Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Oxford American subscription dates from their first ever Southern music issue in 1997. Yeah, the CD that came with it was scratched all to hell, leaving me with small skipping snippets of Lucinda Williams' "Pineola" and Kate Campbell's "When Panthers Roamed In Arkansas" to listen to, but the writing on that music was pretty damned good. Our horrible thieving movers stole that and the OA CDs I'd accumulated up to 2001 when we went up to NYC for a bit, but the magazines made it. They still come out with some good stuff after all this time, and their Education Issue is something to read, savor, and contemplate. Where I began to take issue with the latest issue, though, was with Anne Gisleson's "The Lottery," in which she describes what New Orleans public school reform looks like from the standpoint of a parent (Gisleson) tired of paying private school tuition...who considers there to be only three "choices" for educating your child:
1) Enroll your children in a segregated public school*
2) Pay for them to attend a slightly less segregated private school.
3) Compete with thousands of other families in a lottery for limited spots in racially and socioeconomically integrated charters.
*Gisleson's note: Ninety percent of New Orleans public-school students are black; nearly a quarter of the public schools are a hundred percent black.
On my posting said choices by way of Twitter, someone informed me of the fourth choice Gisleson forgot to mention: get the hell out of the system entirely and homeschool. Which is true. But what I had a bone to pick with was #3: this assumption that the charters are racially and socioeconomically integrated.

Gisleson jumps through the hoops for her kids and ends up on seven waitlists. The schools she mentions by name: Lusher, Hynes, Audubon Charter, the International School - three out of those four are schools that, pre-8/29/2005, were the better performing ones in the corrupt and largely failing OPSD - and they are still there mostly because of their current selective admissions policies. She nails the cruelty of the Publisher's Clearing House-like ordeal of navigating these lotteries and then relying, in the end, on sheer luck to hopefully sweep her kids into the schools applied for, but presenting the 70-plus percent of charter schools that now make up the former Orleans Parish public school system as being integrated is misleading. If they truly were, she would probably be applying to many more of the charters here and actually getting into them, but we're not there yet. Lord knows, I wish we were, because even if all the schools here had reached that Racially And Socioeconomically Integrated Promised Land, we still wouldn't have enough room for all the kids that are of elementary and secondary school ages - nor would the state have the money.

It all gets in the way of having the exceptions become the rules. And it's pretty damned sad.

But enough of this kinda talk for now. I have my first Rising Tide trivia question to ask! Check the rules, folks, get your registration/donation in to Rising Tide, and get your best guesses ready:

The Oxford American has been through a lot in its history. An employee embezzled substantial amounts of its funds. It had to move from Oxford, MS, all the way to Arkansas not too far from the Toad Suck Bridge (once the passage for the Toad Suck Ferry). Things were hand-to-mouth for the OA for a time when it had to search for another publisher after this one decided not to fund the magazine anymore.

Who was that publisher?

$5.00 off Rising Tide admission to the first correct answer.


Anonymous said...

I know!!!! but I can't enter... bought my ticket in May !!


Nola-Bolt said...

John Grisham