[Susan notes: I'm just spitting in the wind but Gladwell's glib dismissal of what happened to "the other poor" is inexcusable.]
To the editor
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan provoked a storm of criticism when he opined that Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans." But now, in Starting Over: Many Katrina victims left New Orleans for good. What can we learn from them? (Aug. 24, 2015), Malcolm Gladwell extends Katrina's good outcomes to all the poor folk driven out of their New Orleans neighborhoods, insisting that they're better off elsewhere.
There are plenty of scholars and practitioners who worry that the KIPP "revolution" involves training youngsters to become obedient workers for such rapacious global market behemoths as Amazon. But Gladwell pounds home his thesis with another great anecdote: Tyreal Samuel is off to Grinnell.
Gladwell fans would do well to heed Andrea Gabor's warning in the New York Times ( The Myth of the New Orleans School Makeover, Aug. 23, 2015). Gabor concludes, "For outsiders, the biggest lesson of New Orleans is this: It is wiser to invest in improving existing education systems than to start from scratch. Privatization may improve outcomes for some students, but it has hurt the most disadvantaged pupils."
Certainly, social scientists will agree that moving to a better neighborhood improves one's chances for upward mobility, but a better solution would be to improve the pockets of poverty. Ensure a living wage and a social safety net; use government money for public works projects instead of drones and bombs.
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