Grace Lee Boggs, Philosopher and Activist, on Education and Empty Lots

Grace Lee Boggs, speaking on a panel in New York with Amy Goodman, lives in Detroit. Her new book is “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century.”

Now 95 years old, her wisdom has distilled to essence.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: There are huge financial issues in Detroit, but you can’t look at a time like this mainly in terms of finances. You have to ask yourself, if 10,000 students are dropping out of school every year, creating a huge fiscal crisis, is it a financial question, or have the schools failed? And were they created at a time when people were thinking an industrial society and preparing children for a job in a society that no longer exists? And do we have to begin looking at our children and our educational system in terms of how children can become a part of the solving of our city’s problems, and not isolated in classrooms to be given information that they regurgitate so that they can get jobs which don’t exist?

AMY GOODMAN: You’re in a desperate situation in Detroit. . . the population is at its lowest point in a hundred years. It has declined by 25 percent in the last decade.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: So, what’s so wonderful about a huge population?

I arrived [in Detroit] at a time when the population was beginning to decline, when the working class was shrinking. And I had to begin learning from what was taking place. And that learning process is something that a lot of people are undergoing.

And I think it’s very difficult for someone who doesn’t live in Detroit to say you can look at a vacant lot and, instead of seeing devastation, see hope, see the opportunity to grow your own food, see an opportunity to give young people a sense of process, that’s very difficult in the city, that the vacant lot represents the possibilities for a cultural revolution. It’s amazing how few Americans understand that, even though I think filmmakers and writers are coming to the city and trying to spread the word.

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