New Orleans Public Schools: An Unrealized Democratic Ideal

Brian Beabout (The University of New Orleans) Kyshun Webster (University of Holy Cross)

Published: Nov 30, 2018

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New Orleans public schools were originally founded based on northern democratic ideals that a public school system should be tax-supported, open to all children, and support the ability of all individuals to participate in society and the economy. But the story of public education in New Orleans was rarely about educating the public at large. The recent moment is one of historically high optimism and attention being paid to public education in New Orleans. This brief highlights steps our community can take in the continued reformation of our public school system so that it truly serves its intended ideals.

Introduction

New Orleans is home to one of the first public school systems in the South. Indeed, New Orleans was a southern pioneer in public education—influenced by the northern democratic ideals of Horace Mann.1 These ideals were that a public school system should be tax-supported, open to all children, and would support the ability of all individuals to participate in society and the economy.2 But, the values of democratic preparation and the common school experience that were foundational to Mann’s original rationale for public schools have never been fully manifested in the New Orleans public school system.

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Citations and sources can be found in the PDF copy of the report.

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