Detroit Southwestern High School, 1969;
Yale 1973; Univ. of Michigan
School of Medicine - Neurosurgery 1977
How Neglect Can Teach Detroit about Investing in Children
My expedition of the lifeless corpse reveals a different reality - one about about unforgivable failure and the absence of optimism that we expect schools to nurture.
The photographs of Detroit Southwestern High School included below were taken this summer, three years after the school closed. The school fell prey to scrappers around the same time the City of Detroit filed for bankruptcy. Once the heart of the neighborhood, Detroit Southwestern High School became a two-story symbol of failure in a broken city.
The sign in front of the shell that was Detroit Southwestern High School
reminds me of Chernobyl - frozen in time. It reads, "Good Attendance
Equals Good Grades" How about no attendance? What does that equal?
Detroit's 139-square miles includes more than 140 schools
that have closed in the last decade.
Kids on a playground in Detroit. Scrappers stole the swing-set chains.
Inside the schools that remain open, inadequate health and safety standards are a constant reminder to Detroit students that education has little value and their school may be left for dead, just like the others. The media-hyped comeback for the Motor City should also include a realistic accounting for the despair of Detroit children who have been suffering for too long. Thankfully DPS teachers are fighting for social justice and drawing national attention to this crisis.
Imagine the anguish for children who are tempted by messages that they are expendable. This week Ellen DeGeneres generously stepped up to help Spain Elementary School in Detroit with a half million dollar donation. She demonstrated that she understands Detroit children are important. Her actions deserve praise and I am hopeful it is a call to action for others to be heard in the political process. We need to speak out and encourage solutions for the hundreds of Detroit children who are being cast aside and deprived of a quality education.
Vandalized schools remind children that neglect is normal and abandonment is part of their fate. When the stench of failure hangs in the air, children facing tough odds do not care about assurances from politicians. They deserve action, not well wishes and comments about who deserves the blame.
A lack of educational resources and incomprehensibly poor special education services tells Detroit students that they are not worthy. School is merely another stop in a long line of confusing set-backs.
Rodents, broken windows, mold, heating and cooling issues and unsafe playgrounds are proof to Detroit children that their needs have been forgotten by elected leaders. Worse yet, student success goes in the loss column when appointed officials balance budgets by trimming the "excess" - things like academic materials, improved technology, additional highly qualified teachers and adequate pay for professional educators.
Sure, a resilient plant can grow out of the hood of a car,
but why should it have to?
The determination of Detroit teachers confronting injustice inspires people throughout Michigan. Beyond the professional contributions Detroit teachers have made to enrich lives, they have demonstrated that their collective call for action is born out of warranted concern. Their critics may frame their cries for help as an inconvenience, but DPS teachers refuse to back down in their effort to serve others.
Let me be clear that the photographs offered here represent failure on many levels but they do not represent the deplorable conditions within currently operating DPS schools. By examining photographs of Detroit Southwestern High School, a school that that was bustling with students for more than seven decades, we can gain insight to the education crisis facing Detroit. I hope my photography will help you see what is at stake for Detroit.
Detroit is much more than a collection of photographs or front-page stories about lost hope or revitalization. The conflicting narratives are a reflection of the complexity of the Motor City. In order for Michigan to thrive, we must value education with action, not just political talking points.
|"Seek Knowledge. Think College." |
As if it is really that simple...
Detroit Southwestern High School
Home of the Prospectors
Photography By Nick Gregory
|Hard fall, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|4 the kids, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Im dead, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Detroit vs You, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Passing time, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Ghost, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Auditorium, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Class dismissed, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|No Excuses, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|We are what we repeatedly do ... Jalen Rose, NBA star. |
Detroit Southwestern High School Class of 1991
|Monday Notes: For we are all equally human, |
Detroit Southwestern High School
|Schools out, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Success, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Detention, Detroit Southwestern High School|
|Lost and found - |
The caged bird sings at Detroit Southwestern High School
ABOUT THE AUTHOR of CIVICS ENGAGED: Nick Gregory has been a social studies and journalism teacher at Fenton High School since 2000 and he has been a National Writing Project Teacher consultant and a junior varsity basketball coach since 2003. Gregory is a Michigan Education Voice Fellow and he has exhibited photography related to Detroit and social justice causes since 2011. Gregory, who has a Masters degree in Educational Leadership, believes that building positive relationships helps students find their passion for learning. You can follow him on Twitter @CivicsEngaged.