Mississippi Economics

They had to go. The Coke machine, the snack machine, the deep fryer. Hoisted and dragged through the halls and out to the curb, they sat with other trash beneath gray, forlorn skies behind Kirkpatrick Elementary, one of a handful of primary schools in Clarksdale, Mississippi. That was seven years ago, when administrators first recognized the magnitude of the problem. Clarksdale, a storied delta town that gave us the golden age of the Delta blues, its cotton fields and flatlands rolling to the river, its Victorian mansions still beautiful, is at the center of a colossal American health crisis. High rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease: the legacy, some experts say, of sugar, a crop that brought the ancestors of most Clarksdale residents to this hemisphere in chains. “We knew we had to do something,” Kirkpatrick principal SuzAnne Walton told me.

National Geographic recently had a long story about sugar, and it used Clarksdale, Mississippi as a symbol of some of the dangers of the crop.

I try to stay up on how Mississippi (and education) is perceived in the media, and I thought I’d start sharing what I find here–since it might impact how you’re thinking about your own teaching.

There was also a front page story in the New York Times the other day relevant to our work (and not that one about how you should live here forever): it showed how children in the South–and really anywhere with sharp economic and racial segregation–have a tougher time climbing the economic ladder.

What’s it like trying to survive as a low-income earner? McDonald’s has been putting together a financial literacy program for its employees–which put them in an awkward position of revealing very clearly how it’s impossible to survive on minimal wage. Seems ripe for a math lesson, if you ask me.

I’ve also been reading about new frontiers in testing, including Maryland, where they’re trying to measure character, and New Orleans, where 3- and 4-year olds will soon be tested. And while I have some skepticism about tests and how we use them, I found this defense of testing interesting.

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