Detroit, the Renaissance City. The City’s motto is incredibly apt: Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus. (Roughly, we hope for better things, they will rise from the ashes).
I have been reading various blogs that are written by young hipsters with families who are “urban pioneers.”* They write about their adventures in the City, about how it’s not that bad, about how things will get better (vid. Motto). They are amusing blogs to read, many are well written, and many have excellent photography.** I applaud the attempts by these bloggers to raise awareness of life in the City, but sometimes their pioneering spirit gets on my nerves. Some of us just go ahead and do it.
I did have that enthusiasm once, though. Detroit was known as the Renaissance City back then too. I raised my sons in this city, they graduated from high school in the city, one graduated from college in the city. I have worked my whole life in the city. Somewhere in that time, though, I lost that loving feeling. Yes, most of downtown is better now than it was 20 or 30 years ago (in some aspects). But stray too far off the main streets of downtown and you’re back in a wasteland.
I just don’t think a handful of hipsters living near downtown is going to change the city. Sorry. The “business as usual” mentality here is too entrenched. It’s always been my belief, too, that this city will only attract large numbers of productive, tax-paying residents (i.e., middle class families) if the schools are fixed. The public schools in this city are a disgrace and have been, despite repeated, drastic attempts to fix them for many, many, many years.***
When my kids were pre-school age, there were several families living on our block with kids the same age. One parent suggested that if we all sent our kids to the neighborhood school, we could make a difference. She was probably right, but when push came to shove, no one wanted to put their child’s education in jeopardy sending him or her to a substandard school. (One parent did and her son only lasted through kindergarten.) The parent who initially advocated public school ended up sending her sons to a very expensive private school in the Pointes. By mid-grade school, most of those families had moved to the suburbs. My sons graduated from high school in Detroit, but it was from a private school less than 2 miles from our house.
I visit other major cities like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Indianapolis and I see what city life could be like and I despair. I have given up hope that Detroit will rise from the ashes.
*and white. If you’re a black hipster raising a family in Detroit it’s not pioneering.
**I don’t want to put in links, but if you’re interested you can look for a blog about a Belle Isle home, one about Detroit being the next Hamptons, junipers that are sweet, and links from those blogs.
***Schools, obviously, are not the ONLY problem. There are many other problems that sociologists and urban planners have been wringing their hands over for years. Maybe fixing the other problems would fix the schools. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?