More Zero Intelligence on the School Front


Youngest son Sean pointed out to me tonight an incident from the Killeen Independent School District, in which an 8th grade student was suspended for leaving his classroom to help another student, who was having a severe asthma attack.

Killeen Indpendent School District Photo Anthony Ruelas

The incident is described in the article linked in the following email, which I wrote to the superintendent of the school district, Mr. John Craft. For anyone else who would care to write to him as well, his email address is:

John.Craft@killeenisd.org

I wrote to him as follows:

Dear Mr. Craft,

I learned this evening about the incident at the Gateway Middle School involving student Anthony Ruelas, who has apparently been suspended for two days for leaving his classroom to aid another student who was having an asthma attack. I learned of the incident from this Yahoo report:

https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/student-suspended-after-saving-classmates-life-182113379.html

This article includes a comment attributed to you: “The Killeen ISD maintains the safety of our students, staff and campuses as a priority and applauds the efforts of students who act in good faith to assist others in times of need.”

If that is actually what you said about the incident, I can’t help wondering exactly what the school and district think was inappropriate about what this boy did and why he isn’t being “applauded” for “acting in good faith to assist others in times of need”.

Rather than being suspended, he should be rewarded for his clear-thinking and prompt response to an emergency that his teacher was apparently incapable of handling in an appropriate manner.

I am a college and law school graduate and taught in law school. My wife was also a high school teacher and we raised four children, so I have a good idea of why an appropriate level of discipline is necessary to the successful education of students, particularly at the middle school level. On the other hand, I know a bad administrative decision when I see one … and I see one here.

Whoever made the decision to suspend this boy … and everyone in the school district administration who supports that decision … gets on “F” on this one.

James T. Reilly
Attorney at Law
Novato, CA

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— FLA 76 —

Riding Dinosaurs … Not


A high school classmate and friend, who spent her entire adult working life as a teacher, today shared on Facebook a link to an article on “AddictingInfo.org” by one Wendy Gittleson. The article, titled “Almost Half of Americans Think Humans and Dinosaurs Lived Together”, is here:

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/06/29/almost-half-of-americans-think-humans-and-dinosaurs-lived-together/

And the AddictingInfo.org Facebook page is here:

https://www.facebook.com/AddictingInfoOrg?fref=ts

AddictingInfoOrgThe author’s apparent primary purpose is to criticize those who are “anti-science”, as well as those who are religiously inclined, suggesting as she does that they are the primary cause of “stupidity like this” and that this is “… also a side effect of a free-market educational system, where people can pick and choose whether to have their children learn scientific facts or the Bible or anything in between.”

When my own kids were in school, my wife & I were big supporters of the public schools they attended. Sandy was often a class mother, was always active in parent teacher organizations (president one year), and frequently volunteered to work at other school events. Eventually, she returned to school herself, earned her bachelor’s degree in education, as well as her teaching certificate, and taught high school even while fighting the cancer which ultimately took her life.

I was a parent escort on field trips, worked the sidelines on football Saturdays, was attorney coach of the high school mock trial team for 4 years, was a volunteer for a school bond measure (serving as absentee ballot coordinator, precinct captain and election day headquarters coordinator), once ran for the K-8 school board (unsuccessfully) and once, when no one else would do it, filled in myself as a class “mother” for a semester. I have a whole series of framed class photos of the two elementary school classes that I “adopted” each year by making direct cash donations.

However, the last of my kids graduated from high school in 1997 and, from what I have seen since, our public school systems across the country have gone seriously downhill in the last 18 years. If I had a school-aged child today, there is no way I would send him or her to a public school … it would be a private school or home-schooling.

The idiocy (sorry, but no other word suffices) of so many of the people running our public schools today is frustrating and intolerable. I have been compiling a host of examples of what I refer to as “Zero Intelligence” being exhibited by American school officials and will eventually write a major blog on the subject. I did write about one brief example awhile back, which is here:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/more-zero-intelligence-from-our-so-called-educators

So, to get to my point today: the fact that a significant percentage of Americans think that humans and dinosaurs lived or “probably lived” at the same time IS both sad and distressing (albeit the headline on the article is, in my opinion, misleading, 41% not being “almost half”). What motivated me to comment, however, is the suggestion that, “This is a side effect of a free-market educational system”.

First, according to the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) and as of the 2011-2012 school year, only 10% of all K-12 students in the U.S. attended private schools. See the full CAPE report here:

http://www.capenet.org/facts.html

Almost 43% — 42.9% to be exact, which makes use of the qualifier “almost” correct in this instance — of private school students attended Catholic schools. Only 14% attended conservative Christian schools. Which means that at most only 1.4% of all students attended born again Christian schools.

So, even if every single one of them … as well as every single other private school student in the country … is among the 41% who are misinformed about people and dinosaurs, that still means that 31% of that misinformed portion of the population attends (or attended) public schools. This problem most assuredly cannot be blamed on the “free-market educational system”. It is primarily a function of a public school system which is seriously broken.

And second (here I find myself in the unusual position of speaking up on behalf of conservative Christians, of whom I am usually more likely to be critical), I also think the comment in the article that born again Christians are more likely to believe that “people rode dinosaurs like horses”, is both intellectually dishonest and inaccurately disparaging.

There is nothing in the actual study … linked in the article and available here:

https://today.yougov.com/news/2015/06/18/jurassic-world/

… which indicates that born again Christians are more likely to believe that “people road dinosaurs like horses”. That characterization is a gratuitous and factually unsupportable slap at a relatively small group of people, apparently thrown into the article with no better motivation than personal animus against persons of a presumably different religious persuasion than the author’s.

In my opinion, personally insulting comments like this are both needlessly offensive and ultimately counter-productive.

I submit that the author of the article and others of a like mind would be more helpful in addressing and ultimately solving our country’s educational issues by concentrating on improving their own public schools, rather than worrying about what is going on at someone else’s private school.

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FLA 70

More Zero Intelligence from our So-Called “Educators”


Recently proposed legislation in South Carolina would require schools to spend three weeks teaching about why the 2nd Amendment was included in the U.S. Constitution.

See:  http://bearingarms.com/lawmaker-wants-mandate-second-amendment-education-schools/?utm_source=bafbp&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_campaign=baupdate

Three weeks on the 2nd Amendment seems like a bit much, though a three week section on the entirety of the Constitution would be a good idea.  That, however, is not what prompted me to write this. Rather, it’s to comment on the underlying reason for this proposed legislation.

See this article:

http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2014/08/21/high-school-student-arrested-for-writing-story-about-shooting-dinosaur/

It describes a circumstance which can only be characterized as bizarre in the extreme. For one of his assignments, a 16-year-old high school student wrote a fictional “Facebook-type status report telling something interesting about himself” which read:

“I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur. I bought the gun to take care of the business.”

For this, he was taken in by cops for questioning, while they also searched his locker and backpack for guns. None were found.

Police said that the student was “difficult” during questioning, so they arrested him and charged him with disturbing the school. He was also suspended for a week.

His mother said that she “understands the gravity of the situation”, but appears to have been referring to what her son wrote. The real gravity of the situation is that the school and police authorities so flagrantly over-reacted — if I was this kid’s parent, I’d be publicizing this everywhere I could, suing both the school and the police, and doing everything possible to have the school officials fired.

This is just one more example of why zero tolerance = zero intelligence.

Teachers & Plumbers


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A friend whose husband is a teacher and who has three kids in California public schools, recently posted on Facebook the following quotation from President John F. Kennedy, asking, “Why are we still dealing with this 50 years later?”

“Modern cynics and skeptics… see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.”

My late wife Sandy was also a high school teacher, as is my prospective brother-in-law and West Point classmate, Trey Sayes.  I have even taught myself for several years, albeit at the post-graduate level when the students were no longer children.  When our own kids were in school, Sandy & I were strong supporters of their teachers and heavily involved in school activities.  Combined with my own experiences as a student, I have studied under, worked with or observed many teachers over the years.  As a result of those experiences, I have a great admiration for the hard-working, dedicated and excellent teachers who educated me (see Note 1 below) and my children and who helped us all become useful, productive adults.

That said, the explanation for the observation in this Kennedy quote is quite simple, if perhaps a bit cynical — it’s the law of supply and demand.  We require, as a society, far more teachers than plumbers (or, for that matter, most other professions).  It is an undeniable economic reality that those who perform a less common service — particularly one which, when needed is needed “now” and which requires a specific skill set that few people have obtained — will command higher compensation than those who perform a more common and less demanding service.  Hence, plumbers make more than teachers.  Which is not to say that the service provided by plumbers is more important to society, long- term, than that provided by teachers, but the immediate need to restore interrupted water service or repair a damaged waste-disposal system can be, in the moment, very pressing indeed.

There is another consideration as well, which is based in part on hard-earned personal experience and in part on information obtained second-hand (largely through the media).  People in general and I in particular would never tolerate in a plumber, or other such professions as also command higher wages than do teachers, the levels of incompetence that we tolerate among of teachers of our children.

This is a human distortion of the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest.  Because we need so many teachers, it is unavoidable that we will be able to hold the profession as a whole only to a lower standard of competence than one in which the number of practitioners is smaller.  Even the less fit are able to “survive” as teachers simply because of the demand for large numbers of them.

In general, if someone hires a professional, such as a plumber (or a lawyer!) who does a poor job, there are several readily available remedies:  non-payment for the services, avoiding that professional in the future and even suing for damages.  There is no such recourse against an incompetent teacher — a child assigned to that teacher’s class almost certainly will have to remain in it for the entire school year.  And that child’s younger siblings may also end up in that teacher’s class in the future, with little or no opportunity for the parent to avoid the assignment .  Most parents, in fact, would have no way of even knowing that a particular teacher’s performance is sub-par.

All too often, school administrators are reluctant or even outright unwilling to take action against or even help to improve the performance of teachers under their supervision.  The atmosphere in many schools appears to be adversarial — administrators and teachers against parents and students — rather than cooperative.  And don’t even get me started on the stupidity of some of the current policies being devised by administrators and implemented by teachers (a subject on which I have been compiling examples and regarding which I will blog in the not too far distant future).

Finally, teacher’s unions have evolved (or perhaps devolved, depending on your perspective) into organizations one of the primary functions of which is to protect incompetent teachers from any consequence for their failings.  The single most politically powerful organization in the State of California today is the California Teacher’s Association.  A 2010 report by the California Fair Political Practices Commission revealed that political contributions by the CTA over the preceding 10 years ($211.8 million) were nearly double the #2 contributor (the California State Council of Service Employees with $107.4 million) and more than Chevron, AT&T, Philip Morris and the Western States Petroleum Association combined.

See here for the full report:

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/reports/Report31110.pdf

Which makes me wonder, if teachers’ salaries remain unacceptably low, compared to other professions, to what end is the CTA expending this incredible amount of money, the primary source of which is union dues from their underpaid constituents?  (See Note 2 below.)

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Note 1:  My Lindenhurst High School track coach and physical education teacher, Carl Greenhut, had a particularly profound effect on my life.  I wrote an earlier blog post in which I described his influence on my life here:

http://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/in-the-meets-lindenhurst-high-school-track-field/

Of course, I had other teachers who greatly influenced my life as well:

One of my high school English teachers, Miss Angela Hughes, greatly encouraged my analytical and writing skills and was the primary motivator for my subsequent addiction to putting my thoughts on paper (and now, the internet).

My fifth grade teacher at Edward W. Bauer Elementary School, Mrs. Muriel Giese, engendered my life-long love of books and reading.

At West Point, one of my English teachers, Col. Jack L. Capps, helped hone my writing skills and motivated me to excel in the subject.  Ultimately, this enabled me to achieve my only note of particular distinction at the academy — receiving the Colonial Daughters of the Seventeenth Century Award as Honor Graduate (first in my class) in the Department of English.

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Note 2:  As of 2009, the president of the CTA was being paid more than $200,000 per year, roughly triple the average California teacher’s salary.  And that doesn’t even take into consideration the generous benefits paid to CTA staff, including for the union president use of a home valued at more than a million dollars.  For a further discussion of the uses to which the CTA puts California teachers’ dues, see:

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2009/Jul/02/no-recession-teachers-unions/?#article-copy