I am a Ben Franklin and Lusher Extension grad. I have since gotten a law degree and taught for a year in an urban Washington, D.C., public school. I understand the concerns of the Rev. Anthony Mitchell and Mr. Walter Umrani ('Debate vs. Dialogue,' May 3). I agree 100 percent with the issues they see facing New Orleans public schools and the children who attend. We do have to focus on the kids who are not part of City Wide Access Schools. No doubt. But you do not cut off your nose to spite your face. There is no reason to attack the successful schools in the process of improving the rest. This distracts from the real point. Keep what works. Fix what does not. Period.
Now on to the real issue: How do we fix the system as a whole? No one seems to have that figured out yet. Perhaps Mitchell and Umrani could redirect their obviously well-intentioned efforts to helping us find this yet-unfound answer.
COMMITMENT TO DYSFUNCTION
You have done this city an invaluable service in the 'Debate vs. Dialogue' piece. I commend you for showing that the issues at stake are only proximally about Lusher and the New Orleans Public Schools system.
I will disclose my position at the outset: I am a white, middle-class New Orleans native who attended Benjamin Franklin for high school and who was wholeheartedly for the Lusher extension.
The Rev. Anthony Mitchell's essay was untenable but innocuous enough; Mr. Rodger Kamenetz's piece answered each allegation. However, Mr. Walter Umrani's essay was much more symptomatic of the reasons Lusher extension is not to be. Umrani's argument is another permutation of the have/have-not argument, only this time he adds a socio-economic axis to the racial one. Who in this city would not acknowledge that there is tremendous disparity? Why do our prior commitments to well-trodden and completely dysfunctional paths preclude actually doing something good for our city? Every time we shoot down a school like the Lusher extension, we don't subvert disparity; we promote it.
New Orleans -- as a school system and as a city -- does not have to get worse before it gets better.