It would be easy to pile on the comments Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant made about women and education this week in which he told an audience at a Washington Post event that America’s education mediocrity began when “the mom got in the work place.”
However, while many folks, including Bryant, may pine for a kinder, gentler time when Aunt Bea and Andy from “The Andy Griffith Show” were teaching Opie about the wrongs of killing a sparrow with a slingshot, it is important to note that “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Leave it to Beaver” were not documentaries.
The comment about women not withstanding, the fact is Mississippi is in a education fix and has been for some time — a fix that stay-at-home moms and dads can’t control with 20 more minutes of reading every night before bed.
In an Atlantic Monthly story not so long ago, education was presented, front and center.
Unfortunately for Mississippi, the truth was not kind. Below is part of that article:
We’ve known for some time how this story ends nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan. But what happens when we break down the results? Do any individual U.S. states wind up near the top?
Incredibly, no. Even if we treat each state as its own country, not a single one makes it into the top dozen contenders on the list. The best performer is Massachusetts, ringing in at No. 17. Minnesota also makes it into the upper-middle tier, followed by Vermont, New Jersey, and Washington. And down it goes from there, all the way to Mississippi, whose students—by this measure at least—might as well be attending school in Thailand or Serbia.
Bryant is correct about one thing. Educating a child these days is difficult. There are a lot of pressures on time and money for everyone and making sure your children get enough attention is a daunting task.
It’s daunting in Massachusetts, where the public education system is generally accepted to be the best in the country. It’s doubly so in Mississippi where the educational system, to put it nicely, isn’t recognized as the best in the country.
Education in Mississippi needs an overhaul, right now. Until we are willing to blow up the current model — from Pre-K to our universities — without regard to political consequences, we are going to be mired in the same education environment for the foreseeable future.
If we don’t, Mississippi will continue to be compared to Thailand, and not even Opie’s teacher Miss Helen will be able to fix the problem.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1018