measures, including staff, coaches, and sponsors, after school activities provided children a place of comfort where they could escape drive-bys, gangs, drugs, hunger, harm, hostilities, helplessness and other ills. Extracurricular activities (debate, band, chess, yearbook, newspaper and more) taught them discipline, team-work, and socialization skills; more importantly they had the opportunity to earn college scholarships. Homecoming parades, baseball, football and basketball games filled a void and lifted the spirit in the neighborhoods. In short, it offered many students hope and confidence to become better citizens in society. And many of today’s leaders can vouch for this-without a voucher.