Madison County Opinion...

OCTOBER 29, 2003

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
October 29, 2003

Frankly Speaking

Why there is distrust of government schools
When Madison County High School principal Wayne McIntosh addressed the Board of Education about the problem of dropouts earlier this month, he suggested that there may be a cultural component to the problem. I think he is correct.
Here in the South, many people have a fundamental distrust of government. That includes government schools. This distrust is clearly cultural in nature.
Throughout the South you will find stories and songs about “educated fools.”
Many Southerners are of the opinion that when a person obtains advanced education, they lose “common sense,” that when they become too highly educated, they no longer fit into the community.
We sometimes find, too, that black parents object to their children being taught literature and history that was written by “dead white men.”
Meanwhile, some white families with roots back to the War for Southern Independence distrust government schools that teach the Northern view of history. This view is that the “late unpleasantness” was fought over slavery, that the South was totally at fault and their ancestors were somehow evil people. These parents are disturbed by what they see as an effort to separate them from their children so that the kids can be taught to believe as the government wishes, not to respect their ancestors as their parents prefer.
How then can our schools overcome the negative opinion so many of our parents have about public education? First, get the federal government out of education. Shut down the Federal Education Department and transfer all authority back to the states and to the people as required by the Tenth Amendment. Next, reduce the state Department of Education to that of technical advisor. Make the local school boards totally responsible for local schools.
When that is done, it will greatly increase parental involvement in the schools, especially in the selection of course material. When parents understand that they are in control of their children’s education, more of them will rise to the challenge and see that the kids complete their high school education. Adopingt programs that allow students to study outside the system with people who are not necessarily certified teachers will allow kids to learn from pastors, community leaders, local historical groups and others with the community’s identity in mind.
Education should be a partnership with the professional teachers, parents and the community all taking part. When parents and community leaders can be confident that their children are being taught the basic aspects of the local culture, they will be more likely to take steps necessary to keep kids in school. Until they become part of the system, they are likely to continue resistance to the government school program.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is

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By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
October 29, 2003

A Moment With Margie

Spooky stories and other stuff
My friends, Shirley and Virginia, and I took our annual fall trip to the mountains last weekend, this time staying with friends in Tennessee for a couple of days. While we enjoyed the hospitality, the beautiful fall foliage and eating out, as usual some of the most fun things “just happened.”
For example, one night as we were going to sleep we started talking about Halloween and began to tell each other spooky stories that had happened to us, or things we had heard growing up. We ended up feeling a little “spooked” ourselves and it was hard to go to sleep after that.
I shared some of the things my Aunt Donnie Mae told me when I was a little girl. She could tell ghost stories and other spooky stuff in a way that could make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
When I was little I loved to get her on the subject of her girlhood, which usually led around to the strange stories she had been told and other things she had experienced herself.
Aunt Donnie Mae lived most of her 79 years in the Bluestone Community of Madison County and she knew every nook and cranny of the area, having lived in various houses in the community and having spent many days as a youngster in the surrounding woods and fields.
One of my favorite stories, and one she loved to tell the best, was the legend of the “White Thing” (pronounced ‘thang’).
Aunt Donnie claimed that a white cat-like creature haunted the area around Bluestone when she was a girl, and long before, and was sometimes heard screaming at night “like a woman.” (Panthers and mountain lions are often said to scream like that.)
She said coon hunters’ dogs were frequently thrown off their prey’s scent, ending up howling at the base of a tree with no raccoon in it, while the hunters following the dogs spotted a snow white creature leaping from tree to tree.
One steamy hot night my aunt and her brothers and sisters moved pallets out onto the front porch to get some fresh air - a frequent practice in the days before air conditioning.
Aunt Donnie said they had just settled down when they were all awakened by a creature as it ran across their pallets with the family dogs hot on its heels.
They all scrambled back inside, their screams drowned out by the sound of the “white thing’s” screams and the dogs’ howls.
The family were sharecroppers, moving from place to place around the county to raise cotton and other crops on “shares” with a property owner. Aunt Donnie often told the story of how at least one of the houses they lived in was haunted. She claimed noises could be heard in the night and that once something ripped the buttons off a blouse she left hanging on the back of the chair in a bedroom where she and her sisters were sleeping.
I was fascinated that she could point to the place where the house had stood.
Another favorite story was one about her dad (my granddad) when he was a boy.
Once when he was riding home at dusk on horseback from working at a neighborhood farm, he rode past the crossroads where Adams Clover Farm now stands. Of course, all the roads were dirt paths then, and no store stood there at the time, only a bench for travelers. As he looked toward the bench, he saw what appeared to be an old man in a heavy dark cloak, sitting hunched over on the bench, leaning on what looked like some type of cane.
He tipped his hat respectfully and called a greeting as he passed.
All at once, something jumped on the back of his horse, spooking it to a gallop. He spurred the frightened horse forward with the “thing” whatever it was, clinging onto the back, where it stayed until the horse made it to his front yard. Grandpa supposedly jumped off the horse, tearing himself away from the thing which had still not made a sound, and ran into the house. Aunt Donnie wasn’t clear as to what had happened to the poor horse after that!
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.
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