Category: Education (page 1 of 6)

Thinking for Ourselves: Dream Questions

By Shea Howell

June 12, 2017

I saw my first young person in the neighborhood walking with her graduation cap on the way to church this week. It is a common sight in Detroit at this time of year. All over the city young people mark their graduation from high school or college by wearing caps and gowns as they go to community gatherings or just walking down the street with friends.

I don’t know if this happens in other cities, but here, graduation is a public affair, celebrated on street corners. As in other places there are family parties and balloons, church acknowledgments and lawn signs, but here graduations are about more than individual achievement. Although often they signify remarkable accomplishments by our young people in a city where nearly half of them have dropped out and many never complete what is needed to get a diploma. Still, there is a sense that wearing caps and gowns as you go about normal life is a way of acknowledging the long, hard struggle for education by people who risked their lives to learn to read. It is a tribute to ancestors and a hope toward the future.

Continue reading

Thinking for Ourselves: Questions in Education


By Shea Howell

June 5, 2017

As the Michigan Elite gathering on Mackinac Island for their annual celebration of one another came to a close, another gathering took shape in Detroit. Actors, musicians, writers, poets, and cultural workers of all kinds gathered in the heart of the Cass Corridor for the 22nd annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference (PTO). Its theme was “Breaking the Silence.” Sessions explored storytelling and transformation, inclusion and collaboration. Conversations on language, power, choreography, and laugher flowed through the gathering.

The Saturday morning session focused on “The struggle for education in Detroit.” Simona Simkins and Rebecca Struch, of the conference leadership team were joined by Nate Mullen, Kim Sherobbi, Tawana Petty and me for a conversation about what people are learning in Detroit about the kind of education we need to shape a more human future. We were joined by two Detroit Independent Freedom School students who had participated in an earlier workshop and had much to offer the larger gathering. Chevon read her poem WHY (see below) and pressed us to think about the relationships between teachers and students. T. Jones, talked about young people becoming change makers.

Continue reading

TELFORD TELESCOPE: Chances Missed to Save DPS

Chances missed to save DPS

by Dr. John Telford

There have been FIVE KEY MOMENTS when the state’s destruction of the Detroit Public Schools could have been prevented.  The FIRST KEY MOMENT, of course, was when then-Governor John Engler decided to take DPS over in 1999.  At that time, DPS enjoyed a $100-million surplus and its student test scores were at the state midpoint and rising under Superintendent Eddie Green.  DPS students were outscoring suburban neighbors despite our poverty-induced problems which don’t exist in Birmingham or Grosse Pointe. Had someone been able to talk Lansing’s Republican government out of that unwarranted 1999 takeover, we’d be thriving today.  

Continue reading

SAVE THE DATE! Detroit Independent Freedom School Movement Fundraiser featuring Semaj


When: Friday, July 28th @ 7pm
Where: Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Tickets are going fast for the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement & Charles H. Wright Museum Fundraiser, “By Ocean, By Fire!” featuring the fantastic poetry stylings of Semaj.

To get your tickets (only $10), contact Aurora Harris at


Thinking for Ourselves: #WeChoose

By Shea Howell

May 2, 2017

Students, parents, teachers and supporters gathered to celebrate the end of the second full semester of the Detroit Independent Freedom School initiative (DIFS). Students took center stage at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to talk about what they had learned, what mattered most to them about their education, and their aspirations for the future. There was music, laughter and playfulness in presentations, especially the songs and raps created by youth as a way to share their experiences with the audience.

There was also talk of freedom, freedom to learn, to grow, to know where we come from and where we are going, and freedom to determine our own futures. Inspired by liberation struggles of the 1960’s and tempered by the flourishing African centered educational efforts that evolved in Detroit over the last three decades, freedom and struggle were woven throughout the celebration. Freedom schools are about more than reading, writing and arithmetic. They “cultivate community strength, self determination, and build movement-based futures.”

Continue reading

Thinking for Ourselves: Educating Values

By Shea Howell

April 17, 2017

Teacher and alums from the Bank Street School in New York visited Detroit this week on a learning journey. Since 1916, Bank Street has been a force for progressive education.  Bank Street is both a school for children and a Graduate College dedicated to teaching and learning. It emphasizes experience based and collaborative learning.  It has been a strong advocate for educating the whole child—heart, head and hand. In conversations at the Boggs Center the educators talked about how much they had learned from our city, how moved they were by its imagination and resilience.

Continue reading

Thinking for Ourselves: Resisting Closures

By Shea Howell

April 11, 2017

We are rapidly approaching the moment of decision on Detroit public school closings. The announcement in January by the State School Reform Office that another 24 schools would be closed in Detroit has been met with angry, vocal resistance. Parents, students, teachers and community activists are holding meetings. They have stages rallies, protests and speak-outs. Everyone agrees that more school closings will harm our children and our communities. The Mayor is on record as opposing closings and the newly elected school board has found the courage to file a lawsuit, claiming the closures violate state law.

In response, Governor Snyder commanded State Superintendent Brian Whiston todevelop agreements that he hopes will defuse resistance. These agreements are a shameless scam. They will subject schools to stringent requirements and provide a pretext for continued state intervention, including the possibility of more closures and district takeovers. Unable to make the distinction between coercion and a partnership, the spokesman for the state education department, William Disessa said that if the schools “don’t develop a partnership agreement with the Michigan Department of Education by April 30, then they will be subject to the next level of accountability.”

These forced partnerships are not in the interest of our children or our communities. They are another pretext for relentless privatizing actions. The same forces that have been destroying our schools for nearly two decades designed these “agreements.”

Continue reading

Frank X. Murphy: A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal: 

Aggressive Interrogation of Corporate Education “Reformers” 101

By Frank X Murphy

April 2, 2017

Quaint, archaic notions of education from earlier eras have de-emphasized things like dialog, free inquiry and enlightenment values.  These pedagogical modes no longer apply to our modern, post-citizenship educational systems.  We propose new and more effective methods of interaction with those who measure educational “outcomes” using badly designed standardized tests and market-based rhetoric for power and profit.

Altho in earlier eras best practice responses to such crimes would often entail putting rats like the corporate education “reformer” against a wall and shooting them, these interrogation guidelines envision more effective civil resistance measures that allow learners to explore the contested boundaries between nonviolence, mental health, and the interaction of public policy with curriculum development in both community and school, for purposes of nonviolent (if possible) social self-defense.

The corporate education “reformer” should not be slammed against a wall (“walling”) without extreme provocation, and in no event for longer than the hours their racist and demeaning standardized tests are annually inflicted on children victimized by their abuse.

The corporate education “reformer” should be confined with smaller vermin, for a period minimally necessary under Detroit Public School-type room temperatures of excessive heat and unbearable cold, to give some appreciation for the unbearable human rights violations experienced by many Detroit school children in poorly designed and maintained buildings created by state takeover and “reform” scams.

Continue reading

TELFORD TELESCOPE: Much DPSCD Work Now Needs to be Done–Transparently

Much DPSCD work now needs to be done–transparently

By  Dr. John Telford

I have expressed a wide range of concerns in emails and stated remarks to the new Detroit Public Schools Community District Board of Education.  Those concerns include the Board’s failure to involve the community more fully and transparently in the superintendent-screening/review process, their cavalier reduction of citizens’ speaking-time at the March 14 meeting at King High School, and their making community members wait over an hour to speak while they went into closed session at that meeting.  In a later communication to them, I called them to account for their refusal to afford interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather a well-earned public interview for the Superintendency.  I frankly don’t know whether the immediately previous and long-serving Board would have afforded the hard-working Meriweather her highly-deserved interview had they been elected to their former positions this past November instead of the new folks who got in, but as the old Board’s chosen pro bono interim Superintendent, I would at my now advanced age of 81 have been eager for them to get my permanent and far younger successor on board ASAP and then use me as an officially contracted pro bono advisor to the new Superintendent for as long as I am needed and able.

Continue reading


All Hail Our Heroes

By Dr. John Telford

As our righteous fight to save our public schools approaches the final battle, it is fitting that those unsung heroes who have kept the torch of justice aflame throughout the past decade-and-a-half of DPS’ unwarranted and Jim Crowist state takeover  become lauded in this column.  Foremost among these heroes have been school activist Helen Moore and her grassroots group ‘Keep-the-Vote-No-Takeover’ and the democratically elected former DPS Board–LaMar Lemmons, Juvette Hawkins-Williams, Elena Herrada, Ida Short, Reverend David Murray, Patricia Johnson-Singleton, Wanda Akilah Redmond, Tawana Simpson. and Herman Davis.  It was my privilege to serve pro bono as this rightful Board’s chosen Superintendent until Gov. Snyder’s emergency manager disempowered them and fired me when Public Act 436 took effect and canceled Michiganians’ overwhelmingly successful but ultimately fruitless rejection of PA 4, the Republican-dominated state government’s detested emergency management law which remains unlawfully alive.

Continue reading

Older posts