About a quarter of the kids in the San Antonio school district attend charter schools. Most are the low-income, minority students we think about when we imagine providing innovative opportunities for kids stuck in failing public schools in bad neighborhoods. For a long time, school reform has targeted only kids from poor families. You know, the lucky ones who get those free lunches.
Starting this fall, though, no longer will Texas exclude upper-middle class white kids (like mine) from the gravy train of school choice. Last November, the State Board of Education approved a charter allowing Great Hearts Academies to open a school in North San Antonio, the wealthier, whiter section of a majority-Hispanic city.
Great Hills Academies operates out of Arizona, where they survive not just on public funding that would normally go to public schools but also on mandatory fees as well as contributions from students' families, pricing Great Hearts out of reach for most San Antonio families. In other words, upper-middle class Anglos are finally getting a taxpayer-subsidized private school. Our long nightmare of being stuck in high-performing, better-funded public schools is almost over.
Supposedly, today is "Gun Appreciation Day", so today's update is brought to you by me and my little friend. I'm still looking at President Obama's various proposals for reducing gun violence, and hope to bring you some thoughts on that in a separate column.
Crazy conspiracy nuts have now taken to harassing someone who helped children after the Sandy Hook tragedy. These nutjobs are convinced the whole thing was a hoax put on by the government to drum up support for gun control. I sort of miss the days when the nutjobs were just ostracized and ignored, and didn't have such an outlet to join forces and spread their crazy theories.
A year ago today, on Lewisville’s previous birthday, I began writing a column titled Parallel Development about the history of this city. As I envisioned it, the series would cover Lewisville’s history as it related to contemporary issues. Over the past year, I’ve added a few infrequent columns about various issues, some more serious than others. During that time, my purpose has clearly changed.
I initially approached this task using that same tired line we’ve heard from history teachers our entire lives: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Though the quote is often attributed to either George Santayana or Edmund Burke, the irony here is that there is no historical evidence that either man actually said it. Santayana perhaps gave us the closest version in The Life of Reason, Volume One, Chapter XII: Quote:
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
As I sifted through newspapers and documents long forgotten, I began to understand the difference between our commonly used aphorism and what Santayana actually refers to. His message in this context is not necessarily about societal progress through recalling historical events; rather, it regards personal progress as each individual matures through experience.
I was all set not to like "Zero Dark Thirty." I judged director Kathryn Bigelow an enemy of truth and justice for depicting torture as a necessary evil to find Osama bin Laden. When I walked into the screening, I was ready to hate "Zero Dark Thirty" as revisionist conservative propaganda.
Then I saw it. "Zero Dark Thirty" is the best movie you won't have any fun watching. I got a stomachache from the tension that didn't leave until well after I got home. If "Argo" amped up the adrenaline and boosted the thrills, "Zero Dark Thirty" prevented an emotional payoff. Its genius is that the movie feels as long and grindingly stressful as the war it depicts. This is not a Will Smith movie. You will not cheer. You will not feel better when it's over.
Torture is what we'll remember this movie for. We see CIA agents hurt, hit, taunt, waterboard, and otherwise toy with "detainees," a word that becomes bureaucratically sinister as the story progresses. If "Zero Dark Thirty" glorifies torture, then "Schindler's List" glorified the Holocaust.
Lewisville ISD Trustee Julie Foughty announced tonight at the regular school board meeting and via an email to her friends and supporters that she will not be seeking re-election to the school board. First elected in 2010, in an election that swept out three incumbents, Foughty is finishing her first three-year term on the board. Filing will begin at the end of this month for the May, 2013 school board election.
The other seats up for re-election include the seat vacated by Jeff Knapp, who resigned before the end of his term, and the seat currently held by Brenda Latham of Lewisville, who is seeking re-election
A shooting Monday at the Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville resulted in the death of the shooter, without any other injuries. At about 3:57 p.m., a 25 year old male had an altercation with a female significant other who worked at a kiosk in the mall. The situation was described as a domestic dispute. Security was called and told the subject to leave. As security officers were following him out, on the lower level, near Kay Jewelers, he put a gun under his chin and pulled the trigger. Security officers had not been aware the individual was carrying a gun.
Careflite had initially been called for the victim, but was cancelled, and the person was transported to Medical Center of Lewisville after CPR. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
Twitter lit up briefly as word got around of the shooting. Some initial erroneous reports had indicated there was an active shooter, or that police had shot the subject. Photos posted on Twitter showed a bloody floor behind police tape, just after the man had been transported.
On Wednesday, January 23, Speak Up for Texas Public Schools will host three community forums to provide area residents with important information on high stakes testing and vouchers, along with the impact pending legislation will have on our local communities, students, teachers, and public schools.
It's Sunday, and your editor is about to hop on another plane soon for another week in Louisiana. I've been working on a project for a client there, and it's pretty intense, so I've fallen behind on some things here. One thing I want to do is get that Lewisville Citizen of the Year story completed. We do have a selection, but it will probably be next week before that will be one.
The big news this past week was the explosion Friday that leveled a duplex in Old Town Lewisville. WFAA and the Dallas Morning News, as well as a dozen other outlets have done a fine job reporting on that, so we'll mostly just link to their stories for now. WFAA has more about the victim* who was in the house. I also want to share the police and fire recordings from Friday, which you can listen to by going into our police and fire radio archives. The 12 o'clock hour was the one with most of the action. It's not really known at this point the mechanics of how the gas got into the house, but I'm sure that will come out in the investigation and eventual lawsuit(s). My suspicion, which is totally speculation at this point, is that perhaps the leaking gas found its way into the house through the sewer lines. *Update - 1/13 - 11 p.m.: NBC 5 reports that the victim, 55 year-old Scott Deahl has died from his injuries.
Lewisville City Councilman John Gorena wants to run for re-election. He campaigned on the idea that Lewisville should have term limits, and that someone should only be able to serve two terms. If he is fortunate to be re-elected, this would be his last term, by his rules. It is also interesting to note that he is looking for someone to run against place 5 Councilman, Mayor Pro Tem Rudy Durham.
BTW, I'm amused by this quote from his site:
"I am not going to talk bad about the liberal websites and their comments but I am also hoping that people are smart enough to know the difference between a blog and a "want-to-be" newspaper site."
So, make sure you know the difference, because it's important to know what to call things so that you don't have to put actual thought into whether the information is credible or not. Also, I guess to Gorena, a website can only be a blog or a "want-to-be" newspaper site. That's really not a nice way to talk about the Lewisville Leader. ;)
Why does it seems to so often be true that people who are so virulent about condemning others for their homosexuality, or going after pornography, turn out to be the ones with the biggest problems and secret lives full of sin? Here's a woman who worked for for an anti-gay group, and ended up being convicted for having sex with her 14 year old daughter, as well as videotaping her having sex with men. For every one of these that we, the public, find out about, how many of these repressed individuals are leading secret lives doing things that are much worse? Look around and see who is making the most noise, then just imagine. The feminist website Jezebel has an interesting story about a guy who took it upon himself to have a website where he stalked pictures of high school girls, then held online discussions of how they were dressed - either condemning them for showing too much, or alternately condemning them when they didn't look feminine enough for him. How much you want to bet the guy just wanted an excuse to stalk high school girls, and doesn't really give a shit about modesty? Well, no matter because the site has been taken offline now.
We all want to believe that winning the lottery wouldn't ruin our lives. We are different, we think. I swear to God, I would stay a good person if I won. But can you control all the people around you? One day after collecting his winnings, this man was poisoned to death by cyanide.
Our priorities should begin where our future does — in public education.
More than 5 million children are enrolled in our public schools, which is more than the total population of 29 states.
More than 3 million of them are deemed economically disadvantaged, and almost 1 million of them speak limited English. The education of all our students will determine whether Texas is a land of prosperity or lost opportunities.
There should be no sacred cows when it comes to our children — including our accountability system. For more than a decade, this state has used an increasingly rigorous series of standardized tests to measure academic excellence.
But by now every Member of this House has heard from constituents at the grocery store or the Little League fields about the burdens of an increasingly cumbersome testing system in our schools.
Teachers and parents worry that we have sacrificed classroom inspiration for rote memorization.
The goal of education is not to teach children how to pass a test, but to prepare them for life. The goal of every teacher is to develop in students a lifelong love of learning, and we need to get back to that goal in the classroom.
To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing — the Texas House has heard you.
We will continue to hold our schools accountable. But we will also make our accountability and testing system more appropriate … more flexible … and more reasonable.
State Rep. Steve King wants the State of Texas to freeze hiring and not fill unfilled positions. I suppose rash actions like that are much easier than actually thinking about whether a position is needed or not. My take is that if a position in state government is really necessary, then it is a necessity in good years as well as bad. For many things, you actually need more government in bad years economically, because you end up with a higher demand on social services. Given that Republicans have controlled the state for many years now, when I hear them grandstanding like this, then to me, it's an admission that they have up to this point been blowing money. It's not true; Texas runs lean already. We have to fill vital positions in state agencies, but we always have to stay on top of efficiency, and write our regulations and set law enforcement priorities so that we don't waste money.
What would gun nuts collect if guns were outlawed? Probably this:
People love picking on welfare recipients. So much so, that discussions about welfare frequently are fact-free. And for those with an ideological opposition to helping the poor, it's apparently hard for them to discern when numbers used are credible or not. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott got taken in by this chain email that got a "pants on fire" rating from politifact.
I love Texas because of special snowflakes such as Louie Gohmert. In more urbane states where research universities vastly outnumber NFL teams, Gohmert would stick to writing angry letters to the editor about fluoride and fluorescent light bulbs and the dadgum president being born in Africa. Instead, Gohmert's a congressman. He gets to vote and sponsor bills on such weighty matters of state as fluoride and fluorescent light bulbs and the dadgum president being born in Africa.
Texans who trade in stories about "Uncle Louie" Gohmert have been doing land-rush business lately. One of the last acts of the 112nd Congress, the least-popular and least-effective in history, was to excise the word "lunatic" from federal law because no one believes the moon makes people crazy anymore, and the word insults those with mental illnesses. Only Gohmert stood in defense of lunatics.
"I don't have a problem with 'lunatic' being used in the federal law ... It really has application around this town," said Gohmert.
And when it came time to elect a House Speaker for the new congress, Rep. Gohmert voted for Allen West, a tea party hero who lost re-election. It takes a chicken-fried je ne sais quoi to vote for a guy to lead a legislative body who's no longer in the body.
When it comes to addressing contemporary issues, the Lewisville ISD administration does its best to come up with practical solutions. When it became apparent that the district’s technology policy had become outdated, they replaced it with one that gave teachers more discretion as to when to use mobile technology in their own classrooms. Much in the same way, the district’s policy on students’ attire must also be updated to meet the needs of this generation, not the expectations of the previous one.
Although the district has a general policy on attire, the current practice allows each principal to modify and add to it as he or she sees fit. Reasonable limitations on students’ attire, such as prohibiting inappropriately revealing clothing and anything advocating illegal or unsafe behavior, make sense. When composing a larger list of prohibited attire, however, it becomes important to pick and choose battles carefully. It’s here where schools often wade into subjective grey areas, and individual administrators often base their policies–and enforcement–on personal preferences, rather than practical concerns.