Our thoughts

The Covington News - - Opinion -

Know­ing the score

The lat­est round of stan­dard­ized school tests are out in New­ton County and the very good news is that stu­dents in grades three through eight have shown a 73 per­cent im­prove­ment over last year’s scores.

The bad news is that New­ton County schools are still be­low the state av­er­age.

But we are not go­ing to dwell on that, the 73 per­cent im­prove­ment shows a uni­fied ef­fort by ad­min­is­tra­tion and teach­ers to im­prove the ed­u­ca­tion skills of our stu­dents.

We doff our hats to them and our stu­dents for their ef­forts and we look for even more progress as new pro­grams take ef­fect.

For all we know by the time the Atlanta school cheat­ing de­ba­cle is over and we de­ter­mine what the real state av­er­age for these tests are, we ac­tu­ally might find out that we have im­proved more than we re­al­ize.

As we have said many times be­fore in this space, it is es­sen­tial that we have top notch ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem here in New­ton County in or­der for our county to emerge from this ter­ri­ble eco­nomic strain we are un­der.

We still think we are on the right road to that im­prove­ment.

The last blast

When the Shut­tle At­lantis re­turns to earth on July 20, it will mark the end of three decades of NASA shut­tle mis­sions.

It will be three years, prob­a­bly more, be­fore NASA re­turns to space as it pre­pares to fly to an as­ter­oid and even­tu­ally on to Mars, ac­cord­ing to Associated Press. Emo­tions are mixed at the end of the pro­gram. It has of course been a great and thrilling ride. We have ex­pe­ri­enced great na­tional pride in the pro­gram over the years, such as in 1983 when Sally Ride be­came the first Amer­i­can woman to travel to space, and the sor­rows of the Chal­lenger disas­ter in 1986 and the loss of the Columbia in 2003.

But it has also been a great na­tional ex­pense, 14 lives and some $196 bil­lion, or more than twice the orig­i­nal es­ti­mates.

The Amer­i­can space pro­gram was born at the height of the Cold War in the mid­dle of the pre­vi­ous cen­tury. The Soviet Union set a num­ber of firsts as mankind headed to the stars, but Amer­i­can know-how, te­nac­ity and tech­nol­ogy paid off and we soon far ex­ceeded our ri­vals in the race to the moon.

The shut­tle pro­gram was an ex­ten­sion of that ef­fort, a step that was sup­posed to lead to a manned land­ing on Mars be­fore the 20th cen­tury’s end. We’re still wait­ing to get there. NASA Fund­ing has been cur­tailed as pri­or­i­ties have shifted in both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions. Now, we many oth­ers won­der whether space mis­sions are more prop­erly left to pri­vate en­ter­prise.

There are many press­ing needs here as we battle a founder­ing econ­omy, but our nation still needs a na­tional space pro­gram for prac­ti­cal pur­poses, too. We don’t want to think about the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of space, but it was an is­sue in the orig­i­nal space pro­gram and our se­cu­rity must be con­sid­ered as other na­tions head for space.

So while NASA pro­grams are not on the fast track of a half-cen­tury ago, we still need to reach for the stars.

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