Jackson County Opinions...

January 09, 2002

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 09, 2002

What Happened To All The Kids Thursday Morn?
I think some of the kids in Commerce were scared of Thursday's snow, or else most of them were out of town.
Driving around Commerce for several hours, I encountered only a few groups of kids and, amazingly, only one group building a snowman.
The kids in my neighborhood appeared to be grouped on a slope suitable for sledding. I saw a group on Bowden Street out bright and early, a couple in Brentwood Estates and a handful walking around in other places.
There was a time when a snowfall would leave us inundated with requests to come take pictures of snowmen and almost every yard sported one. If I hadn't spotted the entire Leffew family at work on South Elm Street, I wouldn't have gotten the first snowman picture. Isn't there some kind of city ordinance that requires children to build snowmen? There should be.
The rest of the kids must have been sleeping late or playing computer and video games. Perhaps they were building virtual snowmen.
Given that Commerce gets minimal snow and hardly ever snow sufficient for packing for snowmen or snow balls, I'd expected to see every kid in Commerce making the most of this rare phenomenon, but at 9:00, 10:00 and all the way to lunch, there were entire neighborhoods where no one was stirring.
Perhaps the crafting of figurines from snow is a generational thing, something oldsters did in their youth (not me - I grew up in Florida where the closest thing we had was the sand castle), a quaint but outdated practice like saving money for something instead of buying it on credit.
Gone also in the name of nonviolence is the snowball fight. I saw one group gently tossing snowballs and two other boys itching to find suitable targets, but that kind of behavior is apparently considered antisocial, like trying to set your Nikes on fire on an international flight. There were no snow forts, no gangs of neighborhood kids launching icy spheres at each other or even at motorists.
Maybe that's what happens when you have cable TV, countless gaming systems and the Internet. Perhaps today's kids don't feel the need to personally enjoy the extremes of nature when they can watch it on TV or on a computer screen without having to don mittens.
On the other hand, today's kids may just be too sophisticated. What's the excitement of three inches of snow after you've watched commercial airliners crashing into tall buildings, seen Harry Potter cast magic spells and personally saved the world 14 consecutive times on the video screen?
Today, any upper elementary school child can build a virtual city, visit outer space, decapitate innumerable bad guys or compete in the ultimate demolition derby without fear of death (life goes on after death in video) and without the need for warm clothing.
Fortunately, there are still a few kids out there who know what youıre supposed to do when it snows. These are the leaders of tomorrow. I wouldnıt want a president whoıd never built a snowman or been in a snowball fight.

The Jackson Herald
January 09, 2002

The year for local legislation
Next week, the Georgia General Assembly will meet for its 2002 session. Two thoughts occur to us about this yearıs legislative agenda:
First, this is an election year so the partisan political maneuvering will be terrible. Voters should expect to hear a lot of rhetoric, but not see much substance since politicians wonıt want to rock the boat too much.
But perhaps even more important to local citizens is the fact that this is the last session before the new crazy-quilt House and Senate districts take effect. Currently, Jackson County has one member in the House, Rep. Pat Bell, and one member in the Senate, Sen. Mike Beatty.
Next year, all of that will change. Jackson County will have two house members and three senate members. That is the result of last yearıs partisan division of the state.
For local government officials, dealing with five rather than two legislators may prove to be a nightmare. Getting local legislation passed will be extremely complex since all of these people will have to agree to the legislation. But itıs likely that there will be political party divisions in that group of five, so getting local legislation passed will take on an air of partisan politics.
Somewhere in all of this the concept of serving the public has been lost. While we donıt want local officials to abuse the legislative process, they should have some flexibility in getting local bills passed without having to play politics.
So if any of our local governments have pressing local legislation, this is the year to address that need. Next year, itıll be a whole new game.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
January 09, 2002

Federal education plan wonıt fix problem
When President Bush signed his education reform legislation Tuesday, he vowed that no child in America should be left behind. Touted by both Republicans and Democrats, the legislationıs federal funds increase and new rules are supposed to close the gap between Americaıs high-achieving students and its low-achieving students.
Everyone reading this who believes that more federal control of public education will help students raise your hands.
I didnıt think so.
While the intention of the legislation is good, the long-term impact will be to further entrench federal control in local public schools. Even now itıs a sham to think that local school boards have much say in education. The truth is that state and federal rules dictate 98 percent of what happens in your childıs school. Itıs no wonder that so many families are opting out of that system by going to private schools or to home-schooling.
This additional federal and state control might be acceptable if it resulted in increased student performance. But despite years of bureaucratic growth, the gap between high-achieving students and low-achieving students continues.
I got into trouble last November when I wrote about this education gap when I said it was in part due to an anti-education cultural attitude in some minority communities. Two former Jefferson High School students took me to task in letters to the editor, saying that minorities do not shun education.
While it is difficult to generalize about student performance, one only has to look at the breakdown of student achievement scores to know that indeed there are often broad differences in student achievement when academic results are viewed by gender or ethnic sub-groups.
For example, young male students typically lag behind female peers in student achievement. In Georgiaıs sixth grade, for example, 35 percent of male students did not meet reading standards on the CRCT test while only 24 percent of female students fell short of state standards. That pattern follows for math and language arts as well.
Thereıs a lot of debate over why that gender gap exists. Perhaps itıs because there are fewer adult male teachers in education compared to female teachers as role models. But thereıs also a different cultural bias at work here as well. Young male students often donıt work as hard in their school work as their sisters. They may spend hours on the ball field because sports is a large part of the male subculture, but often less importance is placed on academic achievement.
Itıs also evident that there is a gap in school performance based on ethnic backgrounds. While this gap isnıt true for every minority community, it does indeed exist.
For example, ethnic Asian sixth grade students in Georgia did far better on the CRCT than their counterparts. Indeed, across the country students of ethnic Asian backgrounds often perform better than their peers.
On the other hand, African-American and Hispanic students did far worse on the CRCT than the average. In sixth grade reading, for example, over 40 percent of both sub-groups did not meet state standards, more than twice the rate for Asian students. The differences are even more pronounced in math.
While we are all Americans, there are distinct cultural differences within our society. But what makes minority Asian students outperform their peers?
Many observes agree that cultural influences are the key difference. As one writer states:
³In many East and Southeast Asian cultures, Confucian ideals, which include respect for elders, deferred gratification, and discipline, are a strong influence. Most Asian-American parents teach their children to value educational achievement, respect authority, feel responsibility for relatives, and show self control. Asian-American parents tend to view school failure as a lack of will, and to address this problem by increasing parental restrictions. Asian-American children tend to be more dependent, conforming, and willing to place family welfare over individual wishes than are other American children.²
On the other hand, both black and white scholars have long debated why many minority African-American students underperform their peers in academics. An excellent article by Hisham Aidi titled ³Whoıs Failing Black Students?² outlines some of the debate on the www.africana.com web site.
Aidi summarizes the debate this way:
³Different explanations have been put forth to account for blacksı academic under-performance. Liberals have tended to emphasize socio-economic factors such as mediocre public schools, poverty and racially-biased academic standards, while conservatives have pointed to a litany of cultural variables – from the rise of hip hop to the popularity of sports in the African American community. ³
Aidi discusses the idea of anti-intellectualism in the black community by pointing to a book by John McWhorter, a black professor at Berekely University and author of ³Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America.²
According to McWhorter, the lack of overall academic success among African-American students stems from ³ three reasons – the cults of Œvictimology,ı separatism and anti-intellectualism.² (See the above referenced website for a more detailed discussion of this.)
While ethnic white students fall in the middle of academic achievement, within these students there are also distinct cultural differences.
There is a pronounced anti-intellectualism within, for the lack of a better term, the white ³redneck² culture. Thatıs especially true in the nationıs rural areas where historically a predominantly agrarian society valued manual labor over intellectual pursuits. Even after the waning of agriculture as the dominant way of life, a lot of the anti-intellectual feeling remained and morphed into a culture where ³schooling² has been a low priority.
So for President Bush to solve the gap in education achievement, it will take more than just throwing dollars into federal programs. It will require systemic shifts in our anti-intellectual sub-cultures, both black and white, where education is currently a low priority at the family level.
Real reform of education in America wonıt happen in the classroom — rather, it will happen when the social and cultural norms shift to make education more important to those families who are currently out of the mainstream.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald. He can be reached at mike@mainstreetnews.com


The Commerce News
January 09, 2002

Poor Start For New
City Garbage Contractor
Waste Management's entry into the garbage pickup business in Commerce was not such as to inspire confidence. While its first citywide pickup was to be on Friday, trash containers in much of Commerce were overflowing at the sides of many streets on Monday.
Last Thursday's snow cannot be cited as a factor; city of Commerce vehicles had no trouble getting around on Thursday and by Friday, every road in Commerce was passable.
Waste Management got the Commerce business largely because members of the city council did not like Robertson Sanitation and insisted on re-bidding the contract, which Waste Management won with a bid $1 a month lower than Robertson. Hopefully, the low bidder will improve its service as it moves to a split route this week and as its drivers and employees learn their routes, though one would have hoped that the company would have learned the routes before it actually had to run them.
City Hall needs to hold the new provider's feet to the fire to provide the same level of service that Robertson delivered. If the company announces plans to pick up residential garbage on Tuesdays and Fridays, it should pick up garbage on Tuesdays and Fridays. That's what we pay it to do.

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