Maddow Credits Student Protest With Saving High School in Detroit - Saved by Charter School

Make that -- a privately owned, non-union charter school company. No wonder Rachel Maddow's memory about this got selective.

Michigan's emergency financial manager law, enacted by the legislature in 2011 to allow the governor to appoint emergency managers to oversee insolvent municipalities and school districts, is one of Maddow's obsessions, right up there with gay marriage, Republicans as inherently evil, and her barfly Cocktail Moment on Friday nights. (video clip after page break)

This past Friday, Maddow happily reported that Michigan's Supreme Court has ruled that the state's residents can vote in a ballot question come November on whether to scrap the law.

Naturally, Maddow could not report on this without her own peculiar brand of revisionist history when she described the near-closing last year of a public high school in Detroit for pregnant teens and young mothers --

The emergency manager of the Detroit public schools used his new power to try and shut down the Catherine Ferguson Academy for young moms, which he had not been able to do under the old law. The students got arrested protesting his decision in a sit-in at their school and they did save their school, the Catherine Ferguson Academy from Gov. (Rick) Snyder's new law. Catherine Ferguson Academy is open. This is graduation this year. (Photo shown of graduating class). But they only just barely saved it.

No, "they" didn't, as Maddow is surely aware but prefers to forget.

On June 16, 2011, the day the school was due to close, and two months after the student protest Maddow claimed was instrumental in preventing this from happening, here's what Maddow reported --

All week we have expected today to be the Catherine Ferguson Academy's last day ever. That was what the emergency manager had ordered. The principal, Asenath Andrews, had been told to say goodbye to the students today, to hand in her keys to the school tomorrow on Friday. There was to be a protest at noon today at the school. The actor Danny Glover was expected to be there as well as lots of other people.

Principal Andrews went to bed last night thinking this was it, her school was done. But early this morning her phone rang. The emergency manager wanted to see her for a meeting at 10:45 a.m. Then another call, meeting changed to 10 o'clock. No, another call, please get down to the emergency manager's office right away. 

Ms. Andrews said she walked in to find them finishing up a deal to keep the Catherine Ferguson Academy open. They asked her if she minded and she said no. Just under an hour before the protest was about to begin, Detroit public schools made the announcement -- DPS announces new operator for Catherine Ferguson Academy. The emergency manager telling the world, 'we are pleased to announce that we have found a solution.' Principal Andrews gets to stay, teachers get to stay if they want to, the students get to stay, the farm and its animals that are at the school all staying. Catherine Ferguson Academy is still a school for girls who have kids and, yes, they celebrated today at Catherine Ferguson, the planned noon protest turning into kind of a party.

Catherine Ferguson will still exist, at least for now. It will be run as a charter school and that's the important fine print here. Charter schools sometimes work, they sometimes don't. Sometimes they give teachers more freedom and better pay. Sometimes they pay less, and do less. Teachers with Detroit public schools are union, teachers with the new company that will be running Catherine Ferguson Academy will not be union. The fate of the Catherine Ferguson Academy is in this private company's hands now. But this time yesterday, this school was due not to exist. As of today, Catherine Ferguson Academy has a tomorrow.

So much for Maddow's cloying treacle of a claim that it was the students' protest in April 2011 that saved "their school" -- "but they only just barely saved it."

Maddow's remarks about the Ferguson school's near-death experience were made on June 16, 2011, and I've included about two minutes on them in the embedded video. The entire segment from June 2011 ran nearly eight minutes, including an interview with Ferguson principal G. Asenath Andrews -- and at no point did Maddow or Andrews state outright or suggest that the student protest two months earlier had anything to do with keeping the school open. And Andrews did not seem bothered in the least that she would no longer be dealing with unionized teachers.

What Maddow is doing is perpetuating one of the left's most cherished myths, that it's always protests and sit-ins and Occupy Whatever that bring about real change, that this cannot occur until police are called, arrests are made and, with any luck, a bloodied waif's visage goes viral in the news.

It's a myth that dates back to the Vietnam War, when student demonstrations against the conflict did little to bring about its end but plenty to embolden the Viet Cong.  Those students protesting at the Ferguson academy in April 2011 did nothing to save their school -- but did succeed in diverting police from actual criminals.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts