Most of my academic life I’ve questioned how schools impact settlers’ integration into communities: How do people become members of society? How do recalcitrant gatekeepers become welcoming neighbors? These questions have moved me literally and figuratively around the world. Nine years ago, those questions carried me to New Orleans and helped transform me into a New Orleanian. Until recently, I haven’t spent much time considering what full-fledged community members go through when they voluntarily leave their homes. That is until I decided to take a job in another state.
Parents have always held visions of what professional uniforms their sons or daughters should wear. These visions are becoming fetishes in a world in which professional titles provide license to a reframed American Dream. Christina Freeland describes it as a “winner-take-all economy” in which “education is the trump card.” Consequently, parents over time have increased their investments in education to ensure that their children are not second-class citizens in a high skilled economy.
I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to education. Remember when former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum branded President Obama a snob for wanting everyone in America to go to college? Well, I constantly build schools in the air resembling ivy covered college campuses fashioned after antiquity’s trivium and quadrivium.
Teachers have taken a by any means necessary approach to closing the achievement gap even at the expense of student learning. Georgia’s Fulton County District Court indicted 35 educators, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, for a cheating scheme that ultimately produced the wrong kind of results. Dozens of Atlanta public schools teachers, leaders and other personnel are turning themselves in to authorities.
However, are teachers completely at fault? An accountability system predicated on achievement test growth may be a co-conspirator.
According to units sold, America apparently loves it. White soul man Justin Timberlake sold approximately a million copies of his new album The 20/20 Experience in its first week — his highest first week gains to date. His totals are outpacing his black contemporaries.
A few weeks ago, the New Orleans Inspector General reported that he could not tell if the NOPD institutionalized racial profiling, because the department used such crude methods in collecting data during its stop and frisk program.
I found this report almost insulting, in that all one has to do is garner opinions from law-abiding black men who’ve been stopped for no apparent reason. While the latest controversy over racial profiling stems from the recent implementation of Chief Serpas’ “field interview cards,” the practice is far from new.
In an era of school takeover, the response of Xavier Preparatory Academy’s closing reminds us why we still need our historically black institutions. Education should strive to form literate, cultural communities that realize self-reliance. This is true in general, but this is particularly true when educating the descendants of the formerly enslaved. Xavier Prep, St. Augustine High School, Dillard and Xavier Universities as well as SUNO remain some of the few places that promulgate the black middle class in both word and in deed.
Did you remember we’re in Black History Month? Whether you’re hobnobbing at a ball, chaired along a parade route, or drinking it up in the Quarter, raise at least one glass to New Orleans history makers. The onslaught of beads, high heal shoes and pink wigs can easily have you forget about Black History Month, but Carnival should always remind us of the tremendous contributions of Ernest “Dutch” Morial.
Remember when football was king. Governments and their fanatical residents used to invest so much time and money just for a chance to say, “See, I won a championship. I live in the best city.” When you look back, you have to ask, “What were we thinking?”