The closing of Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women

Today I learned about a documentary called Grown in Detroit. Here, according to the website for the film, is what it’s about.

Grown in Detroit focuses on the urban gardening efforts managed by a public school of 300, mainly african-american, pregnant and parenting teenagers. In Detroit alone, there are annually more than 3,000 pregnant teenagers who drop out of high school. This school is one of three located in the United States. As part of the curriculum, the girls are taught agricultural skills on the school’s own farm located behind the school building what used to be the playground. The young mothers, often still children themselves, are learning by farming to become more independent women and knowledgeable about the importance of nutritional foods. Many of them start out disliking the often physically hard work on the farm but this aversion disappears as they see their crops growing and being sold for profit. “Back to the roots”, a simple yet effective solution for a city that has to start all over again and perhaps a lesson to be learned for the rest of the world.

This program sounds great, right?

I mean, I haven’t really looked into it that much, but, at least on the surface, it sounds to me like just the kind of program that Detroit needs. It’s innovative. It’s looking to break persistent negative cycles. It’s looking to empower kids so that they actually do something positive with their lives. It’s hard to imagine that it’s something that people wouldn’t support, right?

Oh, and they have a 90% graduation rate, which has to be, by far, the highest in the city.

But, guess what?

The Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women, it was recently announced, is to be among the next round of Detroit public schools to be closed.

And, the pregnant young women who attend the school, as you might imagine, aren’t too happy about it. In fact, on Friday, when they were told to vacate the building, the refused. They instead held a sit-in to save their school. And they were arrested.

I’d like for you to watch two videos. The first is a trailer for the film, Grown in Detroit, which features the girls of the Catherine Ferguson Academy. The second is video of the same young women being led away from the school in handcuffs.

If you want to sign a petition to keep the school open, you can do so here. Or, better yet, you could withhold your taxes until such time that GE and other corporations decide to pay there’s.

I’m sorry. I know that’s irresponsible advice to give, but I can’t imagine these girls having to go into classrooms packed with 60 kids, where I know they won’t stand a fighting chance to turn their lives around. I don’t want for you to be arrested, but I don’t see as how we’re being left with much choice. Our public schools are being systematically dismantled, while we slash the tax rate of those in the top 1%, and look the other way as large corporations shirk their responsibility. We’re at the tipping point, my friends, and something has got to happen.

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  1. Maria
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    There’s a lot about that trailer that made me mad…
    My husband’s family are farmers, and if it the one thing that’s I have learned, farming is like gambling, you wait on the rain, the weather, pestilence, the price of a barrel of oil, whether or not your county gets subsidizes due to emergencies…etc.
    That woman is hoping they can earn $20000/yr for backyard gardens? Please. That’s not money to live on. Knowing how to garden is good to know and good for their health, and possibly for a few that can be plied into a living wage, but with no one mentoring, supporting them, educating them about specialty farming, through the ups and downs and vicissitudes of nature it would be very difficult for most to make a substantial sums of money. Something is better than nothing, but that’s a shitty way to think, Why not encourage the young girls to be nurses or teacher or engineers or mayors or CEO’s….honestly it rubbed me really wrong.

  2. Posted April 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    I viewed it differently, Maria. I didn’t interpret it as though they were saying that these women would find their way out of poverty thanks to urban gardening. I thought that they were using gardening as a means to teach them other life skills. I’ll watch it again, though… Thanks for your comment.

  3. Karl Tew
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Once they get 100 kids in a classroom, then we’ll really start saving money!

  4. Posted April 18, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    I’m sure that there is a chorus of angry white people out there rejoicing that black girls can’t learn how to farm.

    This is terrible but, again, not surprising.

  5. John Galt
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    It does my heart good to wake up and see young women being dragged away from school in handcuffs.

  6. Posted April 18, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Peter – Unfortunately I’m sure you’re right about some angry white people. In fact, on the page of local news coverage of the arrests, one commenter actually suggested turning the fire hoses on them. BUT, there was a very angry chorus of people of all races, including many white people out in front of the school on Friday, and then at the police station as well. Many of them Wayne State University students and others who had never ventured too far off campus. This was one of the first things that struck me when I was released from custody and came out to the chanting crowd. It is described in my blog post.

    What Dr. King wrote more than 30 years ago is very true of this event. “Inspired by the boldness and ingenuity of Negroes, white youth stirred into action and formed an alliance that aroused the conscience of the nation.” As I understand it, WSU students were having a rally on their campus, and a supporter of the CFA students made a solidarity statement and asked students to immediately go to CFA and many of them did! What was a typical campus rally with some speeches and chanting but not much else became a real action in defense of the CFA students. I do believe if it was shared more widely, it would do just as King said and arouse our national conscience.

  7. Posted April 18, 2011 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Also, while I don’t know of any of our graduates actually earning the $20,000 per year doing urban ag, I do know at least one has started a community garden at her apartment complex, another is studying culinary arts and got a job as a community pot-luck coordinator with the Greening of Detroit as a result of their connection with the school farm, and the most vocal anger students expressed when it was announced the school is on the closing list was about losing the farm.
    It is about the life skills. Young women gain confidence by leading a horse or climbing a ladder into the hay loft, or carrying heavy bails of hay, building greenhouses and raised beds. And they have fun and look forward to class. Some actually decide to breastfeed after milking the goats and learning more about lactation in a lower-pressure supportive setting rather than in the stressful moments after giving birth and in many cases actually being discouraged from doing so. I thought this was beautifully illustrated in the film.

  8. Posted April 18, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Keep up the good work, Nicole.

  9. Maria
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing wrong with teaching life skills, but honestly, they could do better than that. Really, this comes under the category of something is better than nothing, and they are poor souls anyway and someone is actually taking the time to help, and how dare any one complain….ugh.

  10. Edward
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    We’ve come a long way since the start of school integration in the early 60’s. Back then we had white governors standing in school doorways, blocking our black kids from the opportunities that come along with education. Now we have black cops leading black kids away from what appears to be a completely segregated school under the authority of a black Emergency Financial Manager. It gets the same result, but without the charge of racism. Well done, Republicans.

  11. Tom
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Maria: This is not so simple. First, why assume that no one is encouraging any young people to be nurses, mayors, engineers, mayors, and … CEOs? I thought that kind of ‘encouragement’ was pretty ubiquitous in high school, and throughout our popular culture, Jersey Shore notwithstanding.

    The urban gardening phenomenon is about more than showing people a way to make money – actually, I rarely hear anyone talk about gardening making them money. It’s more importantly about learning how to cooperate with others in creating something that is important to the community, a critical aspect to real democratic process – unfortunately, we don’t learn that from pop culture; we learn that democracy is instrumental and devoid of meaning for most people, especially poor black folks.

    Actually, seen that way, something is a helluva lot better than nothing, which is what we have. Likewise, what does “encouraging” these girls to become CEOs mean?

  12. Edward
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    My guess is that more of these girls will be self sufficient, percentage wise, than kids in the regular Detroit system. The gardening programs may have something to do with that. I think class size is probably a bigger factor, though, and the fact that teachers have the time to interact with every kid on an individual basis. That can’t happen in a classroom with 40 to 60 kids. It’s unfortunate that these opportunities aren’t available to people before they become pregnant. If they were, we may not have the epidemic of babies giving birth to babies that we now have.

  13. Maria
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    It’s not simple for sure, and there’s nothing wrong with teaching anybody how to garden to eat better, or to breastfeed or to develope salable interests etc.
    I don’t believe the kind of encouragement to tell young people the world is their osyter and of course they can be what they want to be, is ubiquitious at DPS.
    Instead, they garden, which is great, but that’s not real career advice.

  14. Maria
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    What I would love to hear is that the place is offering more, much more than that.

  15. Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand how learning how to make one’s own food in cooperation with others could be anything but helpful to creating a successful life, regardless of income or position. I wish someone had taught me gardening when I was young.

  16. Knox
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Growing Hope is having an event tonight at SPARK East that people might be interested in.

    Monday, April 18 · 6:00pm – 7:30pm

    SPARK East
    215 W. Michigan Ave.
    Ypsilanti, Michigan

    Come learn vegetable gardening basics from an experienced Master Gardener! Melissa Kesterson, our presenter, is an organic gardener, the past-director of local nonprofit Project Grow, and lead in helping support congregation growing for donation in Food Gatherer’s Faith and Food program this year!

    You will learn about:
    * Site Location & Garden size
    * What to Plant; Plant Rotation
    * Soil Preparation
    * Garden Design
    * ABC’s of Watering
    * Strategies for Handling Pests

    Cost of class is $5 (or $3 for Growing Gardens members)

    RSVP here please:
    or call 734-786-8401!

  17. Maria
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Can’t you see ? These girls are willing to get arrested when someone treats them well and educates them even with such basics. These young ladies are very motivated, they are soon to be mothers, with very little support, (or else why would they be there)and what they need access to education that will advance them much further…

  18. Posted April 18, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    No, I don’t really see it.

    So the school is motivates girls to fight for their own wellbeing, therefore it is worthless and should be closed down.

    I don’t really get your logic at all.

  19. Stephen
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that pro-life Republicans would love a program that makes it easier for young women to keep their babies, but maybe they’re just pro life when the babies are white.

  20. Meta
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    In related news, more African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.

  21. Maria
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    It should be better than this. Those girls deserve even better..
    This should be done when the kids are in 3rd grade. Sure go ahead and do this now, but it pains me to see this is what is going on. Seriously.

  22. Posted April 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    To be honest, your attitude is insulting to farmers (and humans) everywhere.

    I suppose that FFA and 4H programs that occur in just about every corner of rural America should be restricted to third graders?

    Learning to grow food or any other manual skill is a lesson in self-sufficiency that one can apply to any path in life, be it convenience store workers, factory workers, doctors, lawyers or even the .00000000000000000001% of the population who become CEO’s. There is way too much emphasis on getting kids to college and not enough emphasis on building true survival skills.

    If anything, these kids will learn to appreciate where their food comes from, and, more importantly, the benefits of a diet which consists of more than fast food. If they do, in fact, join the professional classes, then I am positive that they will take these important lessons with them.

    There is nothing better than this. Obviously, you don’t have farmers in your family.

  23. Meta
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    From a first person account from one of the girls.

    “The day before, I packed up all my stuff, my clothes and food, because I thought we were going to stay for a week,” Matthews said. “I left my daughter with my mom and dad. We were inside making signs and calls, going on Facebook, and putting stuff up in the windows. We hooked up speakers in the windows so we could voice our demands.”

    She said she was “surprised” when she saw how many people demonstrated outside in their support. She said the supporters passed lasagna through the windows, but that they didn’t even get a chance to eat it because the police got there first.

    “When we heard the police were coming, we ran to the library as fast as we could and barricaded ourselves in there. The police knocked on the window, and before we knew it, they busted open the library door. We all got in a line and held hands. We took a vote because we wanted to be democratic and we decided not to leave. We chose to stick together, we came together and we were staying together. We were chanting, ‘Whose schools? Our schools!’ The whole time I was recording everything on my phone.”

    She said the cop who arrested her, a Detroit police officer named R. Brown, saw that she was recording the events and snatched the phone away. She said Detroit Public Schools officers also took part in the attacks.

    “I had sat down, and he yanked me up and slammed me down on my stomach on the floor,” Matthews said. “All the girls went berserk, telling him to get off me, but he was just wiping up the floor with me. He pressed his thumbs in my neck, and he tightened the handcuffs so hard that I have bruises there. I cried at first but then I made myself stop.”

    Matthews said she weighs only 100 lbs. and is often mistaken for being much younger because she is so small.

    “The officer pushed me up against the police car, with my face against it, and put me in it,” Matthews said. “They police didn’t read us our rights even though they told us we were under arrest. Then they were playing ‘good cop, bad cop,’ asking, ‘does your mom know you’re going to jail?’ I told them ‘She knows, I’m fighting for my education, and I want a lawyer.’ I wouldn’t talk to them any more after that.”

    But Matthews said the police “verbally assaulted” them the whole way to the Eighth Precinct at Schaefer and Grand River.

    “All the officers were so rude to us you would have thought we had killed somebody,” she said. “They asked us, ‘do you have money, because you’re going to be in jail all weekend.’ They told me it was good I’m 17, because I would have to go on the ‘big block’ and I’d better not be talking that ‘education stuff’ there. They were so mad because it was females standing up. But we have the right to fight for our school, and we were non-violent.”

    She said the students felt absolutely “degraded” by the treatment they received from the police.

  24. EOS
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Farmers need math and chemistry skills to calculate rates of fertilizer and pesticide application. They need business skills to determine what and how much to plant based on the market. They need reading skills to keep abreast of the latest technology. They need mechanical skills to keep the farm equipment operational. They need marketing skills to determine where to sell. This is a very short and incomplete list. Farming is a very complicated process that needs high levels of skill and intelligence.

    Substituting an urban garden experience for high school subjects will result in these girls competing poorly for low skill labor jobs. I agree with Maria that these girls deserve better. That 90% graduate may just reflect that they are merely watering vegetables and picking fruit from trees.

  25. Posted April 18, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I can’t imagine that you know anything about what this school does.

    I challenge you to leave your basement and drive down there right now.

    I doubt you would, being that you have indicated before that you don’t feel safe around black people.

  26. EOS
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    More lies from Peter. Yawn.

  27. Posted April 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Well, are you going or not? My guess is no.

  28. EOS
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Admit it Peter. This is just another of your racist attitudes. Why don’t you think young, urban mothers should set their sights on a college degree? Why do you think it is sufficient for them to learn manual skills and where their food comes from? How are they going to join the professional classes if they don’t study academic subjects in high school?

  29. Posted April 18, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I realize that you have your own bigoted agenda to spread, but there is absolutely nothing that says that Catherine Ferguson does NOT offer a curriculum any different than any other high school.

    And as far as farmers and having a PhD in physics goes, NONE of my farming family members have anything above a high school degree. Most don’t even have that. The ones that do got theirs at public institutions just like this one.

    Simply put, once again, you have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.

    In case you were wondering:

    Catherine Ferguson Academy

    When a teenaged/pre-teen girl discovers she’s pregnant, her life changes far more than she could ever have expected. Too often one of the first changes she makes is to drop out of school, sacrificing one of her most important opportunities for a good future. To help solve that problem, DPS created the Catherine Ferguson Academy.

    At Ferguson, the main goals are to educate the young mothers and prepare them for a good future. “We want our girls to know that becoming a mother in your teens does not mean you are doomed to a dead end life,” said Ms. Andrews. All students are schooled in the core curriculum of English, math, science and social studies in a family-like, accepting environment. Along with the academics there is ‘real life’ learning about raising a child and how to function as a knowledgeable, independent and productive adult. “The responsibility of providing food, shelter and other basic needs in life should not be stressful. They have the right to look forward to a rewarding life and we help them achieve it” said Ms. Durant.

    The school offers early education classes for infants and toddlers along with business partners who can help needy students meet their child’s basic needs such as food, clothing and medical care. Social workers, counselors and other staff can also put the students in touch with community services like WIC, the Children’s Center, DHS, Alternative for Teens, Positive Images, the Detroit Health Department and Legal Aid for specialized assistance, along with career counseling, mentoring and tutoring. The all-female student body is something the students seem to appreciate.

    Everything at the school encourages young mothers to stay on the right ‘life’ track. This structure has led to a graduation rate of over 90% at Ferguson with most of the girls going on to college. It has also earned Ferguson a national award and a waiting list. Added to those is Ferguson’s Farm, complete with goats, chickens, vegetable gardens, a horse, beehives and more where the ‘city girls’ have taken to the farm like they’ve always lived there. Boykin students generally go back to their home school after about a year, but they go back prepared to cross the finish line with a real ‘life changer’…a high school diploma.

    Historical Note:

    The Catherine Ferguson Academy is named after a freed slave who, although illiterate, dedicated her life to educating others in the early 1800s.

  30. Katie
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I watched the ENTIRE movie. There is nothing there that indicates Ferguson is limiting or even pushing farming as a career path. Instead they use the urban garden program as a tool to promote self esteem, awareness, and to apply their classroom education to the real world. Students retain 90% of what they learn through doing compared to 10% reading or 50% listening to lectures (Learning Pyramid). These girls have a wonderful opportunity to learn and make associations here.
    Knowing where your food comes from and having the ability to grow your own food is no small thing in and of itself, but regardless of your feelings about agriculture and gardening, these are pregnant high school girls. CFA seems to be providing a much needed service in making it possible just to keep them in school and motivated.

  31. Maria
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Look, that’s just great….
    What upsets me so much is that this place has to exist…..or had to…
    in the first place.
    Now do you understand?

  32. Posted April 18, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Not really. Your first posts were to denigrate it entirely, stating that the Catherine Ferguson School was doing a disservice to its students by teaching them farming skills. Neither yourself or EOS had any evidence to support it, but you both independently asserted that, as the school is teaching farming skills, it must not be teaching reading, chemistry and physics.

    Representatives of the school have indicated a 90% graduation rate, among a population of students (pregnant teenagers and young mothers) who would, without any opportunities, have a graduation rate of nearly zero.

    They also indicate that most of their students go on to 2 and 4 year colleges, something both of you didn’t even consider.

    So no, your backtrack is unacceptable and no, I don’t understand.

    Instead of reaching out to denigrate those who take the time to try to give people new lives, lend a word of support.

    Better yet, contribute some cash to help these girls out with their tickets and court fees that they’ve racked up trying to defend their school and their future.

  33. EOS
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink


    Rather than cutting and pasting from a press release written by representatives of the school, maybe you should have researched the information provided by the school district.

    Catherine Ferguson School has not made adequate yearly progress for the 7 years reported between 2002 and 2009. They are at phase 6 of the NCLB. They have a significantly lower number of students who are at or above performance levels for their grade than the average for the Detroit Public School system.

    The highest annual graduation rate reported since 2002/3 was 67.9%. In 2006/7 the graduation rate was 32.1%, in 2007/8 it was 23.3%, and for the years 2002/3, 2003/4, and 2008/9 the graduation rate was 0%.

    The dropout rate for 2008/9 was 52.3%. The average ACT score is about 14-15, hardly college material.

    It appears from their academic results that the decision to close this school is justified.

  34. Posted April 18, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Fair enough, though it’s hard to argue that this school doesn’t provide a service to these girls. You have provided evidence (though there are lots of blanks in the reporting) that the students are incredibly challenged. There is no evidence, as you asserted, that the school doesn’t offer a typical high school curriculum.

    These are pregnant teenagers. Teenage mothers. The school allows them to take their children to school and offers a chance. Perhaps the mean scores on anything aren’t adequate by Ypsilanti Township standards, but this school is now closed, and there’s a lot of girls that won’t ever be going back to school.

    I’m sure that’s a totally welcome scenario to you and entirely welcome to many of Southeastern Michigan.

  35. Katie
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the research done there EOS. Does anyone know if the statement about being the only school in the district that has childcare/caters to pregnant teens that I’ve seen is true?
    One thing you need to remember looking at these statistics is that this is a school that caters to primarily economically disadvantaged teen mothers that would have a helluva lot going on in their lives than just studies.
    It is in phase 7 in this report along with 16 0ther schools, there are 4 schools at phase 6. How many schools are being shut down?
    They must be doing something right, regardless of statistics or these girls would not be staging a sit in.

  36. Katie
    Posted April 18, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink
    that link.
    And wow to Peter for great minds thinking alike, your post came up after I posted and the screen refreshed.

  37. EOS
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 4:08 am | Permalink


    Pregnant teens and teenage mothers can attend any of the Detroit Public Schools. Those who are economically disadvantaged and need childcare so that they can attend school are provided the funds for childcare by DHS. DHS will also pay relatives of the mother to care for her children while she attends school.

    Unwed, economically disadvantaged teen mothers have tremendous obstacles in their pursuit of a high school diploma and entering the workforce. Are you at all concerned about the misinformation disseminated by representatives of this school? Most of the teen mothers will not graduate and will not attend college and their children will most likely continue in the cycle of poverty. Who is benefiting from having these teen parents attend a school that does a worse job of educating them than the regular Public School? Why not encourage these teens to give their babies up for adoption where they, their children, and society would all benefit? If they do choose to keep their babies, wouldn’t it be better for the young woman’s peers to see firsthand how difficult single parenthood is for teens, rather than keeping mothers out of sight at a special school?

  38. Posted April 19, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    “Why not encourage these teens to give their babies up for adoption where they, their children, and society would all benefit? ”

    Wow, you are truly a piece of work.

  39. Katie
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Whoa, EOS.
    I again appreciate the info about the resources available to teen mothers, but there are other benefits to this school.

    Aside from the urban garden program, having a peer group of supportive, motivated people in the same position as they are (pregnant and in school) can relieve a huge amount of stress, anxiety and relieve the social pressure to drop out and disappear. By seeing other girls in their position trying and making it, even at such a low graduation rate, that means something.

    Making the decision to keep their child could not have been an easy one. What makes you a judge of how much better these girls, much less their kids would be if they were given up for adoption? These girls made the difficult choice to keep their child, and the even harder decision to stay in school at the same time.

    Of course I am concerned about the misinformation being passed around, and these girls do deserve the best education they can receive. I also believe that the benefits of a supportive environment and an alternative education should be considered carefully. The school certainly could use improvement in curriculum but I don’t see how shutting it down helps the girls it was serving.

  40. Edward
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Katie, don’t let EOS get to you. He does this to everyone. He’s one of our token Tea Partiers. He thinks that people are poor because 1) they’re lazy, and 2) they haven’t accepted Jesus Christ and their lord and savior. He might not come right out and say it, but he believes these girls should pay for their sins.

  41. EOS
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink


  42. Posted April 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    For one, I don’t understand how you could put any stock into this, given its clear liberal bias and flagrant use of tax dollars.

    Next, the paper that you have posted actually does more to support to support the existence of a school like Catherine Ferguson than to discredit it.

    Finally, you’re a fucking total asshole if you believe that this should ever be used to justify taking children from parents. The study was aimed at assessing the situation of teen parents and suggesting ways to help teen mothers, not to encourage them to put their kids up for adoption. Perhaps you might use it to justify forced tubal ligation?

    Maybe you might like to read this:

    or this, which nowhere states that girls should give up their children to the state for adocption, but rather encourages school boards to offer educational opportunities and support for pregnant girls and teen mothers:

    All of these are from the same set of studies.

  43. EOS
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Logic 101

    Fallacy: Red Herring
    Also Known as: Smoke Screen, Wild Goose Chase.

    Description of Red Herring

    A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:

    Topic A is under discussion.
    Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A .
    Topic A is abandoned.

    This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.

  44. EOS
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I posted a link to 12 separate research studies that documented the increased incidence of adverse outcomes in children who had teen mothers. I never advocated any government intervention, nor did I suggest that the State take the children away from their mothers. The links you posted contained two perspectives without the research to back them up – mere opinions. I never suggested teen mothers should undergo tubal ligation nor did I intimate that these girls should “pay for their sins.”

  45. Posted April 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I agree this is a significant and important issue. Those who want to defend the termination of opportunity need to get over themselves. There is no one size fits all answer to social problems. That a small number of young women and their infants are having positive options for experiences in a place where space is available and the old economic model has failed is not hurting anyone. We need more of this not less. Sometimes I think ideologues get us distracted from the things that really matter. It isn’t about EOS. It’s about young women and children who will go into their future to contribute or be wasted. There may be other places for them but this is a good place. Why must it go away?

  46. Suzie Conroy
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I have read the comments above and I am astounded. This is not about farming. This is about one person being put in charge of deciding who goes ad who stays. It is about people elected by the people being ousted by the government and the government taking over. Do you want this in your community? Who will be next? What if they do not like they way your city is being run? Do not think it cannot happen to you. These people were poor and your Gov thinks they have no voice. But they do and it is up to us as Americans to join in that voice. Come on people arresting young women? I do not think gardening was the only thing being taught and to say that is missing the story. To get into college you need a bit I think. This story made me physically sick to my stomache. I watched it with my daughter who cried and asked me “why mom,how can they do this”? I could not answer and that made me feel so inadequate. We have fiscal problems in this country yes but how does any of the solutions these Gov’s come up with really help. For that man to say he “drools” at the prospect of getting in there and doing this stuff is awful. This is America land of We the People and it is sad to see we the people does not include the poor,sick,minorities,women. It is we the rich and we the powerful. When they come to your city who will stand for you??

  47. Thom
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Having actually visited the school on several occasions and talked to the students, I can attest to it’s immense value. Don’t concentrate on the farming aspect. What’s important are the life lessons of responsibility and integrity that are being learned in a protected environment. This is a GOOD school, doing GOOD work! Closing it is an act of stupidity that sickens me.

  48. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I’m standing with Suzie Conroy on this one…I am a DPS special ed teacher (at least until July 29th) and I am absolutely terrified that one guy has the control of my destiny. Not a hiring board, not a school board (who, admittedly, sucked but still), not some supervisors…one EFM will say if my school stays open, if I still have a job, if I still get my same kiddos who I am very close with. Don’t be fooled by my frontin’–I am absolutely terrified and if I think about it too much, I end up curled up in a ball under my binkie.

  49. cyanflan
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The fact that there are commenters posting about how these girls need better education other than “farming” astounds me. Who would offer that education to them? How are they going to get it? The system has failed here and this was an opportunity to attempt to provide an education, although unorthodoxed. Maybe these people aren’t looking to become lawyers or seek college degrees. College is hella expensive and what happens next? Debt for the rest of their lives?

  50. Ronald Cruz
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this story, Mark.

    I am from the organization, BAMN, that is organizing the protests to save Ferguson Academy along with dozens of other Detroit schools that are threatened with closure and privatization. We need funds to support legal costs for the Ferguson mothers and future efforts. Please include this link for your readers who would like to support. Thank you:

  51. Family Man
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    What these women need is abstinence only education.

  52. Ivy
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    but not for the fathers, Family Man? Abstinence only education is a FAILURE.

    A sexually active teenage girl who has sex without contraception has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year, according to the Institute. Just as disturbing is that in a single act of vaginal intercourse with an infected male partner, a female teenager has a 30% risk of contracting genital herpes, a 50% chance of contracting gonorrhea, and a 1 in 100 chance of acquiring HIV.

    But you’re probably good with the above info, you strike me as the type who enjoys punishing women for their sexuality.

  53. jack
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I think a point is being left out here. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness just got taken away without a vote. Does police state ring a bell.

  54. EOS
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink


    Why don’t you think abstinence would prevent pregnancy and all STD’s?

  55. CHER
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    If you dig into the online DPS school budget you’ll see more about why the schools are being forced to close, it’s to save money!
    It’s all about the money.
    The FEDS are paying $490 million to open the best charter schools nationwide, or about $10 million each state.
    The EFM has this idea that by selling the buildings to charter corp he will save money by pushing the cost off on the charters and add that to the profit from the sales.
    He also has this idea that we need NEW SCHOOLS BUILT at time when money is tight, yeah right idea, wrong time!
    But then there are more hidden reasons for the attack on public schools, the main one is the banks, yes the same people that are driving the nation to its knees with illegal foreclosures.
    “Today, with the city’s tax base destroyed by the loss of property values caused by the foreclosure epidemic, the same banks that caused this crisis have the audacity to demand huge cutbacks in city services and jobs in order to be paid debt service on loans made to the city, which are continually renegotiated as the tax base declines.”

    “In fact, the banks exercise direct control over large sections of the city budget, with casino tax dollars and state revenue sharing paid to trustees, so the funds go directly to the banks. Up to 80 percent of state school aid is earmarked for debt service to the banks. (Detroit News, April 4, 2010)”
    The banks answer to no one, do what they want with impunity, using bank loans as the wedge to destroy our economy and our lives, treating our cities like their own private plantations and all of us as slaves, no matter your color! It holds our local governments hostage with threats of insolvency and destruction of the cities and states credit ratings.
    Everybody ought to stop paying the ransom money and dare the banks to take the cities and states to court to collect.

  56. Posted April 25, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Have human beings ever universally been abstinent as teenagers?

  57. Ivy
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    EOS, do you not comprehend the difference between abstinence and abstinence only education? At what period in history have teenagers ever been celibate? Or are you content to let those who don’t heed “just don’t do it” to suffer the consequences of their ignorance?

    In a study of four abstinence-only programs by the Mathematica Policy Research Inc., published in April of 2007, the research group found that “participants had just as many sexual partners as nonparticipants and had sex at the same median age as nonparticipants.” In other words, abstinence education programs did nothing favorable – the result was the same as if there were no program being offered at all.

  58. Mr. X
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Why can’t all girls be a good as Bristol the Pistol?

    Here, is you want to read something on abstinence-only education is an old post about the girls of Ohio’s TImkin High.

  59. Catherine
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Maria, you must have missed the part where it was pointed out that acceptance into college is required to graduate with their high school diploma from CFS. I’m quite sure a college education will give them the ability to make more than $20,000/year in ADDITION to the life skills they are learning with urban gardening. If there is a high school in Michigan, or the nation for that matter, where the kids can graduate and come out with spectacular careers making more than $20,000/year straight out of high school all I can say is…it must be well funded ;).

  60. Maria
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your post Catherine.

  61. Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    In regards to the statistics posted from DPS website for CFA: The reported graduation rates are misleading, and actually meaningless. Grad. rate is calculated as the number of students entering a high school in 9th grade and graduating from that same school 4 years later. Since very few of our students fit this profile (they enter at various points of high school, whenever they become pregnant) these numbers are meaningless. While 14-15 my be considered low ACT score, it is about average for Detroit, and until required by the state most students did not take it at all. More importantly it does not prevent any student from going on to community college, a great option for many students.

    In response to the post that pregnant students can attend any Detroit High School:
    While this is of course the law, MANY students at CFA were forced out of their high schools, most told they would not be safe in the school. I think they are perceived as a liability. Many also choose CFA because it provides the support they need, as many have no family support.
    MANY of our students also say they learn more at CFA than at their former schools, that teachers are able to really teach because classes are not overcrowded, they can ask for help, and they know people are paying attention to them, and encouraging them after many people have told them they should give up on school.

  62. Lucas
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Heres the biggest problem, although no covered here, the decision to close this school was made by one man who wasn’t elected, and the cops infringed on the right of those girls to protest, students have rights and if the teachers and principle were ok with them doing it then they have every right to. But one need to realize that this decision was made by 1 unelected man, who was appointed there by a white, republican man. (i guarantee that both the race and sex of the student body played a part in his decision) This is dictatorship, and i believe that we have the right as Americans to violently rise up against a tyrannical government, shit its the reason we have the second amendment, so i say give the girls a lot of very big guns and let the police try to take them away again…..

  63. EOS
    Posted April 27, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    You have some serious credibility issues.

    As defined in 34 C.F.R. §200.19(b)(1)(i)-(iv), the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (hereafter referred to as “the four-year graduation rate”) is the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class. From the beginning of 9th grade, students who are entering that grade for the first time form a cohort that is subsequently “adjusted” by adding any students who transfer into the cohort later during the 9th grade and the next three years and subtracting any students who transfer out, emigrate to another country, or die during that same period.

    This statistic is standardized at the national level. If a student graduates from ANY Detroit Public High School it would be reflected in the mandatory reporting of graduation rates.

    If it is true that students are “forced” out of other public schools in Detroit because they are not safe in the school and they prefer CFA because it provides the support they need and they learn more, then tell us, why don’t the majority stay? I suspect that you would say anything that furthers your personal interest. If you were honest you would have to admit that the majority of teenage mothers do not graduate from high school regardless of the amount of resources that we invest in them.


    You cannot deprive someone of a diploma which they have earned due only to the fact that they haven’t applied to college. Additionally, getting accepted into “a college” is not an accomplishment when there are institutions that will accept anyone who applies. Some do not even require a high school diploma.

  64. Rachel
    Posted May 1, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    If you look at the School’s profile, you’d know that it has MORE than just an urban gardening program. It is an Alternative Education high school, still a high school! This school is helping women get an education. One of the graduation requirements is to be accepted into a 2 or 4 year university, AND they have the highest graduation rate in Detroit- 90%. I’d say they’re doing a damn good job and it’s a damn shame that school is closing.

  65. Peggy Pianalto
    Posted May 2, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Did anyone here actually watch the segment? It didn’t have anything to do with teaching women urban gardening as a livelihood. It was using urban gardening to round out their budget, provide healthy food, provide structure and teach women how to raise their own food, if needed. The purpose of the school is to educate young women who have a strong educational strike against them.

    The purpose of the segment was to show the how the two-faced Republicans operate. “We’re going to force you to have those babies you were stupid enough to get pregnant with because we don’t allow sex education or birth control by making abortions as difficult as we possibly can, but then we’re going to punish you for being uneducated and poor. Gotcha!”

  66. John Barnett Brown
    Posted May 2, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    EOS conveniently left out the part used by CFA in the CFRs, 34 C.F.R. §200.19(b)(1)(v), not exactly the honest approach, more like “…serious credibility issues.”

    In fact, Catherine can set up any special conditions for graduation that gain school board approval. I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine that part of the non-graduation rate is women who can not get admitted to a college and go for a work opportunity.

    In any event, this has to be the stupidest move ever made by any educational authority, closing a working school that saves lives and creates dedicated citizens. Money is NOT the problem. In this instance the problem is official idiocy.

  67. Posted May 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    All you folks who think so lowly of this program obviously have LOW expectations of the abilities and potentials of theses children.

    You have no solutions, you are not willing to fight for them or yourselves as we decend deeper into economic depression while he banks and war profiteers and Wall Street register astronomical profits on the backs of ordinary taxpayers. Then you dare to presume that this school gives them low expectation. So it is ok to reduce them to NO expectations. Too many American people are a conundrum, puppets to an illogical system that rewards the rich and punishes and abuses the poor. Take away a thing that gives them self-worth, presume they are just “watering plants, picking vegatables…” It is your ignorance that is showing.

    The sands of empire are surely blowing away, no jobs, no education, no housing…I guess this is the America some of you want to see. Gated community and vast expanses of Urban deserts…shoot them if they get too close, right???

    Yeah I went extreme, I have a vivid imagination and a soft heart for folks with less than me. Call me HUMAN!!!

  68. Meta
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    There’s now an online petition to keep the school opened.

10 Trackbacks

  1. […] was wondering why we were getting so many new comments on our thread about the Catherine Ferguson Academy. Well, it looks like we got a shout out on Rachel Maddow’s website… Here’s the […]

  2. By Sunday Reads…Rabbit…Rabbit « Sky Dancing on April 24, 2011 at 5:26 am

    […] Mark Maynard’s blog report has a lot of local discussion going. […]

  3. By Things May Not Get Better! : Stager-to-Go on April 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    […] Mark Maynard’s blog report has a lot of local discussion going. […]

  4. […] weeks ago, we had a really good discussion here on the site about the proposed closing of the Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant and parenting teens in Detroit. One of those most engaged in the conversation was my old friend Pete, who is presently […]

  5. […] article that started it all on Share and […]

  6. […] seems to be thrilled that Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant and parenting teens avoided closure today by announcing plans to be reborn as a charter school. I’d like to be […]

  7. […] Academy13 arrested in heroic action, but vow that fight continuesDiane Bukowski, VoiceOfDetroit.net Bradley posted a YouTube playlist of the sit-inRick Smith radio interview with Ferguson […]

  8. […] are expected to attend the invitation-only event.” How much do you want to bet that none of the young mothers who were dragged by police from the recently closed Catherine Ferguson Academy were among those […]

  9. […] legitimate the analogy is, but, based on what she says, it sounds very similar to what happened at Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit.Tia also shared the following links, for those who would like more background. Here is a […]

  10. […] class sizes of 60, or at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, where, not too long ago, we witnessed teen mothers being dragged away in handcuffs for refusing to just walk away, and accept that their school was being closed. But, instead, Rhee […]

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