Educators and parents of school age children beware, the Legislature is messing with your children’s education and their future ability to achieve the American Dream. And — you know the drill — no person is safe while the Legislature is in session.
First, they spent hours debating the evils of the Advanced Placement History being taught in virtually every school in America on the ground that the books being used did not sufficiently honor American “Exceptionalism.” After long, heated and rancorous debate, the Georgia State Senate voted to tell the College Board that our state will withdraw from teaching AP American History unless the board removes anything the right wing movement deems unpleasant and embarrassing in the texts being used.
For whatever that will teach us, it must be noticed that the vote was purely along party lines; 100 percent of supporters were Republicans and 100 percent of opponents were Democrats.
Items such as the removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands — not to mention their wholesale slaughter via the guns of our European settlers, as well as the deaths of tens of thousands through the introduction of European diseases to which they had no immunity — must be removed from the textbooks used to instruct our children on the history of our great country.
In his first act as president, Thomas Jefferson made a deal with the state that, if Georgia were to release its legal claims to discovery in lands to the west, then the U.S. military would help forcefully expel the Cherokee people from Georgia. At the time, the Cherokee had a treaty with the United States government which guaranteed them the right to their lands, which was violated in Jefferson’s deal with Georgia.
In this action Jefferson, one of our most revered founding fathers and the author of the Declaration of Independence, violated both his word and that of this country.
He had written of his plans to remove Native American “pests” to lands west of the Mississippi in an 1803 letter to William Henry Harrison, which Jefferson asked him to keep secret. So, for 30 years before violating his oath, he and Harrison had known that our country would betray its word, its treaty with these gentle people to whom God had given these lands thousands of years earlier.
This our children and grandchildren must not know — else they think of us not having been always exceptional.
Let’s close the Chieftains Museum and rename the pedestrian bridge across the Oostanaula River to hide the facts. And, let’s tear out those pages of the texts about the Trail of Tears, along with the chapters on slavery and Jim Crow and other such unpleasantry, and burn them.
The senators did not ask for the advice of educators in this debate, mind you, as they did not need to be distracted from their purpose. And education was not the purpose.
It gets far worse. They now have floated legislation to create two separate school systems in our state. Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287 will go far to destroy the public education system.
If we adopt this law now pending in the House, the governor will become the dictator for all poor white and black students and their schools. He will then appoint a “czar” to operate what he deems failing schools, in what is to be called an Opportunity School District.
This czar’s private corporation will educate all Georgia’s kids whose schools are deemed “failing” by the governor. This private corporation will hire teachers, run the schools, and collect their profits. The idea is, I guess, that private enterprise can do it best. This is a long-held belief of Republicans, whose real plan is to privatize all services and to profit from them — and then to destroy government, or limit it to just raising an army.
What are the problems with this approach?
It will take away funds from Georgia’s public schools, thereby reducing the effectiveness of all our schools, even those who perform best, and giving the taxpayers’ money to private enterprise, whose only interest is the bottom line, not the education of kids. They will hire the least-expensive teachers, those with the least experience, and will obviously slash all expenses to enhance their own selfish interests and maximize their profit margins.
The result will be two separate school systems; in effect, a return to the “separate but equal“ status of yesteryear that perpetuates the separation of our less-fortunate children from those born to the privileged of Georgia’s citizenry.
Is there any doubt the Opportunity School District will be, from the inception, those schools in neighborhoods that are predominately black, Hispanic or poor white? Further, is there any doubt they will continue to languish with under-performing grades and achievement due to lack of proper funding and little attention from our state leaders regarding their needs?
It must also be noted that the idea to create this system of education for minorities and the poor is not one born of educators but of politicians — the very same folks who would have us abandon AP American History. The idea has been attempted in Louisiana and it was a miserable failure, and that state’s leaders are now discussing its abandonment.
The Opportunity School District law will result in a czar who answers only to the governor. There will be no local control of these 100-plus predominantly black and poor white schools currently classified as failing. While taxpayers paid for the buildings, those facilities will no longer belong to the people. They will become the property of the charter school company running the district — a part of the profit, the bottom line.
Call your legislators today and tell them to vote “NO.”
Kenneth Fuller, a retired Rome attorney and former state senator, writes a regular column for the Rome News-Tribune. Readers may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.