The most complex obstacle to attracting talented professionals from other states to work in metro Augusta’s burgeoning cybersecurity industry is actually quite simple.
They think we’re stupid.
A community leader I’ve known and respected for many years has told me and others on several occasions that many cyberdefense contractors and federal employees in metro D.C. – soon-to-be-former home of Army Cyber Command – consider everything in Georgia outside Atlanta to be “dirt roads and bare feet.”
The stereotypification, obviously, is patently absurd. And a tad annoying considering the Civil War ended 150 years ago, Jim Crow died in the 1960s and CBS pulled the plug on “The Dukes of Hazzard” in 1985.
Why then, in internet-saturated 2018, do many of these “smart” people we’re trying to lure from Virginia and Maryland think we’re knuckle-dragging hicks? I suspect it has a lot to do with widely publicized state-education rankings that consistently place Georgia near the bottom of the list.
U.S. News and World Report’s “Best States for Education” list, America’s most-widely cited barometer of brainpower, currently ranks Georgia 35th and South Carolina 43rd. Virginia and Maryland, where much of the nation’s cyber-industrial complex dwell, are at No. 12 and 13, respectively.
Are you knuckle-draggers still with me? Good. Because I’m about to go Morpheus on you: What if I told you these rankings are horse puckey?
What if I told you Georgia was not really 15th worst in the nation, but the seventh best?
This glitch in the Matrix has been pointed out by Cato Institute researchers Stan Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly. Their policy-analysis paper, “Fixing the Bias in Current State K–12 Education Rankings,” identifies methodological flaws that consistently make Northeastern and Upper Midwestern states appear smart and Deep South states appear dumb.