Michigan, Here I Come!

Wow—a huge thanks to everyone who chipped in and made my *send EduShyster to the Mitten State* fundraising campaign such a success. In seven days, I raised $5,000 from 100 donors. Make that $5,025 from 101 donors. And while I did get a few three figure gifts (thanks Dad!), most of my contributions were small—$10 here, $18 there—from readers who want to know more about a would-be Secretary of Education and what the hell is going on in Michigan. So in just over three weeks, I’ll be hitting the road. Here’s where I’m headed, who I’ll be talking to and what I’m up to…

First stop: Detroit
Here’s a question for you: do you know how many charter schools in Detroit’s rapidly expanding and radically unregulated charter sector provide bus service? No idea? Don’t feel bad. Turns out nobody knows the answer to this question. Which is one way of conveying the scale of Detroit’s wild West-ish-ness. I’ll be talking to parents about how they navigate this system, and recording their stories to share in a podcast. I’ll have some help from the amazing organizers at 482Forward, a group that’s been pushing back against Detroit’s voicelessness over its own schools, or as they like to say *nothing about us without us.*

Sick out city 
Remember those teacher *sick out* protests last year that, at least for a brief moment, got everybody talking about the deplorable conditions of Detroit’s schools? I decided that I’d like to meet some of the teachers who led the protests because, well, I have serious admiration for them. And I’m hoping that they can fill me in on the new punishments (thanks Betsy and Dick DeVos!) aimed at teachers like them who speak out against the, um, less attractive side effects of Michigan’s experiment with free market education.

Meeting up with a personal shero  
One of the very best part of an *edventure* is that I get the opportunity to hang with some of my fave virtual pals. Like Nancy Flanagan, authoress of the outstanding EdWeek column Teacher in a Strange Land, for which she produces gems like her latest: *Terminal Charterism: the View from Michigan.* Which brings me to an important point. My purpose in traveling to Michigan is not to uncover an unknown story but to share what experts in Michigan’s long and DeVos-led unwinding of public education know all too well.

Heading west, and back to the 30’s
If you read my piece about Betsy DeVos’ long game, then you know that geography is an important part of the Michigan story. The western part of the state from which the DeVos and Prince families have long ruled, looks just a little different from Detroit. To help me understand these powerful families and their vision, honed over generations, I’m enlisting the help of historian Russ Bellant. He has spent years steeped in DeVosiana, tracing, among other things, the role of both families in the creepy, secretive Council for National Policy. In other words, I can’t wait to meet him…

Talking to anyone who will talk to me
When I go on a big edventure like this, I make a point of reaching out to absolutely anyone I can think of who might be willing to talk to me. I mean it. Anyone… I’ve found that with a few notable exceptions, even the reformiest reformers are interested in meeting me. So my trip to Michigan will include conversations with charter advocates, lobbyists, even some DeVos allies. Sorry—no names. I don’t want to jinx anything!

Trying to bend the space/time continuum 
Say you were planning to be in Holland, Michigan, home to the powerful Prince family, from whence Betsy DeVos sprung, on a self-guided tour of the intersection of right-wing politics, religious extremism and Dutch Reform boot-strap-ism. But then you get invited to participate in a large-scale policy simulation in which 150 University of Michigan grad students consider options for charter school authorizer reform in Michigan. You realize that you have become the sort of person whom this invitation excites greatly, and that you can most definitely do both things if only you could figure out how to move Holland and Ann Arbor closer together…

Thanks to everyone who donated to my cause! And if you have suggestions for people I should talk to in Michigan, drop me a line at jennifer@haveyouheardblog.com.

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7 Comments

  1. Glad to see you visit the Mitten State (hint: better bring your mittens, it’s cold). Looking forward to hearing more from you especially if you are in the Grand Rapids area.

    1. I’ll be in the Grand Rapids area – in fact am thinking I may need to extend trip a few days so as to spend enough time there 🙂

  2. It sounds to me that you are coming here to GR to do a hit piece on Betsy DeVos. The DeVos family has been one of the most generous families in this area. Not pretentious, I attended the same “liberal” church where the services are held in a converted mall and the congregation sits on folding chairs! They are very approachable with no need for security detail and fit in with a mostly 20 and 30 something crowd! A close relative of mine works at the charter Aviation Academy by the Gerald Ford International Airport( Good First Stop for you right after your flight! The DeVos family is responsible for the Annual Art Prize Event which attracts artists from the entire U.S. Offering $250,000 as first prize by public voting on the art pieces which are displayed at venues throughput the area.
    It will be interesting to read your final article on the DeVosrs and Betsy in particular. Leave your predetermined ideology on the plane and let’s see if can actually write a truthful and insightful piece.

    1. It is possible to be rich, generous, Christian, nice, and entirely wrong. Being wrong and using wealth to coerce others into accomplishing your wrongness isn’t canceled out by doing it with love.

    2. Bruce, you failed to mention the children & families in Detroit who are living with the consequences of DeVos’ education ideology. The children in Detroit have no arts programs, art teachers, or the improvements necessary to tap into children’s artistic talents.
      Perhaps the family will recognize that donating money to to one artist isn’t a path to grow the arts and talented artists of future generations.

  3. Bruce, if you had 6,000 million dollars wouldn’t you buy your church a decent place to hold services, and nice chairs for your fellow worshippers? ( 6 billion…..6,000,000,000)

    I am totally underwhelmed by their generosity. ( …just thinking to my ” insightful self”.

    …and how wonderful of them to go to a poor church…unnoticed by all, of course.

    I’m very sure that Dr. Jennifer Berkshire will write an insightful and truthful report .. My hope is that it will be simple enough for you to understand so you will not malign her efforts again.

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