New Orleans Schools Creative Destruction

John O’Leary takes an insightful look at how the mess Katrina left behind became the best thing to happen to NOL schools in a long time.

The outrage is that it took the natural disaster of Katrina to deal with the man-made disaster of New Orleans’ schools. It shouldn’t take a hurricane to bring real change to a failing urban education system. But it did.

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In our book on public sector transformation, we cite urban education as one example of the “complacency trap,” which occurs whenever the way things are block the path to what might be. Beating the complacency trap means embracing the power of creative destruction, the organizational equivalent of pruning a bush to make room for new growth.

Public education reforms have historically focused on trying to make the system work, rather than reexamining the system itself. Results have been meager. No doubt, transformative change is painful, but isn’t it more painful to watch generation after generation of children robbed of an education? Should it really take a hurricane to do the right thing for the children?