Major investments in opportunity

The dramatic growth of Columbus State University’s STEM education and instruction programs in recent years are an encouraging, even inspiring development. They are a case people coming together to do something good that directly addresses something bad.

The latter is a depressingly familiar pattern in Columbus: the “low-wage town” syndrome that hasn’t changed as much as we’d all like it to, even as the community has evolved from a textile economy to a more sophisticated and diversified one. As reported by education writer Mark Rice, almost 60 percent of the households in Greater Columbus have total incomes of less than $50,000. An even grimmer statistic is that almost a third (30 percent) of our children live in poverty.

Those numbers, especially the second one, are unacceptable.

The Regional Prosperity Initiative was formed to address such problems. One way to do that is by strengthening the economy, which of course begins with education — specifically in this case, science, technology, engineering and math (hence STEM) education.

A $133,000 grant to CSU from the University System of Georgia will be used in part to teach the teachers — to pay for STEM instructors to attend seminars to learn best practices in teaching those subjects so critical to surviving, succeeding and prospering in this economy.

Overseeing the project for the university is Tom Hackett, who directs partnerships with schools in the Muscogee County School District. One component of those partnerships will involve CSU “master teachers” working with K-12 teachers to provide lesson plans and share STEM instruction techniques.

With this University System grant, CSU has now benefited from more than $3 million in public and private contributions to help make the university an incubator of regional economic development education. Every child and young person who shares in that education is likely to figure in this community’s brighter numbers rather than its grimmer ones.

Can it be true?

Bob Ross, the popular landscape painter who for years hosted “The Joy of Painting,” was famous for being able to turn a blank canvas into a detailed mountain vista, woodland lake or seaside sunset in 30 minutes’ airtime.

He was — and more than 20 years after his passing, still is — famous as well for his distinctive look: a constant smile, a rust-colored beard and his trademark white-guy Afro.

Which, we now learn, was a perm.

Annette Kowalski, Ross’ longtime business partner, “outed” the late artist’s tonsorial conspiracy in a recent interview on National Public Radio.

“He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts,” Kowalski told NPR. “So he let his hair grow, he got a perm and he decided he would never need a haircut again.”

Except that unexpected fame made the hair almost as much a Ross signature as his talent, and he was essentially stuck with it for the rest of his life.

What the heck. It’s how most of us want to remember him anyway.