In case you missed it: The cover story in the NYT Magazine this past weekend was about education in New Orleans. I have some bias here because I’m associated with that publication and am a fan of the author, Paul Tough, but I may as well just say I think it’s a really good piece, and worth a read.
As you probably know, the education system in N.O. was a mess before the flood, and one point of view about the current moment is there’s an opportunity to rebuild the whole thing. That could be good, or (if you’re more of a Naomi Klein “Shock Doctrine” type) could be disastrous and sinister. Or, of course, it could be well-intentioned, but ineffectual.
Anyway, the article, in my view is evenhanded, and honest about the nature of the challenges — and although I’m personally not a big fan of charter schools (core to the new strategy), on some level you can’t help but admire those who understand those challenges and are willing to try anyway. One official says:
“It would be convenient to say that it’s a whole lot of other people who need to be part of the equation. But we have the job. And we have to do something….
“So, now, can I solve all those problems tomorrow afternoon? Can I even get the attention of the people who have control over those things? Right now, in New Orleans, after Katrina, the answer is no, I can’t. But I can’t take the position that I can’t succeed unless I have those things. I have to take the position that we’re going to do it in spite of that. Now, will it be hard? Will I be less successful? Probably yes. But I have to take that approach, because I don’t have really any other cards to play.”
I guess you can read that as actually kind of defeatist, but in context, it sounds more like resolve. I was interested to read in the article about the high number of teachers and others coming into the city who seem to be really fired up to be part of a solution. Maybe that’s why this sounds at least a little like at least a potential break from the decades-long era of excuses.
I hope it is, anyway…
What do you think?