Madison County Opinion...

 September 6, 2000

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
September 6, 2000

Frankly Speaking

Educational bureaucracy should be changed
Sometimes things fall together when you least expect it. For example, I have just finished reading "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men" by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. It is a well-researched book on conditions before, during and after the War of Northern Aggression.
The book contains a brief but highly informative section on education. I learned that the South had no government schools prior to the War, yet over 80 percent of Southern whites were literate. (It was illegal to teach slaves to read. More about that later.) I also learned that the first public schools were established in Massachusetts and other New England states, and were used to endoctronate students with the government's policies.
After the war, the occupied Southern states were required to establish public schools in which the Northern view of the war and society were taught. Our current school system is a direct descendent of these political schools.
Compare this information with two recent education stories in the press. First, almost all of the top winners in the National Spelling Bee were home-schooled children. Second, home-schooled children faired much better in the latest round of SAT tests than did children from the public schools.
Next, take note of the literacy rate in the South before and after the War. Before the War, we averaged over 80 percent of those for whom education was allowed. Today, we have a functional literacy rate (people who can read and understand a daily newspaper) that ranges from 50 percent to 70 percent. Often those who fall into the illiterate list are high school graduates!
What conclusions can we draw from this information? First, the best-educated students in the U.S. are those who avoid public school. Second, public schools spend too much time on social engeneering and not enough time on basic education. Third, the more money we spend on public education, the less results we receive.
While the teachers and administrators of our public schools are mostly dedicated, hard-working people who have the best interest of their students as their guide, the educational bureaucracy often absorbs too much of the money and creates too much interference in the education process. For example, we have a federal Department of Education, a state Department of Education (actually, with Governor Roy Barnes' so-called education reform, we appear to have two of them) and local school boards.
At every level, this bureaucracy is subject to political pressure from interest groups. This pressure comes from people who are pushing a political agenda such as NOW, SCLC, NAACP, CofCC, The Moral Majority and others. The newest education program by Democrat Governor Roy Barnes is, in my opinion, an effort to seize power from Republican State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko. Locally, I have been observing Madison County politics far too long not to believe that local political pressure contributed to the decision by Dr. Dennis Moore to leave.
So, what should we do? First, abolish the U.S. Department of Education. There is no Constitutional justification for its existence.
Next, simplify the Georgia Department of Education by repealing Governor Barnes' new level of bureaucracy and consolidating other state offices. At the same time, greatly reduce the excessive state regulations that require so much time by local school boards, adminsitrators and teachers.
Finally, every school should have s board of directors that contains a majority of parents with no connection with the school system who will have a major roll in school policy and curriculum.
With these changes, vast amounts of tax money will be saved, schools will be under direct control of parents and students will receive the kind of quality education that will bring the greatest benefit to them, their parents and the community.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at His e-mail address is

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By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
September 6, 2000

A Moment with Margie

Things I have learned
My work here at the paper has taken me on a variety of journeys, particularly in the last three years since I have been doing more writing.
And as I've said before, one of the best things about this job is meeting and talking to a variety of people and then being faced with the challenge of telling "their story," or at least a part of it.
In the process, I have learned something from each person I have talked with. It is impossible to mention even a small portion of the variety of folks I have talked to and written stories about, but the following represent just a little of those that come to mind.
First, there are the ones like Tiny Hanson, Veronica Chandler or Lamar Cheek, who have taught me something about strength and courage in adversity. They have shown me that real courage calls for facing what life hands out and making the best of it. Each of these individuals, and many others, have faced suffering in the form of physical illness on a scale that most of us will probably never know. And yet they prevail, encourage and uplift all those who are privileged to know them. They are shining examples of the human spirit.
They make me ashamed when I dread getting out of bed in the morning or whine about a bad day.
And I feel honored to have spent some time with them.
Then there are those like Sarah Self, 100 years old, who taught me something about wisdom. A remarkable woman, Mrs. Self has survived an incredible amount of "life" in all its forms in her century of living. What is her secret? I think that part of it is that she has not only survived - she has really lived her life, drinking in each experience, the good and the bad, knowing that nothing on this earth is permanent.
When I think of her, I can visualize her twinkling eyes and peaceful expression. She finds true enjoyment in the everyday.
When I think of a successful marriage, J.B. and Sally Echols, married for more than 60 years, come to mind.
They are much more than a "couple"; they are true companions. Their love, respect and regard for each other is a palpable, living thing.
And how could I not mention those "grand dames" I have written about like Jennie Ruth Echols, Augusta Jenkins or Helen Fortson, just to name a few. They are the Steel Magnolias of this county. Ladies every one, they are nevertheless strong, resourceful and they know their own minds.
They may bend, but they won't break. I salute them.
Then there are the many artists and authors I have talked with. I have stood in amazement at what the human mind is capable of creating. When I am in the presence of one of these folks, I can see what can be good and beautiful in the mind of every human being. They help me to see that all is not lost in this troubled world, where often what we see is mostly ugliness.
For most of them, they can no more stop producing their particular form of art than they can stop breathing.
Occasionally, when I write about members of my family, I remember what I have learned from them - my parents, my aunts and uncles, my husband, even my children. Each one has taught me a little something unique about this life.
I hope I manage to illuminate even a little of all that through stories and columns.
And I hope you'll keep reading and sending along your ideas.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.
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