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Tennessee editorial roundup

- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Feb. 3

Jackson (Tenn.) Sun on Black History Month about looking to the future, too:

February is Black History Month, a good time to study and recognize the contributions and struggles of blacks throughout history, and especially in America.

Black history is about more than slavery and the civil rights movement. It also is about ancient civilizations that built great cities, made important scientific discoveries and built great societies. To not understand these aspects of black history is to deny a proud link to the past and a missed opportunity for all students that could help promote better racial understanding.

Students in Jackson-Madison County schools have access to a civil rights curriculum developed by local educators based on The Jackson Sun's "October 1960" project, which recounts Jackson's part in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The curriculum details our local civil rights movement, and the contributions of local heroes such as Shirlene Mercer, Dr. Wesley Cornelius McClure, Dr. Walton Harrison and others who led the civil rights movement in Jackson.

In recent years, the gap between blacks and whites in education, income and other areas of American life has been growing. Equally worrisome are significant and growing gaps among blacks themselves in income, parenting skills, social skills, education and community involvement.

Today, blacks are accepted into every aspect of American life and work. But, increasingly, blacks who share traditional American values and opportunities are further and further removed from blacks who haven't moved beyond the economic, education and social limitations in many communities, including our own.

Bridging the gap between middle-class blacks and poor blacks is just as important as bridging the gap between blacks and whites.

Black history, like all history, teaches us that those who seize opportunity in the face of difficulty are rewarded and often prosper. Black History Month is about celebrating the past. Equally important, it is about looking to the future, about moving forward, not as blacks and whites, but as Americans.

Online:

http://www.jacksonsun.com

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Feb. 4

The Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer on tuition would be free under Gov. Bill Haslam's plan:

Let's hear it for our governor's bold plan to waive all tuition and fees at state community colleges and technology centers.

If our state legislature approves - and it should - Tennessee would be the only state in the nation offering free education to every high school graduate.

Nothing is totally free, and this package would be financed through the state lottery by reducing Hope scholarships to incoming students at four-year colleges by $1,000 for the first two years.

That would likely reduce enrollment at four-year institutions like the University of Tennessee at Martin.

The goal, though, is a net increase in the number of students who continue their education after high school.

Gov. Bill Haslam focused on education in his annual State of the State address to the legislature Monday.

Besides the new program, which he called Tennessee Promise, he called for spending more to encourage adults to go back to school, data research to find adults who have unfinished college degrees, and new buildings at Columbia and Volunteer state community colleges.

Haslam a year ago announced a goal he calls Drive for 55, to raise the proportion of Tennessee residents with a college degree or advanced certificate to 55 percent by 2025. The current level is 32 percent.

His proposal for Hope scholarships is not only to reduce grants to college freshmen and sophomores from $4,000 to $3,000 a year, but also to raise the grants for juniors and seniors to $5,000.

If the package is approved, we can only imagine the impact of being able to study without tuition or fees at schools like the Tennessee Technology Center here in Paris.

It's easy to envision a shift in enrollment from four-year to two-year institutions, and the governor didn't mention what costs might be involved in that kind of change.

But as a whole, it's a leap forward. Let's do it.

Online:

www.parispi.net

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Feb. 4

Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., on the U.S. and Europe have an opportunity to mitigate the Kremlin's bullying of Ukraine:

Russian President Vladimir Putin must be understandably tense about now. The Winter Olympics, on which he has staked his government's prestige and $51 billion of its money, are about to begin in a locale notable for its proximity to an area infested by terrorists who have vowed to disrupt the games.

Longer term, his plans to haul Ukraine back into the Russian orbit show signs of unraveling. Last fall, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was on the verge of signing a political and economic deal with the European Union, one that had considerable popular support. At the last second, he reneged after Russia threatened economic reprisals if Yanukovych signed. Yanukovych caved, and his countrymen took to the streets in their thousands. A heavy-handed attempt at a crackdown only riled the protesters, further causing them to up their demands. Putin's Kremlin postponed indefinitely the next installment of a $15 billion aid package, slowed Ukraine's exports to Russia, its largest trading partner, to a crawl and threatened to cut off its natural gas supplies.

The European Union has an opportunity here, but only if it acts fast and acts big with the United States promising monetary and moral support while staying in the background. Secretary of State John Kerry did meet over the weekend with protest leaders. Catherine Ashton, the E.U. foreign policy chief, has promised financial aid to Ukraine that "won't be small." The European Union, with U.S. help, must make good on its promise of aid and commit to make up for any trade sanctions the Russians impose. The West has a rare opportunity to be of genuine help to a country that has been treated badly by history and even worse by the Kremlin.

Online:

http://www.commercialappeal.com

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