The Commerce News
September 8, 1999
Just What The
World Needs -
Next to the story about Ty Inc. quitting
making Beanie Babies, the most disturbing news last week was
that scientists have found a way to genetically engineer smarter
I'm being facetious, of course. Ty dropping the Beanie Baby line
is actually good news. And so, to some extent, is the news that
smarter mice have been created. The theory is that this animal
research could one day lead to smarter children and even treatment
for Alzheimer's disease.
My intellectual capacity having not been genetically enriched,
I cannot get past the "smarter mice" aspect of the
story, and it terrifies me.
Mice already have more smarts than is good for us. They are survivors.
In spite of everything mankind has done to try to eliminate them
and their insidious cousin, the rat, mice, like roaches, will
be here long after the last man has succumbed to the noxious
fumes of pollution or the radiation of a warring world.
While one day the knowledge gleaned from creating smart mice
could be used to create "baby Einsteins," right now
it's being used to create Mice Einsteins. The rodent geniuses
will probably neither perfect nuclear fission nor turn Earth
into Planet of the Mice, but they will become even more clever
about getting into our pantries, attics and garages. A smarter
mouse is not likely to be caught in the old spring-loaded trap,
nor to succumb to D-Con. It may even learn to avoid the owls,
hawks, coyotes and cats that maintain something of a balance
in the rodent population, bless 'em.
Creating a smarter mouse is sort of like creating a roach that
is immune to insecticides. It may be one giant step for science,
but it's a big leap backward for mankind. This is science that
originated from a noble purpose but which has taken an evil twist.
What good will it be to be smarter if the world is overrun with
You say perhaps one of the smarter babies will build the proverbial
better mouse trap? Not likely. Those genetically engineered smarter
babies will grow up into men and women who create better artificial
intelligence for the computer world, new marketing techniques
for the Home Shopping Network or better weaponry for dispatching
fellow humans. They'll be too busy getting rich to worry about
A rodent with an improved memory will not only remember that
someone tried to kill him with a broom, but also exactly who
it was. At night, he will return for revenge. Enhancement of
intelligence leads to greater capacity for evil.
I would be a lot more worried if science had created Rat Einsteins,
but I have some concern that the genetic traits engineered in
mice will get spread to the rats. Rats are nasty and evil. They
carry the plague. They are already too smart and too big. A mouse
in the house is grounds to call an exterminator, but a rat in
your house is reason to move.
I hope the labs with the genetically engineered mice have good
security, but a smarter mouse is a mouse that will find a way
to escape, after which it will do what mice do best - reproduce.
Then there will be hundreds of generations of smarter mice before
the first generation of smarter humans.
So, this is what we have to look forward to in the New Millennium?
The Commerce News
September 8, 1999
Not Good Enough For City Schools
The results of the 1998-1999 Scholastic Aptitude Test for Commerce
High School were, in the words of Superintendent Larry White,
"very disappointing." It marks the second consecutive
year the local averages have been below Georgia's dismal average,
which is 49th highest in the nation.
It is difficult to make direct links between any round of test
scores and the job a school system is doing, because so many
factors must be considered. Some classes test better than others,
some schools have a large number of students taking the SAT who
took no college preparatory courses, and demographics can affect
a school's score. But Commerce parents and taxpayers have a right
to expect that, on average, Commerce seniors would meet the Georgia
average in both the math and verbal portions of the test. In
reality, any school system should be dissatisfied if its average
is below the national average.
The Commerce Board of Education needs to establish what it expects
in the way of SAT scores from Commerce High School year in and
year out. Certainly the school board would at least expect the
Commerce average to match the state average.
Given all of the standardized tests, it should not be difficult
for the board of education to look over a decade of scores to
see what they tell about the strengths and weaknesses of the
three schools and the curriculum. For example, test scores on
the Class of 1999 dating back to the first Iowa Test of Basic
Skills in the third grade could be consolidated so that at a
glance the educators could see if that class performed below
average through its entire career. Four or five years' worth
of similar data from previous classes should present enough information
to point educators to any problem areas.
The state has mandated more standardized tests and the Commerce
system has implemented still more, all with the idea of identifying
and solving problems. That data should enable the school system
to pinpoint any area in which students lose ground. The CHS Class
of 1999 was above grade level in the fifth grade when the ITBS
was administered. In seven years, they went from above average
to below average. Whether that was an aberration or the norm
could be determined by an analysis of ITBS and SAT scores over
All that having been said, the goal of the whole process is to
provide Commerce students with a better education, not just better
test scores. The latter should be the result of the former. Test
scores are not the end in themselves; they are just indicators
of what students have learned. That, in turn, is an indicator
of what kind of job the schools are doing.
For the past three years, the CHS numbers have not looked good.
When the state average is dismal and our students are barely
above or are below that average, it's hard to swallow the public
position that we have a good school system. It's time the Commerce
Board of Education took a long look at why our students so often
fail to meet even Georgia's dismal state average and take whatever
steps are necessary to improve our schools.