Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Louisiana Lesson #3: Invasive Species

One of the things we did in New Orleans was to go on a kayak trip. But first, we had to learn about the devastation of the Louisiana wetlands--how dredging and channelization, levees, oil and gas exploration, climate change and more have had a devastating impact on the Louisiana coastline. It is losing miles of land every year and is more at risk than any other part of the U.S. And that is even without hurricanes! I'm not going to go into a detailed explanation of it here--but if you are interested, this link has a nice primer.

[I'm not going to do into an explanation of why the nearly-all Republican legislators from Louisiana don't take the lead on trying to find a solution to the problem. Granted, most of them don't believe in climate change but I personally think you don't even need to believe in climate change to understand this is a problem...]

But anyway--while we were out there kayaking, we did hear about how some of the invasive species are contributing to the devastation of the wetlands.

In particular, we heard about the water hyacinth. A native of South America, it was innocently introduced as a beautiful plant for water gardens in the south at the 1884 Worlds Fair. And now it has spread, and spread--taking over wetlands throughout the south.

Having seen it, I can tell you that the Water Hyacinth is a pretty plant. It looks shiny and new.

It struck me that invasive species are a good metaphor for what happens with the schools. The idea of introducing a new species sounds good. And then it turns out that it wasn't such a great idea. In fact, that it caused a lot of new problems.

Here in Michigan we've got our own invasives to contend with--purple loosestrife, periwinkle, garlic mustard, buckthorn...(read about them here).

Testing, charters, Teach For America--to me they are all invasive species. They sounded like good ideas, but in the end, they are (as a famous story in my family goes) "not so hotsy-totsy, and not so ai-yai-yai!". In fact, they are destructive.

Louisiana is ahead of us in invasive species and wetlands loss, and ahead of us in destruction of public schools as well. But don't think that we are not catching up! And understand that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

As with the fight to get rid of invasive species, different techniques are required for different species. So too with all the "new, better" school invasions.

Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!

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