The Truth Be Known: Education in Alabama

Posted on March 22, 2022


Two articles appeared recently (Feb.-March 2022) in The Tuscaloosa News, and both examined, directly and indirectly, the state of education in Alabama. A third article was published in 2019 in which Alabama was ranked next to last in the US News and World Report ranking of best and worst states.

This latter ranking looked at 80 metrics, including economy, infrastructure, public safety, fiscal stability, and opportunities for residents, to determine the best and worst states. The rankings also factored in healthcare, education, crime and corrections and the natural environment.

Somewhere in this election year for governor of Alabama, I heard one of the candidates state that Alabama ranks last in public education in our country. If not dead last, at least in the bottom five, only slightly better than our two closest competitors for the bottom of the pile, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

The first article was devoted to studying new efforts to improve “character development” in K-12 schools and “promote a culture that encourages values like respect, trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.” These are all noble characteristics, while other studies—so the article states—show that “character development boosts academic achievement, while improving student behavior and the school climate.”

What about ‘reading, ‘riting, and rithmatic,” the trilogy that have proven worthwhile for centuries in educating children and young adults? If we are dead last, or almost dead last, in mathematics, reading, comprehension, grammar, sciences then we can expect an equal place of our country in rankings across the world. I bet most teachers, past and present, reading this will agree with me that there is NO substitute for the basics in true learning.

A second article appeared on Saturday Feb. 5, and it was directed to bettering “public education to strengthen the state’s labor pool,” which is logical given the source of the report, the Business Education Alliance of Alabama which is “renewing its push for better public education to strengthen the state’s labor pool.” In other words, new workers hired at Mercedes Benz for example should know how to read, add, and write reasonably well enough to compete with their counterparts in Europe, Asia, Latin America, or Africa, many areas where our students don’t even rank in the top twenty in any category.

What do the businesspeople recommend? It looks pretty good to me, in touch with reality, not advocating for fuzzy cultural attributes. The businesspeople recommend that schools ensure that all children read at grade level by the third grade by spring, 2023; return Alabama to national average by 2026; bring math achievements to the national average by 2026; provide resources for teacher education and support; eliminate gap between high school graduation and college- and career-readiness; restore college-going rate to 65%; and other recommendations related to data, the Internet, all of which point to how well Alabama is preparing students for the work force. Right now, abysmally if we go by data and metrics.

For all you college graduates, don’t get smug and keep the conversation focused on football, basketball, and Fulbright awards. The immediate past record of higher ed academics is just as dismal.

There has been a radical decline in the academic reputation of UA, for example, in the past ten years, falling rapidly from ranking 31st in2011 to 67th in 2021. Meanwhile, the bloated salaries of high administrators—among the highest paid in the nation–while rankings slipped dramatically in the past decade are a disgrace given the dramatic drop in rankings.

There are other signposts pointing to mediocrity, not excellence: the radical decline in faculty numbers (half as many) versus administrators, the junking of merit-based entrance requirements, achievements and advancements by students and a few other items all drawn from an almost toxic addiction to Critical Race Theory and the implementation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as the new standards of higher education. Forget Teaching, Research and Service, very old fashioned and not even seen as logos to welcome you to the UA campus, and you have a reflection of the rankings and ratings of K-12 reflected in higher education.

Respect, trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship are ALL needed, and some has to be taught in schools. But most should be taught in the home and in church. If the mother, the father, the older brother or sister, the grandfather, the grandmother are absent in the home and aren’t doing the necessary, sometimes gentle, and sometimes difficult, work of teaching respect, fairness, etc., then a school can’t do it.

Our truth comes from Scripture. It doesn’t preclude secular philosophical and political traditions—I still kind of like Thomas Jefferson’s “all men are created equal—” which parallels if you think about it, the Apostle Paul’s “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

You might be pleasantly surprised to find how many of today’s problems and issues are dealt with directly or indirectly in Scripture if the truth be but known and admitted. You won’t find the pure and unadulterated Scriptural or secular–for that matter–truths and history in the DEI curriculum.

Published as “Letting the truth be known about education in Alabama,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday March 19, 2022.

Posted in: Education