Mad Men: a Primer in Tokenism for Politics in the Peach State

Sunday night’s Mad Men series finale ended with a nod to history’s ever-evolving gender revolution.  Peggy got her man and her job and Joan made a choice I’ve had to make a few times over: career over the doting s.o.   In between the cigarette smoke and chauvinism, the ladies took their licks and realized their own ambitions-some that were bigger than the commitment of marriage.  As their characters represented paving the way for women in the workplace, the show did (IMHO) a decent job of recognizing their struggle in the 60s.  Isolated in the workplace, dealing with the tension of other women trying to clip their wings and still yet aspiring to marriage and family, these female characters represented the tokenism that exemplifies any transition in an organization.  I would also say the show is a great primer on politics in the Peach State, only now the transition has moved beyond just women, but thanks to Mansell McCord, it includes openly gay men in the GOP.

Don Draper quote Continue reading “Mad Men: a Primer in Tokenism for Politics in the Peach State”

Is Standardized Testing Ruining Us?

As school gets ready to break for the summer, I cannot help but revisit the debate surrounding standardized testing. Arguments for testing are looking for “fair” ways to test which teachers are really performing well and what schools deserve a reward for their performance. Arguments against are centered around the idea that our kids are learning a test and not actual general knowledge. From someone who does NOT work in the school system: it all seems like a big mess.

But after loosely following the APS cheating trial last month I started to look a little deeper into this whole standardized testing stuff. I have a few questions:

What is it like to teach?

“About half of all teachers leave the profession within five years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.”Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2009)
It seems as though it’s very difficult for teachers to really enjoy their job when their entire career is riding on their student’s performance on one test. While I understand that measurements have to be taken in some way and that evaluations are necessary, it seems like these tests are the source of much anxiety; which leads to what people often refer to as “teaching to the test”. I don’t think most teachers started out in education for that. Is this one of the reasons teachers are transitioning out of education? Are we holding teachers accountable for things they cannot control?

What’s it like to learn?

I’ve listened to the gossip amongst third graders and the talk of the playground in April is TESTING. They all just want to pass this test.. So now we have teachers AND students stressing over these exams. I wonder how much information these kids are retaining from year to year? We have all studied for an exam and a week later knew nothing about that subject. Is that happening to our youngest minds? Are they learning or memorizing? Are they placing their self esteem in these tests rather than their overall performance as a person and a student? This story from 11Alive about a student impacted by the APS cheating scandal was heartbreaking: Here. Max Blau  wrote about a study  conducted by Georgia State University about the impact of the scandal. The study found that 97 percent of the APS students affected by cheating were black. What message is that sending to our most vulnerable students?

What’s it like to lead?

When you walk into some schools around Atlanta – their previous school wide test scores are posted on huge signs. New comers to the area ask about the scores to decide where to send their kids. Funding depends on the scores. Your staff needs these scores. You as a principal NEED high scores. How as a leader do you create a healthy work environment that centers around honesty and a genuine love for education when it all comes down to a test at the end of the year? It seems really challenging especially for our inner city schools who have other sets of issues (safety, quality books, decent facilities). How does a principal keep staff happy and students educated when the threat of losing funding is ever present?

The education system is a business set out to empower, educate and inspire youth. Our job as teachers, parents and community members is to work to create environments where all children and school staff can thrive and prosper at school, grow as people and discover a love of learning. Is standardized testing killing that?

Tweet me your thoughts @Lbriana12

Picnic with a Presidential Candidate in Walton County

If there is one thing in this world I love, it’s being home in Walton County, Georgia.  I stopped in to visit family this past weekend and basked in the sunlight, saw a few friendly faces, and frankly- the air is just sweeter out there.  Now if your life has not yet been completed with a visit to God’s country, then here’s your chance.

The Walton County Republican Party and their ever-gracious Chairman, Mr. Roy Roberts will be hosting their annual barbeque on May 26th, from 5pm-8pm.  It is one of the largest Republican events in the state.  Politicos and the populace sweat alike in the sun, red clay, and gravel so leave your ties and heels at home- the event is VERY casual and hotter than hell.

This year will feature a visit by Governor John Kasich, a 2016 Presidential hopeful.  Come by, meet him, and say congratulations to Representative Bruce Williamson, newly minted Caucus Secretary and Treasurer.

Individual tickets are $15.00 and a table of 9 $180.00.  Visit: for purchase of tickets and please tell Mr. Roberts Scarlet sent you.

The Ghost of Tom Murphy Looms Large

MURPHY600Later today the Governor will sign into law, HB 170.  The “Transportation Bill”, as it has been deemed (although there were actually more than one piece of transportation legislation offered this past session).  It is a divisive issue among voters, and within the caucuses.  Lots of time, money, and chastising has gone into this legislation.  Lots of passionate postulations have been made regarding RFRA, human trafficking, and education- the General Assembly seemed to address our roads, our faith, our morals, and our education all in one session.

But now, where does Georgia go from here?

My first legislative session was sort of a unique one: it was the first time Republicans had a majority since Reconstruction.  So I have spent the last ten years watching how Republicans handle legislation.  I worked for a previous House Hawk, when Speaker Richardson was in office, and I have seen power shifted away from the Lt. Governor and now back.  Georgia Republicans have stumbled toward this moment of consolidated power, and now they have to consider what it is they wish to leave as a legacy and how they will govern in the future.

The coming weeks will tell us.

The apple-cart turnover of Chambliss’ vacancy created a sweeping effect across the state.  I will offer that the defining legislation passed in the 2015 session will do the same.  The question of civil unions is now infiltrating the GOP Chairman’s race, the presumed front-runner for Majority Leader just helped to pass narrowly defined legislation aptly named the “Marijuana Bill”, and for the first time ever, our Governor will be consolidating power of our schools under a Superintendent appointed by him, the schools’ rankings measurement determined by a state board appointed by him, and the recommendations of reform for these schools will be made from a commission also appointed by him.

Sounds a lot like Tom Murphy to me.

I am too young to have worked with the previous Speaker, so I can only offer the stories I have heard from others of how he governed.  It is my understanding that legislation only moved forward with his blessing, much as this past session transpired.  It is commonly understood that you cannot pass legislation without kissing the rings of leadership and without their blessings, there is no hope.  Most lobbyists see this as a streamlined process that is more manageable, yet voters railed against this sort of thing in the early part of this millennium.  Supposedly, Republicans were supposed to restore local control and in turn be more responsive to the voting populace.

I would offer that the Republicans have found, like Democrats did before them, that the Murphy mechanism of governing has its perks.  While many Republicans like to assert their differing approaches to legislation and governance from Democrats, it would seem that the ghost of Tom Murphy looms large in the marble halls.  It is my hope though, that General Assembly members remain mindful that even Murphy had his come-uppance, and will learn from his legacy to avoid the gavel falling on their own legislative careers.

“When I’m up there presiding, I’m going to run the show. I have no hesitation of setting people down.”- Speaker Tom B. Murphy