SEARCH BLOG: DYSFUNCTIONAL
- University of Michigan
- Michigan State University
- Wayne State University
- Oakland University
- Eastern Michigan University
I have been openly critical about the role of Michigan universities in the overall education process in this state. Particularly, I have criticized the University of Michigan for it's grandstanding efforts which included defying the outcome of Proposal 2 and going to Detroit schools to try to "sell" the students there on the idea of attending UM to boost the percentage of minority students.
My reaction was that if UM (and other universities) were really interested in the academic issues that concern minority students, they would actively work with schools that had large numbers of at-risk students to generate a greater enthusiasm for education with those students. (see 12/26/06 and 12/30/06)
The program at MacArther K-8 University Academy between the City of Southfield and UM-Dearborn is one approach, but competes with existing schools and doesn't address the dysfunctional attitude toward education that has ensnared so many low-income families. Rather than replace exising schools, universities should use their resources (including student interns) to help local schools to:
1. provide non-curriculum information to students and their families concerning the how's and why's of getting from inner-city to inner-circle.Charter schools may provide very localized and limited help. There is a larger existing problem out there that requires attention and, specifically in southeastern Michigan, your universities have both the resources and the social philosophy to take the practical steps outlined above.
2. critically assess the local schools' approach to gaining the attention and involvement of the parents
3. help local schools develop individualized "game plans" for students with ongoing reinforcement such as campus visits, introduction to various academic disciplines and what those careers are all about, and supplementing the standard curriculum with science or math or social studies "specials"... the "wow factors" that these kids never see and could help light a fire of understanding and enthusiasm under them.
There is no social program or school program that is a "magic bullet", but there are efforts that can make individuals want something their parents don't have and show them how to get it. If they affect even 20% of the students positively, the effort will be more valuable than letting unprepared and unqualified students into a competitive academic situation where they will fail... simply to say the opportunity was given.
Steven Levitt, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, pointed out in his book Freakonomics that it really didn't make any difference if a student from a poorly performing school was chosen to go to a better performing school or had to stay at the poorly performing school. Their academic achievements were, by and large, the same. The key variable is that they "wanted" to go to the better school because they believed it would help their education. They already had a positive attitude toward education, so they performed well regardless of the school they attended.Rather that focusing on "fixes" to admissions, help fix the attitudes of the students and their families toward education. In doing so, you may also "fix" the poorly performing schools. Then you can offer financial assistance and scholarships to qualified low-income and minority students... and no one is going to criticize you for that.