Marva Collins has died at age 78.
In 1975, she retired from teaching in the Chicago public schools. She took her small retirement account of $5,000 and started her own school, Westside Preparatory Academy. It was located in the Chicago ghetto. There, she taught an introductory class of four students, one of whom was her daughter. She built that school into a thriving school with 200 students.
She taught phonics. She taught geography. She made them memorize poetry. She gave them a first-class education.
They learned to be self-motivated. They responded to academic challenges.
If they had been warehoused in the Chicago public schools, they would be on welfare now.
It closed in July 2008. At that point, her daughter ran it. It had declined to 130 students. But her mother had proved her point: children in the ghetto could succeed if they were placed in a school that taught the basics and held teachers accountable.
The World Wide Web now offers any dedicated teacher an opportunity to prove the same point. Anyone can get into education free of charge through YouTube.
Today, the Chicago public school system is close to bankruptcy, but on a scale far larger than Westside Prep in 2008. Mayor Emanuel is having constant meetings on how to get state money into the school system. The pension obligations will soon force the entire system into bankruptcy.
In 1995, 60 Minutes ran a segment on her.
In 1981, Hallmark Cards sponsored a TV movie about her and her school. It starred Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman. From the day I saw it, it became my all time favorite movie. I even recorded it.
Now you can see it here. It’s not quite true to the facts, but it’s close enough.