Yippee, sort of.
Atlanta's population is booming, up 35,000 since 2000, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. Wow.
And the Daily of Disappearing Circulation almost gurgled itself into apoplexy when it reported last month that housing sales in Midtown soared 1,720 percent. Double wow. The ARC also reported that Fulton County has added more than 15,000 housing units in the last year, including 3,000 condo units in downtown, Midtown and Buckhead. Triple wow. And the new Atlantans are young, young, young (with a few graybeard empty nesters to season things). Quadruple wow.
Having been paid to chronicle boomers, hippies, yuppies, X-ers, Y-ers, tweeners and whatever the hell they call the current generation, here's my prognostication for the next few years.
First, it's super that Atlanta has blossomed as a magnet for the young, creative and hip. We have plenty of bars, plenty of strip joints and just enough on the anemic cultural plate to lure those who think they're playing parts in "Entourage" and "Sex and the City."
There's a downside, however. This is a little X-rated, so please remember we're going through this salacious exercise in the interest of social science.
When you get swarms of twenty- and thirtysomethings all milling about a dense urban area, the hormone count in the air rises almost to the level of our air pollution. Atlanta's young-and-restless populace may work, invest, go to movies, patronize eateries, play Frisbee and languish in coffee houses with their Wi-Fi-ed computers. But they also do something else.
They, ahem, "screw." Copulate! Fornicate! Heck, some of them may even sodomize! Though I'm happily married and live in the suburbs, I'm pretty certain they do a lot of that. They do it in their stylish lofts, they do it in the swank Lenox area hotels, they do it in the bathrooms at nightclubs, they do it at their offices. They do it riding up and down the glass elevators in some of our finer hotels, in fact.
Some of you have probably collapsed with the vapors at such insights. Our good friends at the Christian Coalition may even be drafting their "Defense of No-Fun Copulation Act." Perhaps the fundamentalist jihadists who run our state will require us to restrict "doing it" to twice-yearly, no-foreplay, for-procreation-only, married-folks-only, photo-ID-required boffing.
"Carnal intercourse" is not, however, the real problem.
The real problem comes after all the mega-cool trendsetters do the double-backed beast. I'm not quite certain of the process since, as we know, the study of biology is perceived nowadays by the powers that be to be shamefully un-Biblical. But I think it goes like this: After people "get intimate," the ambient citywide temperature rises. If enough of them do the "ol' in-and-out," we have a form of "global warming."
This heat spike attracts funny-looking birds called "storks," which deliver "babies" to those who have caused the heat wave. This is called "Divine Retribution," although the more pedestrian term is "birth."
Thus, in a few years, those Atlanta lofts are going to be teeming with squealing, crapping little squiggly things. Even that isn't so bad. The disastrous problem comes when the former fun-loving "young people" -- now called "parents" -- start feeding the "babies." The little things grow.
Pretty soon, they've swollen and stretched to a point where they must be sent to a place called a "school." The purpose of a "school" is to misinform the "babies" (now called "children" or "little bastards") about the world and everything in it. The logic is that "children" will have interesting lives figuring out the "real truth" about things.
And now (I know you've been waiting patiently), here's my main point: Atlanta schools suck!
Georgia schools, in general, rank right at the subterranean bottom on, say, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, competing with such educational wastelands as South Carolina or Uzbekistan for the global honor of "worst." Gov. Sonny Perdue declared victory last week when the state soared from No. 50 to No. 46 in SAT scores (even though the scores themselves were actually lower than last year's). That's like celebrating news from your doctor that the cancer has spread to only 90 percent of your body and not every single cell.
Atlanta's schools are in the cellar compared to other metro-area systems and other Southern cities. According to a 2004 Census Bureau report, the ATL's schools have a higher employee/student ratio than most urban systems -- one employee for every 5.4 students (Charlotte is 1:6, Miami is 1:8.5, Fulton County is 1:6.5 and DeKalb County is 1:6.2).
We spend more per student than neighboring school districts and other comparable urban school systems. Atlanta gushes $11,000 per student, while DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb each spend less than $8,000. DeKalb, which has similar demographics to Atlanta schools, had a 47-point lead last year over the intown schools in SAT scores (922 to 875). What all of that adds up to (and this ain't "new math") is that Atlanta school commissars are featherbedding and incompetent.
Friends warn friends that if they move into the city, they should plan to pay for a private school or they'll shortchange those alien critters called "children." What good can you say about a school system that gives hefty five-figure bonuses to Superintendent Beverly Hall for not meeting all her goals?
What happens next? Those "parents" will take their "children" to the suburbs, where there are schools at least marginally better than in the city. With peak oil deterring that lemming march called "commuting," self-sufficient cities will arise in the 'burbs. Georgia's center of gravity will fracture and disperse among the nearby counties.
And the only folks left in not-so-Hotlanta will be those who don't care about their "children," or who can afford private education, or who are too poor to have a choice.
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