Sunday, April 05, 2015

Miracles and resurrections

Alabama Republican Party operative Quin Hillyer appears prominently in your Easter Sunday Advocate proclaiming a miraculous rebirth in New Orleans.
Now, this won’t be one of those columns full of statistics. The stories this summer will analyze the population size before and after Katrina, the unemployment and poverty rates, the crime rates and all the other measurable indices of civic health. Instead, this is a column about what we see with our own eyes, what we hear on the streets, what we intuit from our own experiences and what we sense from the general vibe of the place: the buzz, the bustle, the attitudes, the facial expressions and all the other intangibles that combine into an overall community “atmosphere.”

The short summation of all those considerations is this: The state of the city is good, and its resurrection has been remarkable.
Well, okay, we'll leave the "statistics" alone on this holiday weekend. We already know the rent is too damn high,  the environmental risk is more severe than ever, child poverty is at a staggering 40 percent, and that last year, New Orleans ranked 2nd worst nationally in terms of income inequality.

But nevermind all that. Hilyer wants to talk about "the general vibe" he perceives based on a string of superficial observations.
Speaking of safety, we know that crime, especially in certain enclaves, is still far too high, and that its tragic tentacles can reach anywhere in the city. But we also know that many more neighborhoods are safer now than they’ve been in decades. Pre-Katrina, would you have seen college girls fearlessly riding their bikes through Bywater? Or pedestrians perambulating, day or night, the farthest reaches of the Irish Channel, without channeling tremendous trepidation?
This may be the first time I've seen anyone describe "the farthest reaches of the Irish Channel," as though they were only recently visited by the Shackleton expedition. But I couldn't be prouder that we've passed the fearless bicycling through Bywater test. That's got to be a relief to whoever can afford to (sort of) live there now.

Hillyer continues to eschew statistics and use The Force to tell us things "we all know."
We all know that the economy of New Orleans has been bolstered by young entrepreneurs aplenty, that the film industry is in love with us, that the port is thriving — and that our schools, mirabile dictu, are closer to being beacons of hope than dungeons of despair.
Let's leave the 'Treps and the Hollywood South grifters aside for now.  I have an article to share with you about the "mirabile dictu" beacons of hope.

This is an interview conducted by Jennifer Berkshire writes about education reform at her blog EduShyster. She's talking to researcher Kristen Buras who recently published a rather dense book about charterization in New Orleans.  The first and most important thing you have to understand about the "reform" movement is that, whatever else it might have produced, it has definitely succeeded in the meeting its primary intended outcome.
EduShyster: I want to start with a measure by which education reform in New Orleans has been a measurable success: it has helped to make the city richer and whiter, something that, it turns out, seems to have been part of the plan from the beginning.

Kristen Buras: Even though the charter schools in New Orleans are still largely attended by working class African-American students, who runs those schools has shifted dramatically. Black veteran teachers and administrators had served in the system for decades. Now what do you see? White leadership has been recruited to the city to run charter schools. Inexperienced recruits have been brought in from outside of the city to give teaching a whack for a year or two before departing for more lucrative careers or advanced positions within the charter sector. There’s definitely been a whitening of the teaching force and the administrative structure.But it’s larger than that. There is a racial re-envisioning of New Orleans as a whole. Take, for example, a project like 504ward, started by Leslie Jacobs, a former local and state-level school board member, which is all about making young professionals who have come to New Orleans as part of the so-called talent pipeline feel comfortable so they remain in city. So it really is at every level a racial reconstruction of the city. 
Let's cut Hillyer a break and not get into the statistics here.  (Odds are he prefers the fake ones, anyway.)  No one can doubt that the reform movement certainly has changed "the vibe" around here. 

Happy Easter.

No comments: