6/10/13

Gov. Bryant Blames Education Problems on Working Mothers, Ignores Fundamentalism

English: Gulfport, MS, August 29, 2010 -- FEMA...
English: Gulfport, MS, August 29, 2010 -- FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino speaks with Mississippi Lt. Governor Phil Bryant at the Gulfport Hurricane Katrina 5th Anniversary commemoration. Photo by Tim Burkitt/FEMA photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It sometimes seems like much of the rest of the U.S. would prefer to forget about Mississippi. I can't say I blame them. But as someone living here, I certainly am glad that they do not forget about us completely. I find it helpful to be reminded every now and then how much of what goes on here is perceived by the outside world. It prevents me from giving up hope.

As the most religious state in the U.S., nobody is surprised to see how poorly Mississippi ranks when it comes to education. We tend to understand, for example, that rampant anti-intellectualism and hostility to evolution are likely relevant to the quality of our science education. And yet, nobody in our state with any political power seems willing to call attention to this. They would rather focus on arming public school teachers and encouraging school prayer.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) recently received national attention for suggesting that the educational problems in the U.S. began when large numbers of women started to work outside the home. Such a statement would be absurd no matter who said it. What makes it worse coming from Gov. Bryant's mouth is that he's presiding over a state with a particularly poor educational system. His solution, by and large, has been to cut funding for public schools and promote a voucher program that would redirect funds to Christian schools. I imagine his next order of business will involve ordering local fire departments throughout Mississippi to use gasoline instead of water when attempting to extinguish fires.

According to The Washington Post, Gov. Bryant had the sense to realize that his comments would be controversial (just not enough sense to refrain from making them).
He then expanded on his answer, saying that “both parents are so pressured” in families today. He also noted that America seemed to be losing ground internationally in regards to educational outcomes because other nations began to invest more in their own school systems and make progress.
How interesting that a governor who has not been interested in adequately funding public education in his own state sees the U.S. as falling behind, in part, because we are not investing in our education systems like other nations. I agree that our failure to invest in education is a real problem, and I point to Mississippi as an example of such a failure.

As important as adequate funding is, it is not the whole story. Public attitudes toward education are also problematic, and Mississippi again provides an example of the effects of anti-intellectualism. Persuading people to fund education may be futile as long as they view education as inherently evil. In a state like Mississippi, too many people see public education as a threat to the antiquated system of superstition and wishful thinking to which they still cling.

I would never suggest that religious belief and solid education cannot peacefully coexist in a state. However, I do think that the particular form of evangelical fundamentalist Christianity we have here in Mississippi has a significant negative impact on public attitudes toward education.

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