Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

January 23, 2008

So who’s going to stop them?

Texas Ed Spectator » Blog Archive » So who’s going to stop them?

Just think, with the decision of the majority of the Texas SBOE to reject a textbook for reasons other than failing to meet basic state curriculum requirements, McLeroy now doesn’t even have to bother with the analyzing the “strengths and weaknesses” rule to reject textbooks that teach evolution. Before, the Board would have to go through the motions of documenting that the textbook didn’t demonstrate the weaknesses of evolution in order to reject the book. The Board could have demanded the publishers to include so many “weaknesses” in the textbook so as to make the evolution section appear a travesty of unscientific reasoning.

See the complete post at my new website www.texasedspectator.com.

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June 16, 2007

A symbol of Little League values?

Filed under: cultural values, sports — texased @ 7:39 pm

This past week was San Antonio’s Little League District 19 city tournament.

Texas District Tournament Schedules

2007 City Championship Tournaments

The results so far are:

  • 10 and Under: McAllister Park National
  • 12 and Under: McAllister Park National
  • Little League: McAllister Park National
  • Juniors: McAllister Park National
  • Seniors: Alamo Heights
  • Softball Minors: McAllister Park American
  • Little League Softball: Northside Suburban
  • Softball Juniors: McAllister Park

Notice a pattern here? McAllister Park is so big, even split into American and Nationals, it still dominates everyone else. And just to make sure that McAllister has every chance possible to make it into the tournament, teams from their two leagues do not play each other at the bottom of the brackets. This courtesy certainly didn’t extend to other districts last year with two teams in the tournament.

Now this situation, McAllister being at least twice the size of a good many other leagues in the district, has been going on for some time. Even if officials higher up in the Little League organization actually believe the population numbers coming out District 19*, surely they might suspect something is not quite right?

Apparently, it’s more important to some people that McAllister shows up in the state tournaments than providing the optimal playing experience for as many Little Leaguers in San Antonio as possible. Never mind that McAllister has been known to turn away people because they reached their “limit” and deny them the chance to play in another league. What seems to guide the district policy is to ensure that McAllister Park has the best all-star team possible.

This seems to be at odds with the Little League policy of encouraging leagues to have as many players as possible making the all-stars. According to what we have been told, Little League will allow an all-star team to have three coaches in the dugout only if there are 13 or more players on the team. Otherwise, they can only have two which would require a player as one of the base coaches. This is supposedly to encourage leagues to put more kids on the teams. If McAllister park was split up, it would at least double the number of all-star positions available.

But then they might not be assured of dominating tournaments in the district. This is causing problems beyond their league since other leagues are considering merging so that they’re better able to compete with McAllister Park. So instead of having three all-star teams, they will be consolidated into one all-star team that can compete against McAllister.

Ultimately, this focus on having a “quality” all-star team from San Antonio is hurting the district as whole. Yet nothing is being done. I guess we know what’s important in District 19.

*Once an area reaches a certain population level, leagues are supposed to be broken up. Despite the fact that McAllister covers the fastestgrowing area of San Antonio, it somehow reports that it remains under this limit. However, in order to make it believable, the district hasto make sure the population being reported for other leagues “correlates”with McAllister’s. That means smaller leagues are reporting smaller populations than what actually exists. It would be interesting to see the reported base populations by the various leagues and see just how closely they reflect the city’s actual population.

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June 4, 2007

Some people are never happy

Filed under: cultural values, sports — texased @ 9:20 pm

Wow, long time no blog. We just finished our baseball league’s tournament and I’m glad to see it gone. Our team actually won the best two out of three in two games. Of course, there were only two teams in the league but it was still an accomplishment. Our manager actually tries to get everyone about equal playing time and rotates kids through the infield and outfield. Let’s just say that’s not the case for the other team. I think you’ll find that’s not the case for a lot of the Junior Little League Teams (13-14 year olds.)

Our manager kept stats on playing time and made it available to the parents. Even though the difference between the player with the lowest percentage of playing time, 69%, and the highest 78% (excluding pitchers and catchers) would be only ten innings over 100 innings played, parents were still not happy. One parent, whose son was at the low end complained about how playing time was allocated at the end of the season and during the tournament. Our last three games ended up being only four innings. With substitution rules, that means kids who sat the bench had to sit the “half” the game which wouldn’t be the case if they had played six or seven innings. Never mind the fact that their kids would have had even less playing time on the other team, the parents were still not happy.

These are the same parents that don’t bother to help out with the required team concession stand duties. On the day of the last game, they needed help from 6:00 to 8:00 in the concession stand and our game started at 8:15. I was the only person from our team in the concession stand and at 7:00 our parents started showing up. Of course, after the first one bought something from the concession stand, for some reason no one else seemed interested in buying until after I left.

I really don’t expect a lot of help from the parents but this was pathetic. I understand that when both parents work and are trying to manage the various activities for two or three kids, they don’t have a lot of time. But I’m talking about parents that only have one at home and just can’t seem to find the time to make it out to the ball park. I would probably feel differently if I knew they were Girl Scout leaders or working with the PTA or something. But I’ve sat with these parents all season and I’ll I’ve heard them talk about are what tv shows they’re missing.

I really do think coaches need to spread out the playing time among all the players and that too many coaches are focused only on winning. However, when only eight people (all league board members) show up to help maintain the fields out of a league of over 400 kids and when parents hide in the stand rather than spend 30 minutes helping in the concession stand, it starts getting hard to feel sorry for the parents.

April 12, 2007

How it all starts

Filed under: cultural values, High School — texased @ 8:48 am

High School Students Upset Over Holocaust Assignment | WOAI.COM: San Antonio News:

Students and teachers said the students tagged as Jews were forced to stand against the wall as those portraying Germans passed by in the hallway. The Jewish students were also the last to eat lunch and had to pick up everyone’s garbage, the station reported.Some students said the exercise got out of hand when the German students spat on or hit the Jewish students. “They would spit on them.

They would push them down the stairs. They would be really rude,” student Tiffany Zimmerman said. “I think it was too rough and over the edge.”

Aune said this was the fifth year the school has run the Holocaust exercise. He said he had not received any reports of students spitting, pushing or tripping one another.

“I think that some of the kids were kind of harsh, but it taught us a little bit about how it was back then,” student Trevor Smith said.

I think that this exercise was more revealing than most realize. The lesson isn’t about how Jewish students were treated, the real lesson is how easy it is for people to start treating people badly on the slightest premise. You wonder how the Holocaust happened, look at how easy it was for students to start spitting on others given the excuse.

March 26, 2007

Would they pay if they knew they wouldn’t play?

Filed under: cultural values, sports — texased @ 8:07 pm

Baseball season has started (which has cut into my blogging time) and once again I get to see up close and personal what coaches and parents will do to win. My biggest gripe is the minimum play rules. In Little League, you only have to play a kid for six consecutive outs or one at bat. That’s not a lot and if you’re not one of the better players you’re going to spend your playing time in right field. And the board members wonder why more and more kids drop out each year?

But the interesting part is that most parents aren’t aware of the rules. Usually, they just associate the poor playing experience with a specific coach and drop out without realizing the coach was following the rules. I’ve often suggested that the parents should be informed about the rules at registration time. How many of them would be willing to fork over $95 knowing their children may only go up to bat once a game?

Not suprisingly, no one has rushed out to implement my suggestion. Even though this is supposed to be about kids learning to play baseball and learning to love the sport so that one day they will sign up their kids to play baseball, no one wants to give up the competitive edge of being able to relagate the less developed players to right field. Coaches don’t have to worry about teaching all the kids how to play and can spend more time polishing their own kids’ skills so that they can make the all-stars. As the kids grow older, they justify not playing certain kids in the infield because it would be “dangerous” for them since they aren’t likely to field the ball which is because no one has ever bother to teach them in the first place. So every year, the worst players drop out which makes the players who were slightly better than them the worst players for the next year who will drop out and so on and so on until you go from eight t-ball teams to two juniors teams.

Nonetheless, the coaches and board members would much rather bemoan the lack of “talent” than face the fact that they themselves have created the situation. And year after year, they take the parents money without explaining that just because everyone pays the same amount doesn’t mean the kids get to play the same amount.

December 28, 2006

Rudolph and the road not taken

Filed under: cultural values, Homeschooling, Socialization — texased @ 8:00 pm

I didn’t watch any Christmas shows this year. But on Christmas Eve, we somehow got on the topic of the show on Rudolph, the elf that wanted to be a dentist, the island of misfits, and the abominable snowman. We all agreed that the other reindeer were mean and somehow that’s overlooked in the story. After all, the other reindeer only let Rudolph play after he has shown that his “differentness” is actually useful to the community. If Santa hadn’t needed some extra light, I don’t think the reindeer would have ever let Rudolph join them.

The reason I find this interesting is that I think this show is so representative of our cultural mythology and reality. We like to believe that we are free to be whatever we want to be but the reality is that there’s incredible pressure to fit in. Being different is not acceptable unless the majority finds some value in being different and makes it acceptable.

We’re good with nerds that way, just look at any show that focuses on teenagers. How many story lines are based on nerdy kid doesn’t fit in, gets picked on, saves the day for a popular kid, and is redeemed in the eyes of the rest of the crowd? And people wonder why we have a “bully” problem in this country? If you don’t fit in, you’re considered fair game until somehow you do.

The bullies are never really punished. Okay, the over the edge ones do but never the popular individual who legitimizes the outsider. You can usually get a “sorry” out of them but that’s about it. The group continues to function as before, just the outsider is now included.

Think about how much our society actually reflects this myth. Teenagers who feel like outsiders are encouraged to make friends, join activities, get involved so that they fit in. We blame the outsider for not fitting in rather than the group that ostracizes him. And we assume that everyone really wants to fit in so once they are part of the group, the group doesn’t have to change.

I’m sure many think it’s perfectly natural and would never consider why did Santa allow Rudolph to be treated in such a way. After all, he didn’t even know about Rudolph and even Rudolph’s father was embarrassed by him. This isn’t Santa’s fault, he was the one who actually recognized him, right?

But then I think about another very popular Christmas story, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Tiny Tim never has to prove himself to Scrooge by discovering a way to make coal burn more efficiently or reuniting him with his lost love. (It’s been a while since I’ve seen it so I’m probably getting some of the details wrong.) Instead, Scrooge is essentially punished by the three ghosts of Christmas for his actions. He suffers torment and realizes the error of his ways. The outsiders don’t have to do a thing to be accepted by Scrooge, there was nothing wrong with them to begin with.

Unfortunately, this message isn’t as strong as it might be since Scrooge is such an unlikable character. We all know that there is something wrong with him (greed) so of course he will have to change. In his own way, he’s deviated from society’s expectations and reforms to join the group.

Ultimately, we as a society don’t know what to do with people who don’t fit in or don’t want to fit in. For someone to go her own way suggests that the way the group is going might not be the best way. It’s kind of like hazing or some other rite of passage. You’re finally accepted by the group and you expect everyone else to have to suffer the same as you to join the group. But then you see this person who’s not even interested in your group. What’s worst is that even if you drop the hazing, the person still doesn’t want to join.

So what does that mean? Absolutely nothing if you joined the group because it was what you wanted to do rather than what was expected. But how many of us have joined groups without really considering the reasons why? No one likes to be taken for a fool and if you actually examined your reasons for following the crowd, you might end up feeling foolish. So it’s much easier to find something wrong with the individuals who don’t join the group than confront your own reasons for joining the group. After all, these individuals are, by definition, different.

Why do I care about any of this? Because I’m a homeschooler and there is nothing wrong with me. I’m really not interested in playing the reindeer games and if Santa needed me, I would help but I still wouldn’t join the games. If you like playing reindeer games, great, most reindeer do. Just remember, you don’t have to play reindeer games to contribute to the community.

December 13, 2006

First, it was just a problem with Michaela Ward

Filed under: Cheerleaders, cultural values, McKinney North High School — texased @ 4:14 pm

This is from last October:

McKinney ISD Issues Response To Cheerleader Sponsor – Sports:

The McKinney ISD Board of Trustees, administration, campus administration, and staff will continue to deal with student discipline in a consistent manner in an effort to create a safe and positive learning environment. The District and campus have met with parents of the McKinney North High School cheerleaders and developed a transition plan and expectations for how the program will operate in the future.

At the time it looked like everything was going to be pinned on Ward. Seems like they have since decided to move up higher the food chain.

December 9, 2006

McKinney ISD Cheerleading Mess

First, you’ve got to read this:

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News:

Cheerleading mess a team effort Give us some willful teens; give us some enabling adults – what do we got? A mess.

And who’s reaction do they go for? The students and parents.

Star Community Newspapers:

Parents and students in McKinney Independent School District had mixed reactions about the recent decision to put McKinney North High School Principal Linda Theret and Assistant Principal Richard Brunner on paid administrative leave with the possibility of termination.

Why didn’t they ask the teachers who work there?

November 1, 2006

Ken Mercer: District 5 Candidate

Ken Mercer is running for the State Board of Eduction in district five. He, like board member Terri Leo, believes that the major media outlets in Texas have mischaracterized the Attorney General’s ruling concerning textbooks and the role of the SBOE. If you want to see why I think the media was right, see “Leo’s Letter and Why She Lost” for more information. For someone big on facts, Mercer manages to leave out facts like what the letter Leo actually wrote requested.

Leo’s Letter and why she lost « Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas:

General textbook content standards tell publishers what textbooks should not include – e.g., no sensational violence, no blatantly offensive language or illustrations, no group stereotyping. General textbook content standards are a democratic check and balance by Texas’ elected State Board of Education on editors and authors, monitoring accountability on concerns that the TEKS by their nature cannot address.

But even if we were to agree on facts, I’m pretty sure I would have a hard time communicating with Mercer since I’m not certain we’re even speaking the same language, English, that is. Take the following excerpt of what Mercer wrote arguing that the media got it wrong and that the ruling was a great victory for conservatives.

TexasInsider – Opinion – Ken Mercer – Statewide Media LIes to 22 Million Texans

Abbott’s GA-0456 opens describing the flawed, ten-year-old Morales opinion:

“This (1996) office considered both of these issues in Attorney General Opinion DM-424 and concluded that (1) the Board has no authority to adopt rules establishing content criteria for textbook approval beyond that contained in the Education Code and (2) the Board lacks authority to consider ancillary items.”

Then AG Abbott clarified the rationale for reconsidering that 1996 opinion: “You ask us to reevaluate that opinion.”

Here is what the AG concluded:

“The Board has significant statutory authority over textbooks and textbook content in the adoption process.”

“We accordingly conclude that the Board may adopt general textbook content standards to the extent such standards fall within the express powers granted by the Education Code and those impliedpowers necessary to effectuate its express powers.”

A huge SBOE victory and major defeat for liberals! Two more “killer” Abbott quotes:

“Opinion DM-424 wrongly concludes that the terms “supplementary instructional ‘materials” and “ancillary materials” are mutually exclusive.”

“Opinion DM-424 further errs in suggesting that it is textbook publishers, not the Board, who determine what materials are textbooks subject to the Boards review jurisdiction.”

For the SMM, it gets worse:

“To the extent Opinion DM-424 is read or applied inconsistently with this conclusion, that opinion is overruled.”

How did the SMM miss the four occurrences of the legal word “overruled”?

How is the second statement in red type a tremendous victory over the first statement in green type? Both say they have power based on what is granted by the Education Code. The 1996 opinion states the board has no power “beyond” what is stated and the Abbott opinion states the board has power to the “extent” granted by the Education Code. Am I missing something here?

Abbot overruled the second part (underlined purple font) statement of the 1996 opinion. The board has the right to evaluate ancillary items and that does make sense. However, I think Leo was asking for more than to just the right to apply to ancillary items the same authority already granted to the board to evaluate textbooks. She was looking for Abbott to add language interpreting the Education Code that would expand the board’s authority. Fortunately, Abbott didn’t rise to the bait.

October 29, 2006

With endorsements like this…

Endorsements like this drive me nuts:

The Eagle’s recommendations in district races | The Bryan-College Station Eagle:

We have been wary of McLeroy’s ideological beliefs in the past, but he seems able to move past those for the good of the state’s children. He does work hard, perhaps harder than anyone else on the board. Charleton was a wonderful teacher and leader who would no doubt be a fine member of the State Board of Education. She doesn’t, however, make the case that she would be better than McLeroy.The Eagle recommends Don McLeroy for re-election to the State Board of Education.

Give me at least one example about how McLeroy has moved past his ideological beliefs for the sake of the children. How does he work harder compared to the rest of the board members? What sort of case would Charleton have to make that she would be better than McLeroy? That she would work harder than him? Well, we don’t know what that is since the editors never bother to give an example. How about what would make a better board member in general?

Basically, they think she would be a fine board member and good leader but not better than McLeroy. So how is McLeroy a fine board member and a good leader?

Believe it or not, the same newspaper ran a fairly detailed comparison of the two candidates. Therefore, the lack of specific examples to support it’s recommendation leaves the reader wondering if maybe McLeroy brought brownies for the editorial board and Charelton didn’t.

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