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Guest Series: Betty Burney of the School Board

Metro Jacksonville consistently offers the opportunity for our readers to absorb the editorials, personal accounts, and vocal opinions of some of the key players in the decision making process of our community. This week, Vice Chairman of the Duval County School Board and District 5 Representative Betty Burney.

Published November 10, 2011 in Opinion      6 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


America, the land of opportunity and the greatest country in the world, has fallen woefully behind other countries in reading, math and science. America is no longer number one, sadly we are not even number two - or three.  Take a look:

The United States has fallen to "average" in international education rankings released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Quick Facts

- American students rank 25th in math and 21st in science compared to students in 30 industrialized countries

- America’s top math students rank 25th out of 30 countries when compared with stop students elsewhere

- By the end of 8th grade, U.S. students are two years behind in the math being studied by peers in other industrialized countries

- America’s rank in reading skills is 14th among industrialized countries


As a student at William M. Raines High School, my schoolmates and I were told everyday that we were Ichiban, #1, NEVER to accept being number two; average for me is unacceptable!  ‘Average’ makes me cringe because it is “the best of the worst and the worst of the best."

This statistic, along with others, is unacceptable for me for several reasons.  First, students enrolled in America’s schools are members of Generation “Y”, the most creative/innovative generation ever!  This is the Google generation that created a new language; ever try decoding a text message?  My fellow Americans, we actually have a gift; we should work hard to engage these students in meaningful ways to unlock their creative genius.  Yet, America uses high-stakes tests for public schools, where one single solitary test determines an child’s future, a teacher’s, a school’s and a school district’s future.  America uses the tests as a punitive tool; thereby inhibiting true education because everyone is focused on the ‘test’; other countries use the test as a diagnostic and prescriptive tool. Go figure.

Secondly, many American adults are busy engaging in negative public behaviors that our children learn by example and that are counter-productive to learning:  

- There is a mean-spirited, vitriolic rhetoric between political parties, yet we want children to get along well and not bully each other.

- There is a notion of Washington politicians who're proud of being uncompromising on issues, yet we grade kindergarten students on their ability to get along well with others.

-Reality TV shows and sexually explicit music abound that our children emulate, which leads to risky behavior, yet we wonder why children are committing crimes, increasingly becoming teen parents, and focusing on ‘the glamorized hype’ of media stars as opposed to learning.

Finally, nothing takes the place of effective parenting.  Everyone has a role in rearing a child but parents bear the brunt of the responsibility.  Noted author James Baldwin once stated, “For these are all our children and we will either pay for or profit by what they become”.  What are we teaching America’s future generation?  I hope whatever you teach; you teach them well and remind them that our country’s future depends on their ability to unleash their inner greatness!

Editorial by Betty Burney.


Garden guy

November 10, 2011, 06:32:14 AM
"Our society" has thought little girls to act like hookers and little boys to act like pimps and's accepted. Not until mom and dad or whoever stops supporting the attitude and make these "kids" do thier homework...and we all know that life is better for those who do thier homework and homework starts at age 4.


November 11, 2011, 10:31:31 AM
I'm surprised with the lack of response concerning this great article; What do we have a bunch of zombies on MJ? I too graduated from Raines, Go Vikes!!! IMO most kids are gonna turn out however regardless of great parenting. I was at my VA appointment in Gainesville the other day, and my nurses were talking about the same thing, how alot of kids they know were raised up well, but turned out bad; I shook my head in agreement. Look at the crime non-fiction shows on the cable channel 'Investigative Discovery' like Deadly Women etc, It's usually a person who grew up in a nice suburban home with a family that's well off, and raised religiously; Guess what, the kid still turned out to be killers, rapers etc. Conversely, I think that they're alot of kids who came from poor and violent upbringings, but they still turned out to be productive members of society. Thanks for the great article.

Ralph W

November 11, 2011, 12:02:47 PM
Among others, Bill Cosby has been preaching this for years.

So why is this editorial seen by the author and many others as cutting edge observation?

Our collective woes did not just spring up overnight with teaching to the test, pimp and hooker emulation and just outright bad manners.


November 11, 2011, 02:04:38 PM
My first thought as to why there have been few responses to this editorial is that it was pretty worthless. If this an example of what the Duval County school board considers  quality writing,  I would say that sums up  what we are teaching our children.I thought the overall message was fine, but the substance was lacking to say the least. I love the idea of guest editorials but is it too much to spend more than 15 minutes writing it?
This generation is the most creative and innovative because of a new language for texting? Abbreviating. How creative. Substituting numbers and symbols. The innovation is awe-inspiring. Ok, I admit it is a cheap shot to use that line as an example.
I won't continue as I think my opinion of the piece is quite clear.I never should have read it but got suckered by the prominent placement. Well done MJ.

What are we teaching our children? Not quite sure but evidently lots of semi-colons and exclamation points are important!


November 17, 2011, 05:36:49 PM
I had the pleasure of being under the instruction of Ms. Burney before she went into public service, when she was the owner of a Pre-Kindergarten school on the Northside. Having followed her entry into public life with great joy, I am happy to see her connecting with others outside of her every day walk of life to speak with them about the problems facing students in Jacksonville. I couldn't be prouder. Continue the great work, Betty. We are certainly proud!


December 26, 2011, 11:54:44 AM
Sanmarcomatt...did you get so caught up in the editorial itself, that you missed her overall message, and the facts about our educational system, that she used to convey it? 

I only ask because of the amount of criticism that you have levied against the editorial piece, instead of the fact that as an industrialized nation, we (collectively) are rapidly beginning to fall further off the leadership map.  But hey!...let's disregard that, because it is the writings and editorial pieces like Ms. Burney's that is at fault.  You shot the messenger my friend! 

Pretty worthless...yes, I totally agree!  And, that is exactly what we (to include you and me), will become if we don't correct the problems that continue to plague our society.

Ms. Burney...continue to move forward and shed light on issues that others find uncomfortable to talk (or do anything) about.
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