Sunday, May 20, 2007

Me and Scarlett

Tara! Home. I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all... tomorrow is another day.


I was visiting the journal of a new friend, Marc, and I learned that Margaret Mitchell’s estate has selected an author to write another book using the characters that she created in Gone with the Wind. The working title is Rhett Butler’s People and it is told from Rhett’s point of view.  I wasn’t impressed by the authorized sequel several years back entitled Scarlett.  It didn’t live up to the continuation in my head of the saga of Scarlett and Rhett.  I did enjoy the tale, told from Mammy’s point of view with the clever title, The Wind Done Gone, published amid great controversy as the Mitchell estate tried to prevent its release. Eventually the courts ruled that it was a parody and as such could be published.


I first read Gone with the Wind when I was eleven-years-old.  I fell in love with Scarlett O’Hara with her first “fiddle-dee-dee” to the Tarleton twins.  I read the entire book in two days, pretending not to hear my mother call my name when she wanted my help with some household chore.  I suffered with Scarlett as she and Melanie fled from the Yankees, and lusted with her as Rhett  Butler put a blush on her cheeks with his




suggestive comments.  Of course, I was only 11 so I didn’t really know what he was suggesting. I cried my heart out when he left her at the end and felt Scarlett’s defiant sense of hope as she turned her eyes towards Tara and vowed to get him back, “After all… tomorrow is another day.”


That summer, my dad took us to the Starlite Drive-In Movie Theater and I saw Gone with the Wind on the big screen.  It was one of those rare cases of the movie being as good as the book.  I was enthralled and swept away as Atlanta burned.  When Scarlet threw that vase at Rhett Butler’s head, I knew that I was in the presence of greatness.  I wanted to be Scarlet.


I spent hours in front of a mirror trying to arch one eyebrow in pursuit of my best Scarlet impression.  To my great disappointment, I never mastered raising just one eyebrow.  Eventually, I came to realize that my inability to replicate Vivien Leigh’s quizzical eyebrow lift was not the only bar to my becoming Scarlett O’Hara.  In spite of my childish ability to ignore the obvious, the face that stared back at me as I vainly worked my forehead muscles, was that of a brown-eyed, brown-skinned girl, who looked a lot more like Prissy than Miz Scarlet. 



I’ve never completely rid myself of my Scarlett O’Hara obsession. I recognize that it is rather absurd especially as I was raised in a mid-sized southern town, Wilson, North Carolina that is divided by a railroad track.  In my childhood, blacks lived to the east of the track and whites to the west. However ironic it may be, I love my south--grits, the summer heat, and the way that y'all sort of rolls off your tongue like molasses. Sometimes, when I think that no one is watching, I still practice arching one eyebrow, but I have grown to love Prissy.


Butterfly McQueen (Prissy)


Friday, May 18, 2007

Kindergarten Enrollment May Be Delayed For Many Children in NC

Following is an article that I recently wrote for publication in the NC Black Leadership Caucus' monthly newsletter. Its focus is on NC politics; however, I suspect that this issue isn't limited to NC.


If North Carolina state legislators have their way, more than 15,000 children who turn five between September 1 and October 16 in 2009 will not be eligible to enroll in the state kindergarten program. House Bill 150 (H150) and an identical Senate Bill 751 (S751), propose to change the cut off date for initial school enrollment in kindergarten from October 16 to August 31, effective fiscal year 2009-2010.


Under the current law, as long as a child will be five by October 16, that child may enter kindergarten in August of the school year in which the child turned five.  A child whose fifth birthday is as late as October 16 may enroll in a state funded program when school begins in August prior to the child reaching age five in October. The proposed bills, both entitled Every Child Ready to Learn, would not allow a child to enroll in August of that school year if he or she will not be five by August 31.  If this legislation passes, a child who turns five after August 31, 2009 will have to wait until the school year beginning in August 2010 to enroll in a state funded kindergarten program. The fiscal note accompanying H150 estimates that the change would result in 15,360 fewer children statewide beginning kindergarten in August 2009


Based on the long title of H150 and S751, AN ACT for modifying the school admission requirements to ensure that every child is ready to enter kindergarten and thereby reduce student dropout rates in later grades, both bills are being presented as having the potential to address some of the troubles that currently beset public education in North Carolina--an unacceptable dropout rate and school readiness.


However, there is insufficient evidence to conclusively support that delaying initial enrollment in school will decrease the dropout rate in the future. However, there is research that suggests that low income children are disadvantaged by lack of a quality pre-school experience and that the disadvantage magnifies as they age, leading to higher dropout rates. A student that is older than his or her peers in that grade level is more likely to become a dropout statistic.  The student who is six when beginning K or turns six within the first two months of beginning K, will reach the current legal dropout age of 16 nearly a full year before his or her peers.


The other stated purpose of these bills is to make certain children are ready to learn when they begin school.  Unfortunately, there is no solid scientifically based research that conclusively supports the notion that a six year old is automatically more ready to learn than the same child was one year earlier without some intervening experiences designed to prepare the child to be ready to learn.  In other words, just hanging around the house another year does not correlate with improved academic readiness for children who are already at-risk of academic failure.


A 2006 study on the impact of delaying initial entry into school, concludes that positive gains in achievement shown in students who are older when they begin school are more likely connected to their experiences prior to beginning school than any effect from delaying kindergarten for a year. In other words, middle class and higher children who have educational experiences prior to entering kindergarten benefit from the delay but no such benefit is seen for lower income children. (


This change will most seriously impact children from lower income and working class families who are unable to afford private day care or pre-school, depriving them of any significant formal educational experience for as much as an additional school year.  Under current law, the mandatory school age is seven; parents already have the option to choose not to send their child to kindergarten when he/she turns five.  Some parents choose not to do so based on their beliefs as to the physical and emotional maturity of their child. The proposed change will only force parents who do not have options for providing a solid pre-school experience for their children to delay access to education for their children. 


In addition, it is essential to weigh the economic costs to families of the proposed change on low-income and working class parents.  They will have an extra year of child care expenses while waiting for their child to reach school age.


According to the fiscal note attached to H150, the proposed bills will have an economic benefit to state and local government. Assuming all factors remain constant regarding average daily membership, the fiscal note anticipates reduced state General Fund expenditures and reduced county government expenditures in public school spending for a period of twelve years beginning with implementation of the bill in 2009-10 fiscal year. (


There is an additional bill, House Bill 130 that proposes an earlier cut off date of June 16 and would be effective for the 2008-09 school year.  There currently is no Senate equivalent for this bill.