Strangers in a Strange Land

Returning residents, some who might well have never lived outside New Orleans in their entire lives, are coming home feeling like freshly awakened Rip Van Winkles. Once over their initial astonishment at the world beyond the levees, they are bringing some hard questions back with them. The status quo just might not cut it anymore.

But after tasting life elsewhere, they are returning with tales of public schools that actually supply textbooks published after the Reagan era, of public housing developments that look like suburban enclaves, of government workers who are not routinely dragged off to prison after pocketing bribes.
Local leaders have realized for weeks that they must reckon with widespread anger over how they handled the relief effort. But it is dawning on them that they are also going to have to contend with demands from residents who grew accustomed, however briefly, to the virtues of other communities.
Many evacuees seem to be arriving with less tolerance for the failings of a city that under its glitzy makeup has long had an unsightly side. They do not want New Orleans to lose its distinctive character – after all, that is one reason they are back and vowing to rebuild. But they say their expectations have changed.
“What’s wrong with our school system, and what’s wrong with the people running our school board?” asked Tess Blanks, who had lived here all her life before fleeing with her husband, Horace, to the Houston area, where they discovered that the public schools for their two children were significantly better. “Our children fell right into the swing of things in Texas. So guess what? It isn’t the children. It’s the people running our school system.”

2 Responses to “Strangers in a Strange Land”

  1. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Having an electorate with high expectations is almost as bad as having your demographics changed. Maybe New Orleans really will change.

  2. Nightfly says:

    Houston’s schools are better, no wonder Mayor Nagin went there himself to ride out the aftermath. Ms. Banks may have just lost a chance to complain to him in person by going back to New Orleans.

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