Jackson County Opinions...

May 2, 2001

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
May 2, 2001

Voice Mail Removes The Need
For People

Our newspaper offices may be one of the last businesses in America where actual people sometimes answer the phone.
We have "voice mail," of course; which is a 21st-century way of saying answering machine. It lets a caller leave a message when we're unable to answer the phone. That's as far as voice mail should go.
But evolution is taking us to the point where we will never actually talk to anyone on the phone. While that is not all bad, it lends itself to frustration.
"This is XYZ Mega Financial Consortium. Please listen to all five options before making your selection.
"Press 1 if you want to deposit a lot of money. Press 2 to make a loan payment. Press 3 if your bank just merged with us. Press 4 if you'd like to leave a message that will never be returned on an officer's voice mail. Press 5 for questions regarding your monthly statement."
You press 5.
"Please listen to all five options before making your selection.
"Press 1 if your statement is correct. Press 2 if the Consortium made an error in your favor. Press 3 if you don't speak English and can't understand this message. Press 4 to make a deposit. Press 5 to talk to a customer service representative."
You press 5.
"Your call is very important to us. All of our customer service representatives are busy ignoring other customers or taking personal leave at this time. Your call will be answered in the order it was received."
This is your chance to listen to the company's recording of the entire score of "Sherazade" if you're lucky, or Barry Manilow's greatest hits if you're not. Since you've phoned a big company, you're not likely to be lucky.
Every 90 seconds the music is interrupted by: "Thank you for your patience. All of our customer service representatives are busy. Your call is very important to us."
"If it's so damn important, why don't you answer it?" you scream after the fifth round. It doesn't help.
That is a good voice mail system. On one not so good, the caller winds up in a circular program that keeps routing him back to the main menu without ever offering a choice close to the purpose for which he calls.
"Please select from one of our options: For inquiries about safe deposit boxes, press 1; for information about online business, press 2; to make a loan payment, press 3; to start a checking account, press 4."
In desperation, you press 3.
"To pay on an auto loan, press 1; to pay on a consumer loan, press 2; to pay on your line of credit, press 3; for all other inquiries, press 4."
You press 4.
"Please select from one of our options: For inquiries about safe deposit boxes, press 1; for information about online business, press 2; to make a loan payment, press 3; to start a checking account, press 4."
Most businesses don't actually have any employees to field calls. They're all in sales or management; the former may call you at dinner to sell you something, but the latter doesn't want to talk to you ever.
We'll still talk to you. If you don't believe it, give us a call. At the sound of the tone, leave a message.
Mark Beardsley is editor of The Commerce News.

The Jackson Herald
May 2, 2001

Teaching prep a necessary Band-Aid
It's easy to see just how polarized we've become over education issues in Georgia following two years of reform efforts. Now comes another plan - Teach for Georgia - that again pits the education establishment against those who are attempting to address some of the problems in public schools.
The program is designed to speed new teachers into classrooms by offering those with a college degree a chance to enter teaching after taking a four-week crash course in education. Those who enter the classroom under the plan will have two years to complete a full education degree program while they continue to teach, a plan that is basically the same as the current provisional teaching certificate.
Critics of the plan say that it is an insult to teachers to allow those who haven't gone to colleges of education to teach in public schools. Knowing the subject is one thing, they say, being able to teach it is another.
But supporters of the plan say that such talk is simply teacher unions attempting to keep a stranglehold on the path to teaching and to control the political indoctrination that comes from colleges of education.
Frankly, both sides have a valid argument. Just because someone has a degree in a subject does not automatically qualify that person to be a teacher. The ability to communicate with students, especially those in early elementary grades, is a talent that goes beyond just a degree.
On the other hand, the same could be said of those exiting today's colleges of education. Just because someone has a teaching certificate doesn't mean she or he is qualified to teach. Whatever one's education background, new teachers should be vetted to make sure students don't suffer from poor teaching.
Georgia has long had a system for allowing provisional teaching certificates to those who pursue a degree on their own. From that standpoint, the new Teach for Georgia is only an expansion of that idea and does not fundamentally change the long-term requirements.
But it is only a Band-Aid, a short-term boost to help bring new teachers into classrooms where a population boom has created a teacher shortage. We think it is better to give those with a professional degree in another field a shot at entering the teaching profession than it is to have crowded classrooms because we have too few teachers to go around.

By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
May 2, 2001

You Might Be From A Small Town If...
One thing about newspaper people, we like to share a good story. The following comes from a newspaper trade association newsletter, which got the following from Dan Phillips in Oxford, Miss. who got it from who knows where. See if you see yourself in the following.

You Might Be From A Small Town If...
1. You can name everyone you graduated with.
2. You know what 4-H is.
3. You went to parties at a pasture, barn, or in the middle of a dirt road.
4. You used to drag "main."
5. You said the 'f' word and your parents knew within the hour.
6. You schedule parties around the schedules of different police officers, since you know which ones would bust you and which ones wouldn't - same goes with the game warden.
7. You ever went cow-tipping or snipe hunting.
8. School gets canceled for state events.
9. You could never buy cigarettes because all the store clerks knew how old you were (and if you were old enough they'd tell your parents anyhow).
10. When you did find someone old enough and brave enough to buy cigarettes, you still had to go out to the country and drive on back roads to smoke them.
11. You were ever in the Homecoming parade.
12. You have ever gone home for Homecoming.
13. It was cool to date someone from the neighboring town.
14. You had senior skip day.
15. The whole school went to the same party after graduation.
16. You don't give directions by street names or directions by references (turn by Nelson's house go two blocks east to Anderson's, and it's four houses left of the track field.)
17. The country club golf course had only 9 holes.
18. You can't help but date a friend's ex-girlfriend.
19. Your car stays filthy because of the dirt roads, and you will never own a dark vehicle for this reason.
20. You think kids that ride skateboards are weird-yeah!
21. The town next to you is considered "trashy" or "snooty," but is actually just like your town.
22. Getting paid minimum wage is considered a raise.
23. You refer to anyone with a house newer than 1980 as the "rich people."
24. The people in the city dress funny, then you pickup on the trend two years later.
25. You bragged to your friends because you got pipes on your truck for your birthday.
26. Anyone you want can be found at either the Dairy Queen or the feed store.
27. You see at least one friend a week driving a tractor through town.
28. Football coaches suggest that you haul hay for the summer to get stronger.
29. Directions are given using "the" stop light as a reference.
30. The city council meets at the coffee shop.
31. Your letter jacket was worn after your 19th birthday.
32. You have ever taken a trailer or dog to school on a daily basis.
33. Weekend excitement involves a trip to a Wal-Mart.
34. Even the ugly people enter beauty pageants.
35. You decide to walk somewhere for exercise and five people pull over and ask if you need a ride.
36. Your teachers call you by your older siblings' names.
37. Your teachers remember when they taught your parents.
38. You can charge at all the local stores.
39. The closest McDonald's is 45 miles away.
40. So is the closest mall.
41. It is normal to see an old man riding through town on a riding lawn mower,
42. You dial a wrong number and still talk for 45 minutes!
43. You laugh your tail off reading this because you know they're all true!

The Commerce News
May 2, 2001

State Should Look Into
Teacher Shortage Causes
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Trying to head off a serious teacher shortage, Georgia has embarked upon a program to lure into education people from all walks of life.
Nine summer teaching academies will open this summer. Anyone with a bachelor's degree and a 2.5 grade point average and who can pass a basic skills test will be enrolled. Thirty days later, assuming they pass the course, they'll be given a provisional teaching certificate, which allows them to teach for two years before they must obtain permanent certificates.
Tens of thousands of accountants, lawyers, architects and other professionals have reportedly expressed interest already. Some of them may be burned out on their current jobs; others are in a position where they can afford a cut in pay to get into a field they once rejected because the pay was so poor.
Given the status of education in Georgia, it's hard to fault the state for trying to recruit teachers from other professions, but it's easy to predict a number of problems people will encounter as they enter the Teach for Georgia program.
Maybe the biggest problem will be the attitudes of current educational professionals, who see a 30-day course for a teaching certificate as a slap in the face. There is more to teaching than command of the subject, they say, and allowing newcomers to enter the field with so little training is galling to the very people who will be asked to mentor the new teachers.
Then again, maybe the biggest problem will be keeping the new teachers in education. When the former business and professional people see what teachers must deal with daily ­ children who are not prepared to learn, parents who don't care, the home situations children come from, the incredible education bureaucracy, the mandates from the state to teach character, prevent drug and alcohol abuse, stop violence, reduce teen pregnancy and the silliness that sometimes passes for coursework ­ they'll understand why Georgia loses a third of its new teachers before they enter their third year. The people who burned out in other fields may come to learn that they were much better off in the private sector than they thought.
Still, Georgia may discover some great, enthusiastic teachers as these new applicants bring energy and different experiences to the classroom. And the men and women who have labored for years as sales managers, personnel directors or nurses might find great joy in helping school children master the skills and concepts necessary for success. Given the pending teacher shortage and Georgia's standing among the states in all areas related to education, it seems a worthwhile gamble.
But if Georgia wants to attract and keep good teachers ­ wherever they come from ­ it should address the reasons why teachers leave education in droves. The issues surely include pay, the work environment, student discipline, the lack of support from parents, school boards and administrations, parental harassment, parental indifference and a bureaucracy that gets more cumbersome every year.

Jackson County Opinion Index

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