The Commerce News
January 17, 2001
Advice Good For People Of All Races
I wasn't there, but the account I read of Andre Williams' talk
at the local MLK Day festivities was a message young black people
need to hear.
And young Caucasians and young Hispanics and older blacks, whites
and people of all races and colors.
It was a talk about personal responsibility in which Williams
noted that too many young blacks, particularly the males, are
lacking. It can be assumed that Williams aimed his remarks at
blacks because the makeup of his audience was largely black,
but what he said applies no less to the rest of us.
Williams, noting that his father worked so that blacks could
get justice, inquired as to what blacks have done with that justice.
His comments suggested that blacks are not using fully and often
abusing the right to vote, the right to integrated schools and
the rights giving them equal access to borrowing money.
What young blacks need, he said, is "personal discipline."
Amen, brother, and that need is no less great in those of other
Because rights come with responsibilities. The right to vote
brings with it a responsibility to vote and to be informed about
candidates and issues. The right to go to public schools has
attached to it a responsibility that one make every effort to
learn, to pass and to not disrupt the learning of others. And
if you have the right to borrow money, there is an obligation
to learn how to manage that money and to repay the debt.
Our culture, however, does not stress responsibility. It promotes
You have the right to bring your cell phone into the classroom,
church or restaurant, but that does not make it a responsible
thing to do. And while it is legal to party all weekend every
weekend, responsible people don't.
Teenagers have the right to get driver's licenses at age 16,
but that doesn't mean their parents should give them vehicles
and turn them loose on the road.
A successful society also requires responsible people working
at all levels, but too many people focus on their rights as members
of that society and ignore their responsibilities. Or, worse
yet, they deliberately shun their responsibilities because they
are free to do just that.
My banker wife has told me countless stories of young people
who seem stunned when they cannot qualify for loans. They have
the income to enable them to repay, they have the collateral.
But they have a record of irresponsible money management, from
bad checks to charge-offs on previous loans.
Chances are, Andre Williams' words weren't heard by the young
black men he hoped would hear and heed them. They weren't there.
They weren't paying attention in school either, they don't go
to church, and their influences come from music, movies, pop
culture and their peers. Williams knows that too many young black
men are lost to drugs and violence and too many don't use fully
or abuse the rights that were so hard won.
It was a message all young people need to heed. Rights and privileges
are accompanied by responsibilities. Indeed, there can be no
rights if there is no responsibility.
The Jackson Herald
January 17, 2001
become a confederation
Is the Jackson County government a single entity, or a confederation
of independent fiefdoms?
That's a question citizens may want to ask as our restructured
county government gears up. Two years ago, when debate over creating
a new county government was at its peak, there was a lot of discussion
over how the four district commissioners were to be elected.
A majority of citizens eventually voted to adopt a strict district-by-district
system where each district representative was elected only by
those people living within that district.
But critics of that plan voiced concerns that such a system would
create a situation where each district commissioner would focus
only on his or her district to the exclusion of the entire county.
Some, including then Sen. Eddie Madden, suggested that each district
commissioner be elected at large.
Well, we hate to admit it, but the critics may have been right
after all. Barely three weeks into the new form of government,
the board is already acting like a confederation rather than
a central government. That was especially evident Monday night
when the board took up a long list of rezoning requests. Rather
than discussing those issues from a countywide perspective, the
board deferred to each district commissioner on rezonings that
were taking place within his district. The recommendation by
that individual commissioner was adopted by the rest of the board
with few questions asked.
That's a bad practice. Developers aren't stupid. They will quickly
figure out that to get a rezoning approved, all they need is
the consent of a single district commissioner and the rest of
the board will go along.
Not only that, but handling public issues in such a manner will
foster a bad habit which will bleed over into other areas of
the board's oversight. Commissioners will soon become reluctant
to question issues that affect a fellow board member's district.
Within a year or so, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners
will become nothing more than a confederation of chiefs with
the chairman acting as moderator.
We don't have a problem with this board making sure that all
segments of Jackson County are fairly represented in county government.
But this board of commissioners was elected to serve all of Jackson
County no matter where the individual commissioners might live.
If the board continues its practice of deferring to individual
commissioners on rezonings and other issues, that countywide
focus will be lost. And the citizens of Jackson County will be
the ultimate losers.
Jackson County Opinion Index
The Jackson Herald
January 17, 2001
The seven sins
of public education
My rump's a little sore. Last week, it got chewed on in letters
from several teachers who found fault with an earlier critical
assessment of the Georgia Association of Educators and a suggestion
that outside professionals should have an easier road to teaching
in public schools.
Based on the tone of those letters, it's obvious that there is
a growing chasm between the public and some in the academic world.
This gulf has widened, in part, because of the political rhetoric
at the state level. The fight last year over Gov. Barnes' education
reform legislation polarized opinions on all sides.
But this chasm between the public and the education establishment
is also the result of years of inertia by academic elitists.
Even though our society has changed dramatically in recent decades,
academic elitists have resisted making fundamental changes in
the structure of our public schools. That's why we have a school
calendar that is based on when the crops come in rather than
on what may be best for learning. Barnes' reform efforts magnified
these basic differences and hardened positions on all sides.
With the GAE's encouragement, that debate led to a widespread
belief among teachers that they are being picked on by those
who offer a critical assessment of public education. Unless you
put teachers on a gilded pedestal, the GAE brands you as being
But most of the criticism I see has to do with the problems of
the "system," not individual teachers.
So what are those problems? Here's my list of the top "Seven
Sins of Public Education:"
Sin #1: An overemphasis on "underachievers." Everybody
wants to help those kids at the bottom of the academic ladder.
But public education is putting too much of its resources on
that small number of students. It's also watering down its standards
in an effort to bring those kids closer to "average."
The losers are the true average and above-average kids who aren't
being challenged to their full potential.
Sin #2: Too much "mainstreaming" of disruptive children.
The classrooms in our public schools are a mess because of this
"mainstreaming" trend. Disruptive kids are put in regular
classrooms because of some psychobabble about how it will help
them learn. In reality, the other kids in those classrooms are
being cheated out of a proper education because of the emphasis
being placed on that one child.
Sin #3: Too little emphasis on individual efforts and achievements.
You're not supposed to be smart anymore if you're a student.
Group projects and group grades are all the rage. Grade competition
in the classroom is discouraged. Someone might get his feelings
hurt, poor thing.
Sin #4: Unwillingness to motivate teachers through a real-world
pay scale. Public education is the only institution where pay
is based strictly on how long you went to college and how long
you've been working rather than how you actually perform. The
GAE, for example, fights any suggestion of merit pay or higher
wages for specialized teaching fields, and it opposes teacher
accountability standards. All teachers are equal, they argue,
and deserve equal pay increments. The result is that good teachers
are underpaid, mediocre teachers overpaid. Such a pay system
would never exist in free enterprise and it should not exist
in public education.
Sin #5: An overemphasis on the process of education rather than
the actual outcome. You'll notice in the letters last week a
great defense of those Mickey Mouse college education theory
classes and the belief that no one is worthy of teaching unless
they understand the learning "process." Lost in all
that hokum is any emphasis on the actual student performance.
This "process mentality" is pushed by our colleges
of education and is one reason our nation's schools often underperform
when compared to other industrialized nations where student performance
is more important than process.
Sin #6: too much emphasis on social rather than academic development.
Sure, there are a lot of social problems in our society. But
public education should never have taken on the burden of attempting
to solve all those problems. Such efforts have taken the focus
away from academics, which should be the core emphasis of our
Sin #7: A misplaced "Us vs. Them" mentality between
academic elitists and the public. Too many people in our nation's
academic leadership believe that the rest of us are all ignorant
bumpkins. Parents who question the curriculum or performance
of public education are viewed with suspicion and distrust. Politicians
who criticize public education are branded as fools. There is
a belief among these elitists that no one outside their own circle
understands education and they bitterly resent those who question
the status quo. Unfortunately, that mentality has begun filtering
down to others in public education as well.
To that thinking, I offer this suggestion: Get over it. The time
has come for public education to change, or face a declining
base of public support.
And teachers, don't take it personally when those of us outside
academia question the performance of public schools. As parents
and taxpayers, public schools belong to us, too. We don't have
an interest group like the GAE to carry our banner for us, but
we still have a right to ask questions and air opinions.
No institution is above such scrutiny. It goes with the territory,
even if it is sometimes uncomfortable.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald. He can be
reached at MikeB21081@aol.com.
The Commerce News
January 17, 2001
Given Us An Early Warning
Whether fad or fashion, pop culture or education, whatever trend
begins in California seems to work its way east over the entire
That's just one reason Georgians should watch what's happening
in California. Georgia residents are complaining about the cost
of natural gas; Californians are dealing with exorbitant electricity
prices, rolling brown-outs and the prospect of several major
utility companies going bankrupt.
The ramifications of a shortage of electricity cannot be overstated.
Already, industries that might expand or move into California
are looking elsewhere and some are making plans to leave the
state. Nobody is building additional generation capacity, so
the problem stands to get worse, possibly much worse, before
it gets better, and if the rest of the country doesn't make plans
to deal with it, the rest of the country will experience it too.
It is not impossible to imagine Georgia in the same situation
in the not-so-distant future. The only electrical generation
capacity being built anywhere in the U.S. is in the form of gas
turbine generators like the plant in Center. And with California's
power supply in question, few industries will locate there, which
means states like Georgia will get the industries, and their
power demands, that otherwise would have gone west.
There is a fixed amount of electricity available, but a growing
demand. Without the construction of new generating plants or
some very significant conservation measures, other states will
duplicate California's experience. And if California has difficulties
in the winter, imagine the potential for chaos next summer.
One problem is that nobody wants to undertake the cost and the
liability of building generating plants. Nuclear plants have
proven to be very efficient, but there is still no solution on
how to safely dispose of radioactive wastes and still a great
fear of the ultimate disaster. Coal plants are out of the question
because they generate so much pollution, and hydroelectric facilities
are environmentally destructive, hard to place and produce relatively
little reliable power. That leaves few choices, and in deregulated
climates, why would a company take so much risk when it can buy
and sell electricity like a commodity without generating any
People laughed in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter, faced with
an energy crisis, declared that the effort to become energy self-sufficient
was the "moral equivalent of war." That crisis ended,
but it's clear that the "war" was not won.
The California crisis can be the wake-up call if industry and
government will heed it. Perhaps much of the rest of the country
has time to examine and rectify problems relating to building
new plants, distribution of electricity and pricing. Perhaps
there is also time to find ways to stretch our energy supply
We know the crisis is imminent. If we fail to prepare for it,
we'll have no one but ourselves to blame when the lights go out.