The David Rumsey Map Collection is a pretty impressive accomplishment. According to the site, the collections “contains more than 150,000 maps. The collection focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, wall maps, globes, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children’s, and manuscript maps. Items range in date from about 1550 to the present.”
CNBC ranks the states in terms of their being [best for business][b]. There are a number of dimensions involved, each represented by a column, each of which can be selected and the list itself sorted by that dimension. One of them, thankfully, is *education*. (Louisiana doesn’t, in general, do well in any of the dimensions.)
Sometimes you need to know: [Louisiana High Points by Parish](http://www.peakbagger.com/list.aspx?lid=13511).
Given the projected crests for the Mississippi River, I was grateful when a good friend of mine sent me a link that explains the history and nature of the control structures in Louisiana: Louisiana Old River Control Structure and Mississippi River Flood Protection.
All of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to [Maida Owens][mo] and the [Louisiana Folklife Program][lfp]. She has single-handedly persevered in getting almost all the contents, at least the tables of such if not the content itself, of the entire run of the [_Louisiana Folklore Miscellany_ online][lfm]. Later issues, like the two issues I edited on *Cultural Catholicism* and *In the Wake of the Storms* also have the articles available. (The contents are in chronological order with the oldest first, so those issues are toward the bottom of the page.)
My initial response to this remains: *Wow, didn’t these people get the memo?* Traditional Louisiana politics, at all levels, is to say lots of pleasantries outside of closed doors, close the doors, decide to do whatever you wanted to do all along, and then wait to announce the bad news at the last possible moment and shrug your shoulders for the short duration that the screams occur. (And they don’t last long because the jobless are usually trying to find a way to feed themselves and those who still have jobs are either too afraid to speak or have been conditioned not to speak.)
But this new lot is heralding a whole new era: the agenda is clear. Oh, it’s still cloaked in the dulcet tones of bureaucrats — improve efficiency, eliminate duplication — and they are careful not to reveal long held grudges — Wharton in particular has an axe to grind.
But this thing is called the Tucker Commission, and he’s the real man behind the scenes here. He is, I have been told, the real power behind Jindal and the man with his hands on the controls of the Republican machine in Louisiana. But he’s also one of the good old boys, not an ideologue. And so I have to believe that he doesn’t believe all this stuff. There’s something else going on, but I was gone from Louisiana for long enough that I know longer know the landscape, who stands to gain what. So my question is: *Who stands to gain from this gutting of higher education in Louisiana?*
* State Colleges May Lose Some Degree Programs *
By JORDAN BLUM
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Published: Nov 18, 2009 – Page: 1A
The state’s public colleges — especially regional universities — may have their academic degree programs scaled back, based on recommendations approved Tuesday by a state higher education review panel.
The Louisiana Postsecondary Education Review Commission also voted to propose equal funding for associate degree programs at community colleges and the two-year degrees at universities. Today, universities receive more money because the faculty members are paid more.
Commission member and former LSU Chancellor James Wharton pushed three other recommendations approved Tuesday.
“There may be graduate programs that don’t have anything to do with that region of the state,” Wharton said. “Should the state support graduate programs that don’t have anything to do with the region?”
Commission member Belle Wheelan, who is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools president, said some of the bachelor’s degree-focused universities “grew too far.”
Commission member Mark Musick, the Southern Regional Education Board president emeritus, said regional universities should focus more on teaching undergraduates, while LSU must do a better job of attracting and educating graduate students.
Wharton has complained, for example, that too many public schools have specialized engineering programs. LSU, Southern University, the University of Louisiana at University [Lafayette?], Louisiana Tech University and the University of New Orleans all have multiple engineering degree programs. McNeese State University has a general engineering technology program.
Wharton on Monday and Tuesday has mentioned the University of Louisiana at Lafayette when discussing the outgrowth of regional universities and degree programs.
The review panel, often dubbed the Tucker Commission after House Speaker Jim Tucker who sponsored the legislation, is tasked with advising ways to streamline higher education. Gov. Bobby Jindal has asked the commission to recommend how to cut $146 million from college budgets during lean financial times.
Wharton’s approved recommendations were to:
Require the state’s higher education oversight body – the Board of Regents – to review the role, scope and mission of colleges to eliminate or minimize “mission creep.” That creeping involves colleges going beyond their basic missions, such as offering too many graduate-level degrees.
Require the Regents and college management boards to review and eliminate more duplicate academic programs and to reduce “excess hours” required to graduate in academic programs.
Require the Regents to consider program quality, state workforce needs, completion rates and other factors in the program reviews. The motion also would make the Regents complete annual update reports for the governor and legislative leaders.
“In some small way it does hold feet to the fire,” Wharton said. “But, more importantly, it informs our government officials.”
Regents Chairman Artis Terrell of Shreveport said, “You give us a job to do, and we’ll get the job done.”
Wharton warned that this process will go well beyond the commission’s agenda.
“Institutions are going to be arguing to keep all their programs in place, and this is going to play out over one, maybe two years,” Wharton said.
For instance, the Monroe Chamber of Commerce may lobby in Baton Rouge to keep programs from being cut at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, he said.
State Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen said about 100 “low-completer” academic programs were axed statewide. Many were at technical college campuses and not universities.
Commission member David Longanecker, who is the president of the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education, said next month he wants to discuss the state rearranging the structures of the state’s higher education systems.
The review commission next meets on Dec. 14-15 with focuses on funding issues and the makeup of the higher education systems.
After my trip to the cemetery and working with the Techeland Arts Council, I headed back to Lafayette, driving along Highway 182 to enjoy the smell of sugar country during harvest. Having spent my childhood in the fields, all the smells resonate pleasantly. There is the smell of the ripe cane itself, like dry leaves mixed with a hint of sugar and just a little bit of fermentation. There is the smell of the rich black earth, broken loose by the churning of tractor and harvester tires. There is the smell of cane being ground up and boiled down to sugar. There is, too, the odor that gags some: the smell of the bagasse, the leftover fiber of the cane, as it is either burned for fuel or churned out into great heaps to dry.
The smell I like best is the smell that causes so many people to suffer this time of year with allergies and which sometimes leave a light coating of ash throughout the region, the smell of cane fields burning.
### Evolving Images of the Cajuns and Creoles
In the wake of the “great awakening” of French culture in Louisiana, there have been numerous offerings by “natives” to represent themselves. In the early phase of the process, many of these documents were scholarly publications looking to balance an historical record which seemed unaware that Louisiana owed much of its history and culture to the Continental European and African origins of a number of groups that populated south Louisiana from the colonial era into the post-Civil War era. In the second phase of the awakening, a number of authors — most notably those writing cookbooks — began to draw upon these roots consciously, often universalizing their particular experience of south Louisiana culture and history. Also arising at this time were number of publications which consciously treated various stereotypes — I’m thinking here of joke books and memoirs. All of these texts continue to play a role in what might be called the post-renaissance, or at least the post-awakening, moment in which we now reside, where a certain kind of sophisticated cultural consumerism has come to dominate the logic of understanding. I want to argue that this is a dangerous period for us, in which we face two paths, one which encourages a kind of “free play of signs” which may very well leave us consuming ongoing misapprehensions of our history and culture or one which seeks to go beyond the logic of easy consumerism.
As a number of scholars have observed, there have been two notable fluorescences in the written literature of French Louisiana. The first occurred in the years leading unto and following the Civil War, with the publication of _Les Cenelles_ and the writing of the _New Orleans Tribune_ poets.
* Both fluorescences had political origins.
* Creoles of color were involved in both; Cajuns only in the latter.
* By focusing on these as moments, we ignore the ongoing traditions of folk poetry which take off with the coming of another form of fixity: the recording industry. To this day, many of south Louisiana’s best poets are not to be found in the pages of a book but in the grooves of a CD: Zachary Richard, Kristi Guillory, etc.
1845: _Les Cenelles_ published.
1860s: _Tribune_ poets.
1980: _Cris sur le bayou_.
1981: Kein’s _Gombo People_. _Acadia Tropicale_.
> even early in the day, we take our
> brothers in our arms as we sing and
> dance, forgetting we wear masks.
> We get caught up in the act. We are
> fire and air. We will not remember
> until tomorrow our separateness,
> and that we are also earth.
For the Cajuns and Creoles of south Louisiana’s bayous and prairies, masks are not metaphors, not figures of speech, but an active part of reality. The irony of masking in this context, as Darrell Bourque makes clear in his poem, is an activity who’s seeming purpose is to alienate us fro ourselves as well as each other, makes us more who we are as individuals as well as communities. Removing the mask then, becomes something far more significant that simply symbolic, as Creole poet Debbie Clifton makes clear in her “Nôte pas mon masque,” which is both an homage as well as a revision of James Weldon Johnson. In that poet, she reminds us that “truth that can drive you mad” may lurk behind the mask. But Clifton is not content to embody the complex historical realities that are both the legacy of the South in general and Louisiana in particular. Like Bourque and other south Louisiana poets, this is a personal matter and as such, she is free to revise historical precepts as she sees fit, as she makes clear in the poem “Renaissance” which begins:
> Yes, I was his negress.
> I am her.
> and I will be her always.
> Anytimes he wants me like that,
> I am his negress.
What Cajuns and Creoles share is history and geography and they make full use of the latter in their work. It is almost as if by re-figuring the land, they perceive an opportunity to re-figure themselves. In poem after poem, Clifton and others re-imagine swamps, bayous, and marshes that so often as kinds of waking deaths in exoteric texts into places so fecund as only to be understood in glimpses.