A black and white solution
to the flag question
By Ross Willis
Special to GwinnettForum.com
(Editor's note: Ross Willis of Marietta is
owner of Willis & Associates, a marketing, public relations
and communication consulting firm.-eeb)
FEB. 28, 2003 -- These remarks come with great humility - humility
seemingly absent in the hearts of those hell-bent on "resolving"
what flag should flutter in the Georgia breeze. Those hearts, if
lacking humility, abound with good intentions.
But is just doesn't make sense.
- No matter what the Legislature does, a lot of Georgians will
- A flag is a symbol of unity.
- If the overwhelming majority of voters don't support it, then
it is no good.
The issue of the Georgia state flag is like the weather: everybody
talks about it, but nobody can do anything about it. Do we really
need one? My informal research on the subject indicates that a majority
of Georgians do not really care about it, and given the choice,
would choose to ignore it.
In light of the governor's current plan 1) to find out if Georgians
want to keep the current state flag, and 2) if the answer is no,
then to find out which old design the majority favors, why can't
we add another option: a generic flag, black and white, featuring
just the words, State of Georgia?
As the Augusta Chronicle asks: "Can't we find a way
to honor Confederate heritage without offending our black friends
and neighbors?" The answer is probably not.
The Georgia General Assembly, now ensconced in its 2003 session
under the Gold Dome, despite its many qualifications, is ill equipped
to resolve this issue. There, hard at work, are 56 state senators
and 180 state representatives from every corner of the state, each
with their own geographic perspective and agenda. Their report card
on the state flag is a failure. Why keep hammering away at this
minutia, deepening the quagmire and creating an ever-widening gap
separating the very diversity that our flag should represent?
The truth is the flag - which would at first appear to be a question
of symbolism and aesthetics - has become a big money issue. A vote
- binding or not - will cost millions. Former governor Roy Barnes
used his success in getting a new flag to persuasively leverage
his highly successful fundraising campaign. Let's spend our money
more wisely and focus our attentions elsewhere.
A few years ago nearly 500 people gathered for a debate about the
Georgia state flag hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. By the end
of that night, the debate became emotionally charged and, to be
honest, just plain mean. A vast chasm separated the opposing points
of view. Neither side offered hope for compromise. A narrowing space
buffered pointed fingers and heated accusations.
Now, for the flag to symbolize a unity among the people of this
state is an unattainable dream.
Just substitute a black and white banner that reads: "State
of Georgia" - no icon, no seal, and no symbolism of any sort.
For fun you could even adjust the black or white lettering every
ten years so the total space occupied in the presentation would
match exactly our white and non-white population updated in the
Then, let the law allow that if, in the future, 90 percent of Georgia
voters approve a flag design, old or new, it will be adopted. If
the state implements this plan, here's a look at the Georgia state
flag in 20 years:
This debate is counterproductive. It perpetuates disagreement among
the very people who need to come together to make it work.
test worked well, helping students succeed
editor and publisher
FEB. 28, 2003 -- It's amazing! Consider that Gwinnett has the largest
school system in the state, with 122,990 students, yet continues
to see its test scores and other indices improve.
SAT scores have been going up since 1997-98, and are above
the national average. What makes this especially notable is that
84 percent of Gwinnett students take the SAT, compared with 46 percent
More students are taking advanced placement tests. Not just
a few more, but 200 percent more!
On the Georgia high school graduation test, Gwinnett scores
the highest in reading, math, and social sciences, but not science.
Understand this: Gwinnett is doing this not only in the face of
continued growth, but also at a time when the school-age population
is dramatically changing. Note these changes:
- In 10 years, the minority enrollment of the school age population
has gone from 14 percent to 46 percent. Today 54 percent of the
students are white; 24 percent African American; 12 percent are
Asian. A total of 17 percent are Hispanic.
- In the last 10 years, the number of students whose primary home
language is other than English has jumped from 2,991 students
to 23,791 students! The number with limited English proficiency
has increased from 887 students to 8,970!
These figures come from Dr. Cindy Loe, associate superintendent,
Division of Organizational Advancement.
Wonder why Gwinnett is being able to achieve such dramatic improvement
while seeing radical change in the student make-up?
Some people will not like the answer, but there has been one major
change in the last few years: the implementation by the Gwinnett
School Board of Gateway testing. It's not just a test; it is a system
whereby students who are falling behind are identified, helped.
They catch up because of increased attention to them.
Prior to 1996, Gwinnett parents were concerned not only about the
curriculum, but about student performance. The Gateway test, developed
by Gwinnett teachers and testing consultants, was used so the schools
could put in place remediation needed by some students to improve
their performance. It has worked.
Gateway is unique to Gwinnett, starting in 1998-99. The program
finds about five percent of students fail to achieve the minimum
scores for academic based knowledge and skills. These students are
identified, and given additional help during the summer, after which
they take another form of the Gateway test.
Of the five per cent who have failed the test, a fourth of them,
1.25 percent, again do not measure up to the standards of Gateway.
They are placed in a "transition class" where they learn
the next year's curriculum while receiving extra instructional help.
Here's a powerful statistic: at the end of the transition year,
99 percent of the transition students pass the Gateway and rejoin
their classmates on grade level! Even more powerful, of the few
remaining students, 100 percent of them have passed the Gateway
after a second year in the transition class. This happened each
of the three years of the program.
We had not heard these statistics before. It is a significant achievement
of the Gwinnett system.
Compare that to what happened to students-at-risk before the Gateway
was introduced. When students by the Ninth Grade started making
Fs on their report cards, and getting farther behind, by age 16
realized they were not going to graduate on time. What happened?
They dropped out of school!
But since Gateway, the Gwinnett drop-out rate has decreased each
year. It went form 5.2 percent before Gateway (1995-96) to 1.4 percent
in 2000-01. (Just released figures show that for 2002-03, the rate
went up, to 2.9 percent.)
In the last few years, there has been a lot of negative propaganda
batted back and forth about Gateway. It has come mostly from a small
minority of parents, it turns out.
The facts are that Gateway is not just working, but working very
well. Gwinnett is setting the standard once again in another area.
Gwinnett citizens can be proud of the school system for its progressive
approach to make sure every student achieves, and gets a good education.
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music three times at year at the Gwinnett Civic & Cultural
Center. Its next concert is October 8 at the Gwinnett Performing
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2/28: Trashed belongings
undignified, corrupt practice
Editor, the Forum:
I don't know if it's county or state level, but we need to stop
this practice of dumping people's belongings on the street when
they are evicted from housing. As multiple housing development
increases, so does this incidence of this
very undignified, uncivilized, and environmentally corrupt practice.
Within the past week, I've seen the scattered personal belongings
on Old Norcross Road, Satellite Boulevard, and today on Breckinridge
Boulevard. There has to be a better way.
-- Brian Luders, Duluth
(Brian: Could not agree more.
This has long bugged us. Perhaps this gets us going. It has something
to do with property rights, but it seems crude and like you say,
undignified. Someone will come up with a better way, and a solution!
2/28: Rolling stores
article brought back memories
Editor, the Forum:
I read recently your article on the rolling store. Great. I rode
with my papa who owned a route with a rolling store near Union
Point, Ga. I was 12 or so. We would load up a station wagon with
canned goods, cheese, fatback, fruit, melons, sugar, salt, coffee.
Usually we would travel from early a.m. to after dark. What fond
memories your story brought back to me. Have a good week.
-- Reid Mullins, Dacula
2/28: Broadway musical favorites at Arts Center March 4
The Hudgens Center for the Arts will again welcome the West Side
Stories Light Opera Company for an evening of beautiful music
on Tuesday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. A concert given by five male
and female voices will feature endings from favorite musicals.
Included among the 13 musical pieces chosen are selections from
"The Sound of Music," "Les Miserables," "Funny
Girl," "Man of La Mancha," "Titanic,"
Admission is $15, payable at the door. The Hudgens Center for
the Arts is located at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in the Gwinnett
Civic and Cultural Center. For more information call 770-623-6002.
OF THE DAY
Realize what happens
with spelled together!
"As income tax time approaches, did you ever notice: When
you put the two words 'The' and 'IRS' together it spells 'THEIRS'?"
-- from Dean Booth, Atlanta.
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