Georgia: Trailblazer or Perennially Lost?

appalachian-trail-approachI have had the pleasure of travelling around the Southland a bit lately.  Although I reside in the city of Atlanta, my favorite spot to get away is ALWAYS in the mountains-Georgia or North Carolina; does NOT matter.  Wherever the pine trees are in abundance and the paved roads are not is where I wish to be.  Cooler temperatures and rolling landscapes abound and the elevation of certain points allows me to indulge and get lost metaphorically in my own thoughts.  However, I recently became actually lost-as in could not find my path back to the beginning of the trail.  It’s a very different feeling when one is truly lost- the disorientation, the heat of the midday sun beating down, and my body already tired from the hike I had originally set out on, never expecting to cover this many miles or take THAT much time.

 

Clearly I made it back, but as I was climbing over hills and dodging the brambles in my unorthodox path, I thought much of how this could have been prevented.  Where were the colored blazes marking the path?  Why have the trails not been tended so that the vegetation did not cover my previous steps?  I walked back over the same path many times in hopes of finding the switchback I missed, or the small bridge I had crossed.  The path was there, I had simply forgotten its image and location.  And in my foolhardy arrogance, I had not adequately prepared for if something went wrong.

 

Amateur.

 

One would never have believed I hiked 40 miles on the Appalachian Trail a few years ago and am a regular hiker who enjoys backcountry camping.  Bless MY heart.

 

In more than a decade of Georgia politics, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting at tables of power that others may not have with both the House and the Senate.  I have watched the paths of policy and party emerge from a grassroots level to the fall of some mighty grasstops under Lt. Governor Taylor and Speaker Richardson.  I have been impressed with the larger vision of the present Governor and the efforts of the sitting legislative members to initiate justice reform, a transportation plan and now educational reform.  I’ve watched the rabbit holes of RFRA and the Guns Everywhere bill send the legislature in strange meandering paths so that I’m left wondering where are our markers?  What will be the footprints we leave for others to follow?  More importantly, if Georgia wishes to move forward, what tools will we employ to blaze new paths? Continue reading “Georgia: Trailblazer or Perennially Lost?”

Lessons from Chattanooga and Charleston: It’s Not About a Flag At All

Like many Southerners, I wince when I see the memes on the internet about the Confederate flag from Lost Cause supporters who Just. Won’t. Let it go. However, I cringe almost as much when I read commentary by many of those condemning folks who feel compelled to fly the Battle Flag of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in protest against what they see as an assault on their Southern heritage. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but at times, it feels as though the enmity is not directed only at perceived Southern redneckitude, but at all Southerners. (On a side note, non-Southerners need to understand that there is a world of difference in degree among “rednecks,” “hillbillies,” “crackers,” and other subspecies of the kingdom Southernus Humanicus. But I digress, as I am wont to do.)

I have ancestors who fought in the Civil War, and I understand the complexity of the issues and the emotional reaction of those who see the flag as honoring the sacrifice of soldiers. I also believe that the Confederates committed treason against the United States of America, even though the federal government lacked the bureaucracy necessary to have pursued trials effectively or efficiently. It’s entirely possible that while a lack of prosecution of the Confederate leadership helped the nation heal more quickly from the massive psychic wounds inflicted by the war, it also enabled the cult of the Old South to rise and grow.

Nevertheless, the battle flag belongs in a museum, and the spokespersons selected for national airtime have done quite an excellent job on CNN, Fox, etc., in proving, with their guest commentary, why that flag belongs in a museum and not flying over a statehouse. While I share the distaste many feel for the effort to defend the Lost Cause, I find the hysteria knocking any and everything Southern verging on ridiculous. There is much to be learned from recent events about what it means to be Southern. It’s not about pickup trucks, moonshine, shotguns, and the Confederate flag–not by a long shot.

The devastating shootings at Emanual AME Church in Charleston provided a lesson for the entire United States in how a city should cope with tragedies involving racial hate crimes, and the victims of this tragedy did so in a uniquely Southern fashion. There was no rioting or looting in Charleston. Demonstrations of Christian love and emotional restraint ruled the behavior of the victims, to the astonishment of the entire country outside of the Deep South. The families of the victims went to the jailhouse and gave public forgiveness to the shooter.

Restraint of high emotion coupled with intense pressure to do the right thing prevailed at the state level. Three South Carolina state leaders locked arms and forced the legislature to take down the flag, then proceeded to hold a dignified and respectful ceremony to do exactly that. Well, dignified & respectful except for the yahoos who started singing “Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye” at the end–not a display of Southern restraint there by any means, but a painfully public lack of class.

Likewise, the residents of Chattanooga, reeling from the shooting deaths of five Marines by a young Muslim man characterized by his Tennessee high school teachers and classmates as a typical All-American kid, are responding with similar restraint in the midst of unimaginable grief. For those who like to engage in Southerner-bashing, there are few targets as rife with examples lending themselves to stereotypical “Southern hillbillies” as East Tennessee. (I say that with love, as I have relatives outside of Knoxville.)

Here’s the thing: racism is by no means limited to the South. I lived in central Massachusetts for ten years and worked in public schools there for six of those years. I did my school administration internship in the Dorchester area of Boston and spent quite a bit of time in “Southie” (South Boston) during my charter school leader fellowship year. I dealt with a Confederate flag school disruption issue, racism, and homophobia while I was an assistant principal in an almost 100% white rural/suburban high school in Connecticut. It’s just as racist in New England as anywhere I have ever been in the Deep South. I love both regions, but it pains me that so many people believe that racism is largely limited to the region where I was born and raised. It’s not, and to pretend that it is doesn’t advance the cause of racial equality.

The behavior of the residents of Charleston, the families of the shooting victims, and Gov. Haley and Sens. Graham and Scott demonstrates the best of what I love about the South. It evokes the Atlanta civil rights-era slogan, “The City Too Busy to Hate.” It’s about doing the right thing, without a lot of fanfare and attention-seeking, and without violence.  I don’t know what the eventual resolution will be in Chattanooga, but I’ll bet you cash money it won’t involve riots or looting.

I saw a meme this morning that I really liked a lot. It read simply, “If you want to be proud of being Southern, serve some sweet tea, enjoy some shrimp and grits, and show good manners. It’s not good manners to display symbols that make your neighbors think you hate them.” Good manners–a deceptively simple concept, and a very, very Southern one. Southern, indeed.

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Mom? Dad? Let Go of your Kid – You Are Doing More Harm Than Good.

Because I am an EduGeek through and through, I still read about my biz even when I should be with a buzz…or at least at the pool with my kids. But I read this article which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt  sheds more light on everything we educators already knew about education: Parents really need to back off their kids’ lives and let them do something crazy, like, oh, I don’t know, fail every now and again. This is not a new concept that I discovered just recently; in fact, I see more and more articles about the increase of suicide in our best and brightest kids because of the pressures put upon them by their parents.

As a parent, I totally get not wanting to see your child, the little person you literally grew from seed, be hurt in any way. I get it. I get why we want our children to be successful (I totally want my own old person Au Pair and live off of my stinking rich kid). But what I don’t get is why parents would be so selfish that they allow their children to be placed in a situation where not only will they fail, but they will also fail epically. The data is coming in that not only are we producing these “excellent sheep”,  but businesses are having to train these excellent sheep to actually think because, well, they can’t! We haven’t allowed them to make decisions, good or bad. Students are now entering college and taking classes like the “Success Academy” at Georgia State University because they have never had to take the initiative or to make a decision.

And parents aren’t the only ones who are to blame. Educators began the testing mills in the early 2000s, and now we are pushing this out to businesses. Students are great multiple choice test takers, but they are not good at making their own decisions.

Because we want our offspring and our students to be successful and live a life that is pain free, we over-parent and over-protect them into a corner, and these wonderful, creative, problem solving, vibrant little people grow into anxious, scared, depressed, and often suicidal young adults.

So, for the rest of the summer, I say let your kids fall and scrape their knees. Let them bow out of that mission trip to Zimbabwe. Let them ride bikes, eat Popsicle, walk to the neighborhood pool, and sleep in late. They’re kids, and they should be able to be kids with all the rights and privileges of kiddom. Don’t worry…you wont be like my mom or other moms of the 70s. But if you might lean that way, I don’t think I suffered too much from the lead poisoning by drinking out of the hose.

Winning Requires Planning Ahead

us-womens-world-cupThis past Sunday night, many Southerners huddled around their TVs to watch the Women’s World Cup, or at least those that were not shooting off their remaining fireworks and ammo from the night prior. With this win, the U.S. Women’s Team has become the team with the most wins in Women’s World Cup history.  While a team is climbing to the top there is lots of speculation, but when the victory is claimed, everyone wants to know how they did it.  Aside from hard work, LOTS of practice, and some killer instincts, the case could be made for the fact that the United States is the only country in the Women’s World Cup that provides IX funding, making it equally possible for young, female athletes to pursue their passions just like their male colleagues.  As a shock to no one, I am a big fan of this theory and of IX funding.  While I am no athlete, I do believe that planning ahead tends to make short work of competition.  Turns out, I am not the only one that feels this way.

Early last month, Paul Bowers, Chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce spoke with leaders at Berry College about the necessity of a good education.  You see, Mr. Bowers needs Georgians to have a good education so that when they apply to his company, they can actually meet the fundamental requirements of the job.  This isn’t rocket science to anyone.  Most people believe that with a better education, you can rise to the next level with a combination of hard work and integrity.  Yet Mr. Bowers’ statement on education here in the state should not be brushed to the side.  Frankly, it could be read another way: either Georgia needs to get their education act together, or our economy is going to suffer.  This is not the first time the Chamber has tried to get lawmakers’ attention, either.  Click here for the link to the “Economics of Education” report from the Chamber in 2012, or skip to the images below. Continue reading “Winning Requires Planning Ahead”