Madison County Opinion...

AUGUST 20, 2003

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
August 20, 2003

Frankly Speaking

The battle over America’s soul
As this is being printed, another battle in the war for America’s soul is being fought in Montgomery, Ala.
The object of the battle is a carving containing the Ten Commandments located in the Alabama Supreme Court Building. The 12-ton granite monument was placed in the lobby of the building on the order of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.
A federal judge ruled that the statue violates the principle of separation of church and state and must be removed by Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2003. Judge Moore refuses to order its removal and is appealing to the U.S Supreme Court.
As I indicated above, this is just another battle for the soul of America. On the right, we have those people, mostly Southerners, who support the original goals of the American Revolution, personal freedom, state sovereignty and limited government. On the left, a group that is determined to use the federal government to exercise total control over the life of every American.
This conflict has gone through several manifestations. They include the War Between the States, the War on Poverty and the current “Politically Correct” movement. The would-be dictators are using every trick in the book to force their political objectives on this nation.
The trick being used in Montgomery is the old game of twisting the Constitution. They use the idea of separation of church and state as the basis for attacking Judge Moore and his monument. But there is no such provision in the Constitution!
The Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” That is the only statement about religion in the founding document of our nation.
Please note that the prohibition is directed toward Congress. It says nothing about state governments. Note also that the prohibition is against the “establishment of religion.” It says nothing about existing religions.
What that phrase was intended to do was to prohibit Congress from declaring that some specific faith is the national religion of the nation. When several Northern colonies were established, they included provisions to collect a tax for the support of a specific church. Everyone had to pay the tax whether they agreed with the selected church or not. It was to prevent this kind of government favoritism of one denomination over all others. Our founders never intended to prevent all religious influence on government.
Those who insist that all power over our lives rest in the federal government are trying to eliminate any force that reduces federal power.
That includes the church, local control over local government, and individuals who insist on being personally responsible. As a part of their controlling efforts, they attack any symbol that represents individual freedom, including religious and cultural icons.
Confederate flags, the Ten Commandments, Dixie, states rights and all other icons that support individual freedom and responsibility are being attacked by the radical left in their efforts to gain total control over our lives. But people like Judge Moore are fighting back. All who are fighting to keep our freedom.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at His e-mail address is

By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
August 20, 2003

In the Meantime

Whoomp, there’s ‘No Child Left Behind’
Like every pop song, every education reform initiative needs its hook.
I hear “No Child Left Behind” and I don’t think of kids suddenly smarter. No, I hear the education catch phrase of the day and think of “stadium rock.” You know, the stuff you hear between innings or during a halftime dance routine, those wonderful diddies like the Tag Team’s post-modernist call of sudden epiphany, “Whoomp, there it is” and The Baja Men’s neo-classical expression of American narcissism, “Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof, woof, woof.”
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the federal initiative has more substance than I see. Maybe it’s better to compare this reform package to Brahms, not The Baja Men. But as “No Child Left Behind” assessments were released recently, I couldn’t help but shake my head with a “woof, woof, woof, woof” as I heard others question the validity of the reviews.
Because both federal and state education reform programs seem like ear candy to me, things that sound catchy but mean little.
Let’s face it. Analyzing groups is a difficult and often misleading endeavor.
Can we not all recognize fundamental problems with collective assessments of student performance? Is it not obvious that for every A and B that is evaluated, there is an X factor that throws a hitch in it all?
That’s not to say that collective performance on standardized tests is totally irrelevant. Such results can be a tool in determining curriculum and areas of need.
But why the mania from on high?
Must federal and state education reformers of both parties so readily engage in flawed branding games?
Do politicians grasp at utopian education reform measures believing that they will really make a difference? Or is it simply better to sound like you have a course of action, whether it’s substantive or not?
Pardon my cynicism, but it’s the appearance that matters. Those who deal with education at the macro level must look like they’re doing something constructive. Those at the micro level – the teachers, the students, the school administrators, the local school boards — must simply deal, act as if the macro plan matters, even when it seems to present more problems than answers.
Schools and teachers need to be held accountable. That’s the theme of the day. But where’s the accountability for the judgment system?
Election time, perhaps.
But is this simply a time to trade in one flawed plan for another?
The link between the classroom and the ballot box is a distinct weakness of our educational system. Those who actually spend their days in schools are suspect to the whims of political promises before cameras.
When the reports are in, do parents actually believe that the “adequate yearly improvement” reviews in “No Child Left Behind” accurately measure the quality of the school staff or student body? Or does it seem like yet another tag game?
A child’s education is a lengthy and complex process involving many adults of varying talent and commitment, who with hard work will help the child become a well-rounded, critical thinker, with sufficient skill and resolve to support himself or herself — along with their dependents — in the future working world. (Yes those are my words, not some borrowed mission statement.)
So in the face of such overwhelming responsibilities, must we accept such dumbed-down assessments that do little more than demoralize teachers, students and parents with a “whoomp, there you fail?”
How much longer will standardized test mania pass as normalcy?
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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