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Columnist Bill Shipp writes very passionately about the state of education in Georgia. As president of the Hall County Education Association, an educator and a citizen, I find a number of errors in his statements and reasoning.
First, why would school districts including an entire state or even an entire large city be particularly desirable? This seems unlikely to be an improvement, especially in light of the mess Shipp feels our state Department of Education has made in Georgia.
Secondly, why would Louis Gerstner Jr. be any more qualified to "reform" education in our state or in the United States than would any other citizen? Remember, all of the businesses that have participated in producing our current economic meltdown have and have had CEOs. I personally don't want my son, or any other student, educated by a statewide district. Talk about Big Business and Big Government at their worst.
Where in the state does Shipp find a collectively bargained teacher contract? I know of no teachers out on strike. I do know of professional associations active in promoting education in the state.
The Hall County Education Association has been working to promote better education since its organization in 1899. The Georgia Association of Educators has a heritage that goes back to 1867, and thereby predates the establishment of public education in the state.
How many classes has Shipp taught, and how is he an expert on how students should be instructed? What possible objection could a fair-minded individual have to citizens exercising their right to vote?
Teachers have not, to my knowledge, censured Shipp for voting for his hero, former Gov. Roy Barnes. Fair dismissal proceedings are used when a seasoned teacher faces possible dismissal. The teacher must have three years experience under full-time contract with a school system, and must have also signed the fourth contract to have fair dismissal proceedings.
Since the Barnes measures were aimed at new teachers, and there is a teacher shortage of many years standing (half of all new teachers leave the profession within the first five years), it seems unlikely that the answer to our state's shortcomings is to fire large numbers of seasoned teachers when replacements are scarce. These are not selfish or undeserved measures, nor are they at the expense of students. Teachers who cannot survive cannot teach, and are of no good to students. Perhaps Shipp would be well advised to consider that politicians who cannot survive are of little good to their constituents or parties.
But perhaps the greatest question of all: How in the world could Shipp's continued insistence upon injecting even more politics into education help a single student? After all, the "nitwit" teachers he is convinced pollute our classrooms make few or no curriculum decisions, and have little control over budgets other than to exercise their right to vote. Nay, those are decisions made since the 1870s by politicians, goaded frequently, no doubt, by journalists.
Playing partisan politics with our children's future is precisely what has gotten us where we are. Shipp's blame game is just one more play in the game of using our most valuable resource - the founders called them our "posterity" - as a political football. The transmission of knowledge should be an endeavor more noble than petty politics and blame games.
If Shipp would like to help with education, I suggest he spend less time pointing fingers and more time reading to a child. Even better, perhaps he could teach the child to read.
Steven J. Wang
President, Hall County Education Association, Gainesville