Loyola Cancels Education Program

Submitted by Evan S. Clary

Without teachers, education in city will decline

By: Evan Clary

Posted: 4/21/06

Though I am not intimately familiar with the educational theory of the Jesuits, I have learned enough about it at Loyola University to understand that the Society of Jesus has historically valued education highly. Originally, the Jesuit educational mission had at its center the spiritual instruction of future Jesuits, but even the most cursory reading of the order's history shows a long-standing and serious - not to say zealous - commitment to promulgating social justice through the education of future educators, secular and spiritual alike.

As such, I find it difficult to understand how Loyola's president and Strategic Task Force see the elimination of the undergraduate and graduate programs in education as commensurate with the university's mission and history.

In his introduction to the Pathways report, the president audaciously includes the mission statement, which states that Loyola seeks to attract "students of diverse backgrounds and prepares them to lead meaningful lives with and for others, to pursue truth, wisdom and virtue, and to work for a more just world."

I wonder: How do Father Wildes and the Strategic Task Force expect to fulfill this lofty purpose without educating future teachers, idealistic students for whom the institutional mission of Loyola routinely amounts to a personal credo? Something's out of joint.

But one need not examine the philosophical implications of the task force's plan to see that eliminating education programs at the university is foolhardy. Every day that I come to Loyola for class, I pass the ghostly shells of at least three public schools. I imagine the students that formerly populated them, waiting in countless elsewheres for reopenings, so that they and their families can return. And the return has begun. But I read enough in the newspapers to realize that despite Governor Blanco's placing the attraction of new teachers to New Orleans at the top of her agenda, the educational milieu here is fragile, uncertain and mired in controversy - not exactly the kind of situation veteran teachers with families and mortgages are likely to find attractive.

My anecdotal experience suggests that the young people coming now - or returning - to New Orleans possess the finest, most laudable ideals. They are outraged, sympathetic or both, but mostly they are here to help. When the schools do reopen, administrators would do well to recruit faculty from this ambitious, intelligent and energetic set. But aspiring teachers will need, in order to address our unique crisis, local training - the kind of involved teacher education the president and task force propose to eliminate. Without the personal and humane educational experience our university has offered uniquely (in the city), would-be teachers will be denied an important option.

Like everyone else who lived in and loved New Orleans before the coming of the storm, I understand that Hurricane Katrina has destroyed far more than our houses and streets. Our infrastructure and fiscal state are precipitously endangered and difficult decisions must be made. Moreover, I understand that some programs here are less cost-effective than others. Had the task force bothered to articulate specific reasons for eliminating the education programs, I suppose I would have tried to understand. But I doubt I would have been convinced. Turning away aspiring teachers - and the faculty committed to educating them - is not only philosophically inconsistent and impragmatic: It's a rotten thing to do.



Evan Clary is a second-year secondary education masters candidate from New Orleans.

Hauling

Submitted by Evan S. Clary

February 8, 2006

New Orleans

 

When you first arrive in New Orleans these days, you cannot help but spend most of your time looking at trash. This is true both for returning residents, who stand and stare at the piles of debris that used to be their neighbors’ houses, and for post-Katrina immigrants, who stand and stare at the piles of debris that promise a paycheck. But the trash is disappearing, leaving those who once owned it to wonder at its departure.

 

In the most devastated areas of the city, brick shells like discarded chrysalises frame dark doorways, through which the careful observer will note “the nothing that is not there” just as well as “the nothing that is,” for the sad work of demolition is already well underway. Much of the sheetrock has been cleared now, and the sagging couches and warped bureaus have all been hauled beyond the parish limits, where fewer people will have to look at them. By now, someone very kind or very broken has come by, picking up the mud-caked dolls, the childrens’ socks, the flood-ravaged prom dresses and the framed likenesses of those dresses, photographed in happier days. Whatever does remain on these properties is coated with the peculiar dun that the water left behind, a sickly mixture of non-colors that begins in the yard and travels right up past the windows to the flood-line, that ominous reminder of just how deep the water really was. Only the ubiquitous cross hatchings of alphanumeric code, spray-painted by rescue workers to indicate that these formerly private homes had been gone through by strangers, provide any color.

 

Closer to the road, the trash becomes more sculptural and more abstract, a living art that evolves with our attempts at recovery. Early in the history of this ongoing disaster, that thin strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street, which normal people in normal times are likely to ignore, stood loaded with refrigerators. Everybody’s was ruined; at least, everybody assumed theirs was ruined, taped it up, and sweated it out to the curb. A grim phalanx of white monoliths emerged, an accidental precision of rectangular forms in weird contrast to the spiraling winds that had necessitated it. Some were labeled by their tragically comic owners: “free gumbo” or “do not open: Tom Benson inside.” Eventually, these refrigerators were taken to some legendary vacancy of at least twelve acres, beyond the avenue in eastern New Orleans known as Elysian Fields. Somebody published a coffee-table book about them.

 

After the refrigerators were gone, out came the air conditioners, and then the shingles, then the broken lawn ornaments, cisterns, and pots. Ultimately, the curb piles became organic: heaps of chain-sawed stumps broader than you might have expected, back when they were trees. Chopped and uprooted, these mangled pieces of wood were what remained of our stately oaks. But they are mostly gone now, too.

 

Of course, New Orleanians are used to dealing with large piles of trash. One common measure of the success of Mardi Gras is the tonnage of trash each season generates: paper plates, cheap beads, and the giant Styrofoam cups for concoctions of rum, fruit juice, and devil-may-care debauchery, drinks known to tourists and the locals who ought to know better as “Hurricanes.” We are used to the afternoon smells of the trash, the stale warmness of old alcohol and urine in the sun, and a kind of grotesque pride attaches to it, this pollution of our choosing. Later, in the wake of a carnival krewe’s parade, the men pushing brooms down the street form a coda of soft susurrations, indicating that it’s time to go home. We are used, finally, to trucks rolling through the night and bearing the refuse of our joy to places we won’t have to think about come morning.

 

But that trash disappears, fittingly, with our pre-Lenten entertainments. That is trash we choose to designate as such.

 

Yesterday, my friend and I argued over how to regard all of the current debris and its removal. An optimist, he sees this strange, secondary evacuation as a kind of Augean stable-cleaning, the dirty job that has to be done if we are ever to be released from our heavy burden of shock and sorrow. Things are things, he says, and we will replace the old ones with newer, shinier ones, as indeed we would have done anyway. I want to believe him, and I suppose that part of me does.

 

But I find myself stopping, actually coming to a complete halt, whenever a garbage truck rumbles by, its jumbled cargo of whatever made up this city headed to places where nobody who cared about it will ever see it again. I find myself standing absolutely still in the sidewalk, between the curb and the yard, wanting to throw my arms around everything close to me.