Mardi Gras season is upon us, which means there are more days that our children are not in school. Between Mardi Gras, Christmas, summer, fall and spring breaks, in-services and professional development days as well as inevitable storms, when are kids in school? Hard rain on the first day of school — cancel it. Have a winning football season — we’ll take off for that too. Absences due to New Orleans’ traditions combined with the archaic custom of an agrarian school calendar are self-imposed barriers to educational progress.
New Orleans has a literacy problem. More than a quarter of the working-age population in the New Orleans metro are low-skilled and likely low-literate. There is a mismatch between the educational levels of our workforce and the 14 years of education required for available positions.
As important as our current school reforms are to the future of the city, the impact of its graduates won’t be felt for decades. Two-thirds of New Orleans’ 2025 labor pool is working-age adults, meaning — if we want to become a more literate and productive city — we must make significant investments in adult education.
Gun control, gun control, gun control. In spite of this holiday season, I’ve heard the phrase “gun control” more than “peace on earth.” As an educator in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, there would be few better presents for me than a national ban on assault weapons, body armor and high volume magazines. Yet I have to admit that while a national ban would be a tremendous political gift, I don’t see it as a watershed solution to our culture of violence. The discourse of gun control must quickly transition towards peace if we want substantive change.
In the wake of the Newtown massacre, where are the school groups lobbying for new gun control laws? At best, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are defensively protecting schools, as if they are forts, from the encroachment of gun lobbyists and activists who want more guns in schools. Educators know that firearm-free zones, while not perfect, create the best learning environments. Schools and colleges can teach gun advocates that taking a stand doesn’t require a gun.
I’m repeatedly asked, “Which Presidential candidate offers the best set of educational policies?” After Katrina and now in the context of Hurricane Sandy I reply, “The candidate who sees people stuck on rooftops more as citizens than as test-takers.”
Men, did you know that we hurt people when we chose not to learn? Aldous Huxley said, “We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love.”
That Huxley quote always reminds me of the never-ending responsibility to learn about the people I claim to love. Intimacy comes out of the scrutiny of our desires, shames and delights. Therefore, loving is not just learning how to be vulnerable; it’s being vulnerable enough to learn.