Louisiana has often been ranked at or near the bottom of various surveys and studies that claim to show the relative position of various states in the United States as regards the kind of excellence a particular study seeks to define and understand. Those seeking to lead or hold public office in this state have long had to contend with the perception of inferiority as well as with the rankings that proclaim that inferiority. There are few enough conversations regarding policy which do not include a discussion of these realities: Louisiana is perceived as straggling and in many regards (even if the studies are flawed in some ways), it is straggling as regards the United States.
There is a recent ranking of Louisiana schools among the schools of the United States of America. It has been discussed in the Daily Advertiser and that discussion can be accessed here. The survey ranks Louisiana schools at 47 out of perhaps 51 systems with the district of Columbia. Interestingly, the Yahoo News did a ranking of fifty states about the same time and did that ranking on the broadest possible basis and ranked Louisiana of all fifty states and in that ranking Louisiana came out ranked fifth.
The struggle of life in Louisiana is an easy one to simplify. The struggle includes an ongoing struggle as to where we stand in the country. Louisiana has been amazingly dominant in the millions of pounds of seafood landed at saltwater ports. There are times when half of the top five or ten ports were Louisiana ports in that category. We have never done as well in ranking of the dollar values of catches landed. Although the seafood industry is still a big deal.
Louisiana has done an amazing job of leading in the production of offshore oil and gas at various times but has gotten little of that money into state coffers to invest in things like education. The federal government has taken most of that revenue from huge categories of mineral production and has sent back funds in other forms with less social benefit like transfer payments to needy in systems that foster permanent poverty.
Louisiana has a vast treasury of cultural resources but exists in a society committed in general to degrading and destroying those resources over time. Jean Lafitte National Park and CODOFIL notwithstanding there has been a constant war on the distinctive values and traditions and assets of the state. So one has to ask what people here are being educated towards and why and how.
This may be one of the many reasons why although Louisiana has above average military enlistment it ranks below some of its neighbors in the former Confederacy. The military establishment here is significant but certainly not the biggest Fort Polk came out of recent reductions pretty well but over the decades has lost ground to other bases like Fort Hood. So rankings are part of the overall struggle to make sense of our place in the world.
Not very many people read this neglected blog compared to its heyday. However many of those who do have not heard of the term Silicon Bayou. There is disagreement about all aspects of the term. However the truth is that the area from New Orleans to Houston including Baton Rouge and Lafayette most of all is a technology center for the nation many aspects of the industries and universities in the region are ranked well in the fields of technology and information science. The future is being built and sought here and has been for a long time. The results are always going to be mixed for many reasons. I myself once led a group of interested people around the world in developing a plan for colonizing the Moon and Mars. There are thousands of ventures that do not achieve major recognition that have some influence. But there are also large operations and institutions.
That brings us back to the idea of perception. Louisiana has a substantial tourism industry and a substantial film industry. Both of these industries labor to improve perceptions of the state in different ways. Nonetheless, there is little perception nationally or globally of how much this state faces challenges for the world and the nation and not caused primarily by the negligence or incompetence of this society itself.
In the face of all the challenges of Louisiana life in this time it is interesting to not that Lafayette has been ranked as one of the happiest or the happiest city in the United States of America. This happiness is not indifferent to or disconnected from all of our modern struggles but is perhaps rooted in our older heritage. That is perhaps also a key to how we perceive ourselves.
As we all seek to find our way forward it is useful to remember who we are, to see who we wish to become and to try to help our young people realize dreams they and we both can value and affirm. The future after all is uncertain and we cannot be sure where everything will end up.
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