In a report issued by the Institute of Southern Studies, teachers in the South have become the largest casualties of the recession. According to researchers, the study "finds that many schools, especially in the South, are slashing school budgets - and teacher positions - in the wake of the recession." The three states expected to make the deepest cuts in education are Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. Even more troubling for Georgia is that the state received a "C" on a national report card grading the effectiveness of its charter schools. This news was released December 7, 2009. It marks the second consecutive year that Georgia has received this grade.
Serious reform is needed. But to drive such reform, there must be a catalyst. That catalyst came in the form of country music sensation Alan Jackson.
Alan Jackson is a Newnan, Georgia, native who enjoyed prominence as one of the most popular country singers of the 1990s. His fame quickly turned to infamy following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center when he released his song, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."
In the song, Jackson declares, "I'm just a singer of simple songs / I'm not a real political man / I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you / The difference in Iraq and Iran."
Despite climbing to the top of the Billboard country charts after its debut at the Country Music Association's annual awards show on November 7, 2001, the song garnered a tremendous amount of criticism.
"It really shocked us to learn that one of our state's leading voices had never learned the regional, social and political differences between Iran and Iraq," said Abner Railback, a respected Georgia educational authority. "He couldn't even locate them on a map. For some reason, he kept pointing to New Zealand and Rhode Island. In many ways, I began to view this as a failure of the state's school systems."
Geographical and political ignorance aside, other educators in Georgia expressed additional frustration with Jackson's apparent lack of understanding basic physics. "Of course the world didn't stop turning; it doesn't make any sense," quipped one community college dean.
In a recent interview, Jackson admitted that he still had no knowledge of the whereabouts of either country in the world. He also stood by his assertion that the world stopped turning in 2001. He attributed global warming to the fact that the sun is now constantly trained on the polar icecaps, adding that the problem would resolve itself if the world started moving again.
The positive byproduct, however, is that Georgia is taking aggressive steps to rectify the problems inherent with its educational system.