Guest Series: Betty Burney of the School Board

November 10, 2011 5 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

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.

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.