Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's In A Name

I have to give Leigh her props as usual and link here for the real nuts and bolts of the school master plan. Why try to rewrite something she's already done a good job at. As usual I have to add my two cents from this side of the tracks.

The New Orleans school system is right in the middle of creating their master plan. We desperately need one for many reasons. In a city that has a public school system in the condition of ours, you would think that a plan like this would go through without a hitch. In an attempt to think more positive I am going to hope that the best plan goes through soon but I see one problem that's not getting enough attention. There hasn’t been enough consideration given to the culture of the native citizens in the city. In recent years many progressive and educated people have moved here with new ideas and opinions on how things should be done. Many times these things have worked in other places without much resistance because most cities are sort of interchangeable with it comes to culture. This is not one of those places.

Two weeks ago I was having a conversation with my brother and he asked me to write a blog about the fact the new high school planned for the Lower Ninth Ward wasn’t going to be named Alfred Lawless High School. He wanted me to tell everyone who reads this page to go do some research on Alfred Lawless and find out who he was and why he had a school named after him in the first place. Walt, when you read this I tried to find a full story on Alfred Lawless but this link about his son Dr. Theodore Lawless was the best I could come up with online. Wikipedia hasn’t gotten around to pages on local black leaders yet this tells the basic story. By the way, I don’t think it’s an unfair request that anyone involved in the planning process know the history of the schools and whom the schools were named after when making decisions.

One of the most popular things out there now is these new high school alumni social networking websites. Every local high school has one and the membership is high. On the site for my alma matter Clark, there are people on there from classes in the 50’s. I can’t say for certain this isn’t true anywhere else but I know it’s true here. Where you went to school in New Orleans is your pedigree. It’s one of the ways we identify ourselves. It’s just as important as what ward you grew up in. Anyone making plans for a new school system should expect the same resistance as another group would get trying not to rebuild a certain part of the city. They will be met with resistance. The concerned Pythians of Lawless are not the only group that is a little angry. I know hundreds of John F. Kennedy graduates seething and looking for a way to get back at whoever decided not to reopen their school. I mess with them everyday about it but I know it bothers them.

I have a solution for this because we don’t have time to sit around fighting for years about this. We have to move forward and it should be all about the kids. We needs to change the name to every school from top to bottom. I am sorry Walt. I know that's not what you were trying to get me to do but I hope I got your point across. Name the new ones by streets or location or something but change them all. Whatever plan you come up with will go over smoother this way. If you are thinking to yourself that doing this will just make everyone angry then you are right. It will in the short term. In the long term as the new schools open and everyone sees how nice they are that will go away. What’s not going to go away is if my school becomes an elementary school and all of our rival schools are still open. That may sound petty but I am four generations deep in this city and I know what I am talking about. You have to take personal affiliation out of the equation because it breeds resistance to change and resistance to change leads to a lack of progress. It appears to me that when people start making plans in this city they want some of us to say goodbye to everything while other people don't have to give up any part of their existence here. Someone has to bridge the gap between the mind state that says things are moving forward and the one that thinks traditions are being taken away. I’m somewhere on the fence.

3 comments:

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

just how do we make them move foward? we need to put our heads together on that folk

Leigh C. said...

The phrase that was used concerning the issue of the naming of the schools was that they would be "building name neutral", a phrase that really haunts me. I can't decide if the planners have no clue about the different educators/activists/community leaders for which the local schools were named, if they do have a clue and simply want to go with a numbering system like in NYC, or if they know and they don't CARE.

As it is, if the statistics that Priestley school advocate Bagert helped compile are true, the planners won't even have enough schools ready for the correct number of students anyhow if the plan is accepted as is.

Yes, the schools are a mess. Yes, there's a lot that needs to be done to get the facilities back up to what they need to be. But those buildings are NOT gonna be used in a vacuum.

Anonymous said...

its all good cliff, thanks for doing this for me...as i thought about it more...as much as i want the name to stay the same and all that good stuff...it'd just be good to a school open in that area, then maybe we can finally get some of our people back on track, not crack....thanks again...