Kay: Katrina’s Legacy—Education Interrupted

Hurricane Katrina. (Photo: Gregory Pelt/Shutterstock)

Hurricane Katrina. (Photo: Gregory Pelt/Shutterstock)

As writers, we’re only half the equation. Storytellers speak to a vacuum if no one’s on the other side, reading what we write. As a nation—a global nation—we need all the stories. People to write them, and people to read them.

Ten years ago, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, and although many children survived that storm, many have not recovered. Here’s a synopsis (slightly edited) of a recent report:

“A child that was seven years old when Katrina hit will be 17 today. Today, that 17-year-old is more likely than his same-age peers in all but two other cities to be both unemployed and not in school.

“In the first nine months after the storm, families moved an average of 3.5 times. One in five school-age children were either not enrolled in school or missed more than 10 days a month.

“Five years after the storm, 40 percent of children still did not have stable housing. Thirty-four percent of children had been held back in school (compared to a 19 percent baseline in the South). Some estimate that more than 90 percent of dislocated students didn’t learn for a year.”

All those kids—the Katrina kids—have had an interrupted and subpar education, but it might not be too late. With enough political will, the state and country could still help these kids to become healthy, educated, and productive citizens—people who read, people who write. People who have stories to tell.






7 thoughts on “Kay: Katrina’s Legacy—Education Interrupted

  1. We tend to focus on the real-time financial impact of catastrophic events like these, but fail to realize the far-reaching financial impact, as well. It tends to be too little, too late.

    • So true, Justine! Wars, disasters, famine, you name it—in times of dislocation, kids probably suffer the most in the long term. Money can’t fix everything, but without it, the long-term effects are devastating.

  2. NPR has also been running a series about the tenth anniversary of Katrina, and for me, one of the most disturbing aspects is that many people just want to forget it. Well, OK, that’s natural and well and good, but Katrina brought a lot of lessons to learn about adversity, and how human nature can either rot because the lessons are too hard, or conquer. (Or maybe a little of both.)

    I think we will begin seeing some very interesting stories start to come out as people process this disaster, and start to share what they learned. The tragedies that hit the South (Katrina, and then just a couple of years later, the BP spill) will shape that generation of Southerners — and Southerners have a way of influencing the world. Especially in literature.

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