More Jackson County Opinions...

OCTOBER 2, 2002


Column
By:Kerri Graffius
The Jackson Herald
October 2, 2002

‘¿Qué pasa en Georgia ahora?’
An announcement last week by the Georgia Board of Education has left me, along with thousands of other people in the state, wondering just how our school children are expected to actually learn anything.
The announcement, that the state BOE is considering eliminating the two-year foreign language requirement for high school students seeking a college prep diploma, is absolutely outrageous—to say the least of it.
According to Cathy Henson, chairperson of the Georgia BOE, requiring students to learn another language may be unfairly blocking some students from going to college.
“¿ Como?”
Well, Ms. Henson and the state BOE, say that oh-so unattainable foreign language requirement has, in essence, become a “barrier” for many high school students trying to earn their diploma.
Excuse me, but isn’t the point of learning an effort to break down the “barriers” that separate us? Whether it be the attainment of knowledge, understanding or just plain skills of survival, learning is all about breaking through those barriers.
Not even attempting to reach those barriers will set our school children on nothing short but a course of failure.
But I should mention that I am extremely partial to this new debate among state educators and parents.
During my senior year of high school, I taught beginning Spanish to groups of elementary school students. I, along with other members of the Spanish Honor Society, would visit the local elementary school every week and teach first through fifth graders how to say anything in Spanish from colors to various animals.
The exploratory language program was part of the school’s after-school program, in which other high school students taught French and German to the students on a rotating basis.
And you know what?
The kids loved learning another foreign language. At the end of each week, they would often ask us to prepare Spanish lessons about their favorite sports teams or television shows. Some of the kids even requested to stay later in Spanish class, just to learn a few extra words and phrases.
It’s unfortunate that this debate in the state is occurring at only the high school level. I firmly believe that students who pick up another language at a young age will see the benefits of learning a foreign language (maybe the state BOE members didn’t start to learn another language until later in life).
But, the state BOE said it doesn’t have the resources to hire more foreign language teachers for the elementary and middle school levels when there’s barely enough for the high school level. There are twice as many elementary and middle school students than high school students, they pointed out.
Perhaps it all goes back to the accountability issue—the students are only tested on certain subjects (foreign language not being one of them), so let’s just screw the other subjects that aren’t tested (arts, music and physical education being the other subjects).
By possibly eliminating the foreign language requirement, students would then take more English and math courses, the state BOE said. And since Georgia is now ranked 50th in the nation for S.A.T. scores, I suppose we had to cut corners somewhere.
There’s another message we’re sending to our school children—that it’s OK to think of our world with such a narrow mind.
Unlike most Europeans, few Americans have the ability to communicate with another person who doesn’t speak English. It’s egotistical for Americans to believe that we can lower the bar on cultural understanding.
Employers often toss around the word “global” to describe the ideal workforce that can understand other cultures, but eliminating the foreign language requirement among Georgia high school students would make us seem more “imperial” than “global.”
So, while you can visit any store in nearby counties and hear conversations in Spanish, your school children won’t be able to understand them, if the state BOE has its way.
Kerri Graffius is reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Her e-mail address is kerri@mainstreetnews.com.

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Column
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
October 2, 2002

Off religion, onto politics
(The preamble: There is some good in the worst of us and some bad in the best of us. That not only applies to Homo sapiens; it also applies to the churches and political parties we Homo sapiens have created.)
I said last week that the Republican Party is in deep trouble. Well, the GOP is not alone. The Democratic Party is in deep trouble, too. In fact, the entire Body Politic is on life support.
If the truth were known, politics is in worse shape than the church. I’ll tell you why in a little while.
As I begin the third paragraph of this essay (essay?), my intentions are to get off the church kick and onto politics right soon. But as some of you know, getting off — or out of — church is no quick or easy task. Sometimes it takes a lot longer than one hour.
Along about now, some of you are beginning to think I’m not going to drop church right soon. You are very perceptive.
I really do need to point out, one more time, that I was not talking about The Real Church (capitalized) in my “Trying to understand church” columns last month. I was talking about the man-made, man-ordained, organized, institutionalized, denominationalized (lower case) church. Several people who responded to those pieces did not understand that.
My preacher, minister, mentor, spiritual leader and friend tells me that The Real Church is accurately portrayed in The Bible. I believe him. Anyway, he hasn’t led me astray yet.
Having said that, I am aware that The Real Church for me may not be The Real Church for someone else. I don’t have a problem with that. If I am free to believe as I do, he must be free to believe as he does.
Furthermore, I don’t have the ability, the responsibility or the authority to change him. As Elvis used to sing, “Someone bigger than you and I” is in the life-changing business. Maybe we should leave it in His hands.
I’m not about to grab somebody by the shirt collar and shout, “Are you saved, brother?” That’s pretty much what some Jews for Jesus did on July 4 when they shoved their tracts in the faces of young and old men and women panting up Heartbreak Hill in the Peachtree Road Race.
Religion (church) is such an emotional subject, family and friends wonder why I write about it so much.
Let me tell you like I tell them. I write about church because people read that stuff. That’s the bottom line.
People who can’t even spell church read stuff about church. (You are reading this, right? See what I mean?)
And people respond with letters, phone calls and comments. Nothing makes an old columnist happier. Makes no difference if they agree or disagree.
Somebody who hasn’t thought of church since Easter may think about it this morning and decide to check one out Sunday. Ah, the power of the press!
On the downside, my church columns don’t create the excitement that they used to. My most recent essays (essays?) elicited only four letters, four phone calls, and a dozen or more one-on-one, face-to-face conversations.
I wonder: is my writing not as exciting as it used to be, or has interest in church waned? (Try both, Virgil.)
Whatever, I’m not about to get off the subject. Not right now, anyway. When I get done with politics, I’ll come back to religion. I have to. I’m still trying.
While the responses to last month’s columns were reasonable, favorable and agreeable, none of them contributed to my understanding of church. Maybe my mind isn’t what it used to be, either.
A couple of readers made excellent and clear cases for The Real Church that is depicted in The Real Bible. But when it comes to man-made, man-ordained, organized, institutionalized, denominationalized church, most people are as confused as I am.
So let’s keep an open mind and keep trying to figure out why churches (lower case) and church people (real people) do some of the weird things they do. Yes, I know, weirdness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Not to worry, church. In the second paragraph of this epistle (epistle?), I indicated that church is not as bad off as politics. I said I would tell you why.
OK, here’s why: Studies show that, on a typical Sunday, about 33 percent of the church members in this country attend church. That’s pathetic.
On Tuesday, September 10, 13 percent of the registered voters in Jackson County voted in the runoff election. If I could think of a word stronger than pathetic, I’d use it.
Politics is in deep trouble because political parties, like churches, aren’t sure who they are, what they are, or what they believe.
Go back and read the preamble again.
Now, consider the Democrats and Republicans, a.k.a. liberals and conservatives.
It’s great, being a liberal Democrat. It’s terrible, being a liberal Democrat.
It’s great, being a conservative Republican. It’s terrible being a conservative Republican.
Not to mention Libertarians, Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, Anarchosyndicalists, or Syndicalists. And don’t forget Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party.
What say we continue this discussion (discussion?) next week? But if you think I have trouble understanding church, just wait ‘til you see how stupid I am about politics.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.


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