Mississippi editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Commercial Dispatch on opportunities for women in STEM:
“Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did,” it was once noted, “just backward and in high heels.”
This week, Mississippi State is sponsoring what it calls a “Bulldog Bytes” camp at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Columbus.
The camp has nothing to do with dancing, but everything to do with opening the doors for young women in fields normally associated with men.
The camp, directed by MSU computer science professor Sarah Lee, hopes to inspire about two dozen girls in grades 3-5 to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, fields that are traditionally dominated by males.
Like Ginger Rogers, females can do many of the things men do, but often find their paths more difficult.
That’s the funny thing about gender roles: They almost always have a greater deterrent effect on women than men.
Yet history tells us women have achieved great things — often in relative obscurity — in these fields. While everyone knows Jonas Salk as the man who developed the vaccine for polio, his work was greatly aided by a woman — Ruby Sakae Hirose, a Japanese-American woman who made major contributions to the development of vaccines to fight polio, among other achievements.
Then there is Barbara McClintock, who was denounced as “absolutely mad” in 1951 as she began what was then a controversial study of gene mutations. Thirty-two years later, she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine.
For those who aren’t science buffs, the popular movie “Hidden Figures” tells the story on the key contributions made by African American women mathematicians in the early years of NASA.
And, of course, right here in our backyard, there is the story of Doris Taylor, who grew up in Steens, graduated from The W and is now pioneering research in the field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.
The list of women who have made great contributions in the STEM fields is too long to mention. Even so, women are vastly underrepresented in these fields.
Women make up just one-in-four of those who work in the computer science field, which is the focus of this week’s camp in Columbus. And other STEM fields show women are still very much a minority.
That is why camps such as this one are important. If girls are drawn to these fields at an early age, they are far more likely to overcome the obstacles in their path.
The idea that these fields are “for boys,” is harmful — to all of us. We short-change ourselves when half of our population is taken out of the equation.
As we have seen, women have achieved great things in these fields. Opening the door wider to aspiring female scientists, mathematicians and engineers is exciting indeed.
The Sun Herald on Mississippi Power’s Kemper County power plant:
It is time for Mississippi Power to reach a fair and equitable decision on its Kemper County power plant.
For years, South Mississippians who rely on Mississippi Power for electricity have been left to wonder just how much their rates will go up because of the plant.
The plant is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. That is what we know.
What residential customers, businesses and potential businesses and employers have not been able to count on is how to budget for their electric bills. After a mortgage, car payment and food, the cost of electricity is one of a family’s largest monthly expenditures. That bill already is subject to the vagaries of weather. Families do not need nor deserve further uncertainty.
The power company filed a plan earlier this month that asks the Public Service Commission to keep a 15-percent rate increase approved in 2015 to pay for the gas-fired portion of the plant. It has yet to file a plan on how to pay for the remainder of the more than $7 billion plant.
On Wednesday, the PSC asked its legal staff to draw up an order that would give Mississippi Power 45 days to come up with a plan. That order probably will be approved in July.
We urge all parties involved to reach an agreement. It is past time we moved on.
The plant, which started with such promise, has not lived up to expectations.
It has been the subject of lawsuits and much criticism.
“Piles of Dirty Secrets Behind a Model ‘Clean Coal’ Project” read a New York Times headline last year, a story that circulated widely.
A few months earlier, Southern Company, Mississippi Power’s parent, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the SEC was investigating the project.
A class-action lawsuit filed early this year alleges Southern Company violated the Securities Exchange Act when it “made false and misleading statements and/or failed to disclose adverse information regarding the progress of the Kemper plant, assuring investors that the project would be completed by the critical May 2014 deadline, even when cost overruns and other delays began to materialize.”
And that’s not the only suit. A lawsuit by Hattiesburg oilman Thomas Blanton caused Mississippi Power to refund millions of dollars it had collected from customers in what Blanton said was a faulty rate plan.
That steady stream of bad news overshadowed the milestones achieved by the plant, which has in fact been producing power off and on using the syngas it produces from lignite coal. But the plant hasn’t run consistently and it will be years before it is finished, Mississippi Power said earlier this month.
We applaud the efforts of the PSC to bring this to a close. We have no reason to doubt that Mississippi Power will cooperate fully with the PSC and the others involved to bring about a plan that is fair to the customers and the utility.
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on a pilot program to teach Advanced Placement courses in rural and low-income districts:
A new partnership is making high-level, college preparatory coursework available to Mississippi high school students.
Beginning in the upcoming school year, the Mississippi Public School Consortium for Educational Access is launching a pilot program that will teach Advanced Placement courses in select rural and low-income school districts that currently do not offer the courses.
Northeast Mississippi is well represented in the pilot group, with Aberdeen, Booneville and Pontotoc County among the initial seven participating districts, as reported by Daily Journal education reporter Emma Crawford Kent.
In preparation, more than 20 students from those districts are participating in a two-week summer academy held at Mississippi State University to get them ready to take AP physics this fall.
When the students return to school in August, they will take an AP physics course taught by Meg Urry of Yale College, an internationally renowned astrophysicist and director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
The AP classes this school year will be taught in blended style, combining online and in-person instruction from teachers within the students’ schools and from Urry.
Thanks to private support — including a $200,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation — the consortium is able to provide the preparatory summer academy and the advanced courses to students free of charge.
The consortium also is working in partnership with the Global Teaching Project to take this year’s pilot program to scale and offer AP courses to more students.
Such courses introduce high school students to the rigors of college-level classwork and offer them an opportunity to earn college credits early. In doing so, they engage students, open pathways to more selective universities and even spark confidence in what they’re capable of achieving.
According to the College Board, about 85 percent of selective colleges report that a student’s AP experience favorably impacts admissions decisions. Millions of students have been able to graduate from college more quickly and at lower costs because they earned college credits through high school AP courses.
Yet, access to AP courses is limited for many Mississippi students. The state is filled with small, rural districts, and many of those entities do not have the manpower to offer such specialized courses. School funding cuts increase those pressures.
That is what makes this innovative partnership so valuable. It offers students a profound opportunity not readily available to them.
As Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy said in a press release, “Talented students, regardless of their geographic location and family income, need to be supported so they can reach their fullest potential.”
Doing so can set these students on a new educational and career trajectory. The result can have a tremendous impact on our state and its local communities.