Article Comment 

Scott Colom: How do you change culture?


Scott Colom



A recent news story in the Clarion Ledger caught my attention; it was titled "Culture change in Mississippi urged." The article focused on a recent presentation given by the state economist, Darrin Webb, at a conference hosted by the Mississippi Economic Policy Center. Webb thinks Mississippi needs to increase its human capital to catch up with the rest of the country. The state's high rates of teen pregnancy, obesity and high school drop outs are serious barriers to economic growth, he said. "Mississippi needs a culture change that encourages people to put greater value on their own health and education," he said. 


The article left me with the question: How do you change culture? Seems easy. We know where to start. David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, recently said one of the most effective ways to improve culture is to increase college attainment. He pointed out that the average college graduate makes 75 percent more than the average high school graduate, and that college graduates are also more likely to get and stay married, less likely to have children out of wedlock and less likely to be obese or smoke. 


Thus, to create a culture that values health and education, we need more educated people. Makes sense. Theoretically, to do this, all we have to do is identify the values and priorities that promote obesity, ignorance and teen sex and then tell people to change them. They'll listen; they're rational. Right? Once enough people change, others will follow. It'll become trendy. Eventually, the culture will change. Mission Accomplished. 


Needless to say, it's not that easy. Finding a consensus on what's causing the problems is difficult; everyone's views and values are tainted by their life experiences, background and environment, which makes it hard to agree on much. Yet, even when we agree on the problems, getting people to change isn't so easy. 


People are defensive. They don't like to be told what to do or how to be or what to think. The people around them are usually a part of the same culture, therefore, critics are considered outsiders and less likely to be influential. 


To make matters worse, in reality, people aren't always rational. They'll eat red meat when they know they have high cholesterol, or start smoking when they know it causes lung cancer, or have sex when they know they're too young. So, even when people are able to agree and the information is conveyed despite cultural barriers, it may be for naught. People may ignore it. The culture may stay the same. 


Thus, changing culture is easier said than done. As with most problems, there's no easy solutions. It'll probably take a mixture of individual accountability, creative ideas, tenacious outreach, and patience. And won't happen overnight. They'll be setbacks. But, in the end, despite the difficulty, progress will prevail, if only incrementally. It always does.


Scott Colom is a local attorney.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment hope commented at 11/3/2011 3:13:00 PM:

It appears the only way that our culture (MS.) will change for the better will be if the other states take a nosedive from where they are now and we stay the same. It seems that our politicians are more interested in voter I.D.'s, which if passed will cost the state $2 million dollars, than they are education. I haven't heard of the first politician being for better education. Infact, they want to cut funding for it. After hearing that over 6,500 people greeting Sarah Palin in Tupelo, whose is at the bottom of the barrel in GOP politics, I suppose we have grown accustomed to being on the bottom and will actually shout over it. She's the lady that wants her name to become a trademark. We need a leader like Darrin Webb.


Article Comment tiredfedupsick commented at 11/3/2011 6:13:00 PM:

How much is going to cost the state for all the new people who go on Medicaid in Mississippi when Obama's health care plan takes affect? Yeah, you don't want to talk about that. GOP politics has created many jobs in this state over the past year. Nothing Obama has done with any stimulus plan has helped people go back to work here in Mississippi. Obama's followers in the congress have tried to stick it to the middle class hard workers with all kinds of bank fees. How does that help the average wage earner? I can go on and on about how the State of Mississippi will suffer more and more as long as a Democrat is in the oval office. However, you can't really blame the GOP for the Voter ID deal. It was your brother from Noxubee County who forced that issue into the courts. Can't blame the GOP for wanting to make people vote honestly either. Then there is the black Caucus in Mississippi who continues to suppress their own people with their voting. How will a black person ever prosper with the Caucus continuing to cry racism.


Article Comment hope commented at 11/3/2011 7:07:00 PM:

MS. has the highest poverty of any state. Not being negative, just stating facts. We need more jobs. A lot more jobs. Your rage over Obama was made possible because of the rage over Bush and the Republicans. Remember?
When the Republicans win, the people lose. (Guaranteed)


Article Comment tiredfedupsick commented at 11/4/2011 8:36:00 AM:

The people who you consider poverished are represented by the very people who refuse to pass some type of immigration law in the State of Mississippi. Again, it's a play on racism that makes it the conservatives fault that the people are poor and staying poor. With people like you at their side to cheer on this type of behavior, it will forever be the white man's fault. Kick out the illegals and there will be plenty of jobs available. Oh wait, your people want handouts so they can sit on the porch all day. They DON'T want to work for a living as long as the Democrats continue to hand it to them on a silver platter. When a mother drives up to the Dept. of Human Services in an Escalade to apply for assistance, red flags should go up. No, that doesn't happen and she gets the full amount available to her through the state. But it doesn't and nothing can be mentioned about that brand new $40,000 vehicle sitting in the parking lot. That's why the state has that high poverty rate. It has nothing to do with the GOP when the Black Caucus continues to block any vote to redo the rules. Your failure to address my Voter ID comments only means that you know what I said is the truth. The Democrats caused this with their shenanigans and it backfired on ole Ike and his followers. Thank you Ike and soon every voter will have to present an ID when they go to the polls. Without all those absentee votes and people walking up and voting as if they were one of the deceased still on the voter roll, this state will be fully conservative before long and you'll just have to sit back and praise Ike for a job well done.


Article Comment dznutz commented at 11/4/2011 9:51:00 AM:

Mississippi as a state offers no opportunity of self-improvement, especially for the tax dollars it takes in. It can only offer you status quo or worse. Mississippi is not a state you can improve upon your standing or advance in class. Government officials do not value on education or preventive medicine, 2 of the basic things to improve. U.S. society is (or has) changed for an agriculture/manufacturing society to one that is technologically/information based. If your children or you do not have the resources or means to help you advanced in our more digital & technologically advanced society, I would think the state should be prepare to help their populous become more informed & educated to not only advance the individual but the state & society as a whole. The best way to change Mississippi culture is to leave Mississippi


Article Comment hope commented at 11/4/2011 10:51:00 AM:

@tiredfedupsick;we have an immigration law that was passed by the Federal government years ago. It says if a company knowingly hires illegal workers, they can be penalized, and it is up to the states to enforce it. Phil Bryant did that but evidently, it hasn't been enforced because they don't want business' to have to pay a penalty. Now, Bryant wants it like the Alabama law that puts the responsibility on the working man, like school bus drivers and school teachers, typical Republican. He says he supports tougher laws to fight illegal immigration and he can't enforce the one that he was champion of.
You say run the illegals off and there will be plenty of jobs. If I was unemployed, when the illegals left Alabama, I could have gotten a job picking tomatoes. They would pay me $2.00 for every 25# box of tomatoes I picked. If I could pick 50 boxes a day, that would be $100 a day. But wait a minute. It's going to take all my money that I make picking tomatoes for my gas, meals, and motel. I'm going to have to take my wife, pull my 2 kids out of school to make ends meet and I'm still going to have to be on Medicaid, because I still won't be making enough to pay for insurance.
The banks and corporations use work visas to obtain workers. (illegal immigrants) Why can't the farmers?


Article Comment hope commented at 11/4/2011 11:39:00 AM:

@tiredfedupsick;the mother driving up to the Department of Human Services in an Escalade is nothing but a cop out as to the real needs of real people, who are honestly hurting. With 25% of the people in poverty in our state, you won't see a proportionate number of Escalades on the MS. roads.


Article Comment hope commented at 11/4/2011 12:19:00 PM:

@tiredfedupsick;since you are against Obamacare, what is your plan for the people who cannot afford healthcare insurance?


Article Comment hope commented at 11/4/2011 2:36:00 PM:

@frank;the argument for more stringent voting safeguards has not been borne out by studies. A five year investigation by President George W. Bush's Justice Department found no evidence of organized voter fraud. Just a waste of taxpayers money by george dubya bush.


Article Comment frank commented at 11/4/2011 6:09:00 PM:

You are a hoot Hopeless! First you cite a study by Bush to support your position and then you blame him for wasting money on it!! Heck, ole George just can't win fer losing with you...

I must admit I have never understood why anybody has a problem showing their ID at the polls. It is such a simple thing we do all the time. It seems only logical for a poll worker to ask for proof that the person requesting the ballot matches the name on the poll book. You may be right that it probably won't affect more than a few thousand dead democrats, but it just seems like the right thing to do.


Article Comment hope commented at 11/5/2011 8:47:00 AM:

@tiredfedupsick;haven't seen your alternate plan for Obamacare or are you like the Republican Tea Party, really don't have one, but we just want to criticize Obama, the heck with a solution. Hopefully you read the "Rot in Alabama" in the Dispatch, maybe that will give you a different opinion on immigration, or are you like the Republican Tea Party,we will subsidize the farmers with taxpayer money, but when it comes time to harvest, we will send all their workers home and let it rot in the fields.
After reading your comments, I can understand why you are tired, fedup, and sick. It appears that you are a FOX fan, and if so, I can understand your dilemma. By watching other networks, you can get a better and more accurate account of the happenings in our great country.
They have probably got you believing if the Republican Tea Party has to destroy America to replace Obama, we will do it.


Article Comment walter commented at 11/5/2011 9:02:00 PM:

Culture change results from education or enlightenment. Educated or enlightenment can be formal teaching or as a result of observation.

In Mississippi, a segemnt of society was convinced that they had a vested interest in keeping another segment of the society ignorant and miseducated. Thus, little or no money was allocated for education; second-hand and outdated texts were distributed to the young people in the latter. Dysfunctional behavior and lifestyles were encouraged and role-models that truly represented liberation, one way or the other, were driven from the state or silenced, sometimes temporarily, oftentime, permanently.

For instance, there was a hard working man who lved in Columbus in the early 60's or late fifties named "Smoky Joe", not the one made famous in legendary matches with "The Greatest" but one who had the best barbecue on that side of the Mississippi. One day and cowardly man shot and killed him as he drove his tractor back to his home. Smoky Joe's body was thrown on the courthouse steps right there in Columbus, and if I'm noy mistaken the killer was never arrested , indicted or tried was his dastardly deed. It is also my undertanding that the killer met his death recently, allegedly at the hand of a child that Smokey Joe produced before his death. Poetic justice or just God's way of reminding us that vengence is, indeed, His. The alleged killer of the killer, didn't even know that the person he allegedly killed was the one and same man that killed his father and was never brought to justice...

Firgive the is about changing the culture. You change culture as a result of more people recognizing that a change needs to come, MUST COME, for the sake of all concerned. That justice, mercy, compassion and responsibility rest with all in society to produce a better world. Then, honestly setting about to produce it. Beginning with the parents, preachers, politicians, policemen, parishoners, teachers and community leaders living in such a way as to reflect that it is not about us, but about those who follow. We must strive to leave for the young a better world that the one that we oursleves inherited and that we should consider all of the young, regatrdless or their race, class or religious or sexual preferences to be ours and that we merely hold what we have in trust for them. Corruption in law enforcement or the system of justice must be eliminated; the notion of getting ahead at any cost must cease, whether it be the drug dealer that sell to kids or sick persons or the legitimate salesperson who hawks his or her wares to buyers at super-inflated costs. Politicians really must vote for what is in the best interest of the people and not simply that which is in the best interset of a lobbiest who contributed handsomely to his or her campaign... When that happens, money will be spent as needed toward the true education of the young and the cultural change that we all agree needs to happen, will begin to maifest itself, sooner, rather than later, than most think...


Article Comment hope commented at 11/6/2011 11:26:00 AM:

@tiredfedupsick;you say none of President Obama's stimulus bills have helped create more jobs in MS., but you left the part out that says why did we need the stimulus? Because the Republicans under GWB destroyed our economy. You can get a much clearer picture of what is happening in our economy by being diversified, not being brainwashed by one sided people with one view only.


Article Comment hope commented at 11/6/2011 6:38:00 PM:

If education is the answer to change MS.'s culture, DuPree says he is for improving education, but no where have I seen what Bryant's stand on education is. Ealier, I had stated that I hadn't seen any politician mentios education. I was wrong.


Article Comment hope commented at 11/7/2011 10:58:00 AM:

Bryant is endorsed by Barbour tells us where he stands on education. With Barbour the head of the Republican Party, as for fund raising, it would be safe to say we can expect the same here as in Ohio and Wisconsin. Tomorrow could be the day of reckoning for our school systems.


Article Comment zenreaper commented at 11/9/2011 9:06:00 PM:

Why is it the STATE or FEDERAL governments job to change education? Education is a LOCALLY controled entity. Guess what, if your kid ain't LEARNING, GO TO THE SCHOOL! Stop expecting the school district to RAISE YOUR KID!


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