2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Making Our Schools Safe Havens for Learning

June 28, 2010

This post is eighth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.


Texas Democrats believe students, teachers and other school personnel should be safe from acts of violence, and students must be protected from bullying. School campuses and functions must be weapon-free and drug-free. We support swift and fair enforcement of disciplinary standards. Teachers deserve support when they exercise their right to remove a disruptive student from class.

Students referred to disciplinary alternative education programs should continue to receive strong academic instruction. When a student’s misconduct is serious enough to warrant disciplinary placement, the state should make sure that the disciplinary setting – whether a school district’s own disciplinary alternative program or a county’s juvenile-justice alternative education program – offers a full array of educational and social/behavioral services to help that student get back on track. School districts should be discouraged from indiscriminately placing students in disciplinary alternative education programs for trivial misconduct.

We support the Dignity for All Students Act to guarantee safety for all students.

Teach evolution at your peril

July 27, 2008

Untamed Teacher carries one more story about the dangers of trying to teach evolution to students who are not particularly interested, in a school where administrators don’t know much about science. Cynics will write it off as an inexperienced teacher in a difficult school — but that’s precisely where we need to be teaching the most serious material most often. (Tip of the old scrub brush to Education Notes Online.)

The Balloon Man notes a story in the Los Angeles Times about a much more experienced, and patient, teacher, whose lesson biology is heckled by religious students bent on disrupting the instruction.

How would Jesus heckle a teacher? Which parable covers being obnoxious?

Update: Open Parachute ponders whether the behaviors exhibited by the churchy adults in the news report below, constitute child abuse:

Can you imagine the reaction were a group of scientists to arrive at Ken Ham’s creation museum and lead a “science tour” of the place? Dollars to doughnuts Ham would come out looking a lot like Joe Stalin on the issue of allowing free discussion in his place.

Resource:  Why study evolution?  Read the benefits of such study in one of the permanent posts of this blog.

Storefront schools

June 16, 2008

Why not?

In comments to the immediately previous post, Zhoen says segregation by gender is no panacea for education. But, she wonders at OneWord: Why not storefront schools?

For many years, I have thought the never-will-be-done answer was to have storefront schools. One room schoolhouses, two teachers and a local adult volunteer, no more than a dozen students, all online classes – a national, self paced, curricula. Touring experts and scholars for special lectures and demonstrations. Kid has a problem with a particular teacher, move ’em to the next neighborhood over. Walking distances from their homes, field trips common (easier to arrange with small groups), flexible schedules (let the teens sleep in). A circle of homeschools in rural areas instead of warehouses to haul whole populations into.

Why not? The idea strikes me as similar to Japanese juku, private schools for kids in public schools, where kids get remedial attention or advanced instruction, depending on what they need. I copy the Library of Congress’ description of juku after the fold.

What do you think? Is there an example of storefront schools we can cite either way, for or against the idea?

Comment away.

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One Texas, under God

August 29, 2007

A federal district court judge dismissed a challenge to the new law in Texas which adds “under God” to the Texas pledge, on top of the Texas law which requires all kids to say the pledge every day.

The Texas Lege, long the foil of Molly Ivins, was in particularly fine form this year, writing commandments from God and curtsies to God into several state activities. While I’m way behind on railing about these requirements, our Texas State Attorney General, Greg Abbott, has little more to do than make sure God gets his due — God being incapable of doing that himself, I suppose. Houston’s being over-run with storm refugees who disproportionately brought their guns, drug and gambling habits with them, juries in East Texas being under fire for being racially imbalanced and sentencing way more blacks to death than would seem reasonably by any statistical measure, and millions of school dollars disappearing in charter school scams and other scandals across the state, and Texas having the highest number and highest percentage of kids without health insurance, all pale by comparison to the Texas Lege’s and Mr. Abbott’s calls to make sure Texas kids pledge allegiance to the correct deity in the correct way.

Abbott’s opposite-editorial-page opinion ran in this morning’s Dallas Morning News. He gets his full say, below the fold.

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Spanking fetish

August 27, 2007

Start of the new school year, hits on the major post I did on spanking in schools pick up a little. Interest runs in waves, roughly with the dates of new semesters, or with a proposal to ban it altogether.

One question I get asked occasionally in e-mail is, who supports spanking? Apart from the one school district named in the article I cited in the earlier post, there is a core of supporters who now claim Biblical authority for spanking. It’s a move among religionists, as odd as any other religion-based behavior I can think of.

No kidding. Notice there are multiple parts to that topic on that blog.

It’s the comments that creep me out. These people treat spanking as a fetish. (See Frank’s comments here, or this one, showing it’s a movement (or cult).

What would Jesus use to strike a child? The question itself is repugnant.

Listen to a voice of experience

August 14, 2007

Quoting from Second Drafts, verbatim:

My mother, Charlotte, just retired in May after 30+ years teaching high school English. As this will be her first August without having to prep for school, I thought I’d better ask for her top ten teaching suggestions before she forgot them all. Here’s what she emailed me:

  1. Establish a seating chart at the beginning, but allow time for schedule changes. Some of my colleagues would allow students to sit where they wanted, and they all would end up at the back of the room. I always wanted them under my nose!
  2. Greet students cheerfully. You may be the only one to do this in their day.
  3. Have high expectations, but be realistic.
  4. Dress professionally, even though others don’t.
  5. Be alert to students whose eyes are focused on their laps – they’re probably texting!
  6. You gotta have a gimmick – a daily trivia question written on the board works well here. I always used the question cards from the Trivial Pursuit game. The first person to answer as the students come into the room gets a piece of peppermint candy, which enhances higher level thinking skills.
  7. Surprise the kids once in a while by diverting from the syllabus (Thoreau would love you for this).
  8. Be consistent in routine and discipline.
  9. Take care of discipline problems yourself, as much as you can.
  10. Be real and enjoy your students.

School starts tomorrow. Anybody else got any counsel you’d like to share?

Resources for new teachers, change provocateurs

June 22, 2007

New teachers, especially teachers from alternative certification programs, have all sorts of stories about people who observe and supervise their training and work.

There is the guy whose district bought laptops for every high school student and insisted teachers use the computers daily, but whose principal refused to look at the on-line courses he had developed to meet the district’s guidelines (and whom the principal subsequently rated down for not having the lesson plans the principal refused to look at).  There is the drama coach whose supervisor complained the students shouldn’t have been out of school for the state competition, which they won.  There is the mathematician from the telecommunications industry whose supervisor didn’t know geometry, or algebra, or calculus, and insisted the teacher should be offering multiplication table timed quizzes to advanced math classes.  The guy whose principal thought history documentaries selected from the school’s libraries were just Hollywood movies, and therefore inappropriate for history classes.

More than enough horror stories to go around.

One teacher tells a few horror stories from his student teaching days, but tells us he went on to get his school’s distinguished alumnus award.  And so, he shares some of his best material, here:  Horace Mann Educated Financial Solutions, “Reach Every Child.”

Go make change.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Car Family, which is really the same guy.

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