Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The lottery and adjournment

Last night's concluding session of the Tennessee House of Representatives for the 1st Session of the 105th General Assembly turned out to be a marathon in spite of the fact that the monstrosity heretofore known as the 2007-2008 Tennessee State budget was passed yesterday. Both the House and the Senate were debating the Tennessee Lottery, and specifically whether the requirement that a student who received a lottery scholarship should remain that the student must have a cumulative 3.0 GPA to keep their State scholarship, or whether that requirement should be modified. Members in the House were complaining that the Senate did not want to deal with the issue. In the meantime, it was the last issue that the Senate took up in debate last night.

Senator Roy Herron
voted against adjournment (along with six other Democrats) because they thought that until the lottery issue was dealt with, the business of the General Assembly was not done. Several House members, mostly Democrats, complained that the Senate didn't want to deal with the issue. From watching part of the Senate session I got the opposite impression-many Senators in both parties did not believe they had sufficient time to come up with a product that would please the House majority.

From my own college experience, I can tell you that keeping a cumulative 3.0 is not an easy task, and I was a pretty good student. Several times during my college career I managed to make the Dean's List, but despite that I still did not have a cumulative 3.0 GPA when it was all over, though I did come painfully close. Unless you are like my youngest brother who has made his schoolwork his entire life (and I am sure he will end up a successful academician at some point, but this has been to the detriment of other aspects of life in his case, I think-he has little raw life experience), you will have a sub-par period at some point in your college life.

With that said, these dollars are coming from the taxpayers of this State-even if the lottery is the means whereby the money is obtained. When the people of the State of Tennessee amended the Constitution to allow for a lottery as a means to fund college scholarships for our youth, it was with the understanding that it would be done as it is done in the State of Georgia, where a 3.0 cumulative GPA was required. If we are now going to lower that standard, we ought not do so merely to lower the standard so that more young people can go to college. In my mind, our colleges and universities are flooded with young people today who do not belong there, but are there because they were told they needed to go to college. As a result of this phenomenon, a college degree has been significantly devalued in recent years.

I'm not saying we shouldn't help young people who want to go to college-quite the contrary, in fact. What I am saying is that we should not push the issue with them as we are presently doing. Many students are better suited for a technical school or a vocational school. Perhaps we also should consider increasing the value of apprenticeships. In the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents, you could learn a trade by apprenticeship and become licensed that way. There was even a time (as late as the early 20th Century) when you could learn the law that way and be prepared for the bar exam. While it may not work in all cases today, there are still many trades that could be learned through apprenticeship and some associations still allow for it. I think that, as a society, we need to seriously consider restoring apprenticeship as an acceptable way to get into an occupation or a situation.

I'm not sure if the present scenario is helpful to the kids who do belong in college, but if Tennessee is to revamp its lottery scholarship system, it ought not be with a view to merely lowering standards-the standard should still be set very high.

This is also an issue that can afford to wait until next session, despite what some people say. Yes, I believe in education, but the world will not end because the General Assembly decided to put this off until January. This is not urgent business, and if the business is not urgent, the House and Senate were right to adjourn.



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