I remember being scared. The thought of going to a new school overwhelmed me with a sense of anxiety that my young 6 year-old self had never felt the burden of. We all walked around asking the same question. “Are you going to Elms?” Our school district had just built a brand new school and half of the students would be re-zoned to attend it in the following year. My sister and I were among those students. I remember how upset I was when I found out that some of my favorite teachers wouldn’t be transferring over to the new school. But the new-year came, and the brand new building emerged to life as we eagerly entered the school for the first time. It was beautiful, and my hesitation towards the transfer dissolved as I discovered all the resources that my new school would provide for me that my old one was unable to. But I was lucky. My story is not one that a lot of students get to tell. In the moment, 6 year-old me was excited because everything was new. New desks, new whiteboards, new teachers. There was joy that came from knowing that we were the first kids in the school. But little did I know that just having those resources in general was something to be so immensely grateful for. Because there are, in fact, schools that don’t have such resources. There are kids that go to schools that don’t have enough supplies, let alone new supplies. There are kids that go to schools that don’t have books. Did you ever think such a thing would exist? Imagine it, a school without books. It seems almost impossible, again, how are there schools without books? Let that thought sink in. And then now think about this: how do we expect children to learn in a school without books? Would you expect a basketball player to reach the NBA without ever having access to a basketball? Or would you expect an artist to paint a beautiful mural without paint or a canvas? The answer is simply no. So why would we expect children to be able to learn how to read if they don’t have access to books? Well most people don’t. For most people, it’s easy to see how this is a pertinent problem. But does it appear to be a major problem for those that have the power to make the change, those who have the ability to provide our children with the resources they need to thrive?
When I think back to that brand new elementary school, I remember how pristinely white the walls were. I remember how clean it was. And now, as a young college student, I think once again about how lucky I was, and still am. Some kids don’t get to go to clean schools. Some kids are forced to go to schools that are unable to provide them with what would seem like basic necessities. Some kids go to school hungry. And yet again, I ask the question, how do we expect children to learn in such an environment? On top of that, how do we expect teachers to teach in such an environment?
These are precisely the horrific conditions that the children of the Detroit Public Schools must face. The children of Detroit go to schools without books. They go to school hungry, and the teachers of Detroit have to teach hungry children to read without books. It’s reality that I wouldn’t have fathomed to imagine. But I must, for it is just that, a reality. These children deserve the opportunity to learn, and to feel safe while doing so. But they are being systematically denied that right. When the teachers of Detroit staged sick-outs in an effort to stand for the children of Detroit, they were villainized. And on top of that, they were hit with restraining orders (which a judge ruled couldn’t be done). Instead of responding with a message of concern and empathy, the school district fired back with tactics to reinstate its authority. The government sat back as it continues to promote its education plan that focuses more on debt and punishment instead of the well-being of innocent children. We owe it to these children to take a stand. We owe them the opportunity to learn. Just by educating ourselves on the horrific conditions that these children must face, we have taken the first step in change. But now we must do me. We now must move for change. We must make it apparent that these conditions will not be tolerated, because no child deserves it. We must #standwithDPSteachers. By standing behind these brave teachers, it is the hope that they know they are not alone. That their efforts are worth something, and that they are indeed heroes for the children of the Detroit Public Schools system.
Take a look at the conditions in the Detroit Public School System: