Those of us forced to listen to the worst cynics among us often hear that today's education stinks, that our overweight, video-game-addicted kids are dumber than a bag of hammers, that teachers are overwhelmed or incompetent or both.
As a generalization, all of that is as wrong as the Democrats' defense policies. And a snippet in a not-so-old paper the other day lends support to the idea that kids are getting smarter.
The Oct. 29, 1980 edition of The Columbia News and The Martinez-Evans Times carried a story with a headline that sounds familiar: "County SAT scores above national average."
The combined average score of Columbia County's two high schools (only Harlem and Evans were around then) beat the national average by 18 points, and topped Georgia's score by 94 points.
But how do those high-schoolers compare to today's kids?
Well, the county's overall score back then was 908; that's 117 points lower than the 2004 SAT score of 1025. The national average was just 890, and Georgia's score was 814.
Did the scores rise because modern kids are smarter, or because the scoring system has been inflated? There's a little of both, including an overhaul of the SAT itself. Also, back then, the highest scores came out of Harlem High , while Evans High was 61 points lower. Now, 24 years later, Harlem has Columbia County's lowest SAT scores -- 122 points behind Evans.
Lakeside High, which has the county's best SAT scores, is 58 points higher than Evans. That's in the classroom; if history is any guide, higher scores still won't help the Panthers when they face Evans at Blanchard Stadium Friday night. Back in 1980, when Blanchard Stadium was brand-new, Harlem had higher SAT scores but lost to Evans, 7-6.
Too bad we don't cheer as much for high grades in the classroom as we do high scores in the stadiums. Maybe we're the ones who aren't so smart.
Scarier than Halloween
Here's a funny one, just in time for Halloween: Charles Walker's campaign manager is Michael Meyers. That's the same name as the evil monster who wouldn't stay dead in those "Halloween" slasher-movies.
What better character to try to revive Walker's political fortunes?
Fortunately, U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood's political fortunes aren't entirely dependent on his current health. His reputation and record are strong enough, and his district safe enough, that Norwood will likely win easily Nov. 2 without having even been in the district for several weeks.
Norwood continues to make a remarkable recovery after lung-transplant surgery a week ago. He has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that only gets worse and can be stopped only with a lung transplant.
Though he's had the disease since 1988, the proof that it only progressed to the point of seriously impairing his health -- thus compelling its public disclosure -- is in his most recent appearance in Columbia County.
A Vietnam veteran, Norwood has spoken at all four of the Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebrations on Memorial Day weekend in Evans. This year was no exception; he showed up right on time, spoke for at least 20 minutes, and then answered questions for about 15 more.
That was May 29; Norwood says just a month or so later, his disease took its characteristic turn for the worse, eventually forcing him to use oxygen and get on the organ-donor list.
Now with a new, healthy lung, Norwood is mending nicely and even started walking around his hospital room a few days ago. Still, he won't be able to leave the Fairfax, Va., area for several weeks because of post-operative care and recovery.
In the meantime, get-well cards and other greetings may be sent to the Augusta District Office, 1054 Claussen Road, Suite 316, Augusta, GA 30907.
That's the same address to send congratulatory notes three weeks from now, too.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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