Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Orleans: Prologue

I'm excited about New Orleans. It's a fascinating city, it's a vital city, and, well, it's a city that is bound to end up a good deal different in the coming decade than it was in the past ten years.

The Crescent City is sinking, and also stands to stop existing if another Katrina-sized hurricane hits. It's a weird place, too vital to abandon, not rich enough to adequately protect. It's big - enough so that further expansion is impossible, really, and situated such that some of the best minds out there are advocating for shrinking the city, condensing it down. It needs more wetlands and less channels, certainly, but that'll come at the price of some business lost and, more importantly, a good deal of homes lost. The city that incubated and gave birth to Jazz may well suffer an increasing number of migrations, while the wealthy take advantage of the rich history without a care about the forced, unpleasant, touristy-ness. It only makes sense that becoming more like Santa Fe is among the worst case scenarios.

I'm more optimistic. People are quite good at figuring out how to live where they shouldn't. It'll happen, the city will exist, and it will do so even if it turns into a North American Venice.

Smaller scale, I'm really interested in the fate of public schools. Besides that atrocity against the Jena Six, New Orleans has a rich history of terrible schools. Katrina allowed for a rebirth, a re-imagining, and public school is getting an overhaul that is impossible to imagine anywhere else. Elsewhere, the risk is to high, and the gains are too uncertain. In the Big Easy, it's worth it. And so, it's a fascinating experiment, and one I'll only be too happy to watch before I go down my long winding career path and eventually end up as a teacher.

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