When I was a younger, it was trips like these that ignited my initial interest in Detroit. Painting graffiti, trespassing, exploring, and climbing to the roofs of abandon buildings a dozen stories tall for the thrill and the breath-taking views (pictured here, the former Fisher Body Plant 21). It was the sense of lawlessness and excitement that was so alluring. Completely oblivious to the wide array of ethnic neighborhood cultures, or the rich, and very troubling, history of such an important city–I was perfectly fitting the mold for your stereotypical white suburbanite who claimed to “love” Detroit without really knowing it. Like many kids growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, I had fallen prey to a lust for the “ruins porn” archetype of Detroit. Ruins porn describes a style of photography that focuses on glamorizing the severely dilapidated features of a historically struggling city while casually “glossing over the deep structural problems of the city” as Wayne State Professor John Leary says. This is happening in urban centers all over the country, but Detroit in particular is frequently misrepresented and misunderstood this way by outsiders.
So how this all connects with my portfolio……
In class, I had said that I had been thinking about having my capstone portfolio focus on answering a rather broad, open-ended question of how to improve the quality of education in urban, low socioeconomic status areas. I said this in part because my recent academic pursuits all have led me to the same question: can all children be given the same chances at academic success and receive the same opportunities regardless of where they grow up? Unfortunately, it seems that as long as there are differences in socioeconomic status, true educational equality will always remain an ideal rather than an attainable. Because of this, I realized my interests in educational improvement could be more easily explored through a local focus in a city I am already very interested in.
I would now like to have education be one part of a multiple dimensional analysis of both social issues and social change in the city of Detroit as told by those individuals who work and live there. While not a member of this community myself, in the last couple of years, various volunteer experiences, jobs, and other opportunities have led me to have several connections in the educational sphere and other social spheres in the city of Detroit. Wanting to understand the truth for myself, my goal is to metaphorically paint an accurate portrait of both the daily social issues, and successes, that are going on in this city. I also want to include historical aspects (perhaps this could be part of my essay, including gentrification, ect).
I plan to go into inner city school psychology, hoping to attend Wayne State next fall for graduate school. Between then and now I would like to learn more about this city, and to educate myself while hoping to educate others through this portfolio.
I am also taking a mini-course that meets on U of M’s Detroit satellite campus called “Detroiters Speak” that holds lectures featuring local Detroiters speaking on social issues in the city that may be helpful in gathering resources.