Monday, June 13, 2011

Dialoguing on education

I don’t know whether you saw the MSNBC special Sunday on education in Detroit, but it put a lens on the myriad of issues facing parents and students in the city and exposed those challenges for the world to see. As expected, it was long on hyperbole, heavy on emotional pleas and short on solutions likely to be implemented anytime soon. But at least folks were talking.

I am encouraged by the dialogue. A diversity and inclusion expert once told me, as long as there is dialogue there is hope. I will paint the passionate discussion I witnessed as a positive sign. I think the two-hour, rotating panel discussion is on MSNBC's website, should you be so inclined to check it out.

There was a mix of local and national figures among talking heads assembled. Sharlonda Buckman, executive director of Detroit Parent Network, really went for it, delivering part advertorial for the agency's parental involvement/organizing prowess and part call for the community to step up and get serious about improving outcomes for our children.

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts participated as well. I like Roberts for what he has accomplished in corporate America and in the community during his career. He has, a job I don't admire, as I've long said running the city's schools has to be the least attractive position in town. He did misstep when he said all Michigan districts had to participate in the schools of choice policy that mandates school systems provide seats for children outside of their community. Michigan doesn't currently have such a policy. However, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed schools of choice legislation back in April, during a message on education reforms he would like to see. You might consider this an omen, given the fact that the governor has established a track record of getting support for what he wants -- in a short period of time -- and that he tapped Roberts for one of his first appointments under the recently enacted EM legislation.

In case you didn't know, there's a movement afoot to challenge the law that paved the way for emergency managers. A group called Michigan Forward is having an event this Thursday, Aug. 18, from 5-7 at 2243 Ferry Street in Detroit to organize people for its campaign. It will be interesting to see what type of crowd turns out, and what type of dialogue that event produces. Because people clearly want something different than what we currently have.

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