Detroit Public Schools teaches kids how not to handle responsibility

According to an article in last week’s Detroit Free Press, “Only 60% of textbooks that Detroit Public Schools students need for the first day of school have been delivered, Superintendent Connie Calloway revealed at Thursday night’s school board meeting.”

The article goes on to say,”Calloway told board members, several of whom were shocked by the news, that two major vendors have a problem with the district’s payment record.
‘One said that because of our past records of not paying invoices, they will not deliver our textbooks for this year until we pay for next year as well. Our feeling is that vendors cannot hold us hostage. We are the 15th-largest district still in this nation’, she said.”

“When we purchase books for 106,000 students, we are among their biggest customers and we will not be held hostage.”

First of all, I admire Calloway just for taking the job, because anybody willing to voluntarily step into that DPS¬† minefield should at least get some fearless points. Either that or a truck full of youmustalostyodamnedmind points. That being said, I don’t quite get the hostage analogy. Sure, it’s true that the the Incredible Shrinking DPS is still one of the largest school systems in the country – at least for the next few minutes until another several thousand kids disappear off the rolls – but even great big school systems are expected to pay their bills on time. You can’t, as a rational thinking person, expect to tell a vendor that you’re just too big and bad to pay attention to the due date on your bills. Because if that works? I will be putting a blow torch to all my bills just as soon as I finish this post.

Free at last!

But seriously? As educators of our children here in Detroit, one of the best lessons the DPS can teach these kids is how to pay their bills on time. Right now what they’re learning is what happens when you don’t, and what they’re seeing for themselves up close and personal is that size doesn’t matter to most bill collectors. If you owe money, the bill collectors want it. They usually don’t ask how big you are before demanding timely payment.

And what these kids are also learning is that if they want a better future they had better figure out how to create it for themselves because the adults are too busy disentangling themselves from their own wacky web of fuckups to pay much attention to what the kids need. That’s right young people, I’ll be the first to be honest and tell you the truth straight out; If you’re a youngster in Detroit, you are pretty much on your own for the foreseeable future, especially if the home situation is screwed up. That’s because the so-called leaders of this community are gonna be a tad preoccupied during this foreseeable future spending the time that was supposed to be devoted to creating a better future for you guys trying to avoid either criminal charges or going broke or, frankly, studying up on how grown folks in leadership positions are supposed to act.

As you kids can imagine this may take some time, so the best I can tell you is to hang in there and tread water as best you can. Because just as soon as we adults get this responsibility and accountability thing figured out, we’ll toss you right back onto that front burner where you belong. Promise.

Unless, of course, you guys have already drowned by then…

SHAMELESS PLUG: Read my wife’s blog


~ by Keith A. Owens on August 19, 2008.

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