Archive for October, 2012

You Meet the Most Interesting People in a Voting Line

October 29, 2012

When I went in to early vote at the North Highland Assembly of God, which is no where near North Highland,  there was a fairly long line that kept getting longer while I was there.  The efficiency of the poll workers, however, impressively kept the line moving, and I would say it only took me 20 minutes to vote.

The thing that stood out in the “vote here” sign was the “voter I.D. required” line.  It made  me reflect on how, between 2006 and 2010, the I. D. law  failed if it had been designed to discourage minority voters.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “Turnout among black and Hispanic voters increased from 2006 to 2010, dramatically outpacing population growth for those groups over the same period.

“On the other hand, Georgia’s top elections official could not point to a single case of ballot fraud the voter ID law had prevented.”

Backers of the law said it was needed to prevent voter fraud. Some people believe that was the real reason.  Some don’t. Judges ruling on the Georgia law believe that claim, but judges ruling on the South Carolina and Texas law don’t.

The man who stood in front of me was a Hispanic-American, a well-educated, friendly fellow who has served for fifty years as an interpreter at WHINSEC, formerly known as the School of the Americas. I would assume that he can vote for president twice if  he wants to, once for the President of the United States and once for the President of Panama. He holds joint citizenship.  You meet the most interesting people in a voting line.  It make the time pass faster, and that’s good.

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Do We Really Need a Charter Review Commission?

October 20, 2012

While discussing this year’s General Election ballot, which includes amendments to the Columbus, Georgia Charter recommended by the Charter Review Commission, my friend Ed Wilson, a former broadcast journalist, talk show host, and assistant to two Columbus, Georgia mayors, told me the commission isn’t needed and hurts more than it helps.  I thought what he said was so interesting that I asked him to put it in writing so I could pass it along to you.  He gives three main reasons for his position. 

By Ed Wilson 

 1.) The commission–like most committees–tends to justify its existence by proposing amendments, regardless of whether they are needed or not.  The original charter has built-in methods for amending the charter.  There are three, and all three have been used successfully to enact charter amendments without involvement of a Charter Review Commission

2.) Columbus citizens tend to delay consideration of proposed amendments until the next Charter Review Commission, which could be as long as 9 years in the future. Existence of the commission thus retards consideration of amendment proposals that may have merit.  I have heard such conversations in which a group develops a consensus on a charter issue and instead of trying to broaden the consensus, group members express the wish that their idea should be forwarded to the next Charter Review Commission.  Thus the incentive to develop charter-related issues among the citizenry is dampened and sidetracked.  Columbus Council is among the groups I have seen do this.  

3.) The decennial commission by its existence slows the operation of democracy in Columbus by providing an easy shift of charter issues from the whole body politic to a committee that has yet to be formed.  Any substantive charter amendment should be based on serious concerns that have a broad consensus of support in the community.  Granted, the proposals of the commission are aired in public hearings and subjected to a vote of the citizens, but I contend that  proposals generated by the commission still don’t get the thorough consideration that those that arise from felt needs in the community.

The Columbus Charter is modeled in some broad respects on the US Constitution, which is certainly not reviewed by a committee every ten years, and how thankful we should be for that!  Instead, the Charter and the Constitution should be reviewed on a continuing basis, and only when proposed changes develop genuine, broad-based support should they be amended.

 

Alabama is Not Number One

October 16, 2012

The University of Alabama may be number one in football nationally,but academically it’s number 77, according to the U.S. News rankings.  Harvard, whose football coach makes less than $90 thousand a year, and whose professors make an average of $198 thousand, is in first place.  Alabama’s professors make an average of about $130 thousand a year, while the football coach makes more than $5.3 million.

The highest ranking University in Georgia and Alabama is Emory in Atlanta. It’s 20th in the nation. It’s professors average pay is $153,000, and it has no football team.  The second highest ranked university in the two states is Georgia Tech.  It is 36th in the nation. The average pay for a professor at Tech is more than $141 thousand, higher than Alabama, Georgia, or Auburn.  Yes, it does have a famous football team that even beats Georgia every now and then.   

One of the main justifications for paying more than $5 million a year to Alabama coach Saban is that having a winning football team causes alumni to donate big bucks to the school.  The best endowed university in the world is Harvard,  and it offers no athletic scholarships.  Emory, with no football team.  also has huge endowments.  There are people with a lot of money who value academic achievement more than football.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good college football game and watch some Georgia, Tech, Alabama, and Auburn games on TV, and always want them to win when they aren’t playing each other.  When they are playing each other, I usually pull for the underdog.  My son went to Tech, three great nephews of mine played in the Georgia Redcoat Band, another great-nephew of mine played in the Alabama Million Dollar Band.  

Then there is the Georgia-Auburn game that was played in Columbus until 1958 (I think it was 1958).  I always enjoy that one because it brings back memories when I got to see All-American Charley Trippi play back in the 1946.  I was 15-years-old.  My family sat in the cheap seats in the end zone and were glad to be there. Hey, it’s the best place in the stadium to see touchdowns.  I loved it when the Auburn Band played the Tiger Rag with the tubas waving back and forth when they roared.  Does the band still do that?  And I always got a kick when the Redcoat Band played Glory Glory to Old Georgia. I know they still do that because I heard it at a Dawg Walk before a relatively recent game with Auburn in Athens.  

Yes, I enjoy college football, but I do not value it over academics, and I don’t think coaches should make millions off the hard work and talent of college kids who get paid nothing for their efforts and taking the physical risks inherent in football. No football coach is worth forty times as much as a professor. 

 

Crazy Higher Education Values

October 15, 2012

It’s Monday and that means I need to post something to  live up to my promise to try to post something every Monday.  The thing that sticks most in my mind right now, because of a story in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer, is the incredible fact that higher education in a lot of states, especially Georgia and Alabama, place much higher monetary value on football coaches than classroom teachers and even college presidents.

The highest paid coach in America, Nick Saban, who pulls down more than $5.3 million a year makes about 40 times more than the average full-time professor and about 70 times more than an associate professor at the University of Alabama.  He makes about ten times more than the college president. This is common with SEC teams, though maybe not as extreme as the Alabama example. While teacher salaries have been flat for the last few years, coaches have gotten huge raises. INSANE!

The most famous coach in Alabama’s history, Bear Bryant, insisted one year that he make one dollar less than the college president.  Oh, how times have changed.

Which is more valuable a degree from Harvard where football is an afterthought, or Alabama, where it is king?

HIGHER EDUCATION COSTS ARE DRIVING THE DEMAND FOR LARGER COLLEGE LOANS

October 10, 2012

COLLEGE EDUCATION COSTS FOUR TIMES MORE THAN IT DID TWENTY YEARS AGO.

IT GOES UP TWO TO FOUR PERCENT MORE THAN THE INFLATION RATE EACH YEAR. 

Getting a college education makes financial sense. College graduates, on average, make more money than high school graduates.  However, a caveat must be added. It makes financial sense if you can make a decent living after you have made your payment on your college loan.  A lot can’t.  Many can’t pay back the loans. Loans have gotten larger and larger over the years because the cost of  getting a college degree has skyrocketed.  That was the subject we discussed in our Columbus State University Continuing Education Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning “What’s Happening?” Class. It’s a current events class.  It was an excellent discussion, in my view, probably because we have a lot of retired educators in the class.   There was one area, though, that got very little attention: why has the cost of a college education skyrocketed over the years?  I decided to Google it, and, sure enough, I found an article that answers that question.  

An article on the NPR website on a report on “Fresh Air” entitled “What’s Driving College Costs Higher”  tells of how the rapidly rising increases in tuition and other costs are forcing students to have to borrow more to stay in school.  Two-thirds of college students get college loans.  The increases are not because of increased pay to professors. Their pay has been stagnant for a number of years. However, another report tells us that is not the case with administrative salaries.  They have been dramatically increasing, and universities have been expanding administrative staffs.

Georgia is one of a very few states that offer scholarships to all students who keep their grades up.  The HOPE scholarship program, funded by the state lottery, has not been able to keep up with the dramatic rising tuition costs and now pays only a portion of the costs.  

It appears that universities need to concentrate more on cutting costs and less on expansion. Why the emphasis on growth? Why is bigger better when it comes to higher education facilities?   One argument is that larger student bodies mean more subjects can be taught.  Some believe, however, it boils down to university presidents striving to increase their status by being president of larger student bodies.  Whatever the reason, cost cutting needs to be getting a lot more attention for the sake of America’s middle and lower class students who are feeling the cost squeeze the most. Massive defaults on paying off the loans – they amount to over a trillion dollars now – could disastrously affect the nation’s economy.  

Hope You’ll Vote NO on the Georgia Charter School Amendment

October 3, 2012

AS USUAL, IT”S ABOUT THE MONEY

I’m talking about the move by Georgia lawmakers who want to make it easy to circumvent local boards of education, and even the state board of education, so that new charter schools can be formed.  

There is a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow a special commission in Atlanta to approve spending state tax dollars to  fund new charter schools. 

A lot of people whose opinion I respect think this is really a bad idea.  Local school boards and the state board can now approve charter schools, so it’s not a matter of not having them. It’s a matter of losing local control and using state tax dollars for charter schools that could be going to local school systems. Local systems really need that money because of the draconian cuts to public schools by the state legislature.  The legislators will tell you they are for public education, but actions do indeed speak louder than words. 

After, studying this complicated matter, I  will be joining our state Superintendent of Education,  former state representative Mary Jane Galer, former state representative and State Board of Regents member Milton Jones, and others in voting no on this amendment.  If you live in Georgia, I hope you will do the same thing. 

A lot of out-of-state money is going into the campaign to get this amendment approved.  I am told that is because for-profit management companies that manage some charter schools want this amendment to pass.

As I said, like so many other things, it’s about the money. 

Finally, “Reading” “Huckleberry Finn”

October 1, 2012

After reading that writers like Ernest Hemingway lavished praise on Mark Twain for writing  “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” I decided that I needed to read the book all the way through.  

 Hemingway wrote in 1934: “The good writers are Henry James, Stephen Crane, and Mark Twain. That’s not the order they’re good in. There is no order for good writers…. All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”  

H.L. Mencken wrote in 1913, “I believe that ‘Huckleberry Finn’ is one of the great masterpieces of the world, that it is the full equal of ‘Don Quixote‘ and ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ that it is vastly better than Gil Blas, ‘Tristram Shandy,’ ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ or ‘Tom Jones.’ “

If those two great American writers had such nice hings to say about “Huckleberry Finn.” I figure I need to read it, and I have found the best way for me to do it. I am listening to the audiobook version as I walk two miles every day.  Patrick Fraley does a brilliant job of reading it, using many different voices to portray the characters. I’m beginning to see why some people consider it the “Great American Novel.”  As you probably know, it has been banned a number of times over the years.  The first time that happened Twain was pleased, saying the banning would sell an additional 25,000 copies.  No doubt subsequent bannings have also sold a lot of copies.