Newt Gingrich pisses on Detroit


The truth? Newt Gingrich wasn’t all the way wrong in his criticism of Detroit when it came to what he said about Detroit Public Schools, and any Detroiter with eyes knows this, even if he/she won’t admit it out loud. This isn’t about whether or not we love Detroit, it’s about whether or not we can face up to the truth and deal with it.

Now. Having said that, I wanna be clear about a few things regarding Gingrich. Number one? Can’t stand the man. Number two? Hell no I’m not a Republican. Moving right on down the line from there, yes, it’s clear Gingrich is using the time-tested tactic of beating up on Detroit to make a political point that will serve his interest when he (more than likely)  decides to announce his decision to jump in the shallow end with the rest of the right-wing midgets and become an official candidate. No, Gingrich couldn’t care less about what happens to Detroit, which is why he doesn’t mind beating up on us. Detroit is a Democratic stronghold with an 85 percent African American population, which means we would never vote for him for anything ever and he knows it, which means he doesn’t risk anything by doing his best to embarrass our city for political gain. But he does gain points with his base, who you can best believe would love nothing more than to see Detroit slide off into the river.

So, no, Gingrich does not have Detroit’s interest at heart, which ought to be painfully, painfully obvious. But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong when he says that the Detroit Public School system is about as fucked up as any school system can possibly be without becoming a fictional sitcom about a school system you’d never believe could ever be that bad.  Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s spokesperson, was quoted in the Detroit News as saying, “Detroit is routinely pointed out as one of the worst public school systems in the country.”

I’ll confess I haven’t been reading enough reliable national news sources to verify if Tyler is telling the truth or not, or if he even cares whether or not he’s telling the truth. But I will tell you that it is not at all hard to believe that this is the case. Although Gingrich’s insane claim that DPS only graduates 22 percent of its high school students (a figure he got from Education Week Magazine, which contrasts wildly with the Michigan Department of Education figure of 67.2 percent) indicates a clear desire to make the headlines by any means necessary, his contention that the DPS is essentially a national disgrace isn’t far from wrong. Despite a scattering of excellent schools who do wonderful things with Detroit children, the overwhelming majority are struggling desperately just to keep above water, and the sharks are circling. I have several family members who taught for years in the DPS, and I also have interviewed some folks who have been on the inside of the system – and in the classrooms – for quite awhile, and some of the stories they pass along to me are enough to make my hair straight, and that ain’t easy to do.

So yeah, we might as well own up to the message, even if the messenger is repugnant. The point here for Detroit is to make sure that the message will not remain so bleak in years to come, because if we can’t turn the corner on public education in this city then any dream of a comeback will remain just that. We can’t keep cranking out poorly educated children and expecting them to come to our rescue in the future.

The future is now.


~ by Keith A. Owens on August 1, 2007.

6 Responses to “Newt Gingrich pisses on Detroit”

  1. I will tell you improving the public education system of Detroit is solely, SOLELY, dependent upon the improvement of the neighborhoods of Detroit. Public education is funded by private property taxes, that is why rich communities have great public schools while inner city schools suffer. Unless that changes, nothing will. Oprah is great in the work she is doing in Africa, but I also think that by purchasing text books in bulk for disenfranchised school districts would create a better America and future. Getting rid of the No Child Left Behind nonsense would help too, since it has been proven through scientific experiments that children from different cultural backgrounds learn and test quite differently, there is no one size fits all formula for academic testing.

    The future is NOW!

    As always….

  2. Hey Danielle!

    I couldn’t agree with you more. And that is exactly what is happening – and has been happening for so long – in this city. And it’s killing us.

  3. the difference in the stats comes from the fact that someone who leaves the dps and transfers is counted as someone who didn’t finish. the 22% reflects the very high transfer rate.

  4. I have a lot of love for the city, but have to admit that DPS lets you down. Some of its lack of funds, a lot of it is people who care more about their status as administrators then they do for the quality of the kids education. A lot of money has been mispent, back in 98, when I was a junior in high school, we had brand new social studies books that had the USSR in them. I don’t think a lot has changed. The Mayor should control the schools, school boards have not worked at all in the last twenty years.

  5. Lester,

    Yeah, I had heard that too. Really is unfair for DPS critics to twist the numbers like that, but not necessarily surprising.


    Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to the D Spot! And I agree with you about the mayor needing much more control over the schools. I was one of the few several years ago who actually agreed with the mayor’s proposal to do just that, even though it eventually got shot down. He can’t save it alone, but he definitely should be an integral part of the decision-making process.

  6. Ok, so you dont like Newt. Those differences in reported graduate numbers are for a specific reason. Gov Granholm counts only the number of students who start the year as seniors. Where the Washington numbers reflect the students from the start of high school. DPS is bad

    As far as the neighborhood comment… there are plenty of inner city schools that work.

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