Archive for the ‘Educataion’ Category

Former Foreign Service Officer Facilitates C.A.L.L. Course

January 17, 2010

Lifelong learning is attracting some impressive volunteer teaching talent in Columbus.  For instance, how are you going to beat having a retired State Department Foreign Service officer to facilitate a discussion of global issues that affect everyone?  He is one of the new volunteer facilitators for the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning.  C.A.L.L.  has a great group of volunteer teachers and facilitators, but this post would be too long if I listed all of them.    

Bain Cowell, former Foreign Service officer, facilitator for Great Decisions

Bain Cowell,  who will facilitate the Great Decisions course,  worked as a Foreign Service officer, serving as a diplomat in Brazil, the Dominican Republic,  Paris, Luxemburg, and the U.S. Mission in NATO, the European Union, and other places.   I asked him why he agreed to facilitate the course, and he said, via email, “I volunteered as a facilitator for ‘Great Decisions’ because I enjoy teaching-and-learning, especially in the seminar/discussion format.  I have fond memories of previous stints as a graduate student teaching assistant at Yale in the 1960s, as a university instructor/lecturer at Emory and Georgia Tech in the 1970s, and more recently as an instructor at WHINSEC.”

Also, part of his impressive background is his Army service  in the Vietnam War, where he was decorated with a Bronze Star  and Air Medal.  

You’d never know he has that impressive background – oh, I almost forgot;  he speaks four languages – when you talk with him. He is quite  accessable and friendly. 

All facilitators do little promotional announcements at the C.A.L.L. registration meeting.  His class immediately filled up and ran out of the Great Decision course books.  

If  you would like to attend some of the C.A.L.L. classes – there are a lot of them – just fill out a form at the CSU Turner Center for Continuing Education, pay $55 and you’re in. The first class is on January 25th.

Wild Hogging it Again

January 11, 2010

I didn’t go this year so I had to depend on the AP story in the Ledger-Enquirer to tell me about it.  Actually, after reading the story, I got the impression that this year wasn’t much different from last year, the one I attended.

Last year the budget was the main concern of just about everyone I talked with when the politicians and lobbyists and media folks gathered at the Georgia Railroad building in Underground Atlanta, a stones throw from the Capitol.   It appears that’s the same main topic this year.  Last year the state had to cut spending and this year it’s going to have to do the same thing.

With the legislature struggling to balance the budget, does the Capitol really need a lavish gold dome? Gold is expected by some to go to $1500 an ounce this year. Why not melt it down and use the proceeds to help balance the budget?

Last year, gubernatorial candidates were smiling big and shaking a lot of hands. That was no different this year, from what I read. It will be interesting to see how legislators handle the huge problems of water, transportation, and education. With elections looming, their decisions could very definitely have an impact on who wins. 

I received this comment today from a person identifying himself as Norman on the post I did last year about the Wild Hog affair.  “Who pays for this dinner of 1500 or more people? If the budget is as bad as they tell us, be nice if things like this could be cut, not police, fire fighters, and teachers.”

According to what I learned last year, the state doesn’t pay for the Wild Hog Dinner. The affair is hosted by Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin.  State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told me last year that it was paid for by “sponsors,”  which probably translates to lobbyists.  It’s pretty safe to assume that’s what happened this year, too.  So you don’t have to worry about the state paying for it, but those teachers, fire fighters, and police could decide to take retribution at the polls when the budget slashers who cut their compensation run for reelection?

CSU Philharmonic Concert Will be Special

October 3, 2009


Fred Cohen, Director, Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University (Photo, courtesy of Columbus State University)

Fred Cohen, Director, Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University (Photo, courtesy of Columbus State University)

How often do you get to hear the world premier of a piano concerto?  I don’t think I have ever heard one, but I’m going to get the opportunity Sunday.  The excellent Columbus State University Philharmonic Orchestra is going to play Fred Cohen’s Piano Concerto Sunday afternoon at 4 at the River Center.  Cohen, the Schwob School of Music’s Director,  will conduct the orchestra. This will be no precedent.  A number of composers have conducted world premiers of their compositions. Beethoven was one of them.  CSU faculty member Gila Goldstein will play the piano solo.

The orchestra will also play the Overture from the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart,  and  Brahms’s Symphony No. 4.

I am always thrilled by how brilliantly the CSU Philharmonic’s student musicians perform.   It’s at the River Center, and will start at 4 p.m.  It’ll be one of the best bargains you will ever get.  Admission is free.

Common Cause Columbus to Hold Forum on E-SPLOST

August 8, 2009


So far, I know of no organized resistance to the proposal to raise sales taxes in Muscogee County by a penny for capital improvements for the school system.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be, but you would have thought it would have raised its head by now.

Maybe it will happen when the Common Cause forum on the SPLOST is held next month,  on Thursday, September 3rd, at the Columbus Public Library at 6 p.m.  Common Cause Columbus Chair Alton Russell says that MCSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Andrews will be on hand to take questions.

“She and any pre-determined opposition group will be given time for opening remarks, written questions from audience, and then, open mike questions.”

He adds, “The forum is open to everybody in the Columbus community.  This is an opportunity to ask questions and understand all the reasons for voting for the SPLOST and reasosn not to vote for it.”

What Does the Future Hold for Today’s Medical School Graduates?

June 22, 2009

That was certainly on the mind of medical school graduates at a graduation ceremony I attended at Sunrise, a Fort Lauderdale suburb. My grand-nephew, Dr. Gibson Gray, was one of the graduates from Nova Southeastern University.  Keynote speaker, Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, told them about the healthcare changes she supports.

Being a good Democrat, she made it clear that she supports President Obama’s initiative for Congress to come up with a new health care plan.  With costs going out of sight, and about 50 million Americans being uninsured, many believe something has to be done – not that everyone wants anything done, because some are making out like bandits with the system the way it is – but the sticking point is what will be done.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, FL (D),  Nova medical college keynote speaker, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, FL (D), Nova medical college keynote speaker, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Rep. Schultz says any new plan has to ensure that no one will be denied coverage, that no policy should deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions,  that no one can be excluded from coverage, and no one looses coverage because they changed jobs, and that the government offer an optional insurance plan.  The insurance companies will, no doubt, spend many millions of dollars to kill the government option part of the plan.  The government plan would provide competition by providing lower rates, and the private insurance companies would have to keep their rates down to sell any insurance.

This can and will be debated, but a lot of people believe that the plan will not really solve the problem because it will still rely on private insurers.  Among those who believe it won’t work and who are for single-payer is the organization  Physicians for a National Health Program.  They believe that only single-payer can actually cause the change needed.  They maintain the private insurance industry is the reason that  health care in America has reached this critical stage.  On their website,, Dr. Fred Silver of Florida says, “This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.”  Physicians for a National Health Program is a non-profit research and education organization of 16,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance.

Naturally, health professionals are concerned about how healthcare reform will affect their careers, especially recent grads who owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in college loans.  Some believe that if the government plan does lower physician compensation, it should pay off those loans.  They have a good point. 

It appears there is little doubt that Congress will come up with some sort of healthcare reform legislation.  It also appears that the healthcare industry is going to cooperate, with health industry leaders pledging to reduce  healthcare spending by $2 trillion over the next ten years.  And the pharmaceutical  industry has agreed to spend $80 billion over the next decade to lower drug costs.  Reform is probably preferable to revolution,  and, no doubt, many drug industry leaders would consider a single-pay system a revolution.  It would be.  

Wild Hogging It on Opening-Session Eve

January 12, 2009


Arriving at GA State Capitol for Wild Hog Dinner

Muscogee Democrats arriving at GA State Capitol for Wild Hog Dinner

The Georgia Railroad building at Underground Atlanta, a stone’s throw from the Georgia Capitol,  was packed Sunday night, eve of opening day of the 2009 State Legislature, with state officials, representatives and senators, and people like me.   I was there mainly to gather information, but I did make one lobbying point.  I told Rep. Carolyn Hugley that I was disappointed that the transportation plan for the state failed to get through the legislature last year.  She said, “The House passed it, but it failed in the Senate.”  I told her that was a shame and that new thinking is needed,  that the emphasis needs to shift from pouring millions of tons of concrete adding new lanes to highways to developing rail, that rail is the most efficient way to transport massive numbers of people.   She didn’t respond to that point.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, GA House District 133, Columbus, GA

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, GA House District 133, Columbus, GA

Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin hosted the Wild Hog Dinner, but it was paid for by “sponsors,” which probably translates to lobbyists. “He didn’t pay for it,”  Carolyn told me.    The barbecue, Brunswick stew, and potato salad were delicious. Nobody, however,  goes to the Wild Hog Dinner just to get some good barbeque – good as it was, it was not as good as Macon Road, Smokey Pig or Country’s in Columbus – no, most people go to network.  And that’s what the affair was all about.

GA House Speaker Rep. Glenn Richardson, GA House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calivin Smyre

GA House Speaker Rep. Glenn Richardson, GA House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calivin Smyre

   I got the above  shot of Georgia House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calvin Smyre  of Columbus networking with Republican Rep. Glenn Richardson, Speaker of the Georgia House.  Calvin is a powerhouse in the legislature, serving since 1974.  Like every legislator I talked with, he said the legislature will be totally occupied with the budget crunch. 

Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Georgia Senate District 29

Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Georgia Senate District 29

State Senator Seth Harp said it was going to be really hard to deal with the pressures that the recession is putting on the state budget, and he doesn’t see it getting any better soon.  Last year state spending was cut more than five percent. “This year it is going to be 10 to 12 percent.”

Deficit spending quite often accompanies a major recession,  but the Georgia constitution prohibits it, and Seth told me,  “We do not have a deficit; we have $1 billion in  a ‘rainy day’ fund that we can tap into if necessary,  though we don’t like to do that because it could adversely affect our AAA bond rating.  Georgia is one of only 6 states that have a AAA rating. ”

Governor Perdue, I read somewhere,  wants to use  state funds to increase improvements in infrastructure to provide jobs and lessen unemployment.  Seth says he’ll have to study that .  He doesn’t want to do anything to hurt the bond rating .

“Aren’t you concerned about umeployment?”  I asked him.

“Of course I am,” he emphatically replied.  “But, there are a number of ways to deal with that.”

“You might go along with the increased infrastructure idea if you determine it’s necessary?”


All of the Columbus delegation I talked with agreed that many local projects  won’t be funded this year, things like grants to museums. etc.  It’s going to be tough enough not decimating education with more cuts.  Rep. Hugely is very much concerned about that,  emphasizing the important role education plays in the future of the citizens of Georgia, economically and otherwise.  She added,  “The central office hasn’t expressed concern about it.  What we keep getting from that office is that everything is fine.”

“Are you referring to the Superintendent of Education, Kathy Cox?”


I told a number of legislators that while the budget is of top concern, Georgia is facing critical issues such as transportation and water shortages.  They all agreed but pointed out that money for those programs is part of the budget.  That’s true, but, in my view,  when cuts are considered, the cuts should apply the least to education, transportation, and water shortage solutions.

House Minority Leader Rep. DuBose, (D) District 143, and Carol Porter,

House Minority Leader Rep. DuBose, (D) District 143, and Carol Porter,

Rep. Dupose Porter of Dublin, minority floor leader of the Georgia House  – Carolyn Hugley  is second in command since she is the minority whip –  said in dealing with the budget crisis,  taking money from a home for elderly Georgia military veterans and shifting it to one of Governor Sonny Perdue’s pet projects for his county like  Go Fish  is the kind of thing that has to stop.  Dubose – I know him on a first name basis because he is married to my second-cousin Carol – is expected to announce for governor after this legislative session.  

 I haven’t been to one of those eve-of-opening-session affairs in about 30 years and forgot how much I enjoyed seeing the state’s power players networking intensely.  I have to admit that it was exciting and fun.  There was no formal program and none needed because the real program was raw networking by the state’s top lawmakers.  Almost everyone who is anyone in state government was there.  I didn’t spot Governor Perdue or Columbus State Senator Ed Harbison.

On the Way to “On the Shoulders of Giants”

November 11, 2008

  Every Thursday when I would arrive at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, yellow school busses would lined up on Front Avenue, and, inside, school children would be everywhere. They were obviously having a ball as they were exposed to space science. 

Jet FLight Simulator Line, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus, GA

Jet FLight Simulator Line, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus, GA

  While operating for people of all ages -the CALL class “On the Shoulders of Giants,” about the great astronomers, that I just finished is an example of the center’s service to senior citizens –  the main target, says Assistant Director Larry Pallotta,  is the 5th grader. 

 Pallotta told me that kids also come from afar to participate in this program. Every year groups bus down from the Atlanta and Columbia, South Carolina areas and other out-town places.

 Kids like to do, not just sit and listen, and the center is a hands-on place where kids (of all ages) fly fighter jets in simulators …

Jet Flight Simulator, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus, GA

Jet Flight Simulator, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus, GA

  Operate Mars rover minatures by remote control ..

Mars Exploration Rover, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

Mars Exploration Rover, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

   Land a space shuttle …

Space Shuttle landing game, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

Space Shuttle landing game, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

  Touch a screen to see the planets of our solar system …

Planet Identifier, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

Planet Identifier, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

  This experience is one of the new ones. 

  Add these to the Omnisphere Theater, a state of the art planetarium that features a number of different shows for different age levels, and the Challenger Space Center, where students get to experience what a ride is space is like,  the Meade observatory with a 16″ LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain  telescope, and numerous outside other programs, and you have a creative, active educational and entertaining center for learning about space science. If you haven’t been lately, go … and if you want to enjoy it to the max, take a kid with you.

MCSD Expected to Approve Charter Schools Application, but Why?

October 17, 2008

  After learning that the Muscogee County School Board is expected to approve application for Charter School status at its Monday meeting, I decided I really didn’t know a heck of a lot about it.

  I mean, I’ve heard all of this business about it allowing more innovation and flexibility, which made me question what we already have.  I talked with Superintendent Dr. John Phillips.


Dr. John Phillips, MCSD Superintendent (Photo: MCSD)

  “We already have innovative programs in the system. It really doesn’t mean a lot of change,” he told me.

  “Then why change?”

  “Well, there are incentives. We won’t have to follow the state rules and regulations the way we do now. For instance, we’ll have more flexibility in class size and things like that. And there are financial incentives. We’ll get an additional one hundred dollars per student a year. That comes to $3 million dollars a year and that will be in place for five years.”

  “So we’re talking $15 million more dollars.”

  “Right, but that’s not the main reason we are doing it, though that’s what some people are saying.”

   So, what all of this boils down to is that the Charter School systems have more freedom and are less encumbered by state rules and regulations. And, the gravy on top of that is a few million more state dollars.

  “Does this mean systems can lower standards if they wish?”

  “Oh, no. There is accountability. In fact, you have to agree to meet higher standards of student performance in order to be granted Charter School status.”

  There is a chance the system will have to wait another year before it can be granted charter status. There is the little technicality of a letter of intent that was supposed to have been sent to the state school board before May 1st. Dr. Phillips isn’t sure why that was missed, saying, “I’m not even sure we knew about it.” He said that Harris County also missed that dealine, but is also still applying.  Both systems are hoping the state will waive the letter of intent requirement, and neither one plans to miss the next deadline, the one for applying. That comes on November 1st.  

  “Considering that Lt. Governor Cagle is urging more systems to sign up for Charter School status, maybe the state board will be willing to waive the May 1st letter of intent requirement.”

  On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. I guess we really won’t know until it’s tried.

“Let Children be Children” is Coming to the Columbus Museum

October 13, 2008

  There was a time when you simply had to go to Atlanta to see Broadway musicals, plays, museums, or go to concerts featuring nationally or world famous performers. Not any more.  You can get it all right here in Columbus now. 

  Take the Columbus Museum, for instance. It’s loaded with intriguing exhibits and they keep changing. For instance, one is coming up on October 26th that looks interesting. It’s called “Let Children be Children: Lewis Wickes Hine’s Crusade Against Child Labor.”

National Archives and Records Administration)

Child Laborer, Newberry, S.C. 1908, Photographed by Lewis W. Hine (Courtesy: National Archives and Records Administration)

 Hine was a sociologist who used the camera to document the conditions in which young American children worked in the early 1900’s.  Some of those pictures were taken right here in Columbus, Georgia, because Columbus cotton mills did indeed employ children in the early 1900’s.

National Archives and Records Administration)

Child Laborers in Indiana Glass Works, Midnight, Indiana. 1908. Photographer, Lewis W. Hine (Courtesy: National Archives and Records Administration)

  You’ll be able to see some of his work, including those Columbus pictures starting October 26th and running through December 14th, 2008. And if you are a member of the museum, you’ll be able to be able to attend a reception celebrating the opening of the exhibit and hear Dr’ John Lupold’s lecture “Child Labor and the Columbus Textile Industry, on Thursday, October 30th, 2008.  If  you can’t make it, you can rprobably ead about what he said on this blog, because I plan to go.  But, it’s best to be there so you might want to join the museum. It’s not real expensive and certainly worth the dues.

Friends Can Really Make a Big Difference

September 24, 2008
Freinds of Libraries Annual Meeting, Columbus Public Library

Freinds of Libraries Annual Meeting, Columbus Public Library

   It’s always good to get together with Friends. Yes, the capital “f” was intentional, because I am talking about the Friends of Libraries. The non-profit Chattahoochee Valley Library System support group held its annual meeting last night at the the impressive new Columbus Library that it had a big hand in getting built.

  Last fiscal year (July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008) Friends gave more than $50 thousand to the library system. The money was raised by donations, membership dues, and Library Store profits. The library store was the second largest contributor, raising more than $40 thousand by selling used books.

  I am one of the store’s volunteers, selling books every other Tuesday afternoon. It’s an enjoyable experience that doesn’t require me to think very much – well, once I finally learned how to operate the cash register.  It’s enjoyable because I get to meet a lot of book lovers of all types of friendly people. Maybe they are friendly because they like being in a book store, especially one that offers some almost new best sellers that can be bought for five dollars or less. A lot of the books are a dollar, and paperbacks go for half-a-dollar.  People also buy a lot of DVD’s and CD’s for fire sale prices.

  This tradition of support is a direct result of the work of Doris Halouska, who, as a president of the Columbus League of Women Voters, did a study back in 1988 and learned that Columbus was the only city of comparable size in Georgia that did not have a Friends group. She started lobbying to correct that situation, eventually making the case before the Library Board and the Muscogee County School Board. She said it was an easy sale, that Superintendent Braxton Nail signed on to the idea, but it did take a while for Freinds to become a reality, 1995, to be exact.

Doris Halouska, Friends Annual Meeting, Columbus Public Library

Doris Halouska, Friends Annual Meeting, Columbus Public Library

  Since then Freinds has been a motivating force in getting branch libraries built, switching from the old card catalogue system to computerization, and getting the beautiful new library built on Macon Road.  Our libraries are bright, warm, user-friendly places now, and they are definitely being used. Since Friends went into action the number of people using the libraries and checking out materials has increase exponentially.

  Just think of the wealth of information that libraries provide. The shelves are stacked with ideas that are available for free to anyone who seeks knowledge. But, it is more than that. It is a gathering place for lovers of literature, music and drama. You can even go see free movies at the Columbus Library.  

  A city’s public library is a barometer of a communty’s intellectual values, and its commitment to offering a decent lifestyle and opportunity for learning to all of its citizens. Columbus can be thankful for all who support it, including Friends.

  Full disclosure: I am now a member of the Friends of Libraries Board of Directors, elected last night, so I could be biased in my reporting on the subject. But, frankly I was biased toward supporting the library long before I ever joined Friends.

  By the way, I would like to encourage you to join. We have 229 members now and we can use a lot more. It’s quite reasonable, only $10 bucks a year. Come to the Library Book Store and pick up a membership form. We’d love to have you. And, if the buy something while you are there. well, that would be good, too.