Originally created 09/01/02

Low SAT scores raise more questions



He couldn't spell C-A-T if you spotted him the "C" and the "T."

- Coach Bobby Bowden

Well, the SAT scores came out last week, and I see the usual hand-wringing has begun.

Georgia is now ranked last, if you don't count the District of Columbia - a smallish province whose numbers are apparently dragged down by the offspring of congressmen.

And South Carolina is ranked next to last, which gives the Palmetto State our nation's most dubious opportunity for bragging rights ("We're No. 49!").

So what do we make of all this? Well, let's take our own little exam.

QUESTION 1: Does SAT stand for "Southerners Aren't Trying?"

ANSWER: Of course not. In fact, South Carolina and Georgia politicians have been trying to reform public education for the past half-century. After taking the oath of office, almost every governor of both states has named a blue-ribbon panel to improve education.

The result?

We're last.

Well, the First Rule of Holes is: "When you're in one, quit digging."

Don't worry about how students perform on a test. Focus on how they'll do in life. As Fats Domino once sort of said, it's the J.O.B., not the S.A.T.

QUESTION NO. 2: Are we spending too much money on public education?

ANSWER: No, that's impossible. SAT does not stand for "Sling Away Taxes." But do we waste some of the money? Sure. That's what bureaucracies do. But I figure the more money we throw at education, the more is going to end up helping some child learn, and that's just another dollar that won't end up fattening some politician's expense account under the guise of "constituent service."

The needs are out there. Computers require upgrading faster than ever. So do textbooks. When I was in third grade (true story) I had a science book so old it did not include the discovery of all the planets of our solar system. We don't want today's equivalent of that to happen.

QUESTION NO. 3: Does SAT stand for "Slow Analytical Thinking?"

ANSWER: No, but I've long maintained that the test is not culturally friendly to the usual Southerner - black or white.

Math questions, for instance, are easier for us to figure out if the examples are portrayed in football or NASCAR terms. I have cousins who can't manage the amounts in a checkbook, but can rattle off Winston Cup numbers faster than an Enron accountant testifying to a grand jury.

The challenge with education is not getting the answers, it's understanding the questions.

That's usually the challenge with life, too.

And if you're not ready, then Stupidity Always Triumphs.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bkirby@augustachronicle.com.