Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Johnson City Press on vandalism at cemeteries:
Vandalism at one of Johnson City’s oldest cemeteries earlier this year has sparked a campaign to protect the property. In February, more than two dozen headstones were toppled at West Lawn Cemetery, a predominantly African-American cemetery dating back to 1902.
Many grave markers were broken and flowers from several graves were tossed about.
The cemetery is the final resting place of James Johnson, the city’s first black doctor. Hezekiah Hankal, who was also a prominent doctor, educator and the first black person elected to a municipal office in Johnson City, is also buried there.
West Lawn’s board of directors has been able to get some trees and stumps cleared along the circle of the cemetery road. Press Senior Reporter Becky Campbell also reported earlier this week that the board has installed two signs detailing the expected conduct of visitors to West Lawn and the cemetery’s hours of operation.
It’s not just vandalism that plagues some of our area’s oldest cemeteries. Age and neglect are also problems.
Earlier this month, we reported on decrepit headstones and un-kept graves at a cemetery near Tipton-Haynes Historic Site. A neighbor told Press staff writer Brandon Paykamian she was appalled by the condition of the burial grounds.
“Somebody needs to rake this and bring it up to date,” Edda Boyer said. “It’s terrible. We noticed a 9-month-old baby buried here, and the stone here is broken.”
It’s amazing how often this newspaper hears from local residents who say the grave of a loved one has been molested. Most of the complaints concern flowers and their vases taken from the cemetery. Other residents report having found headstones overturned or otherwise vandalized.
It’s up to the living to protect the dignity of the dead by preserving their final resting places. Unfortunately, for caretakers of many local cemeteries, this work represents a constant struggle against time, nature and vandals.
If you see any unusual activity near a cemetery, don’t hesitate to call 911 and report it.
The Commercial Appeal on sports scandals:
The grade-changing scandal at Trezevant High School might be the tip of an iceberg. Or it might be an anomalous blemish on the face of a clean interscholastic sports program at Shelby County Schools. The public won’t find out until the expanding investigation fills out the full picture.
Whatever the case, the alleged favoritism bestowed on football players at Trezevant over the past few years should catch the attention of anyone who follows high school or college sports or cares about the integrity of the public schools.
The scandal demonstrates how priorities can be misplaced when the passion for success on the field or on the court outweighs the educational mission.
So far the investigation has turned up hundreds of instances in which grades were changed at a number of schools, including Trezevant, where a football coach faces termination and a secretary resigned under fire.
Both are implicated in an alleged scheme to boost the school’s graduation rate and to make students eligible to play sports in college. In some cases, grades were changed multiple times in what, according to investigators, looks like the manipulation of students’ grade-point averages, one of the factors in determining college admission eligibility.
The findings throw two state football championships into question and, more importantly and unfortunately, teach the student-athletes in question that, as long as their performance on the field meets expectations, what happens in the classroom is not important.
Participation in high school sports can teach kids some valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership, the importance of a strong work ethic and the like, but winning at all costs distorts those messages and can drive players, coaches, administrators and fans into destructive behavior and more trouble down the road.
Consider the angst and considerable financial cost that have been generated by the University of Tennessee’s recently completed search for a new football coach to replace the underperforming Butch Jones.
By the time Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt’s name was on the contract, a former Penn State assistant’s name had been dragged through the mud because of a sex scandal that he apparently had nothing to do with and UT and its boosters were in the process of wasting millions of dollars that could have been spent on the school’s academic mission.
Recent high school athlete recruiting excesses also have cost the University of Mississippi’s football program a self-imposed financial penalty of almost $200,000, a three-year probation, 13 scholarships over a four-year period and additional recruiting restrictions.
Legendary Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino lost his job and 10 others have been arrested as the result of an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting.
The pity is that none of this would qualify as unique or even surprising, given the money and prestige that lie tantalizing within reach among those with access to high school athletes with the skills to move on to college or perhaps even professional careers.
And little change can be expected until enough fans grow tired of the scandals and insist that the games they love are played with integrity and cheaters will no longer be tolerated.
Grade changing and other shortcuts to success are short-sighted and ultimately costly to athletes and the sports they play. Interscholastic sports are often described as character-building, but the opposite is too often the case.
Kingsport Times-News on marijuana legalization:
A committee of the Tennessee General Assembly is prepared to recommend that next year, lawmakers should legalize medical marijuana, which would make Tennessee the 30th state to do so. But the legislature shouldn’t stop there. It should join the 22 states which in part or whole have decriminalized marijuana.
The continued criminalization of marijuana is costing the nation billions of dollars annually to no good purpose, wrecking lives, and wasting the time of law enforcement officers and clogging our court system.
It drives an underground economy that generates all manner of criminal activity and puts otherwise law-abiding citizens in prison and makes them felons for possessing small amounts of a plant material that study after study has proven to be no more dangerous than alcohol.
The committee has spent three months researching the viability of legalizing medicinal marijuana and has all but finished drafting legislation for the 2018 session that would legalize cannabis in certain forms for medicinal purposes. All well and good. But the legislature doesn’t need a committee to understand that the next step is legalizing recreational marijuana. So why wait until more Americans are harmed and more money is wasted on a losing cause?
The debate on this issue should be over. Alcohol is 114 times more deadly than marijuana. Prohibition ended 84 years ago, and so should the “war” on marijuana, also a losing battle. Tennessee lags only California in terms of marijuana production. The drug problem is with prescription drugs, especially painkillers, and in that regard a study found that in states which legalized marijuana in some form, overdose deaths from prescription painkillers dropped 25 percent. Nobody ever died from overdosing on marijuana.
As a National Academy of Sciences panel observed in a 1999 report, “There is no evidence that marijuana serves as a stepping-stone on the basis of its particular drug effect.” The Canadian Senate’s Special Committee on Illegal Drugs likewise concluded that “cannabis itself is not a cause of other drug use. In this sense, we reject the gateway theory.”
The pundits said crime would go up in Colorado when it legalized marijuana, but there has been a decrease in drug-related crimes, even as the state has collected more than $100 million in taxes on legal pot.
There are legitimate issues raised with legalizing pot. Restricting access to children and establishing what driving under the influence would be with marijuana are among them. But the continued criminalization of marijuana has clogged our courts and corrupted entire nations like Mexico.
Marijuana should be legalized nationwide. It would help empty our jails, save lives, and bring in millions of dollars in new revenue.