Saturday, March 06, 2010

Detroit School Board President Can't Write

As a follow-up to my National Grammar Day post, here's an article from Laura Berman, a columnist at the Detroit News:

"The president of the Detroit school board, Otis Mathis, is waging a legal battle to steer the academic future of 90,000 children, in the nation's lowest-achieving big city district. He also acknowledges he has difficulty composing a coherent English sentence. Here's a sample from an e-mail he sent to friends and supporters on Sunday night, uncorrected for errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage. It begins:"

If you saw Sunday's Free Press that shown Robert Bobb the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, move Mark Twain to Boynton which have three times the number seats then students and was one of the reason's he gave for closing school to many empty seats.

Here's another example of President Mathis' writing:

Do DPS control the Foundation or outside group? If an outside group control the foundation, then what is DPS Board row with selection of is director? Our we mixing DPS and None DPS row's, and who is the watch dog?

Ms. Berman asks some tough questions:

"Is it absurd for a man who cannot write a simple English sentence to serve as the board president? Or to lead the elected board of a district that ranks at the nation's bottom for literacy?

Because of his struggles and perseverance, Mathis describes himself as a role model. But is he?"

Thanks to Colin, Mike Carlson and GW South for all directing me to this story.

27 Comments:

At 3/06/2010 11:24 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

Mr. Mathis was a substitute in the Detroit schools and without proficiency in English from Wayne State U. Mr. Mathis was probably able substitute a mastery of Ebonics. Detroit schools seem to substitute a lot instead of a sound basic education for the students.

 
At 3/06/2010 11:48 AM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

Mark,

This is off topic... Here's a link to a blog post that has some information on the African poverty situation - I think you'll like it. There's a fair amount of reading with the linked material of the post, but it's defiantly worth it.

 
At 3/06/2010 1:06 PM, Blogger OA said...

Ordinarily, he'd have ended up in a job where this didn't matter. Oops, I guess he did.

Because public school administrators aren't really held responsible for doing specifically what schools are for - educating children.

That father has it right: "If this is the leader, what does it say about the followers? It explains a lot about why there's so much confusion and infighting with the board and Robert Bobb."

Hmm, 10 to 1 victory over the other guy? Did the other guy maybe want to actually expect results from educators?

 
At 3/06/2010 1:18 PM, Anonymous Benny The Man said...

Just makes me sad.

 
At 3/06/2010 3:21 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I think the problem is that Otis Mathis has a serious writing disability. And since how well we write is so often linked to how well we think we automatically consider Mathis stupid. I think you need to read the rest of the article where Mathis is considered a “persuasive public speaker” before you come to the conclusion that he is stupid. Why would anyone want to listen to or be persuaded by a stupid person?
The article also states that Mathis is aware of his problem and does not try to hide it: That's refreshing. It seems to me that everyone brings his or her own qualities to a group, and Mathis is respected by his group as shown by his landslide election as a leader. For Detroit’s sake, though, let’s hope the other 11 board members are much better writers than Otis Mathis.

 
At 3/06/2010 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

halo effect fallacy. MP notes that somebody writes poorly, concludes immediately that the person is incompetent.

looks like typical emails written on a blackberry by someone who is writing quickly on it.

 
At 3/06/2010 8:42 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

He's not much different than a fat and lazy PE coach. He could easily and quickly get in shape with a tutor. However, that's not important to him.

 
At 3/06/2010 9:21 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Hey Walt G,

Before you go giving this moron every benefit of the doubt, consider the small matter of the state of Detroit's school system. I'd say it's about on par with his writing ability. Coincidence?

 
At 3/06/2010 9:59 PM, Anonymous Benny The Man said...

Sounds like George Bush without the speechwriters.

 
At 3/07/2010 10:31 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Paul, using my writing degree and experience as a former writing tutor in a college working with underprepared writers, I’ll stick with my analysis that Otis Mathis has a severe writing disability. He also has unique leadership qualities. Very few stupid people can be persuasive speakers; in fact, public speaking scares the hell out of most people partially because they can’t think that quickly on their feet. Those same thinking skills mark people as prolific writers. Mathis obviously can decode his thoughts when speaking in public; however he cannot code them into the written word very well.

I don't think you can take Mathis’ problem and blame the education situation in Detroit on him. The poor writing skills of one individual makes a good headline to sell newspapers and elicit blog opinions, but the complete story sheds little light on why the average Detroit student has so many problems in school.

 
At 3/07/2010 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

or Mr. Obama without the teleprompter written by speech writers

 
At 3/07/2010 4:29 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

I like what you're saying Walt, but I have to confess that I still wouldn't want somebody with such poor writing skills leading my school system. For one thing it seems like it would be inefficient. I have no idea what the hell that man's trying to say in that first sentence.

 
At 3/07/2010 6:10 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Good leaders use the strengths of those around them. The key to looking smart is to surround yourself with talented people and mesh their strengths with your weaknesses. No one knows it all.

 
At 3/07/2010 10:31 PM, Anonymous Foundling Father said...

Has the Fed Chairman been promoted to his level of incompetence? Should the President Elect be required to first spend one semester in the War College, one month at writing C++ code, and one month at law school learning how to tell lies before taking office in White House?

U B Judge

U B Thurgood

 
At 3/08/2010 6:39 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Should the President Elect be required to first spend one semester in the War College, one month at writing C++ code, and one month at law school learning how to tell lies before taking office in White House?"...

Did you do any homework before you posted that comment?

"U B Thurgood"???

You mean this constitutionally clueless clown?

 
At 3/09/2010 12:32 PM, Anonymous captnkrunch said...

I suggest that he can't read either. My experience is that people who can't write clearly simply don't or can't read what they write. Obama is a persuasive speaker also but he's been revealed as an ineffective leader of very limited vision particularly with peers. As a result, I'm downgrading the weight I assign to public speaking as an indicator of leadership potential.

 
At 3/09/2010 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my book, Parents: Your Children Deserve the American Dream (Amazon.com), I propose that members of the school board should have the educational and professional background to help lead a school (k-12) forward. This is particularly the case in schools where the board functions, in reality or by default, as the CEO. The example of Mr. Mathis underscores my point.

 
At 3/09/2010 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it quite incredible that some people are making excuses for this guy. For crying out loud, he's a public school administrator. He would have received a D in my 6th grade English class of 50+ years ago. Enough with all the damn excuses. It's exactly that kind of thinking that is destroying this country. Wasn't it Bill Cosby who said something to the effect, that it is time for the black community to stop talking and start doing? I'll second the motion. The black community doesn't need any more great orators. It has plenty. It needs real doers of which I am sure there are some magnificent examples besides Dr. Cosby.The overall competency level is sorely lacking and this Mr. Mathis is an example. I don't care what you tell me,show me what you can do.

 
At 3/09/2010 2:51 PM, Blogger fireplaceguy said...

Walt G. said "Very few stupid people can be persuasive speakers" Hitler? Castro? Obama? History is rife with hihgly persuasive people who display no intelligence, wisdom or moral compass whatsoever in the direction they lead people.

I'm no expert, but it seems quite plausible that demagogues would be generally weak in writing skills. Given the history of such people, we should be quite concerned when one comes on the scene. Such alarm would have served us well in the last election, not that I believe McCain would have been much different.

I'd much prefer a boring but honest leader who slowly reasons his way through one problem a week, guided by reason and ethics and arriving at a solution that actually works. Ron Paul has been criticized for his deficits as a speaker, yet he's been proven quite wise as events have unfolded since the election. He's probably the perfect example of a boring but trustworthy leader. If he or someone like him could fix one problem a week, we'd be running out of problems by now!

What we have instead is an (allegedly) brilliant and conspicuously engaging president who can make several problems worse before lunch on any given Monday.

 
At 3/09/2010 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only is Mathis obviously dumb and stupid, the same can be said for the voters who elected him to the school board. Forget Detroit. It is beyond hope.

 
At 3/09/2010 10:55 PM, Blogger Ryder said...

The reason why schools like this are failing is because people are SO ready to create excuses for failure and underperformance.

Some people are like the freaking minutemen of old, excuses ready for any loser that happens to be of the "correct color" or gender.

If the man can't communicate with the engilsh language, then there is no possible way he should be in the position he is in. Period.

 
At 3/10/2010 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am no part of this community, however I am well aware of the problem facing the USA. Pick up a news paper and find an aricle tha ti written to informone of a particular problem! What you get in steas is litany of politacally corecct language(very parisan, name calling with no opportunity to reply withoput being named with some "ism" or "phobe". Misspelling inccorect,puntuation etc;.

 
At 3/10/2010 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To understand the black community, you need to get that fakery and misrepresentation are part of the black culture. I worked as the comptroller for a black organization. The man who ran it claimed to have a doctorates degree, and had been named a bishop in the baptist church based on the degree. Over time I found out this man had only an eight grade education, and had bribed some poor school to give him an honorary ph'd. He used the degree in his title, so now he refers to himself as Doctor, Bishop XXXXXX. While working for this man, I used to write all his letters and policies, as he could not write. This man was paid over $150,000 a year from federal grants. He believed he was the smartest man on earth and his constituency believed it too.

 
At 3/10/2010 5:52 PM, Blogger Sujith said...

No wonder America is going to the dogs. If you promote incompetent people to run educational institutions, what do you expect the result to be ?

why can't they keep politics out of
educational institutions and promote
people on merit and competence, not
some oratorial skills like telepromter president obama.

 
At 3/10/2010 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, our president thainks there are 57 or 58 states in the USA. What does that tell us about him and his education?

 
At 3/11/2010 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DID THIS GUY SUBMIT A RESUME WHEN APPLING FOR THIS JOB?? If SO WHO IS THE IDIOT WHO HIRED HIM

 
At 12/01/2010 7:33 PM, Blogger Alex said...

The Detroit public school board needs some serious improvement. Otis Mathis is only a small part of the entirety of this issue. Mr. Mathis is a major problem to the credibility of the Detroit school board due to his lack of writing ability, but he is not the only one. There are many other members of the school board that are to blame as well, even some of the faculty and staff. Millions of dollars have been embezzled and the Detroit public school students are suffering. This, in turn, will negatively effect the community and the economy in the future. We have to change the school board leadership to allow better, more proficient leaders to run the Detroit public schools appropriately.

 

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