Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

This is why our kids aren’t learning

The dedication last week of George W. Bush’s presidential library reminded me of one of the former president’s most memorable public comments.

During a speech on education reform, Bush once remarked: “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

All too often, the answer to that question has been that Georgia’s kids aren’t learning very much.

There are many reasons why student and teacher performance is so disappointing, but I would argue that much of the fault lies in the people that have been elected to set policy for our public schools.

This problem goes back to the tenure of former state school superintendent Linda Schrenko, who was supposed to improve Georgia’s schools but instead spent her time stealing federal education funds that were then used to pay for a facelift and an unsuccessful political campaign.

Schrenko’s replacement, Kathy Cox, was more honest but, unfortunately, was somewhat lacking in intellectual capacity.

During a revision of the state curriculum, Cox ordered the word “evolution” to be deleted from the science curriculum, along with any mention of the “Big Bang” theory, the theory of plate tectonics, and the concept of the descent of living organisms from a common ancestor.

Those concepts are crucial to the study of biology, physics, and geology, but they were removed from the curriculum because they would have suggested the earth was more than 10,000 years old – and thus upset Christian fundamentalists who wanted biblical creationism to be taught instead.

Cox eventually reversed herself after the public protested and the national media gave Georgia a lot of embarrassing coverage.

A few years later, when the state was being sued for not spending enough money on public schools, one of Cox’s top deputies testified during a deposition that Georgia’s students did not need to take classes in science or social studies to receive an adequate education.

“I think you can do without science,” the Cox aide said under questioning from lawyers. She added later: “I think you can fail social studies and get an adequate education.”

With that kind of leadership at the top, it’s not difficult to figure out why Georgia ranks so consistently near the bottom in academic performance.

I am reminded again of the state’s failings in education with the recent debate among some political factions of the “Common Core” curriculum standards.

This is a set of guidelines that are intended to give students a more rigorous education in English, math, history, science and social studies as they progress through the K-12 public schools. The curriculum standards were drafted by educators from Georgia and 44 other states so that there would be some consistent goals for teaching our children.

The Common Core standards have sparked a growing controversy in which some political figures are demanding that they be junked because they are supposedly part of a conspiracy by the Obama administration and assorted radicals to carry out a federal takeover of education.

State Sen. Bill Ligon (R-Brunswick) introduced a bill this year that would have prohibited the Georgia Board of Education from implementing these curriculum standards, but the legislation went nowhere.

Elected officials and GOP activists from Cobb County have now joined the fight, calling for Georgia to reject the standards because they are the product of “liberals” and “communists” working in cahoots with the White House.

Gov. Nathan Deal, to his credit, has pushed back against the madness. During a trip to Cobb County for an unrelated bill signing, the governor was asked by a local reporter about the curriculum standards.

Deal defended the standards and pointed out that they were developed by state-level educators. “The federal government did not mandate it, they did not control it, they did not dictate its content,” Deal said.

Conservative political figures like Deal, former governor Sonny Perdue and current school Supt. John Barge all support the idea of Common Core standards. But we are now being told that they are part of some radical scheme to bring about federal control of education.

It’s absurd and silly, of course, but it is another example of how there are too many people who shirk their responsibility to give our kids a decent education. We are a poorer state because of it.

© 2013 by The Georgia Report

Tags: low performing schools , poor leadership , publlic education

One Comment

  1. Eric Woodfin
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Tom for being a voice of reason within a state of insanity. Our educators, our kids, and our futures (whether they realize it, or not) are thankful. I wish our wonderful state could let go of the myopic thinking that holds us all hostage to a time, long ago passed. Thanks for keeping our kids’ futures in your heart. Well done.

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