Federal Court Confirms Literature Is a Vital Component of Education

Photograph courtesy of Element5 Digital, Unsplash

“The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth”  Dutch Philosopher and Scholar of the northern Renaissance, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536), The Erasmus Reader

The right to basic education should be a given in a developed country of the 21st Century. Apparently it’s not:  The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found it necessary to affirm last Thursday that the right to a basic education, meaning one that provides access to literary education, is a fundamental right under the Constitution. The court made this holding in the case of Gary B. v. Whitmer, a lawsuit brought by students of several of Detroit’s worst-performing schools. The case will be sent back to a lower court for a new ruling.

Photograph courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / First Lady Barbara Bush at the 1989 UNESCO International Literacy Day celebration / Public Domain

“Plaintiffs in this appeal are students at several of Detroit’s worst- performing public schools. They credit this substandard performance to poor conditions within their classrooms, including missing or unqualified teachers, physically dangerous facilities, and inadequate books and materials. Taken together, Plaintiffs say these conditions deprive them of a basic minimum education, meaning one that provides a chance at foundational literacy*.

“In 2016, Plaintiffs sued several Michigan state officials, who they say are responsible for these abysmal conditions in their schools. Plaintiffs allege that state actors are responsible, as opposed to local entities, based on the state’s general supervision of all public education, and also on the state’s specific interventions in Detroit’s public schools. The state argues that it recently returned control to local officials, and so it is now the wrong party to sue.” United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

* Functional Literacy: “reading and writing skills that are inadequate to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level.”  Shaking Up the Schoolhouse, How to Support and Sustain Education Innovation, Phillip C. Schlechty

PEN America filed an amicus brief in support of the students’ position that access to literacy is a fundamental right. In response to the news, PEN America’s deputy director of free expression research and policy, James Tager, said:

“This ruling affirms one of the most commonsense yet profound concepts in society: There is a fundamental right to read. Literacy is the spark that animates the First Amendment. Without access to literacy, freedom of speech and of expression are just words on a page, inaccessible to broad segments of the population. In order for our democracy to function, every citizen must have the opportunity to fully partake in public life. As this case continues, we hope that the circuit court’s decision will translate into real change for these students who are fighting for their own right to a basic education.”


The content of this post is courtesy of the United States Court of Appeals, Wikipedia, Shaking Up the Schoolhouse, and PEN America.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Jamie Dedes:

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Sticky Summer Morning . . . and other poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

Photograph courtesy of Martin Widenka, Unsplash

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Here now Tuesday and the responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, A New House in the Suburbs, April 22, 2020.  That prompt asked poets to write an ekphrastic poem inspired by this painting.

New House in the Suburbs
1924 – National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Today’s responses are gifted to us by Anjum Wasim Dar, Sonja Benskin Mesher, and Adrian Slonaker. I’ve included an old poem of my own. Do join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt. All are encouraged: beginning, emerging, and pro poets.

This Is The House

this is the house I dream of and long for
on a beautiful piece of Gods Earth, where I
first cried and opened my eyes, I am told
It was a cool evening of June otherwise hot
It was my Grandma’s house, made of strong
wood and and a roof of iron sheets-

logs burnt in a small brazier kept inside the room-
the place a hill station built around a lake, bordered
by the River Jhelum-houseboats lined the lakeside,
but my grandma’s house was on land, with trees
around a small lawn, and a small vegetable garden

but I have heard only stories about the house
never saw it nor ever will, the real houses are fading
‘we shall meet in a house in heaven’ father used to
say,’pray for that for that is real’ , and so he left this
world, and grandfather too and grand mother even
before him- all in a home in heaven-

and now we say, ‘stay home stay safe’ as safe as
houses indeed. but not always, not in war with bombs
falling and shells blasting’ but perhaps in a pandemic
of the Corona kind,
O heart mind and soul, true love strong faith breaks all
roofs,distances, spaces and walls
houses or no houses, the faithful are, will be together
all culture erased all traditions wiped out-life’s uncertainty
matters not for new ones, memories survive like tender
butterflies as love and life itself flutters with colors
fragrance and the softness of a pansy flower.

© 2020, Anjum Wasim Dar

Anjum ji’s sites are:

“POETRY PEACE and REFORM Go Together -Let Us All Strive for PEACE on EARTH for ALL -Let Us Make a Better World -WRITE To Make PEACE PREVAIL.” Anjum Wasim Dar

Houses of Silence

they dwelt in houses of silence
chewed through grudging fences
swam in oceans of best intentions
tried to find one another on the
shores of their fears and confusions,
alienation was their warrior shield

their lives were lived in a boxing ring
the fist in the glove was a malignancy
and the mom passed her days sparring,
she thought the winner would be the
woman who was pretty and hushed
she saw herself as a victim,
she exhausted her own mother’s charity

when she turned her silence on kinfolk
there was no one else she could
beat upon or say her grief to or even
show her bruises and lacerations ~
except for that wee child of silence,
useless in matters of such magnitude

© 2012, Jamie Dedes

My sites are Jamie Dedes’ The Poet by Day Webzine and The BeZine

..new house in the suburbs..

was not for me

though i imagined it to be


i would have wondered how

it could  have been

to live there

new and important

with parents tidy

neat garden and no bashing ever

not in that house


maybe that is where it happened

behind the shiny clapboard

the neat hair and spectacles

foul mouths hidden

tempered by gins those

other nasties

came gathering here

hidden in the shiny


my honeys

oh really

down in the cellar

not painted so fine

© 2020, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Sonja’s sites are:

Sticky Summer Morning

Daybreak mimicking Homer’s “rosy-fingered Dawn”
(once hammered into my head by a high school literature teacher)
attacked the starkly white aluminum siding
on the boxy property
my parents had built just before I turned two.

They’d never predicted
that an accountant a decade my senior
would someday park his sedan in the driveway
under the basketball hoop –
where my brother and I played “H-O-R-S-E” –
after said sibling and Mom and Dad had departed
for an August adventure in Boston that I’d
flaked out on
following one of our gargantuan arguments

or that the visitor would deflate my dream of what
my deflowering would look like,
unfolding on the family room floor as
a poorly-paced procedure between
a basket of oily onion rings and a
yawning goodbye,
but I didn’t regret the “meh,”
since it had to happen sometime,
and at least I’d proved I wasn’t
too grotesque for sex,
as some of my classmates had concluded,
so I raced through my prayers and nestled
on the settee for an
air-conditioned nap
as a black-and-white sitcom
flickered across the TV.

© 2020, Adrian Slonaker

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!


For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton