Sunday, December 02, 2012

My Old School

My Old High School, Cass Technical circa1940
I was born in Detroit and still consider myself a Detroit boy. I went to a truly once upon a time great urban High School, the old Cass Technical High which was situated across from the old Tiger Stadium in the inner city. I had to really want to go to Cass. It involved an hour long bus ride from my Northwestern Detroit neighborhood. It was a grand mixing ground for classes, race and ideas. It was a huge building, 9 stories tall from the early 1900's. It had a professional theater in the heart of the structure, a real Beaux Art classic space with Balcony entrances on the 5th floor! The theater department produced many professionals who went on to become stars on stage and in music over the years. I have to say that the cafeteria, itself was fantastic, located at the top of the building, a huge space, perhaps 2 stories tall with sky lights.  Since the school was a trade school, the food was prepared by the students in the programs. Did you ever meet a kid who was actually nostalgic about his high school cafeteria food? I am. 
 I went because it was simply the best Art Education a high school kid could get. It was the mid 60's and Detroit was truly a Renaissance city, musically, politically and culturally. For a almost suburban white kid, I was suddenly in the epicenter. The great thing about Cass was that any kid who wanted to and could qualify academically for the programs could go. Before I went there I was a pretty naive kid from Warren G, Harding Jr. High. I liked the Beatles and Herman's Hermits and the Yardbirds. I might have met a black person. I knew zilch about politics. With in a few weeks of attending Cass, I was enmeshed in the Civil Rights Movement. I was learning about progressive political ideas, I had friends from a very broad range of racial, economic backgrounds. I had discovered real music. I was in love with a girl who looked just like Diana Ross... and best of all, it was free.
It was free. I was free to learn about the world. I was free to meet kids from every ethnic, social and racial background. We were free to discover each other, become friends and exchange ideas. Free to enjoy and profit from the best social and cultural education available. 
Free..The anathema of economic conservative fascists who want to privatize education for:
A) Corporate profits, being able to glean the big bucks from government free money subsidies and the fees they collect from parents who want to make sure their children go to "better schools".
a rather iconic image of the clock in my
old geometry class room on the 5th floor of the old Cass Tech
B)  To make education an advantage of the privileged classes. To keep the "rabble" contained into a feudal class system and create a sub standard educated permanent underclass. The fodder for reduced expectations, for sub standard wages and working conditions. An expendable class to provide cheap labor who never learn to expect more.
Sheer Greed, immediate profit and class warfare are the reasons why Michigan is well on the way to become the first state to totally Privatize Education. Ever since Rick Snyder soft-talked his way into the governorship in Michigan, he threw the doors wide open for his biggest donors, the Mackinac Center, ALEC and the Koch Brothers (All for One and One for All against the Rest of Us).
That bunch almost got away with the wholesale takeover of entire communities, using the ruse of a revised, blatantly unconstitutional Emergency Manager law, but--many, many thanks to the voters (and, of course, to the efforts of Chris Savage at Eclectablog and his direct line to the great Rachel Maddow)--it looks like at least this one attack on our democracy may be defeated, but it's not over yet. They're fighting it, because, you know, screw the constitution.

But, true to form, Snyder, the Republican majority legislature, and the Tyrannical Triad (All for One and One for All. . .) have already turned their misguided attentions to the other Big Thing on their agenda: public education. They want it gone. For good. Not just relegated to second banana in favor of schools-for-nothing-but-profit, but out of there.
The met on Thursday to discuss the pros and pros of doing away with our educational system, and it's not likely any of us who are horrified at the thought of privatizing our venerable, free, fair system of ensuring an adequate education for every breathing kid in America will have any impact, no matter what we say or do.
The superintendent of Bloomfield Hills Schools, Rob Glass, grew alarmed enough at this latest assault to send a letter home to the parents, advising them of the proposed takeover attempt. Bloomfield Hills houses a fair share of one-to-ten-percenters and is the home town of one Mitt Romney. Cranbrook Academy, the tony private prep school where Mitt and Anne Romney met as students, is in Bloomfield Hills. But the school superintendent is, thankfully, a public school advocate--a hero for all children--who may just have put his job on the line by exposing the upcoming actions of the governor and his cohorts.
Read his entire letter to the parents here. He says, in part (my highlights):

"I’ve never considered myself a conspiracy theorist—until now. This package of bills is the latest in a yearlong barrage of ideologically-driven bills designed to weaken and defund locally-controlled public education, handing scarce taxpayer dollars over to for-profit entities operating under a different set of rules. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan and State Board of Education President John Austin and others have also expressed various concerns, as has the Detroit Free Press.
We embrace change, innovation and personalization.We’re passionate about providing choices and options for students. We compete strongly in the educational marketplace. We must never stop improving. This is not a laissez faire plea to defend the status quo. This is about making sure this tidal wave of untested legislation does not sweep away the valued programs our local community has proudly built into its cherished school system."

Chris Savage at Eclectablog, who cadged quotes (he readily admits) from Brainwrap at Daily Kos, who also published Rob Glass's letter, has more on this. Click here, please, and give it the attention it deserves. Even if you're not from Michigan. This is a battle that has only begun and we'll all have to fight before it's over.
Hard core privateers from the far right have taken over the Republican party and Michigan is Ground Zero for their operations. They won't let up until they've taken it all. Hundreds of thousands of voters across this beautiful state hit the Republican button and cast their votes for them. They won and are cruising along on what they see as a mandate because their voters either didn't know or didn't care. Either excuse is irresponsible and reprehensible.
Trying to do away with public education is nothing new. It's been going on since public education became the right thing to do in a democracy, but this is the first time in my memory that an end to all that looks possible.
Your children, grandchildren and their grandchildren and every other kid depending on free public education will have to pay the price, all because those who did vote for them gave no more thought to it than they would a vote for an "American Idol". That's not just crazy, it's insane.

Addendum: Please click onto and sign this petition: (Stop the Takeover of Education in Michigan)


Lodo Grdzak said...

When you can claim Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, that's the right and left bower of music right there.

Anonymous said...

My father graduated from Cass Tech in 1942 (and went directly to Army Air Corps training and off to England flying B-17s and B-24s)
It was one of the first racially integrated high schools in the USA.