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September 11, 2012 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-09-11

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4A - Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

L74CMIC41igan 4alg
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
'q Ann Arbor, Mt 48109
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Reward and restore
Early signs are positive for Detroit schools
fter years of dismal classroom attendance numbers,
the Detroit Public Schools system may be finally reap-
ing the benefits of the city's revitalization efforts. Last
Friday, the Detroit Free Press reported an encouraging upturn
in attendance on the second day of DPS classes. Though these
early reports don't guarantee that the attendance rate will hold
fast, they indicate the success of Detroit's renewed emphasis
on the efficient marketing of public education to parents and

That's the legacy of 9/11-the abilityto say
with confidence that no adversary and no
act of terrorism can change who we are."
- President Barack Obama said Saturday on his weekly radio
address in honor of the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The absent debate on guns

students alike.
Last Tuesday, DPS reported an attendance
rate of 70 percent on its first day of the aca-
demic year, a significantincrease from 50 per-
cent on the first days in both 2010 and 2011.
On Wednesday, attendance increased to 85
percent, reflecting DPS's successful efforts
to scale back the size of its school system and
to more aggressively showcase its revamped
education program.
In the past, DPS was criticized for its
overemphasis on "Count Day," a statewide
student tally that falls on the first Wednes-
day of October and the second Wednesday
in February. Since the fall count determines
90 percent of the year's state funding to each
school, DPS has often taken the road of least
resistance, drawing students in for one or two
days with gift cards, prize drawings and -
this year - "a free pair of Nikes, courtesy of a
local shoe store."
Since the schools lost about $7 million in
state funds last year due to low attendance on
crucial days, DPS's effort to draw students in
on Count Days is understandable. However,
the way the state determines funding can cre-
ate an incentive to keep students in class for
one or two days a year without retainingthem,
since DPS will receive funding for a student's

presence on Count Day regardless of whether
he or she stays in school year-round.
Fortunately, the early attendance numbers
reported for this school year show DPS is
committed to maintaining consistent student
attendance before and after Count Day. Roy
S. Roberts, Detroit Public Schools emergency
financial manager, confirmed this when he
stressed the importance of "teaching and
learning from day one" in a press release last
Thursday. Roberts continued by asserting,
"If kids aren't in school from the beginning
of the school year then their entire academic
year is affected."
DPS's reformed approach to education
owes its success to a scaled-back size, reno-
vated facilities and, most importantly, an
increased emphasis on faculty-parent inter-
facing - which includes a new automated
calling system that notifies parents whose
children aren't in school. The district's tri-
umph in spite of its recent budget cuts should
be rewarded with restored funding. Parents,
teachers, principals and members of Detroit's
grassroots movements have worked hard to
improve the educational system of their city,
and their efforts should be met with support
from the state government.

want you to try to do some-
thing for a moment. Choose a
loved one: a parent, a sibling,
a friend or an
extended fam-
ily member. Now
imagine getting
a phone call. It's
completely out
of the blue, a
family member
calls you cry- JAMES
ing, barely able BRENNAN
to form words.
They haven't
even said anything, but you already
know what happened. They eventu-
ally pull together enough strength
and tell you that a loved one has sud-
denly been killed.
Put yourself in the funeral home a
few days later attheviewing. You see
your friends and family slowly shuf-
fle in and out, walking by the casket,
sayinga short prayer and giving con-
dolences to you and others close to
him or her.
Place yourself inside that church,
listening to the eulogy, being moved
to tears as it hits you that you will
never see this person ever again.
Imagine that it's now a year later,
and he or she is still gone. Time has
passed, but your feelings haven't.
You still miss him or her and think
about it every day. And he or she is
never, ever coming back.
Imagine the most terrible feeling
you can think of, and then multiply
that by a hundred.
This happens every day to at least
24 people in America because of gun
violence. There are up to 9,000 gun
related homicides in the U.S. every
year, and almost all of those will
result in a phone call, a funeral and
dozens of completely altered lives.

I came to a realization earlier this
summer. About a week before the
movie theater shooting in Aurora,
Col., I was having a conversation
with a coworker about gun violence
in Detroit. Elise, a Detroit resident
with two children, was concerned
with the rash of shootings that had
been taking place at gas stations
and Coney Island restaurants in the
city late at night (she hoped to get
security guards at these locations
to deter crime).sAfter hearing about
Aurora, I was upset to see how asub-
urban shooting had finally reignited
debates about security and guns,
while the ongoing urban violence,
like Elise talked about, was over-
looked. It seemed like just another
instance of race and class determin-
ing an issue's importance.
What troubled me more, however,
was what this debate was actually
about. Rather than a conversation
about how to tackle something that
is clearly a huge problem - whether
we're talking about rare mass shoot-
ers or daily homicides - the debate
was whether or not we should do
anything. That's right, our leaders
were arguing whether or not any
action at all should be taken to alle-
viate gun violence. Considering the
lack of any legislation or executive
action, itseemsthat once again we're
not addressing gun deaths head on.
Gun violence is not inevitable.
People being shot and killed are not
unstoppable occurrences like dis-
eases, viruses or natural disasters.
They can be prevented. We know
this because other developed nations
don't have this problem to the extent
of the U.S. Japan, Great Britain, Can-
ada, Germany - none of them have
problems with gun violence like we
do. Clearly, something can be done

about it. Should we enforce stricter
gun control, as many of these coun-
tries do, or should we come up with
a completely new solution based on
gun rights and security? This is a
necessary discussion that has the
potential to limit people like James
Holmes' all-too-easy access to dan-
gerous weapons.
Aurora should
have sparked
The point is that we have the
political power to have a broader
conversation onthese senselessmur-
ders. It doesn't matter if it's a group
of people being fired at in a Colorado
movie theater or an individual being
shot during a carjacking in Detroit
- no son, daughter, mother, father
or friend ever wants to get that call.
After a mass shooting, people so
often say, "We can never let this hap-
pen again." But within a year, anoth-
er headline tragically appears. I'm
not asking for martial law on guns or
demanding we hire security guards
at every busy public place in Amer-
ica. I'm just asking that we please
accept gun violence as an epidemic.
I beg of our citizens and leaders:
please, let's stop ignoring the pre-
ventable tragedies occurring daily
and sit down for a real conversation
about gun violence in America.
-James Brennan can be reached
at jmbthree@umich.edu.

Eleven years after

The sky was a striking blue. The air was
hot, but not unusual for late August in Lower
Manhattan. I rode into the city via train on a
bit of a whim, finally paying a long-ago self-
sworn trip of reverence to the sixteen-acre
site that was the resting place of my uncle
Stephen. Not wanting to bear the somewhat
uncomfortable air of making the trip alone, I
texted a few friends. All responded that they
were busy with this or that. One of my closer
friends was already at her boyfriend's apart-
ment in Midtown - of course she'd join me,
she wrote.
I've been to Ground Zero before. In late
November of 2001 I'd gazed at (but utterly
failed to take in) the twisted, smoking horror
of what was then somewhat cynically dubbed
"the pile." In September of 2002, I stood in
the gaping square crater while President
Bush awkwardly attempted his best consola-
tion at the first anniversary of the exceptional
war crime. I've walked past it a dozen times
since then, poking my head around the tangle
of chain-link fences for a good angle to see
just how the local bureaucrats were slowly
rearranging the site from an open downtown
laceration into a tender scar.
Spending most months of the year in Mich-
igan, and some in Europe, left little time for
home and family, a sacrifice I unthinkingly
dove into three years ago in pursuit of a top-
notch education. I'd been occasionally check-
ing the construction progress of One World
Trade Center from afar via the Internet, and
on the day the welding of an I-beam trans-
formed it into the tallest building in New
York, I tweeted a tidbit with a trace of home-
town nostalgia and contentment.
Seeing it in real life, however, delivered a
sensation poles apart. Though it was incom-
plete, it hit me as too clean. The tower's sur-
face was an eerily flawless mirror; its stature
dwarfed my senses. It seemed out of reach.
Beautiful, though, I told myself as my friend
and I cruised past the gagglinghordes of over-
weight tourists (family members and friends
of victims had a separate, expedited entrance
process. It was something I felt I didn't
deserve, but was nonetheless thankful for).
We passed through security and entered
a pristine park. Young trees rose from fresh-
looking woodchip mulch. Perfectly folded
and organized pamphlets in probably a dozen
languages offered a guided tour of the memo-
rial, the essence of which was experienced in
two cavernous square fountains in the foot-
prints of the former towers. Dark and spar-
kling, these massive holes in the ground were
each outlined by a counter-like bronze ledge
bearing the names of the 2,977 victims plus

the six from the 1993 bombing.
But the somewhat off-putting sterility was
not complete - I noticed the dark enamel had
been slightly rubbed away in the south-west
corner of the south fountain. It looked almost
trashy in comparison with the fresh-from-
the-package feel of the other surroundings.
Why there, and nowhere else? I glanced over
my shoulder at the pattern of entering tour-
ists and understood. This area of the memori-
al was closest to the entrance. It was the most
convenient spot for heavy-legged sightseers.
This corner was flooded with kids, teens
and baby-boomers of every American stripe.
A handful of visitors nonchalantly sat on the
bronze ledge, planting their asses on the tex-
tual remnants of the deceased. Bored moms
and dads with receding hairlines snapped
photos of grinning kids pointing to the
gleaming tower. A Hispanic-looking young
woman dipped her hands in the fountain's
water and splashed it across her forearms,
nasally complaining of the heat. Powder blue
signs reminded visitors that throwing trash
in the fountains was prohibited.
I approached Steve's name with the help
of the brochure, but - "Excuse me" was all I
said, and quite politely. The girl straightened
up and removed her repose from my uncle's
name. She was probably only 12 or 13, but her
abashed look suggested she understood the
coarseness of her leisure. I couldn't be mad
at her; she had been a baby when the attacks
occurred. It was the behavior of the adults
that nauseated me.
I consoled my disenchantment by tell-
ing myself that they were mostly from out-
of-state or abroad. At the risk of sounding
conceited, I admit having thought that New
Yorkers would've been more reverent. I've
noticed over the years that the further one
travels from the epicenters of 9/11, less of the
population holds that inner solemnity for the
event. A friend here at the University once
admitted the attacks never really touched
her emotionally. Several Germans I've met
proudly boast America indirectly brought
the attacks on itself. A 2011 study by the Pew
Research Center revealed that in Egypt, 75
percent of Muslims do not believe Arabs were
responsible for 9/11. 92 percent of Afghan
men polled in 2010 have never heard of 9/11.
That widespread detachment doesn't
bother me much. There are still quite a few of
us who will indisputably "never forget." But
for the rest, I think fleetingly, maybe the city
should have left the site just a crudely gutted
hole in the ground.
Jared Szuba is an LSA senior.

Kaan Avdan, Eli Cahan, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein,
Patrick Maillet, Harsha Nahata, Timothy Rabb, Adrienne Roberts,
Vanessa Rychlinski, Sarah Skaluba, Caroline Syms
Pose the right question

In recent weeks, Republican
presidential nominee Mitt Romney
and his running mate Wisconsin
Congressman Paul Ryan have been
goading Americans to consider one
simple and seemingly obvious ques-
tion: "Are you better off now than
you were four years ago?" In fram-
ing this election as a referendum on
President Obama, the goal of Rom-
ney's question is clear: if a voter
answers 'no,' they might begin to
doubt the effectiveness of the cur-
rent administration, which would
make them consider a vote for Rom-
ney as a path to becoming'better off.'
I know as well as anyone that
elections have never been based in
sound logic or strict truth-telling.
But if only in the interest of reason
as an ideal of liberal democracy, I
want to spell out explicitly the flaws
inherent in asking if you are "better
off now than you were four years
ago," and use that answer asa guide
for who to vote for in this election.
The first problem is that it's
framed not in terms of the well-
being of Americans in aggregate,
but in terms of a single listener
("are you better off?). It seems that
in framing the choice of who will
lead a nation, a moral agent ought
to consider not only the well-being
of himself but the well-being of his
fellow citizens as well. (You'll have
to excuse my naive idealism here

- I'm a philosophy major, and I'd
much rather deal with the world
as it ought to be rather than as it
actually is). An incrementally more
appropriate question might be, "Are
we better off than we were four
years ago?"
But, even framing the question in
terms of collective well-being can-
not suffice to make this a legitimate
question as it relates to your choice
in this election. The reason is simple:
Romney's question asks the listener
to consider a net increase or decrease
in well-being over time - "Are you
better off than you were four years
ago?" - rather than counterfactual
well-being -"Are you better off than
you would have been under different
leadership and policies?" Of course,
the latter question doesn'thave quite
the same rhetorical ring as the for-
mer, but I'm concerned only with
reason here, not rhetoric.
For example, consider the 2004
presidential election which pitted
the incumbent George W. Bush
against the Democratic challeng-
er Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). In
the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist
attacks, it would have been simply
absurd for Kerry to ask Americans
if they were better off than they
were four years ago. The country
was still reeling from the tragedy
of only three years prior, had just
been catapulted into two wars

and was still recovering from the
recession of 2002-2003. The ques-
tion of whether or not Americans
were, strictly speaking, 'better off'
did not even enter into the public
debate - rather, Kerry asked the
sensible question of whether or not
Americans were satisfied with the
trajectory of their current leader-
ship given the enduring difficulties
of war, recession and tragedy.
This is not 2004, and President
Obama faces markedly different
challenges than Bush did in his
first term. But our current chal-
lenges cannot be understated: we
are still in the throes of the deepest
global recession since World War
II, according to the International
Monetary Fund. Given these cir-
cumstances, can it make any sense
at all to simply ask whether or not
you are better off now than you
were four years ago?
It's up to voters to consider the
successes and shortcomings of the
Obama administration, and pit them
against their understanding of Rom-
ney's plan for America. Ultimately,
each voter will generate his or her
own answers to the central ques-
tions of this election. But please,
when formulating these questions,
let's at least be sure they make sense
to ask before giving an answer.
Seth Wolin is an LSA sophomore.


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