We all have a student at home or at least know one. We as a society, have come to think of Sunday as a day for family. It is the day we spend with our children and try to catch up on their week and their activities. That is if our weekdays are loaded with work and other matters, that although less important than our children, take so much of our time as productive members of our community. I read this poignant article by Mr. Mann at NOLA.com this morning and thought it would be beneficial to you, our client and friend. We have also included the link to the page were the article can be located. We think you will benefit from exploring the entire point conveyed by the author. Thank you for your continuous support of our Firm. Martin E. Regan, Jr.
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down,” Robert Frost wrote in his poem “Mending Walls.” Indeed, we humans struggle against our urge to erect walls, even as we retreat behind them. The earliest colonizers – in places like Jamestown and Roanoke – barricaded inside forts, fearfully emulating their English ancestors who had done the same for centuries. Later generations of Americans would, instead, build vibrant communities, which prized responsibility, accountability and social capital.
But the urge to huddle behind walls – primal, but suppressed – never vanished. In the early 20th century, new enclaves spouted – New York’s Tuxedo Park and the private streets of St. Louis.
Today, of course, gated communities are all the rage. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates almost 11 million households live behind walls, up from 7 million in 2001. The reasons are many and perhaps better left to the sociologists. But it seems clear that fear of crime, the “wrong” neighbors and a nostalgic desire to recreate our own private Mayberrys are partly at play.
If we were merely sleeping in gated communities, the estrangement and damage to community would be bad enough. But fortress mentality has now reached American education in the form of charter schools, private schools and breakaway school districts.
Private schools have long flourished in America for reasons legitimate (religious and scholastic), and some not so legitimate (race). But now many parents and taxpayers – manipulated by politicians who argue that the only way to fix public education is to weaken it with privatization – are giving up on the very idea of public schools.
A strong component of Louisiana’s education “reform” agenda – led by Gov. Bobby Jindal and state education Superintendent John White – is abandoning public schools in favor of private educational enclaves.
For example, there is Jindal’s program to offer private-school vouchers to students from “failing” public schools.
Unfortunately for the students, Mr. Jindal’s gated neighborhood is not much better than their old one. An accounting of the most recent standardized test scores revealed that only 40 percent of the state’s voucher students scored at or above grade level last spring.
Moving down the metaphorical education avenue, we encounter another gated neighborhood, this one housing Louisiana’s 105 charter schools, most of them in New Orleans.
A recent report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor recent report by the Louisiana report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor revealed that state education officials failed to provide schools with the required pre-assessment information and “did not verify that the school-reported data used to calculate School Performance Scores was reliable.” Officials also could not provide evidence they had strictly monitored the legal/contractual performance of charter schools in 2012.
Then there are the 80 schools in Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD), beset with allegations of mismanagement, wasteful spending and millions in lost or stolen property. Last year, New Orleans’ RSD schools – mostly charters – were the worst performing in the city.
Beyond the evidence that the “gratification” of Louisiana schools is a failure, there’s the damage to actual Louisiana communities.
In East Baton Rouge Parish – where a parish-wide school district under decades of federal court supervision admittedly failed students – parents and political and business leaders have created three new breakaway districts carved out of the original parish-wide school system. Some parents in the southeast part of the parish now want to create a fourth, but the Legislature has wisely refused.
None of this, however, has damaged community more than the retreat into substandard charter and voucher schools.
“By offering a slot to a small proportion of students in the neighborhood, [charter schools] break up any sense of community spirit centered on the community school and they simultaneously promote the free-market phishing of consumer choice,” Diane Ravich, a prominent education historian and policy analyst, argues.
Too often, our traditional responsibility to community has given way to fear, loathing and huddling behind our walls.
In his 2010 book, “Leadership and Crisis,” Jindal nostalgically praised “the neighborhood school that was a hub of community life.” Jindal lamented, “we seem to have lost some of that in America today.”
He’s right about that. We are losing our community spirit, thanks partly to politicians who believe there’s no government program or community service that can’t be improved by dismantling and privatizing it. But at what cost to community?
To quote Robert Frost, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know, What I was walling in or walling out.”
Robert Mann, a professor at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/RTMannJr.
About Martin E. Regan, Jr.
Year after year, Martin E. Regan Jr., the firm’s senior partner, has dedicated tireless efforts on behalf of the accused and produce wins for clients that a less determined advocate would have thought hopeless. Martin E. Regan Jr.’s ability to tackle and win tough criminal cases has resulted in verdicts of acquittal in many highly publicized trials.