I've been lugging around a couple of library books over the past few months, one of which I've already finished, the other of which I am loath to finish, but still feel some sort of obligation to have around in case the loathing subsides. I brought the books all the way to Alaska and back with me this past summer and only made any headway on one of them. Strange, strange feelings, these I've had concerning these books...
Concerning the one I've finished, I was grateful for its brevity and its simple message concerning America's public schools - but the title of it, Hope and Despair in the American City, speaks to much more than just why a public school system in Raleigh is working. I think of the solutions they came up with there - merging the county and the city school districts, then mixing kids in the schools based on their families' economic status rather than their race and holding all the schools in the system to high standards - and I shake my head in agreement with G, who said over a drink recently that it's easier to talk of death than it is to talk about what is happening with New Orleans' public schools. Looking at the educational lay of the land here as a sociologist would, I can't help but feel as Gerald Grant has said he feels of his profession when looking at inner city education: ...I think it's probably the most dismal science after economics, maybe more miserable because the story of urban education is misery on top of more misery. What he didn't detail in that interview - but he does go into some detail about in the book - was that it wasn't just a description of urban education, it's also a description of how we are still flailing about and misstepping in living with our diversity as a nation....and it cannot just be the individual who changes, support also has to come from the top on down.
The misery is continuing, just in a different form.
And it'll be interesting to see how Paul Vallas' decision on Tuesday will affect it. I can't head out to Baton Rouge tomorrow, but, thanks to this information passed on to us all by G-Bitch, if you want to schlep out of town to check out whether or not he'll be giving the Recovery School District schools - such as they are - back to the OPSD, sign up at this link.
Speaking of Vallas, there's some nice, fawning kudos from here with some good caveats from Save Our Schools' Angela Daliet concerning Vallas' improvements at the cost of the schools' budgets and the fact that LEAP test scores have still not improved.
I am grateful, however, that Dawn Ruth did give Daliet some more face time in the August edition of New Orleans magazine - it helps to show that parents are skeptical and critical of these changes that have occurred, but that the skepticism and criticism doesn't necessarily mean we want to go back to the way things were in the OPSD. A case in point of how difficult it is to criticize the way things are with the schools is when I tried to discuss this study with my husband and our pal Edie, who was a teacher in the old OPSD and still does some teaching in the schools as they are now. Some major stompage on me and what I was trying to discuss occurred, with great emphasis placed on their (misguided) thought that I wanted things to go back to the way they were...at one point, someone even hinted that the de facto segregation of the schools had been the fault of the predominant black population here, which is when I threw up my hands and clammed up, because it can be damn hard to stop a racist train when your friends and family are the engineers and brakemen.
I was afraid of biting off their heads well past their necks, knowing that it was way more than I could chew.
And I hate that, in this supposedly enlightened time, people can still be contentedly secure in the prejudicial garbage in which they sit.
Update, 9/14: Go read Cliff on local vs state control of the schools.