The power of programs such as the Rabouin memoir project render more disturbing some news emerging recently from the Recovery School District: That some of our most historic and community-based schools, including Rabouin and Douglass high schools, are slated for closure in the next few years. Rabouin and Douglass are the two schools that SilenceIsViolence has worked most closely with on music- and literature-based anti-violence projects over the past couple of years. There is no question that these schools have struggled in the post-Katrina educational landscape (and before), but they also offer opportunities for reaching and nurturing our young people that will be squandered if they close.And yes, Rabouin was where Dinerral Shavers began a high-school band program.
Douglass, for example, boasts an acclaimed writing program called Students at the Center, which is directed by Kalamu ya Salaam and Jim Randels and has proven inspirational to scores of at-risk kids over the past twelve years. Rabouin, meanwhile, was the source for YA/YA (Young Aspirations/Young Artists), a youth arts organization that has kept hundreds of young people off the streets and engaged in the visual arts since 1988, exporting positive examples of New Orleans culture around the globe in the process. Rabouin students continue to work closely with prominent local arts institutions such as the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
If these schools close, these programs will be lost. Less sensational, but just as damaging, educational and community voids will be left in the neighborhoods these schools occupy.
What is the trade-off? What is to be gained by the closure of these schools and the dispersal of students to other schools and to trailer classrooms? We do not really know, because no true public discussion about their proposed closure has taken place. What we do know, and what we experience daily in the form of overt crime and more subtle unrest, is this: The closure of neighborhood schools and the accompanying disruption of the delicate social networks our young people form and rely upon have terrifying implications for our still-recovering city. Public safety is directly impacted by disoriented communities. The cycles of youth-centered violence gripping our city demonstrate the petty but very real ways in which this disorientation can fuel fearful territorialism and threaten entire communities.
As students finally settle into new school communities, we should be very cautious about disrupting these communties anew. We would like to see a more open discussion of the reasoning behind and the benefits of closing Douglass and Rabouin, because the cost to the students who identify with these schools would be quite high.
Here's something else I missed as well.
I told someone recently that trying to deal with the stuff that comes with living here was like playing Whack-A-Mole with a thousand moles popping out at you all at the same time. Which ones are more important? Which ones can you effectively reach? How many more do you need to knock before you can keep going? Which ones absolutely should not live to see the light of day?
Douglass and Rabouin deserve more of a chance than they are being given in the current Pastorek-Vallas-charter-schools-demolitions-closings-budget-cuts*-
high-teacher-turnovers-vouchers environment that is ruling these days
Must muster up some more strength (and rustle up a job with a more goyische resume) to get to whackin' again.
*link from Suspect D.