No, I’m not talking about Sara Palin’s endorsement of The Don. However, there are loads of stories relevant to our mission here. We’ll deal with two right away. This morning, The Atlantic recapped a Vanderbilt University study of low minority participation in the nation’s gifted and talented programs. It’s an interesting read. I’m curious: does it reflect what’s happening in our predominately rural state? I suspect that Mississippi is tough to analyze because not all school districts offer gifted/talented sections, especially past the middle school level. (An anecdote: when I first moved to the Golden Triangle, my next-door neighbor was a retired basketball coach and high school principal who didn’t want anything to do with gifted and talented programs. “What those kids really need is to be in the classes with all the other kids,” he said. “They got to learn to communicate with everybody, and maybe bring a few up with ‘em. They might get a bloody nose every once in a while, but it won’t do ‘em much harm.”)
Do you suppose that bringing gifted/talented programs to underperforming districts would incentivize student performance effectively enough to turn them around? It’s an elitist notion; perhaps the neediest students—the poorest, the most at-risk, the least likely to have parents invested in getting real educations for their kids—would still get left behind by such tracking systems. However, it appears that what we’re doing now, and what we’ve been doing for the last fifty years, hasn’t produced results.
Closer to home: I treasure the diversity of the MSMS student body. What (if anything) needs to be done to make sure that our school at least maintains (or better still improves!) its diversity? Are there students in Mississippi who are bright enough to thrive here, but don’t feel encouraged to attend? What should be done?
Then there’s this from The Clarion-Ledger: a column that urges the state legislature to decide the state flag issue. In case you missed it, Mississippi is the last remaining state whose flag incorporates the Confederate battle flag. There seems to be a sentiment in the legislature to turn the issue over to the people in a referendum. I can only describe an act like that as cowardice. Legislators who don’t want to cast a vote on difficult or divisive issues should hand over their office keys and resume their quiet lives at home. Our system of government depends on electing people who can make wise choices on behalf of the electorate. This issue gives Republican and Democrats to find common ground on a very public issue—an attitude one hopes would spread to even more important things. However, a referendum on the state flag will turn Mississippi into as battleground state for all the wrong reasons. Do your jobs, ladies and gentlemen.