The Uncanny, Unsettling Similarities Between DPS and 1980s New Orleans Schools

How Detroit schools today look an awful lot like New Orleans schools 30 years ago.

Jake Neher/WDET

“Educating the black male youth of our city… must become a moral and civic imperative. This is a matter which we, as citizens, cannot take lightly, for the future economic prosperity of our city and our nearby region will depend largely upon the educational and vocational success of ALL of our young people.”

That’s the beginning of a report titled “Educating Black Male Youth: A Moral and Civic Imperative”. You’d think it was written about Detroit and the struggles the students face here. But it was actually written about New Orleans Public Schools nearly 30 years ago.

In 1988, Dr. Antoine Garibaldi looked at the issues facing the kids in the dilapidated schools down south. Now he’s the president of the University of Detroit Mercy, and if you swap out “New Orleans” for “Detroit” in his old article you’d be reading a text that rings true today in Metro Detroit.

Garibaldi tells Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson that young black men in New Orleans weren’t going to college because that wasn’t an expectation set by the adults around them.

“We needed to really deal with that self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Garibaldi. 

Garibaldi says he still has friends and former students in New Orleans who tell him the public schools are still unsatisfactory 28 years after his report came out.

“They’re not very content with what’s happened since [Hurricane] Katrina,” says Garibaldi. “I’ve not been a big fan of what’s happened to New Orleans since it was gutted… I think it’s going to take an even longer time.”

To hear more of Garibaldi’s conversation on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.