This assignment to write about an article came at a really opportune time, because one of my coworkers/friends at work was interviewed for an article published yesterday in the New York Times. Titled “A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift,” the article examines the rapid expansion of charter schools in Detroit and the consequences for students of letting education become a for-profit field. They interviewed Ana, my coworker who is involved in education reform organizing with DHDC and 482Forward, to tell the story of her experiences sending her sons to charter, private, and public schools. The article is informative and interesting; while DPS is always a hot topic, I think that the way that most charter schools are also failing students (and have far less regulations) isn’t talked about quite as often. However, there were a few inaccuracies with the article.
Although the article isn’t completely lying at many points, it does exaggerate quite a bit. Under a picture of Ana and her son Omar, it says that Ana’s son have attended “several” different charter schools, when in fact they have only attended two. In regards to teacher turnover, the author says that Ana’s son’s school went through three principals in three years, which was traumatic for her family. The turnover rate is true, but Ana’s son wasn’t even attending that school for three years and didn’t seem to feel too personality traumatized by an event he had no connection to at the time. The author also mentioned that Ana’s son got a scholarship to a private school through a non-profit, which is the most blatantly untrue part. Ana works for a non-profit, but it didn’t give her son a scholarship; her family pays the full tuition by themselves. While explaining the way many charter middle schools don’t prepare students for high schools, the author said that Ana’s older son struggled to raise his grade about D’s in high school despite succeeding in middle school because his previous school wasn’t actually teaching him enough and just inflating grades. Ana’s son did struggle with this, and the problem is real and exists, but he only severely struggled to receive a D in math and did relatively well in every other subject.
None of these exaggerations are too serious or harmful. However, to me it seems like the author of this article took small details and exaggerated them to paint an image of Detroit schools that are sad and decaying and of parents that can’t afford a better education for their children. I’m sure the intentions weren’t malicious and the author was just trying to get the severity of this problem across. And it is very much a severe problem that people should know about. But I also don’t think it’s right to exaggerate someone’s personal life so much, especially when it sticks to the same singular story we always hear about Detroit, the one where students are failing and parents can’t afford to help. Ana works full-time at a non-profit, her husband has a thriving business, and her children are doing relatively well at school despite the disadvantage of going to charters. Although the article may do a lot of good by exposing the problems with charter schools, I would rather hear a story of Detroit that ends on a more positive note. The author could have talked about the work Ana does organizing parents to advocate for education reform, or offered a possible solution to the lack of regulations like the Detroit Education Commission that 482Forward had proposed. Although there are so many problems with schools in Detroit, there are also people working tirelessly and without much recognition to try to fix them. Exposing the problem is only the first step; next time, I would like to see an article about Detroit that is a little more hopeful.