Sunday, March 15, 2009

School's out

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, I came across this series of photographs from Detroit's abandoned public schools. Here's the caption from the picture above:
"Living the Dream”. Several boxes of books commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. found in the Detroit Public Schools’ Roosevelt Warehouse, where tens of thousands of other textbooks and countless other supplies have sat rotting for more than two decades.

And so on and so on.

In recent years, I've become oddly fixated on the troubles plaguing Detroit - unemployment around 20 percent, the rapid decline in population, the collapse of most local industries, the political strife. We're witnessing the collapse of one of our nation's iconic cities, and it's not quite clear that anything can be done to reverse the decay. This essay from Harper's magazine in July 2007 details the bleak landscape but actually envisions a brighter, if not, "post-American" future.

One thing is for certain: this is not the way to turn things around.
It goes without saying that the city’s schools are in a bad way. Only recently, a principal at one Detroit public school asked parents to send toilet paper and light bulbs to school with their children because the district could no longer provide those necessities. Most students are not allowed to bring textbooks home, if their school has textbooks at all. The Detroit Public Schools are allotted more tax dollars per pupil than any other district in the state, and yet none of the money actually reaches those students or their teachers. It disappears in a morass of bureaucratic waste and corruption.


Kia said...

I've never been to Detroit but as an architecture enthusiast (I've built entire vacations around my desire to see a single building) I'm hopeful to go in the near future. I'm Brooklyn born and bred, so all I need is a map and my sneakers, some urban blight wouldn't stop me from see some incredibly beautiful structures.

I agree that the story of the city is endlessly fascinating and I'm hoping to see some sort of storybook ending.

blackink said...

You know, I went to Detroit about eight years ago. That was my first and only visit.

As you might imagine, it seemed to be in the midst of a serious decline even then. That's what is so scary: this has been going on there for years.

Our current economic struggles have really hurt Detroit, true. But this really is a different sort of pain. They've been aching; now this stings.

But, like you say, I would love to see some sort of storybook ending for Motown. Thing is, I have no clue what that ending might look like.