This past week I have been mired in the aftermath of the Board of Regents meeting at Eastern Michigan University, where a politically appointed and partisan Board of Regents ignored the will of those in attendance, the thousands who signed a petition, mountains of evidence that prove that Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) is failing students in Detroit as well as their own appointed president, Sue Martin, and decided to continue EMUs and ongoing relationship with the toxic and controversial EAA.
Eastern Michigan University is well-respected as a nationwide leading University in preparing teachers for the real world, and the EMU College of Education is held up as an example of excellence and holds that distinction, I am venturing to guess, because they have made some hard and even controversial choices over many decades, to make sure standards and practices were cutting edge and seasoned. I am also venturing to guess that over those years, in spite of the world changing, EMU continued to uphold their ability to attract not just quality students who were seeking an Education major, but also leaders in the education field giving them a roster of instructors and faculty who were not just a source of pride, but people who were innovative, cutting edge and committed to transferring their knowledge to their students and they do this with great passion.
So, what happened last Friday in Ypsilanti at EMU at the Board of Regents meeting was a living, breathing and disgusting example of aborted democracy.
For a moment just read this and let it marinate a bit before you react.
It was obvious that students at EMU know they are being poked at. It is also obvious that they are not just disappointed by the decision to originally affiliate with the EAA, but after it became clear, which did not take long, that the EAA was failing the students in the 15 schools that make up the EAA, something had to be done.
When the exceptionally talented faculty at EMU saw the deficiencies inherent in this computer-based “teaching” model and the failures that were being reported almost from day one of the EAA, they not only shared their concern, they tried valiantly to do something about it. Not just because there was the guilty by association perception, but because what the EAA was formed to do, and was necessary, to some degree, gave EMU a serious opportunity to change the way our young people were educated. A more noble effort does not exist in education.
Now, factor into that equation an appointed Board of Regents who were given marching orders, I would think, from the person who appointed them – Michigan Governor Rick Snyder – and you now have a recipe for drastic and profound failure.
Predictably, that is what happened even if no one will openly admit it. Even though no one is taking responsibility. Even though the students are being cheated out of an education that were promised and is guaranteed in the state constitution, although we recently learned from our own state Supreme Court that the quality of education is not guaranteed in Michigan, but an education is. This seems like the perfect storm for NOT educating our children, and we are NOT doing that in the EAA as the data clearly shows. If I were a student in the embattled and controversial EAA schools, I would run away from it as fast as I could. That goes for the parents, too.
I do recognize that this is not always possible. Not every household can uproot a child and cart them to a new school. I get that. I would also venture to guess that when the EAA was announced as some kind of pilot program that the parents in Detroit would be able to embrace, that the very dreams they dared to dream for their children to transcend the quick-sand that a Detroit Public School education had evolved away from and not towards was exciting. I am now not so sure there was a full-fledged understanding of what the EAA was or what it would do for their kid, but, as a parent, if I am told that at no cost to me, my child will get a first class education using cutting edge technologies and a promise for a better future, why would I be against that, right?
It has not worked out that way, but let me share what we are teaching the children of Detroit who are being cheated out of a first class public education right now. Those attending the EAA are seeing an example of a dictatorship in action. They are seeing the influence of money in politics, and they are seeing, first hand, that First Amendment rights, along with democracy, are being aborted to satisfy the wealthy who are taking OUR tax dollars and using it in a fashion that garners even more suspicion as to why this was even allowed to begin wit.
To ignore FACTS in order to expand a system of education we are not even close to knowing if it will work so that more public dollars can be wasted is unfathomable.
Money, the root of all evil, is a raging monster that has engulfed the EMU campus administration, the appointed Board, and other fringe elements. That is clear at this point. But let me also share an observation that occurred to me the other day as I was looking at EMU’s stats. EMU has approximately 23,000 students, has been recognized as a leading institution in training educators for many decades now, and has been a portal for many Detroit Public School graduates to attend college. They have always been forward-thinking and believed in equal opportunity. I might even suggest that the reason they took on the role as overseer of the EAA was a solid business decision in that those who graduate from the EAA high schools are more likely attend EMU. That’s NOT a bad idea in the least.
Three members of the EAA Board are from EMU. If EMU has a say in the way these young minds are shaped and the information they are fed and they hold them to a standard that produces a better-educated and more informed student, how could that be bad? But clearly that’s not what is happening.
Maybe, just maybe, Rick Snyder’s deal with Eli Broad and his foundation had a plan like this mapped out long before Snyder was elected (and if Snyder was offered this, so were other Republican candidates.) Maybe the software being used to cheat young people out of a quality education is part of a for-profit scheme that returns some of the Broad money back to Broad. I am not saying that is what happened, but I am saying it’s something to consider.
So, GOP legislature, if you are so anti-abortion, take your hands off of democracy and the First Amendment rights that even children have and go away. It’s time to let teachers solve these issues. It’s time for EMU to show leadership and demand a larger say in the way forward for the EAA and, if there is not a clear way forward – because we cannot waste another school year on what most see as a failure anyway – then get out NOW and deal with the legal implications as you must.
The EAA, Eastern Michigan University, the Detroit Public Schools, the GOP Legislature, and the Governor need to look in the mirror and admit their mistakes now. EMU’s students, faculty, and administration want to do the right thing, I honestly believe that. But as long as the appointed Board of Regents at EMU are taking their marching orders from Rick Snyder and Dick DeVos, among others, not only is the EAA doomed to fail but we are doomed to fail the children and their parents who are paying taxes and should have a say, especially those who don’t have the option of taking their children elsewhere. These are families who, through no fault of their own, were thrown into an experiment that has the potential to erase decades of respect and excellent outcomes for teachers the world over.
Finally, think about this: There is most likely not a single one of us that hasn’t been taught by a teacher that wasn’t a graduate of EMU’s School of Education at some point in our K-12 school experience and into higher education, as well. My fear, honestly, is that this will become a matter of lore and no longer a point of pride for a University that can easily say they helped educate the world. After this, their claim to fame may just be the exact opposite: that they ushered in a new era of education that ruined at least a generation of school children.
Could you live with that? I couldn’t.