Introduction: Special Issue on Hurricane Katrina: Schools, Culture, and Trauma

By Marbley, Aretha Faye; Denham, Alice et al. | Multicultural Education, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Introduction: Special Issue on Hurricane Katrina: Schools, Culture, and Trauma


Marbley, Aretha Faye, Denham, Alice, Simpson, Douglas J., Multicultural Education


This Special Issue on Hurricane Katrina was conceived as a vehicle to address some of the multicultural and ethical considerations that were present or inher-ent- but not yet fully addressed-in this trauma situation. The editors developed this thematic issue to gather and share critical information with educators from multiple disciplines on the interaction of culture and trauma in a disaster. Our intent is to bring together research, critiques, and personal stories from multicultural perspectives about Hurricane Katrina and its devastating effects on schools and educational institutions specifically, but not exclusively. Most importantly, this special issue is an effort to become a voice and an outlet to reflect on the failures, successes, and mistakes in the response, aftermath, and the rebuilding process following Ka-trina; in particular, the serendipitous issues of race, class, and culture that spilled out are addressed.

Our goal is to provide insight into these diversity issues that impacted educators', professionals', and public and higher education school systems' ability to be culturally responsive and sensitive to culturally different students during a crisis. Ultimately, this issue's aim is to use lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina to address the multicultural and ethical considerations inherent in any trauma situation and to develop multiculturally com petent guidelines and culturally responsive strategies for schools and educators to use in future disasters. The selection of articles presented is quite different from what we had expected, yet consistent with our theme of culture, trauma, and schooling.

Maria Crosby's opening poem sets the stage and the tone of the issue, with images that point to problems encountered and rebuilding efforts that continued-and still continue. "Apologia," the lead article by Hansel Burley, Aretha Faye Marbley, and Lawson Bush, V, uses allusions to the words of rapper Kanye West, as well as Greek mythology, American literature, and other sources to drive home the point that every African American should question and challenge the realities of schooling and should create a new model of multiculturalism in which the majority and minority cultures can interact reciprocally, without either hapless rancor or grand illusions.

Next, Bolanle Olaniran uses empirical research and an anticipatory model of crisis management to address some of the most serious questions raised about Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which followed a few weeks afterward: How did people receive warnings and instructions to evacuate? And were there differences in race and ethnicity in peoples' perceptions of the information? Ethnicity and marital status were two variables that produced a difference for Hurricane Katrina but not for Rita.

Following that, Aretha Faye Marbley reminds volunteer workers that direct mental health services are necessary for meeting the needs of evacuees and other disaster victims, and that compassion fatigue or secondary trauma is a danger for both host communities and volunteer workers. She also concludes that the necessary services delivered to disaster victims must address the multicultural and ethical considerations that are likely present in the trauma situation.

Alicia Moore uses the award-winning film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner to "bookend" her article that asks the reader how teachers, schools, and other learners would be expected to respond to 372,000 evacuated children from the Gulf Coast disaster areas. As one would expect, many schools, districts, and individuals were not prepared to deal with numerous new students who were culturally, economically, linguistically, racially, and ethnically diverse-but who needed the stability and support that regular culturally responsive schooling can provide. Moore also provides websites and other resources for culturally responsive pedagogy.

After that, Robert Hancock, Anne Nau-man, and John Fulwiler report research they conducted to examine the impact of Katrina on technology and media infrastructures in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama school districts.

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