Activist attorney Tom Stephens writes, “Dr. Telford deftly weaves a hypnotically hallucinatory world that supplants the equally surreal one we live in.”
Great Fate, pray Thee:
We wish to see
The wind, and be
The rain, and know
The starlit snow.
It is particularly for our children that my poem duly sets forth those three wishes. We poets, patriots, parents, and true educators wish that all of our children may one day become able to see the wind, and be the rain, and know the starlit snow. We wish this for them whether we be Jew or Muslim or Christian, Black or White or Brown. We wish that a free, equal, and non-separate public education to which they are democratically entitled will prepare them to reach as-yet-unattained levels of knowledge within the Zeitgeist of the twenty-first century—in the time and spirit of now.
Since so many of us wish this, why do we Detroiters permit early elementary class sizes to exceed acceptable numbers? Why do we not insist that teens who didn’t learn to read during the state-takeover years be given remediation? Why do we not insist on coherent student attendance and behavior policies and annual staff evaluations? Why do we stand by and allow fifteen pirated schools to remain under the aegis of the failed “Education Achievement” Authority? Why do we tolerate the proliferation of unmonitored charters and the purchase of never-used books and the demolition or sale of sound buildings to fatten contractors and provide kickbacks? Why have we allowed the closures of exemplary schools for pregnant girls and for student airplane pilots and for severely challenged children? Why have we allowed millions of dollars of DPS television equipment to go unused and enormous amounts of federal funds to be returned unspent? Why do we not demand that the state give us the revenue-sharing millions owed us and make whole the deficit its takeover caused? Why do we allow art, music, and sports programs to be gutted? (Each generation must keep our birthright of liberty alive through the arts—including the graphic, musical, and kinesthetic arts. It was in Detroit schools that I learned the art of the violin and the art of racing a quarter mile within tenths of a second of the world record.) Why did we allow our disenfranchising Governor to install yet a fourth emergency manager in DPS when Michigan voters had rejected emergency management and when that Governor has himself pronounced DPS’ emergency management a failure?
As the city’s Emergency Manager, Kevin Orr countenanced bank foreclosures and turned off the water in tens of thousands of homes. In 1999, then-Governor John Engler took over a solvent DPS, sending it plunging toward its academic and fiscal malaise. Some local media, judges, politicians, and preachers have sold out or were caught stealing. Our then-City Council meekly allowed the unelected Orr to give away downtown land for an arena. Gov. Rick Snyder restored partial citizen governance to Detroit but balked at doing so even partially for DPS. Now he announces that despite his evident aspiration to national office, he unwisely intends to dismantle (and eventually privatize) our venerable 147-year-old district despite his own endorsed Coalition’s righteous recommendations to the contrary. DPS’ white supremacist fellow-travelers in blackface poise to collude administratively in this terminal exploitation of children. To avoid a teacher strike and protesters’ cars blocking Detroit’s incoming freeways, Gov. Snyder should seek to establish the tri-county as a single city, with an elected mayor and an ultimately integrated school district run by an elected board and its appointed superintendent. Impoverishment and killings persist here and throughout the world with no effective efforts to halt this condition and that carnage. Corporate Republican types and bottom-feeding bureaucratic banditti do all they can to neutralize our President. When men can no longer sustain their families legally, millions of hunting rifles will target something other than deer. Then White, Black, and Brown will unite in one egalitarian uprising, and a second and bloodier American Revolution will commence. We the People can only hope that reason will prevail on Wall Street and in Washington before the insurrection begins. In the meantime, consider my poem ‘The CorpoRATocrats’:
Democracy?? They tend to ban it
All across our plundered planet.
Let’s band together to demand it
Back from bureaucrat and bandit!!
For one tumultuous year, then-Superintendent John Telford shared legal leadership of the Detroit Public Schools with an emergency financial manager until the manager fired him on March 29, 2013 when the unconstitutional Public Act 436 kicked in. Get Dr. Telford’s crusading books at www.AlifeontheRUN.com, hear him Sundays at 4:30 on WCHB Newstalk1200, and call (313) 460-8272 or write DrJohnTelford@gmail.com or to 8900 E. Jefferson #1107, Detroit MI 48214 to appear on his show or sponsor it.
Comes the Revolution?
This month I’m sharing some Revolutionary poetry with you, because our city, state, and nation nears the day when nothing short of a Second American Revolution will be able to set things right for the ordinary citizen.
To Re-Americanize America
For the sake and salvation
Of our next generation,
Hate its degradation;
Love its liberation.
The earliest solution?—
Revive the Revolution
Comes the Revolution
It is unfortunately true
That by two thousand twenty-two
Those one- percenter corporate cats
And money-grubbing plutocrats
Who make a fateful mockery
Of our once-great democracy
Shall have had a decade’s warning
That the Revolution’s forming.
All of us should be dissenters—
Black and white and gray and gay.
There can be no weak relenters—
Everyone must join the fray.
In Dead of Night
Erase the ‘N’ from crowns bejeweled
And worn by corporate emperors:
You then get pupil-plucking crow_s
Evolved of sable-feathered snakes
That flew through prehistoric nights.
Therefore beware, O mogul Trump
And your own reptilian ilk:
It’s but one mere misstep down
From contemporary night
To Revolutionary nightmare—
And the black and crow-plucked blindness
Of the dead.
And—fearing that the socially insensate bankers, politicians, and corporate moguls have finally been emotionally moved too late (if at all) to consult the gold timepieces in the watch fobs of their thousand-dollar suits—I write:
The Thirteenth Hour
Xenophobic, ethnocentric, racist, classist kinds
Of misanthropically myopic, microscopic minds
Mask beneath intolerance a frightful face of fear
That’s globally infectious: the Holocaust is here.
*In his role as Detroit’s Emergency Manager, Kevin Orr turned off the water in thousands of homes. In 1999, then-governor Engler took over our then-excellent and solvent schools, plunging them toward academic and fiscal destruction. Some local media, judges, and preachers have sold out. Our then-City Council meekly allowed the unelected Orr to give away millions of dollars-worth of our prime downtown real estate for an arena. Gov. Snyder restored elected leadership to Detroit but inexplicably balked at doing the same for DPS. Nationally, Republicans do all they can to neutralize our President. Killings occur in our city and worldwide with no ready solutions to stop the carnage. When enough men can no longer feed their families legally, millions of hunting rifles will target something other than deer, and a second and bloodier American Revolution will commence. We can only hope that reason will prevail on Wall Street and in the U.S. Capitol Building before that happens.
For one tumultuous year, then-Superintendent John Telford shared leadership of the Detroit Public Schools with then-Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts and fought Lansing’s takeover of the schools every step of the way until Roberts fired him on March 29, 2013 when the unconstitutional and unwelcome Public Act 436 kicked in. Get his crusading books at www.AlifeontheRUN.com, hear him Sundays at 4:30 on Newstalk1200, write him at DrJohnTelfordEdD@aol.com, and call him at (313) 460-8272.
Feb. 18, 2015
Gov. Snyder should return DPS to Board rule
The protests spreading across America have revealed our country’s discriminatory, divisive, and systemic societal inequalities with a renewed, sharper focus. One example of this inequity was the 1999 state takeover of Detroit’s public schools that proved to be the initial spearhead of a neo-Jim Crowist assault on African-American voters’ rights in Michigan. As we embark upon 2015, it’s important to note that the 1999 ruling engendered and sustains DPS’ free-falling tailspin under the weight of that unwarranted takeover and under subsequent “emergency” management which in effect began during the administration of then-Governor John Engler. One has to wonder how much of that DPS history newly reelected Governor Rick Snyder is aware of, or whether he has read the damning research data on the so-called “Educational Achievement Authority” (EAA). Having been crucially instrumental in freeing the city of Detroit from emergency management and bankruptcy, were the Governor now to follow up that liberative act by returning all Detroit public schools to the aegis of the duly elected board, he would become a national hero ideally positioned for nomination to the vice presidency in 2016, where he could conceivably benefit our state and the rest of the country, particularly given his recently expressed commitment to rescuing impoverished neighborhoods—specifically those in Michigan’s largest city.
At the time of the 1999 takeover, Detroit Public Schools boasted an approximate $100 million surplus—and its test scores were at the state midpoint and rising despite the city’s chronic social problems engendered by what nationally recognized urbanologist John A. Powell and I described in a May 5, 1999 Detroit Free Press column as “concentrated poverty” by race and by residence. However, Detroit voters had recently passed a $1.5 billion construction-bond millage, and individuals close to Gov. Engler were hungrily eying those potential contract bids. When DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb departed ten years later, he left the school system with test scores that were the worst in America and a $327 million deficit partially caused by payments to multiple out-of-town consultants whom he had rewarded exorbitantly. Also, in 2008 the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General audited DPS’ Title I records for 2004 – 2006 and issued a report that included $53,618,859 in negative findings which led to MDE placing DPS on high-risk status.
Bobb was succeeded as Emergency Manager by former General Motors executive Roy Roberts, who virtually gave away fifteen schools, including six high schools (one which was brand-new and cost $50.5 million) to the now-spectacularly failing EAA that was imposed only on 85-percent-black Detroit. EAA administrators—some who may face prosecution for fraud—subsequently trumped up and trumpeted some imaginary academic “accomplishments” in an unsuccessful attempt to garner federal funds. Lansing has curiously continued to prop up the EAA despite its declining enrollment, its rejection of Special Education students, and its gang problems, truancy problems, and other chronic student-misbehaviors—not to mention its plummeting test scores.
Many of the solutions for repairing the multiple damages that the takeover has visited upon Detroit’s public schoolchildren aren’t “rocket science.” They include eradicating the rampant truancy via strengthening Attendance Department staffing, ensuring that all early elementary school students learn to read via squeezing the class-size balloon to add students to upper elementary grades in order to reduce class size in the first and second grades, remedying secondary school students who didn’t learn to read, and providing compensatory alternative environments (reopening some closed elementary buildings) for the misbehavers and then surrounding them with social workers, remedial-reading staff, heightened security staff, etc., so that the teachers left behind can teach and those far more numerous students left behind who are behaving can learn. This didn’t happen during the disenfranchising takeover under emergency management—but it can definitely happen under restored DPS board governance.