Al Kennedy, PH.D., of the University of New Orleans contends that it is important to understand the history of public schools in New Orleans. Reformers think they were writing on blank sheet of paper with no history. Not so. The history of white supremacy is the context in which control of the schools must be understood.

He writes:

“Ten years after the flood waters from negligently constructed federal levees inundated New Orleans, public education reformers have unhitched their narrative from the pre-Katrina history of the Crescent City. They cleverly placed the blame for the condition of the schools on the backs of the teachers–and their union. The reformers contend that New Orleans was a “blank sheet of paper” upon which they put in place a successful system of charter schools. Perhaps the reference to the “blank sheet of paper” makes more sense as an effort to paper-over a long and painful history that includes the lingering effects of white supremacy.”

Reform began by firing 7500 teachers, mostly African American, and blaming their union for the failings of the schools. They lost their livelihood and their health insurance. Kennedy writes: “An immoral action became the foundation of reform.” The public schools were taken over by white-led organizations, renamed, obliterating their history.

His paper, 24 pages long, is worth reading because there is no escaping the past. We ignore it at our peril. Ignorance is not bliss.