By NICK CHILES
Something remarkable happened in Detroit this past week: dozens of students at the all-male Frederick Douglass Academy walked out of school together to protest the depressingly bad education that they have been receiving at this public school. The students claim that teachers are consistently absent, the school leadership is in disarray, they don’t have enough textbooks and so many of them have been left unattended by teachers calling in sick that dozens of students regularly gather together in the cafeteria and other common areas because they have nothing else to do.
The protest is taking place in a city that is viewed as one of the worst urban school districts in the nation. On the first day of school this year in Detroit, the attendance rate was 55 percent!
At a time when African-American students—particularly males—are frequently painted as apathetic and uninterested in their futures, the gravity of this student uprising in Detroit should not be underestimated. These boys should be loudly applauded for taking action, using their first amendment rights to bring much-needed attention to their sorry plight at Frederick Douglass. School district officials, in a classic bit of bureaucratic foolishness, responded by suspending the students for walking out of school.
Clad in the blazers and rep ties that make up their school uniforms, the boys—joined by parents and even a couple of Detroit school board members—marched outside the school and adapted a well-known chant: “We want…education! When do we want it? Now!”
The students are well aware of how much their futures have been imperiled by the lack of concern and care demonstrated by the Douglass staff. Senior Tevin Hill said in one published report that when he recently took a math placement exam at Bowling Green University, where he’s already been accepted, he couldn’t even answer one question.
“Right now, I’m not going to be as successful as I should be because I haven’t been properly taught,” he said.
One parent complained that her son received an A in geometry during the first semester just for showing up—students in the class never even took a final exam.
We write often on MyBrownBaby about the woeful state of the nation’s schools when it comes to educating black and brown kids. We frequently exhort parents to take a stand for their children. But not often do we see black teenage boys step up and raise their voices in unison, demanding that their need for an adequate education be taken seriously. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if boys and girls in other school systems were inspired by the Detroit boys and staged protests in their cities? I envision an Occupy Wall Street-style movement, lifted up by the awakening of young people, spurred by their newfound voice after the death of Trayvon Martin, driven by their realization that their futures are bleak if their schools don’t do right by them. These inspiring boys in Detroit protesting their horrible school and dismal education is a fabulous start. Now let there be many others walking out in their footsteps.
1. Evidence of Test Cheating Found in 200 School Districts Across the Country—A National Disgrace
2. A Black Mom’s Lament: How Can We Parents Stop Schools From Failing Our Kids?
3. Mind Control: Raising A Critical Thinker
4. Police Officers in School? A Recipe for Student Failure
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