Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The election of South Carolina’s Mark Sanford to Congress raises some questions at our house. But his victory answers only one of them: there IS no moral minimum to be elected to Congress.

Statistically, Republican Candidate “X” would be the odds-on favorite in Sanford’s district, as if ”X” lived in Idaho or Utah. So Republican Sanford had the situation pretty well locked up just by seeing his breath on a mirror. From a party preference point of view, no surprise.

But, as I said, we had some questions. For starters, Sanford is an admitted adulterer and liar. Not just one foolish, drunken time. Or one foolish, drunken lie. But over a period of a couple of years. He lied to his wife – his own staff – his Republican Party – voters – media – everyone. No mere cover-up. Lied. Repeatedly.

His Republican peers in South Carolina government found him guilty of misuse of public funds for financing his first-class affinity for repeated amorous flights to Argentina for his long-term, intercontinental trysts on the taxpayer dime. His wife divorced him and even had to get a restraining order because he kept hanging around her backdoor. His former backdoor. And he violated that court order – more than once – by showing up again and going through that backdoor.

Now, in the little Oregon town where I grew up, any guy like that in elective office would’ve been lucky to have escaped a lynching and would’ve been bounced out of office by some irate voters. Oh, he might have been the center of attention at one of the logger bars for awhile. But, even there, he would have eventually slid into well-earned oblivion.

But – sizeable baggage and all – not in the First Congressional District in South Carolina. Not the heavily Republican-dominated First District.

Which brings up another question. As an Independent, I’m often derided by Republican friends for not having an “official” set of beliefs – political, philosophical and/or moral. Not true, but they keep saying it. In other words, as someone who moves back and forth with my vote, I’m accused of being susceptible to the “changing popular tide” and not following “Party precepts.” Not “standing for something permanent and good for the country.” No “moral code.” You know the B.S.

For the last couple of decades, these folk have preached one of their adopted “principles” more often than the others. “We’re the party of family values – we love our children and we’re standing on firm Christian ground to raise them to be good, loyal and moral Americans.” You know the B.S.

Henceforth, I can bring future conversations challenging my voting wishy-washiness (I’d rather think of it as “informed selection”) to an immediate halt with just two words: “Mark Sanford.”

Many on the astro-turf Right chatter incessantly about the Founding Fathers. “Good Christians.” All “men of God.” That’s a sure tipoff that most who spout that gibberish have never studied the documents or checked out some of those “good Christian men of God” or they would’ve known more about the Deists and Atheists among their number.

But suppose – as we’re so often told – those guys really were all the divinely inspired, morally informed gents a lot of the strident voices believe they were. If they were such solid citizens. – so high-minded and moral – why didn’t they include some language in their founding documents about suitability to serve in Congress or other elective position? With the spread of intellect and worldliness among them, why didn’t they set some character guidelines – speak to the issues of morality and conduct? Excepting Ben Franklin, of course.

If Sanford had been running for mayor or city council or dog catcher in most communities, his abhorrent personal behavior would’ve likely kept him off the ballot – much less from being a winner. We’ve enough morally bankrupt folk in public office already that previously got by us at the polls. So we should tend to be more reluctant to add an admitted liar, adulterer and violator of government fiduciary trust to their number.

Henceforth to be known as the “Sanford Qualification Bar For Public Service.” Set very, very low.

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Rainey

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

In April I listed ten suggested reforms that would assist learning by students from the student perspective. This week I’m offering thoughts on suggested reform actions from the standpoint of teachers and school administrators.

1) Allow teachers to maintain discipline. Teachers are in the classroom to teach, not baby-sit. If a student is being disruptive and a teacher tosses the person from the class the supervisor or principal has to back the teacher up. Zero tolerance for disruptive behavior and no second chances. Teachers should instill in students that public education is a privilege not an entitlement.
2) Significantly decrease the load on teachers that comes from having to fill out too many “process forms.”
3) Provide teachers with more “prep time.”
4) Require teachers to take more pre-teaching college classes in history and the humanities and fewer classes in educational theory or psychology.
5) Since Idaho does not and probably never will pay its teachers a decent salary, mandate that every teacher, including coaches on the teaching faculty take a fully paid sabbatical every fifth year to recharge the batteries. Teaching, done correctly, is very demanding and draining. Burnout can occur frequently. This would at least give Idaho a unique offering with which to attract new teachers. Which leads to the next item;
6) Strengthen teacher recruiting and retention programs.
7) Require teachers to participate with each of their “homeroom” students in a semi-annual review of the student’s Planned Path to the Mastery of Common Core Knowledge.
8) Evaluation of a teacher’s skill and success in teaching should be based on extensive in-class observation and not on test results.
9) Evaluation of teachers should require above the 7th Grade a student evaluation component and allow for but not require parental input.
10) Campuses should be weapon-free environments except for police hired to provide security in their “spare time” or a hired and trained armed security force. Neither teachers nor students should be allowed to carry on a school campus.

Here are my suggestions for public school administrators:

1) Periodic rotation back to the classroom so as to keep abreast of the in-class challenges facing teachers today.
2) Taking the lead in advocating for teachers before school boards, PTA’s and the public, especially in support of enforcing discipline, adopting a performance based system instead of a time-oriented credit system, and supporting flexible learning time.
3) Require all administrators and principals to undergo media training so as to be better at conveying messages to the public through the media, especially if a school is in a crisis mode.
4) Support teacher mentoring programs.
5) Provide more but shorter “CLE” courses for teachers.
6) Integrate the non-teaching workforce into the system in each district and provide opportunities to expand their participation as teacher aides or additional resources for special projects. Some bus drivers, for example, in some districts, are well-educated themselves and represent an untapped resource.
7) Administrators should be required to attend a certain number of school board meetings each year so as to better understand the challenges a district is facing and to minimize the us vs. them atmosphere.
8) Administrators should have as part of their evaluation a “community participation” requirement – they should join and actively participate in at least one local organization, such as a Chamber, Kiwanis Club, Elk’s Club, American Legion, etc.
9) All administrators should support a no extra-curricular trip more than eight hours away from the school. It’s getting ridiculous seeing, for example, high school basketball teams entail the expense as well as discriminate against the students from less financially secure families by scheduling themselves into holiday tournaments in states like California or Texas.
10) Administrators should be required to conduct extensive background checks on any new hires recognizing that it is difficult due to privacy rules to really develop a profile of a new hire without professional assistance.

There you have it: ten rules for students, ten for teachers and ten for administrators. If all were adopted and integrated into each and every school district I guarantee more learning would take place.

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Carlson