North Carolina Blues: Ignorance and Illiteracy in the South
I come from the South. I am a tried and true Southerner. I bleed Carolina Blue. I grew up hearing stories of the Late Unpleasantness, also known as the Confederate War or the War Between the States. I was raised with manners and hospitality, and I know how to be rude to someone while still being polite about it. Most of the fiction I write is set in the South.
I am not uneducated, and I have never eaten dirt because I was hungry. It is a stereotype of the poor white man that does not need to continue. I do not have any idea why the elected leaders want North Carolina to remain in poverty and without education. But then again, who stands up for the hillbilly when all is said and done? No one wants to lose a source of derision and ridicule. We can’t do that.
Half of the state’s budget goes to education, and many of the programs that are bringing North Carolina OUT of the lowest rankings for education and literacy are funded by temporary taxes. 22 percent of all North Carolinians have difficulty with reading or writing that seriously affect their daily lives. Another million and a half could benefit from further reading or writing instruction, even though their everyday tasks are accomplished fairly well.
In Guilford County alone, approximately ten percent of college-aged constituents, aged 18-25, have a 9th grade reading level. Ironically, this is the same county that houses UNC Greensboro, which used to be called The Teacher’s College.
In most states, the budgets cuts are hitting education the hardest. North Carolina is no exception, despite Republican promises: “When Republicans ran last fall, we made three basic promises,” Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger said at a recent news conference. “One, we were not going to allow temporary taxes to be extended. Two, we would reduce spending, and three, that we would protect the classroom.”
Okay, so, one and two are being met, but the third has been traded for one and two.
When asked about this, Berger’s reply was, “Nonsense. I looked outside this morning, and the sky was not falling. This is a responsible, reasonable budget to move North Carolina forward,” he says.
I am not exactly sure how Mr. Berger thinks that creating a generation of illiterate ignorance is forward thinking, and I am not exactly sure why he thinks that not keeping the taxes in place is a good idea. Were these taxes to remain, so too would programs aiding in adult literacy, preschool programs similar to California’s groundbreaking First Five and finally, perhaps most importantly, the North Carolina Center For the Advancement of Teaching. There is data in place to remark upon the importance and the effectiveness of all three types of programs.
What am I missing? Is it better to reduce taxes and have illiterate voters? Or is it better to realize that the tradeoff of keeping a popular promise just isn’t what is best for the State?
Photo credit: barbourians via flickr