The Madison County Journal
September 6, 2000
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
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 www.mcga.net. His e-mail address
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,
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