Madison County Opinion...

 August 8, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
August 8, 2001

Frankly Speaking

Gov't should leave education to parents
Every Georgia governor in recent memory has "reformed" education. Every one of these "reformations" has dramatically increased the cost of education while shifting more and more power from local boards to the state government. The one thing these reforms have not done is improve the quality of education being received by our children.
Over the period of these reforms, Georgia has moved from 49th (Thank God for Mississippi) to 46th of the 50 states in educational achievement. Our dropout rate is an embarrassment. The number of our adult citizens who cannot read and understand this newspaper is a crime.
So why have these plans failed? Each of these reforms has moved our education system farther and farther away from the most important factor in a child's education, their parents.
Child development specialists tell us that the most important period in a child's mental development is from birth to 6 years old. For a child to succeed in school, they have to be prepared to learn by their parents and families in this critical period.
Once a child is in school, the greatest influence in their education continues to be the parents. Children who are encouraged and guided by caring parents have the greatest chance of making good grades and learning skills necessary to succeed as an adult. Parents must be directly involved in their children's education to enssure success.
That is not the way it works in many schools today. Government has demanded more and more control over our children's education. Parents are finding it easier and easier to simply put the kids on the bus and let government educate them as they wish. Now state and national bureaucrats, with the aid of power-grabbing political parties and labor unions, are taking more and more responsibility from local governments and moving it farther away from parental control.
So called Pre-K programs take children away from parents at even earlier ages, further removing parents from educational responsibility. By removing parents from the educational process, government is assuring that no amount of new money will improve educational achievement.
What is the solution? First, get the federal government completely out of education. The U.S. Constitution does not authorize federal involvement in education. Therefore, all federal education programs are in violation of the Constitution.
Secondly, dramatically reduce the size of state educational bureaucracies, returning control of our public schools to local school boards. This will make school boards answerable to the parents and community, not to all-powerful bureaucrats and labor unions.
Finally, give parents a choice of educational opportunities. Make it just as easy for parents to use private or public schools, or to home school. That will return responsibility for education to the parents where it belongs.
Students whose parents take control of their education, even when they have to overcome government interference, produce the best-educated children. Government needs to get out of the way and let them do their jobs.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His email address is frankg@mcga.net.

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Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
August 8, 2001

A Moment with Margie

Back-to-school blues
I spent last weekend like many of you did - getting a child ready for school. Although school is starting only a week earlier than usual, it sure seems a whole lot earlier to me.
Why is it anyway that it seems summer basically ends right after the Fourth of July?
It must be because we're motivated by the commercial world - never mind that it's the dog days of summer - the JC Penney fall and winter catalog has arrived and those "back to school" ads are staring us in the face everywhere we look.
After all, we must be programmed to spend every dollar we can before the next onslaught - the Christmas season - which now begins at the end of August.
Last Saturday morning, facing the fact that school days were less than a week away, I got up and headed to town with my son Zack, debit card and checkbook in hand, to buy school supplies, jeans, shorts, T-shirts and other "essentials."
On the way, I listened to why it was absolutely necessary to purchase another backpack, as the one I was assured would last "forever" was just not going to make it after all.
We searched several stores for a new backpack and I listened over and over as to how this one and that one just wasn't big enough (read "expensive enough").
Finally we found it. Of course "it" was the most expensive one, but you see it has these straps with the "gel" stuff in them that cushions the shoulders and will, you know it, "last forever." Oh, and it also has a special compartment for a CD player. The fact that it was no bigger than the other ones we had looked at was suddenly of no importance.
Athens was the most crowded I've seen it all summer and everywhere I looked were moms with children of various sizes in tow - many with the same dazed expression on their faces that I'm sure was on mine.
Several hundred dollars later we headed home, prepared, or nearly so, for another year of school.
It just so happens that school supplies for Zack this year included a car, since he will turn 16 next month.
His dad and I purchased a used, and what we hope will be a reliable vehicle, and since then our son has been steadily investing a substantial portion of his parttime earnings into "necessities" for his wheels - like a CD player, speakers and a "Black Widow" security system to protect said CD player and speakers. (I really think he just likes the sound it makes.)
While preparing Zack for a return to high school, I've also been mentally preparing myself for Miranda's return to college. We'll be loading up (several vehicles) and heading out for the mountains next week to get her settled into her college dorm before classes start.
She's worked two jobs this summer putting back money to tide her over and her dad and I are really proud of her.
I've told myself I'm better prepared for her moving out again this year, and I know she is up to it, but I'm just not sure about me.
I've certainly grown to love having her back home again, even though sometimes the only way I know she's home is by how messy her room is!
Oh well, we'll soon have something else to think about. After all, Christmas is just around the corner.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.


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