We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog for a public “hear-this” announcement.
Debra’s essay “Double Identity” appears on page 203 of the April issue of Good Housekeeping. On your newsstands now! Many thanks to the wonderful folks at GH for sharing my work with their loyal readers once again. (If you missed the first time around it was May 2009.)
At a time when so many print magazines are bidding farewell, GH is celebrating its 125th Anniversary. If you’re a subscriber, you know why they’ve lasted. If you’re not familiar with the magazine, give a look. Of all the magazines I read, this one hasn’t lost its heft — symbolic of advertisers’ own seal of approval. So check it out and thanks again to the GH staff for including my work in their pages.
And now we return to our regularly scheduled post.
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Otis Mathis, as was recently reported in the Detroit News, “acknowledges that he has difficulty composing a coherent English sentence.” Mathis is the president of the Detroit school board and his difficulties with reading and writing are seen as qualifications for leading the nation’s lowest achieving school district. In her article, reporter Laura Berman quoted a parent who said, “His lack of writing skills is prevalent in the community. If anybody does, he understands the struggles of what it’s like to go through an institution and not be properly prepared.”
Mathis was placed in special education classes in fourth grade because of his difficulties mastering the basics of written English. His college degree was held up for over a decade because he could not complete the English proficiency exam required by Wayne State University at the time. Not until the requirement was dropped in 2007 did Mathis apply for his degree, after his election to the school board.
I could summon a slew of fitting adjectives to describe this bizarre situation — ironic, outrageous, pitiful, unbelievable. Tragic fits, too. So does heartbreaking. And , in a through-the-looking-glass kind of way, so does understandable. Mathis is shaking things up. People admire him for reasons I won’t challenge, no matter how upended their logic.
Otis Mathis envisions himself a role model to Detroit’s public school children. “It’s not about what you don’t have,” he said, (meaning, I assume, the ability to write coherently.) “It’s about what you can do.” Mathis has proved he can do a lot. But instead of letting DPS kids off easy, I hope he can create a parent and school partnership so fourth graders with learning disabilities don’t fall through the cracks. I hope he can transform a school system into graduating students who are proficient in written English and properly prepared in all subjects. Because if Mathis can do that, just think of what DPS students could do then.