This & That

May 22, 2009

An interesting bit of news from the past…
   A Faithful Reader provided this 1959 Banner news snippet. Apparently Pres. Teddy Roosevelt stopped over in Franklin in his 1912 bid for election.
   “…he was met at the Southern Pacific Railway Depot by a cavalcade of ‘Rough Riders’ composed of Spanish American war veterans who had served in Cuba.
   “While the populace cheered, the carriage galloped up Willow Street to the Courthouse Square where T.R. delivered his speech. Some wit, as a sly prank, gilded the hooves of the horses provided for Roosevelt to ride. There was also an imitation Roman emperor’s chair of wood for Roosevelt to sit upon while being introduced to the citizens lining the square.”
   The article concludes that, “The chair is in one of Franklin’s major business offices today with the ex-president’s initials and the date of the great event carved on the back.”
   So the question before the committee today is…does anyone know where the chair might be today, or what happened to it?
   ——
   Statistics and studies are kinda like Play-Doh. You can knead them, roll them, smoosh them and make pretty much anything you want out of them.
   Here’s a few such studies and statistics to counter school system arguments that large, mega-mall schools are not detrimental to the education and well-being of our kids. You can take these – and theirs – with as much salt as you deem necessary.
   For instance, the American Youth Police Forum has found, “Student academic achievement, social behavior, attendance, and extra-curricular participation are often superior in small schools. The small learning communities give students a sense of belonging that also lowers drop out rates and increases parent involvement…”
   The forum quotes the Director of the Small Schools Workshop at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Mike Klonsky, who has seen first hand what large impersonal schools can do to low-income and minority youth. “If you want places just to ‘warehouse’ kids,” Klonsky says, “[then] bigger is cheaper,” but if you are talking about making a connection to kids and improving graduation rates, then smaller schools are better.
   Furthermore, “data from 13,000 rural and urban schools in Georgia, Montana, Ohio and Texas…found that poverty had a weaker influence on student performance in smaller schools in 48 out of 49 testing indices, and school size had the greatest influence on student achievement in middle school grades. In addition, they calculated the number of schools in each state that were too large to be efficient. In Texas, for example, between twenty-six percent and fifty-seven percent of the schools were too large depending on the grade level examined.”
   Newsweek reported in May, 2009 that, “As baby boomers came of high-school age, big schools promised economic efficiency, a greater choice of courses, and, of course, better football teams. Only years later did we understand the trade-offs this involved: the creation of lumbering bureaucracies, the difficulty of forging personal connections between teachers and students. SAT scores began dropping in 1963; today, on average, 30 percent of students do not complete high school in four years, a figure that rises to 50 percent in poor urban neighborhoods. While the emphasis on teaching to higher, test-driven standards embodied in No Child Left Behind resulted in significantly better performance in elementary (and some middle) schools, high schools for a variety of reasons seemed stuck in a rut.”
   “A national study by Bank Street College of Education, released in 2000, found that small schools in the Chicago Public Schools have higher attendance, fewer dropouts, fewer course failures, fewer incidents of discipline and violence and higher teacher, student and parent and community member satisfaction than large schools,” says the Chicago Public Schools board itself.
   The list goes on and on, so there you go. For every claim, there is a counterpoint. But you see, I’m not the only fool shouting for small schools.
   There are very good reasons Glencoe Charter School has succeeded as well as it has.
   If the school system continues on this path of closing our community schools, I sincerely hope charter schools pop up to take their places in every community that has been victimized by the bureaucrats in Centerville.
   There is no reason to believe they’ll stop with J.A. Hernandez, if it is indeed closed in two years as school administrators propose. Their word hasn’t been worth a plug nickel so far.
   J.A. Hernandez is not directly my community school. I’ve already lost two of my community’s schools, Charenton Elementary more than 20 years ago and now Mary Hines Elementary is to be closed. Kids who once walked a block to school are riding buses for an hour.
   Don’t let it happen to you and your kids. Stand up to the brutes. Stand up for yourself and your children.
   ——
   Last gripe.
   First it was the tobacco tax. Now Louisiana is looking to stop smoking in bars and casinos, after stopping it in every other public place a few years ago.
   And now, the feds are looking to raise the tax on alcohol.
   This, and the recent tobacco tax, are to pay for health care. First it was “child health care” but once the morons finally figured out that children probably don’t smoke that much, it’s been most recently just called “health care.”
   There is something very, very wrong when government starts taxing perceptions of morality. There has been talk of a soft drink tax and a fast food tax, which I jokingly mentioned recently.
   They say such things contribute to greater health care costs. It may well be true, but that’s not why they’re doing it. They’re doing it because they don’t have the guts to tax anything else anymore. They’ve taxed us to near-death and the only thing left they think they can get away is so-called “sin taxes.”
   Look, I like small cigars and smoke a couple a day. I like a beer with lunch now and then and less often a fine highland scotch. So I consider myself someone who drinks, but not really a drinker. And the long and short of it is, I’m feeling pretty put-upon, and I don’t even indulge that much.
   The government needs to get out of my life. All our lives. This smoking ban in public places is fine if they’re “public” meaning owned and managed by public resources. Businesses are not public places, they are private places, and the government has no business there. I don’t care if you smoke or not, if you don’t like the smoke, don’t go to the business. If they can’t make it without your business, they’ll take care of the issue on their own.
   I don’t care if you drink or not, either, because if you get sick from, say, a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, I shouldn’t get penalized by taxing my Abita Amber. Oh, what, they’re not going to dedicate beer taxes only to beer-related costs in the health care proposal? Of course not! It’s a scam, pure and simple, on the least defensible scapegoat.
   The Congress and the state legislature are getting too far into our lives. We need to kick their butts to the curb before we have no liberty left whatsoever.