Education Category

UPDATE Thursday, December 7, 2017: Filing is closed, and here is the final 2018 school board candidate list from the Tulsa County Election Board. Only three of 17 seats will be contested. Shawna Keller, the incumbent from District 4 in the eastern part of the Tulsa school district, has drawn two opponents: Kyle R. Wagner and Raymon Simpson. Suzanne Schreiber, the other Tulsa incumbent, drew no opposition. Contested elections will occur in Broken Arrow (Theresa Williamson vs. John Cockrell) and Collinsville (Jennifer McElroy vs. Brady Stephens). No one filed for the Bixby seat, which will be filled by appointment by the other school board members -- a missed opportunity to bring some accountability to bear in that district.

Seat 4 in most districts will be up for election in 2019 (with filing a year from now in December 2018). In Tulsa, only the District 1 seat will be on the ballot; District 1 is currently held by Gary Percefull, and covers the portion of the district west of the Arkansas River, downtown Tulsa, Owen Park, Irving/Crosbie Heights, Brady Heights, neighborhoods along the Sand Springs Line, southern part of Gilcrease Hills, and, southeast of downtown, the Riverview, North Maple Ridge, Swan Lake, Tracy Park, Forest Orchard, Village at Central Park, and Pearl District (south of 6th Street) neighborhoods.

A year is a long way off, but now is the time to start thinking and planning to run. I can think of many young parents who have decided to homestead in the traditional neighborhoods around downtown who would bring new perspectives and energy to the Tulsa school board.

This is a reworking of a post from two years ago, but it has been updated with current information about open seats and candidates, and there is some new information below.

Edina-Cover-A_is_for_Activist.jpgWe are in the midst of the annual filing period for public school board positions in Oklahoma, which ends Wednesday, December 6, 2017, at 5 p.m. Most school districts will have a single seat, Position No. 3, up for election to a five-year term. Glenpool also has seat 5 on the ballot to fill an unexpired term. After the first day of filing, many seats have yet to draw a candidate, and no district has more than one candidate.

(Here is the current list of candidates for Tulsa County school board seats. And here's where you'll find maps showing school district and election district boundaries.)

School board filing always comes at a busy and distracted time of year. As I've written before, it's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious consideration to running.

The election will be held on February 13, 2018, with runoffs on April 3, 2018, for those seats where no candidate won a majority of the vote in the February election.

The Tulsa district, largest in the state, has two out of seven seats up for election to a four-year term, Posts No. 4 and 7.

Tulsa Election District 4 is east Tulsa, covering the district roughly east of a line midway between Memorial and Mingo. The current member for District 4 and board vice president, Shawna Keller, is a member of the left-wing Oklahoma Education Association (and, by requirement,
a member of the left-wing National Education Association) according to her bio on the school board website, which describes her as a teacher at Owasso Ram Academy. Shawna Keller is a registered Democrat. (That link goes to information from December 2016, but I was able to confirm current status through the Oklahoma State Election Board's online voter tool.) So far Keller is the only candidate to file in the district

Tulsa Election District 7 covers, roughly, the portion of the district south of 51st St., plus the neighborhoods around Patrick Henry Schools and Promenade Mall. The incumbent is board president Suzanne Schreiber, who was first elected to the seat in 1996. Suzanne Schreiber is also a registered Democrat. So far she is the only candidate to file for the seat.

Looking through the online biographies, I think it's fair to assume that there is not a single conservative on the Tulsa School Board. Six are registered Democrats; one (Amy Shelton in District 2) is registered as an independent.

In addition, Tulsa Technology Center board seat 2 is up for a seven-year term, representing eastern sections of the district roughly bounded by 66th Street North, 31st Street South, and east of Yale Avenue within Tulsa County, plus the part of Rogers County and Wagoner County north of 41st Street within the TTC boundaries. TTC seems to have more money than it knows what to do with; it would be lovely to have a fiscal conservative on the board who could curb their building spree. Incumbent Rick Kibbe, a registered Republican, is the only candidate thus far.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious thought to running, even if you have no school-aged children, even if you have children that are homeschooled or in private school, even if you've never had a child in the public schools. The public school system exists to serve all citizens by educating the children of the community, so every citizen has an interest in the curriculum being used, the way discipline is handled, the condition of the school buildings, and the credentials, skills, and philosophical presuppositions of the teachers, principals, and administrators. Property owners support the school system through ad valorem taxes, and so they have a reasonable interest in the proper and efficient expenditure of those funds. So do all citizens who pay state income and sales taxes, which provide funds to supplement local property taxes.

If you are, like me, a homeschool or private school parent, you will have experience and valuable insights with successful, classical alternatives to the faddish and failing teaching methods, priorities, and content currently in use in the public schools.

I ran some numbers, comparing 2010 census data, broken down by age, with the closest school attendance data I could find, from the 2010-2011 school year. In the Tulsa school district, the average daily attendance was only 67.2% of the number of school-aged children (5-18) who lived in the district on Census Day 2010. That means about a third of school-aged kids were either homeschooled or in private schools, the highest proportion of any district in the metro area. The Tulsa district also had the lowest percentage of residents in the 5-18 bracket -- 17.9%. Compare that to the Sperry district, where 91% of school-aged residents attended the public school, and where 22.6% of the residents were school-aged.

It seems that a substantial number of families move from the Tulsa district to the suburbs when their children reach kindergarten, or, if they stay, many opt for homeschooling or private schools. Those numbers make a strong case for new leaders in the Tulsa district. And if the school board is going to be strictly representative, at least two of the seven members should have children in homeschool or private school, and a majority should be conservative.

Filing is simple: A notarized declaration of candidacy, and a signed copy of the statutory requirements for school board candidates. For this office there is no filing fee. You can view the Oklahoma school board filing packet online. And although school board elections are officially non-partisan, the local and state Republican Party organizations will provide assistance to registered Republicans who are candidates for non-partisan office. (I suspect the same is true of the Democrats.)

There was a time when it was generally agreed that schools existed to transmit knowledge and the values of the community to the rising generation, working alongside parents. At some point, as part of the Gramscian long march through the institutions, the public schools were infiltrated by Leftists who saw them as a venue for missionary work, converting children away from the values of their parents, away from the ideals that made America a prosperous and peaceful nation. The Left has influence over schools of education, textbook publishers, teachers' unions, and continuing education for teachers, administrators, and board members.

If you live in a suburban or small-town district, you might suppose your district is safe from Leftist influence. Think again. Through their college training, their teachers' union newsletter, continuing education courses, peer relationships, and curriculum, your districts' teachers and administrators work in an atmosphere of Leftist presuppositions about the world. It takes strength, conviction, and vigilance for a conservative educator to be conscious of that atmosphere and to resist its influence.

Earlier this fall, Mandy Callihan, a teacher and parent in Jay, Oklahoma, was infuriated to learn that her 12-year-old daughter was being taught in school about mutual masturbation and anal and oral sex, complete with a worksheet she had to fill out. She and other parents went to the school looking for answers and discovered that the curriculum had been approved by the school board and the middle school principal. The superintendent, claiming ignorance, halted the program, but parents were told it would have to be brought back the following year.

In Minnesota, the Center for the American Experiment has just published a detailed 10-page report on slipping standards at the once-successful Edina school district in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. While academic achievement has declined, Leftist indoctrination is on the rise:

Today, for example, K-2 students at Edina Highlands Elementary School are learning--through the "Melanin Project"--to focus on skin color and to think of white skin as cause for guilt. "Equity" is listed as a primary criterion on the district's evaluation for K-5 math curricula. At Edina High School, teachers are haranguing students on "White Privilege," and drilling into them that white males oppress and endanger women. In a U.S. Literature and Composition class, 11th-graders are being taught to "apply marxist [sic], feminist" and "post-colonial" "lenses to literature."

In short, in Edina, reading, writing, math and critical thinking skills are taking a backseat to an ideological crusade.

The Leftist bent of the school district came to public attention after the overwrought reaction by students and teachers to the election results, but the roots of the problem went back several years, to the school's decision to try to close the achievement gap between students of different races by focusing on structural racism as the cause:

The All for All plan's fundamental premise is that white racism--not socio-economic factors like family breakdown--is the primary cause of the achievement gap. If minority students' academic performance is to improve, "systems that perpetuate inequities" must be "interrupt[ed]" and "barriers rooted in racial constructs and cultural misunderstandings" must be "eliminate[d]," according to the district's position statement on "Racial Equity and Cultural Competence in Edina Public Schools."

The story mentions one race-conscious elementary school principal who adopted a curriculum provided by the slanderous Leftist group that calls itself the Southern Poverty Law Center. The same principal eliminated flex groups -- opportunities during one period for children of similar ability levels to work together with a teacher, receiving targeted instruction -- because they were perceived as insufficiently diverse. A high school literature class describes a course goal in this way: "By the end of the year, you will have...learned how to apply marxist [sic], feminist, post-colonial [and] psychoanalytic...lenses to literature."

There are, it must be said, many good conservatives, many devout Christians serving in Oklahoma's public schools. But they need support in the form of school board members who will set policy and curriculum and ensure that the paid staff adhere to it. Conservative school board members should not give undue deference to "professionals" who have been trained to see education through a Leftist lens. The subject matter taught, the methods used, and the values undergirding it all should be firmly under the control of our elected representatives on the school board.

Education is necessarily ideological, because it rests on presuppositions about knowledge, truth, goodness, and beauty. The ideology of the public schools should reflect the ideology of the community.

If I were running -- and our district isn't up for election this year -- here are some of the planks that would be in my platform:

  • Introduce the classical trivium as the philosophy and method of instruction in schools that are currently failing. That includes a heavy emphasis on memorizing facts in the elementary years, which gives children a sense of mastery and accomplishment and provides a solid foundation for subsequent learning.
  • Instill pride in our city, state, and country. America has its flaws, but it is a beacon of liberty and opportunity that inspires hope in hundreds of millions of people around the world who wish they could live and work here. Our children should understand the aspects of our culture and history that have made our country prosperous and peaceful.
  • Keep the Land Run re-enactments in our elementary schools. It's a fun and memorable way to introduce students to our state's unique history. There is an activist in Oklahoma City who managed to convince historically ignorant principals and school board members there that the '89 Land Run was an act of genocide. Oklahoma City, founded by the '89 Land Run, no longer has reenactments of that event, because of a zealot who pushed her slanderous revision of history on ignoramuses in charge of the schools.
  • Return music to the elementary grades. An early introduction to classical music and learning to make music by singing have tremendous developmental and behavioral benefits.
  • Review all federal grants and determine whether the cost of compliance and the loss of independence is worth the money.
  • Young people who foolishly believe that swapping sexes will solve their deep unhappiness deserve pity and guidance. It is utter cruelty to humor their misplaced hope that "changing gender identity" will cure their misery. Leadership at each school should craft a way to accommodate these deluded young people with compassion and dignity, while protecting the dignity of everyone else, and while affirming the biologically undeniable reality of the two sexes.

On that last point, doing the wise thing will require resisting Federal pressure. If the U. S. Department of Education refuses funding based on its perverted interpretation of Title IX, the school should sue the DoE.

Our public schools need principled, intelligent conservative leadership. Will you step forward to serve?

RELATED (from 2015):

Stella Morabito writes, "Ask Not Who's Running For President, Ask Who's Running For School Board," and she cites the recent battle in Fairfax County, Virginia, over transgender policy as one among many reasons:

The board voted 10-1 with one abstention to shove the policy down the throats of startled parents. There was no discussion and no consideration given to the concerns expressed. Instead, the parents were in effect smeared as intolerant bigots.

The ten board members voting in compliance with this federal harassment behaved like a bunch of cronies who seemed most interested in securing their places of privilege in a coming nomenklatura by regurgitating Orwellian-style talking points about "equality" and "non-discrimination."...

When informed citizens of goodwill vote en masse locally, they can provide an effective check on corruption and force government to be more responsive to its citizens. This kind of citizen activism serves as a buffer that can prevent state and federal governments from absorbing local governments.

As we've seen from the Fairfax County case, our distraction from local elections and neglect of local politics is fertile ground for growing laws under the radar on issues that have not been debated or thought through.

More than ever, we need to push back against the use of local elections as a back door to enforcing agendas established by central, national, or even international agendas.

Walt Heyer, a man who underwent sex-change surgery and then, realizing that the change failed to give him the happiness he had hoped for, changed back, writes that the Obama Administration is using its perverted interpretation of Title IX to force public schools to trample their students in the transgender war against science and reason.

Let's look back and unmask the founders who started the gender madness we see infiltrating into our public schools today. As I detail in "Paper Genders," changing boys into girls started in the perverted minds of three abhorrent pedophile activists from the 1950s who were at the forefront of promoting a movement for sexual and gender experimentation... [Alfred Kinsey, Harry Benjamin, and John Money]....

Public schools are becoming centers for gay, lesbian, and gender-pretender activists and only secondarily fulfilling their purpose as institutions for sound academics. The laws are being interpreted far beyond the original intent of non-discrimination based on gender to where they protect gender pretenders at the expense of the rights of non-trans kids. Gender pretenders are assured access to every school facility and program available to the opposite gender, up to and including girls-only dressing rooms and showers.

Every child's rights to privacy and protection from exposure to inappropriate opposite-sex nudity are now in jeopardy. According to these new legal interpretations, if you like your gender and want to keep your gender that's fine, but you cannot keep your freedom, rights, or protections in public-school dressing rooms or restrooms. The current conflict of interest playing out in school locker rooms between girls born as girls and the self-acknowledged gender pretender trans-kids is real and it is not funny. Non-trans students have lost their right to privacy and parents have lost the freedom to parent and protect their children....

Studies show that people with gender issues also have other psychological issues 62.7 percent of the time. When the co-existing illness is treated, often the desire to change gender dissipates. By not treating the co-existing illnesses first and instead putting the patient through gender reassignment--hormones and surgery--the medical community does irrevocable harm to the patient's body and long-lasting harm to his mind.

The harm is deeper for impressionable children and adolescents who experiment with gender-change behaviors and hormones or hormone blockers. Studies have shown that the majority of kids who are gender confused will grow out of it if they are left alone....

Gender pretenders--also known as trans-kids, crossdressers, or transvestites--should get counseling, not encouragement. Social terrorists who use child transvestites to advance an agenda of sexual perversion should be shut down, not be guiding public school policy.

It's time for parents and kids to fight against the social terrorism of gender change. It's time to take schools back from males who wish to expose themselves with impunity in the girls' locker room.

St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, will be closing its doors at the end of the semester, officials announced yesterday.

The board made 'the difficult, but necessary,' decision following the denial of a loan application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the announcement. 'Without this component in the financial plan, the ability to sustain the university at this point is not possible. The Board of Directors continues to work actively to resolve financial difficulties and to explore possible partnerships in order to move forward.'

Nothing on the website or in news accounts explain why a college expected to get a loan from the USDA. The college must have already been in dire financial shape to have its existence beyond December hanging on this one loan. Inside Higher Ed's story links to a Shawnee News-Star article from January which links, without elaboration, the de-annexation of the 520-acre campus from the City of Shawnee, USDA-sponsored refinancing of debt, and assistance from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Originally established as the Catholic University of Oklahoma in 1915, St. Gregory's University, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, St. Gregory's College granted associate's degrees as a junior college until it was accredited in 1997 to offer four-year degrees. The university grew out of the Sacred Heart Mission, founded in 1875. A look at the college's website shows little to distinguish it from other small private colleges -- no core curriculum, the usual assortment of majors, sports, and activities. As a dad in the midst of my second go-round through the college application process, I've seen the piles of brochures from small colleges. Each brochure differs from the next only in the college name, the school colors, and the mascot that appears in a cover photo next to smiling students.

St. Gregory's had recently announced that it would accept the Classic Learning Test, a newly designed standardized college admissions test geared toward classically educated students. St. Gregory's is listed on Wikipedia as one of about three-dozen Ex corde Ecclesiae Catholic universities and colleges, constituted and explicitly governed under Roman Catholic church authority. Many of the other schools on the list are explicit in their aim to be faithful to Catholic doctrine and traditional in their curriculum and teaching methods, like Ave Maria University, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, and Christendom College. For whatever reason, St. Gregory's leadership didn't effectively communicate its apparent countercultural shift to the conservative Catholics in Oklahoma and the region who might have appreciated it.

The higher-ed bubble is starting to burst, and small, non-selective private colleges with few distinctives may be the first to suffer from the drop in demand. (Similarly situated state colleges won't suffer because taxpayers can always be squeezed for more money.) Small private colleges can't keep up with deeper-pocketed schools in the arms race in student amenities. That arms race and the accompanying ad blitz means that local students, once the core of a small college's student body, will be lured away to bigger cities and bigger schools. To compete for out-of-area students to make up for the loss of commuters, a small college has to offer apartment-style housing, food-court-style dining, and on-campus distractions to compensate for the lack of entertainment options in town.

The only way to survive may be to run the other direction -- offer a strong core curriculum, adopt low-tech teaching methods, and make a virtue out of austerity. I'm thinking here of the New College Franklin, where the church library serves as the classroom for Great Books seminars, students board with parishoners, and community organizations serve in lieu of extracurricular activities. Why shouldn't Oklahoma's Benedictine-run college offer a focused but deep curriculum and intentional Catholic spiritual formation and become the school of choice for Catholic students interested in the Benedict Option?

UPDATE 2017/12/08: Bobby Ross, Jr., writing for Religion News Service / Reuters, provides a much clearer explanation about St. Gregory's USDA loan application and why it was denied:

Here in Oklahoma, St. Gregory's had hoped a $12.5 million rural development loan from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation - made possible thanks to federal money dispersed to the tribe - would keep it alive.

To qualify for the loan, the Sooner State's only Catholic university even de-annexed from Shawnee, a city of 31,000, to meet the requirement of being located in a rural area. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture denied the loan, saying St. Gregory's wasn't in a rural area at the time of the last U.S. Census.

"Once the loan was denied, we were basically out of cash, and we needed to let our students find new homes quickly," the university president said. "We couldn't delay. There was really no time to appeal the decision of the USDA," [St. Gregory's President Michael A.] Scaperlanda said.

This may be the program involved: Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program. The definition of "rural" requires that the place have a population no greater than 20,000; Shawnee had a population of 29,857 at the last census.

So the loan denial was a simple matter of ineligibility, but the question remains: How did finances get so bad so fast that a (pardon me) "Hail Mary" pass -- hoping for approval of a loan from funds that really weren't intended for the purpose of keeping a small-city private college open -- was the only hope of staying in business for the entire academic year? It strikes me as the sort of situation that occurs when someone had been hiding the true state of the college's finances, perhaps to hide his or her own misuse of college funds.

A quick web search turned up a few other small colleges that had benefited from USDA Rural Development programs -- direct grants, direct loans, loan guarantees, or some combination thereof:

Note that all of these loans involve capital improvements. In contrast, St. Gregory's seems to have been hoping for a USDA-guaranteed loan to fund operating expenses.

As we look ahead to launching another child into higher education, I am thinking that the Ivy League schools have ceased to offer an education worthy of the price tag, much less their long and honorable heritage.

Case in point: This center-left Yale student's complaint that his Shakespeare course had been politicized:

Full disclosure: politically I am center-left, voted for Hillary Clinton, and I dislike our current president. Politics in the classroom does not unsettle me because I disagree with the liberal viewpoints. What unsettles me, rather, is the thought that my education is being politicized at the expense of timeless truths.

I chose to study English because I wanted to improve my writing and reading abilities, because I value the literature of the language I speak, and because some aspects of the human condition are only accessible through books, plays, and poems. Reading Shakespeare should, of course, inform the way we think about systems of government, political leaders, and historical change. But it shouldn't require an "I'm With Her" sticker and a subscription to The Washington Post. One will have a difficult time deciphering the hidden nuances of Julius Caesar if one is determined to view his character through the prism of current events.

Literature is ideally a way of broadening our social imaginations. If authors are only worth reading insofar as they inform modern phenomena, then the entire English canon is of mere antiquarian interest and can be summarily dismissed.

Classrooms need not be purged of politics altogether. That's neither possible nor desirable. But professors must recognize the line between timeless political insights and rank partisanship. Politics in the classroom can also be a distraction from the syllabi and the space built into the curriculum for contextualizing historic sources with contemporary situations.

This prompted an interesting series of comments by the pseudonymous "Chi Huavara", posted on June 26, 2017 at 4:36 pm:


You're starting to wake up. You've identified a problem, but though you've described the symptoms, you don't know what the problem is exactly quite yet. You can't really put your finger on it. Since you've already started, let me help you here.

It's important to understand the history of modern education in America, and in particular, Critical Theory and its origins. Some will attempt to mischaracterize what follows as a conspiracy theory, but this is really just the basic history of education in America, freely available to anyone willing to do the research.

After the Russian Revolution, Marxists were perplexed as to why Marxist thought didn't overtake Europe as they expected it would. So they set about devising ideologies and strategies specifically designed to conquer Western Civilization and the globe with Marxism.

In 1918, Hungarian Deputy Commissar for Culture and Marxist György Lukács was independently developing such strategies. Lukács developed what he called "cultural terrorism." One component of cultural terrorism, was to develop sexual education courses in schools that would work to distort traditional sexual morals. He came to the conclusion that if sexual morals in Christians could be compromised and undermined when they were children, then Christianity itself could be destroyed, and along with it Western Civilization and therefore opposition to Marxist indoctrination. He surmised that Christianity was the foundation of Western Civilization, and therefore had to be directly attacked. He accomplished this by highly criticizing Christian sexual moral values in the classroom, while simultaneously promoting sexual promiscuity. He also derided parental authority, which children are always open to. This had the effect of transforming children into bullies, petty thieves, sex predators, murderers, and sociopaths. The Hungarian working class became enraged at Lukacs' work, and drove him out of Hungary. He would...

In 1923, In 1923, Lukacs founded the Institute for Marxism at Frankfurt University in Weimar Germany along with fellow Marxists Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno. Cultural Marxists came to realize however, that their true intentions would be better concealed if they changed the name to the Institute of Social Research, which is popularly referred to as the Frankfurt School. The primary goal of the Frankfort School was to translate Marxism from economic terms to cultural terms, or to teach Cultural Marxism. It would use multidisciplinary methods to indoctrinate and manufacture new groups of oppressed proletariat. Marcuse used polymorphous perversion to expand the ranks of the proletariat to homosexuals and transexuals. Gramsci's "Long March Through The Culture" strategy was utilized alongside Freudianism to create a kind of psychological spearhead in their War on Christianity and Western Civilization.

In 1930, Marxist Max Horkheimer became director of the Frankfurt School, and begun work to transform György Lukács' work into the ideology of Cultural Marxism, which wouldn't be fully realized until some time in the 1950s.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, many professors from the Frankfort School fled since they were identified with Bolsheviks, the school having been modeled after the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, and also since many of their members were Jewish. Professors from the Frankfort School would relocate to the United States and become very influential in American universities and re-establish the Frankfort School in New York City with help from Columbia University. The Frankfurt School professors would shift their goal from destroying Western culture in Germany, to destroying Western culture in America.

At Columbia University, Cultural Marxism would come to be known as Critical Theory, which all modern circular is based on today.

Then like clockwork, 20 years after György Lukács Critical Theory (Cultural Marxism) is taught in America, we see the rise of the beatniks, and later the hippies; the first American victims of György Lukács' academic indoctrination strategy. The beatniks and hippies, exhibited the same kinds of behavioral aberrations as the earlier Hungarian students as bullies, petty thieves, sex predators, murderers, and sociopaths.

These boomer-era hippies then became professors, and through the haze of LSD and other mind-altering substances, continued to indoctrinate generations of future students with Critical Theory nonsense.

This is why you see what you see from your professors. It's their designed purpose to indoctrinate you with far left Marxist ideology, rather than provide a genuine education. And to ridicule and punish those who question their recitations.

What can be done?

I propose the ratification of a Constitutional Amendment that would establish a permanent separation of education and state. After all, when you have state funded and supported "education," then what you're going to get is generations of highly indoctrinated statists every graduation.


Totalitarian communism as a political force is mostly dead, but the cultural movement it spawned to undermine the West has succeeded and continues its erosive work in schools across Western Europe and the Anglosphere.

One of the biggest fears of any Christian parent is that his child will abandon the faith in which he was raised once he's away from home. Some charismatic peer or professor will attempt to convert him to a new religion, which could be anything from a different branch of Christianity to a pseudo-Christian cult group to leftist fascism. The would-be proselytizer will have the advantages of being in your kid's face while you're hundreds of miles away. The offer of peer acceptance and belonging is a powerful lure. Not only are you not there to offer a rebuttal, if the proselytizer is skilled at mind control, he'll so alienate your kid from you and your values, you won't be given the opportunity of a rebuttal. It's a scary thought, and Christian parents invest much time and treasure in Christian schools, apologetics courses, and church youth groups and a lot of time on their knees in prayer in hopes that it won't happen to their children.

So as a dad with one kid in college and another soon to follow, I read with interest the story of Chelsen Vicari, Director of Evangelical Action for the Institute of Religion and Democracy, and soon-to-be a mom. Vicari recently spoke to the Regent University School of Government, her grad school alma mater, about her journey from vague, shallow conservative evangelicalism to trendy liberal evangelicalism to a well-grounded Biblical Christian faith. She went to a college as a Christian with a vague but traditional understanding of the faith, which was undermined not by antagonistic secular professors, but by fellow evangelical Christians and a desire to fit in and be seen as a good, kind person.

During my junior year I plugged into a wildly popular interdenominational campus ministry.... To be clear, there were no blatant liberal creeds in the sermons or instructions to vote for President Obama in the '08 elections. Instead, there were some individuals within leadership that prioritized concepts of love and grace while minimizing absolute truths, the authority of Scripture, and traditional moral ethics....

At first I could tell this was a different kind of theology than what I was used to. I pushed back a little on some things. But ultimately, my biggest fear was of being ostracized by my new Christian friends....

By the end of my senior year, due in part to a lack of knowledge and painful experiences, I started to embrace a liberal paradigm in the name of Christianity. Failing to see how that paradigm was actually working contrary to Christianity. Convinced that my progressive faith was more righteous than the backwards, outdated, uncompassionate Christianity of my parents. Because how dare they make statements like, "Homosexuality is a sin." How unloving was that!

As you know, sexuality and gender identity are the prominent cultural issues facing the Church today. Revisionist sexual ethics was definitely my biggest temptation. That's because I truly loved my gay friends at college. I wanted the best for them. Deep down I secretly had the feeling sex was designed for marriage between one man and one woman. But I didn't want to hurt my gay friends' feelings. Plus I dreaded the idea of going against the crowd. Selfishly, I wanted to be affirmed as a good, well-liked person....

Christianity is comprised of two millennia of agreed upon Church teaching on moral ethics. But I chose to exchange said two millennia of Church teaching for the opinions of a few popular authors and bloggers (some with little to no formal theological training). I didn't do in-depth reading, study primary sources, and consider the ramifications before jumping to a conclusion based on my feelings.

What turned her around was exposure to the sound arguments, lovingly delivered, of her graduate school professors at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. (How did a liberal evangelical end up at a conservative school? A generous scholarship offer.)

At Regent University my liberal biases were challenged by academic research and Christian apologetics. Here was a graduate program that unashamedly taught in accordance with Church creeds and history and the use of social science to confirm conclusions. Professors who were more concerned with obedience to our Savior than cultural trends.

There were no fiery darts thrown at my liberal biases by other students and teachers, only grace coupled with truth. Professors assigned me to read Charles Colson's How Now Shall We Live? Another encouraged me read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cheap Grace. It didn't take long for me to realize I was compromising traditional Christian teachings in pursuit of acceptance.

In the comments, I asked Vicari "what would have prepared you to face the leftward cultural pressure you encountered in the campus Christian group? To put it another way, what should parents, Christian school leaders, church youth group leaders be doing differently?" She replied:

First thought is a deeper theological education from both home and church. Pop Sunday school lessons and piecemeal Bible stories before bedtime were inadequate, for me anyway. So perhaps earlier introductions to apologetics or catechismic lessons. Talking with other Christian parents, it seems helpful when kids feel called to be heroes to a broken world on behalf of the faith. Instructing children to follow moral and ethical guidelines because "the Bible says so" isn't enough to prepare children to combat revisionist theology or a culture hostile to Christianity.

Adding to her suggestion of apologetics and catechism, I suggested instruction in logic, the history of Christianity, and understanding of non-Christian world views, and particularly learning how to spot attempts to smuggle non-Christian ideas under cover of Christian terminology.

Vicari expanded on her reply in a follow-up column, "Evangelicals, Kids, and Catechism." She writes that the knowledge imparted by learning a catechism is necessary but clearly not sufficient. The sentiments must be trained as well:

While I want to believe age-appropriate introductions to catechistic lessons and apologetics will thoroughly equip my daughter to encounter a broken world, I should know better.

Several of the mainline denominations uphold Protestant catechism in tutoring young congregants. Yet these denominations' leftward drift and decline are cautionary signs that something is missing.

Perhaps there's a cost to catechism without sentiment. That is to say, a child given head knowledge of Christian principles without an emotional attachment might lack a loyalty to Christ and His authority in adulthood.

On the other hand, it seems the Evangelical community has relied too heavily on sentiment. Sure, many Evangelical kids feel warm and fuzzy when talking about Jesus. However, they don't know enough about His teachings and ethics to defend them from distortions. Or, in some other cases, their parents walled them off from the outside world and they're biding their time until freedom.

Talking with other Christian parents, it seems a child needs both a head and heart connection with Christian teaching. A colleague noted it's helpful when kids feel called to be heroes to a broken world on behalf of the faith. "Kids want to be summoned to heroism - so why not challenge them to be moral or intellectual heroes?" asked George Weigel, theologian and IRD emeritus board member, in a recent address.

Parents can help train this hero mentality by encouraging both emotional loyalty and the theological foundations necessary to contend for the Gospel.

In her follow-up article, I hear echoes of C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man, in which he stresses that true education involves not only the instruction of the mind but the training of the sentiments. Without sentiments trained to delight in that which is good and true and beautiful and in Him who is Goodness and Truth and Beauty, education of the mind only corrupts the soul.

St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in 'ordinate affections' or 'just sentiments' will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science....

The head rules the belly through the chest-- the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment--these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.

The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals.... It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.

And all the time--such is the tragi-comedy of our situation--we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

The summons to heroism brings to mind the book Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde. Hyde had been news editor of the Daily Worker in Britain, a card-carrying Communist for 20 years, then left the party and converted to Catholicism. But Hyde was appalled at how little the church demanded of its people despite its claim to ultimate truth.

Hyde discusses techniques used by the Communists that he felt Christians ought to appropriate, for example, involving the new recruit as early as possible in an activity, however seemingly fruitless, that publicly identifies him with his new creed and puts him in a position of defending it.

The most memorable aspect of the book was Hyde's story of Jim, a stammering electrician in the building trades. The Communists called this unimpressive man to great things and gave him the training to be a leader, and he rose to the occasion, becoming a leader in the party and, as an agent of the party, a leader in the trade union movement. At the conclusion of the tale, Hyde remarks:

Jim's story says much of what can be said about the training of a leader as the Communists see it. First, I inspired him, gave him the clearly-defined goal of a new and better world and the belief that he and others could between them achieve it provided that they prepared themselves sufficiently for the moment of opportunity. I gave him a sense of involvement in a battle, and the conviction that by going to classes he would gain the arms and ammunition required for the fight....

I can think of many a lapsed-Catholic Communist who has told me that when he was practicing the Faith the greatest responsibility he was ever given was to help, along with others, to move the chairs in the parish hall 'for Father'. Inside the Communist Party he was made to feel that he had something better than that to offer. And events proved that this was so.

Defensively hoping that our children will continue to adhere to the faith of their upbringing is not enough. If Christians truly believe that we have the answers that the world desperately needs, we need to model a willingness to sacrifice our time, our treasure, and our respectability to speak the truth in love, and we need to call and equip our children to do the same.

Today, February 14, 2017, is the day that Oklahoma voters choose school board members and vote on school bond issues. Polls are open at the usual locations from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Four K-12 school board seats will be on the ballot, two of them in the Tulsa school district and one each in Union and Collinsville. Skiatook, Union, and Jenks districts have school bond issues. Two Tulsa Technology Center board seats are up for election as well. Owasso and Sand Springs each have a City Council seat before the voters.

TPS and TTC board seats are only for voters in the specific election district. In the other school districts, the member comes from a particular part of the district, but all voters in the district are eligible to vote.

I've provided a rough description of each district below, but check the maps for exact information. Where I could find a website or social media profile, I've linked them below. Party ID is based on voter registration data from March 2016, the most recent I have on hand.

Map of Tulsa Public Schools board member districts
Map of Tulsa Technology Center board member districts
Map of school district boundaries in and near Tulsa County

Tulsa Public Schools, Office No. 2: I-244 to Pine, from Detroit to Memorial; plus I-244 to 11th Street, from the IDL to Yale, plus Pine to Apache, from Osage County Line to Lewis. Rogers and Washington high schools fall within this zone.

Incumbent (and former County Commissioner) Wilbert Collins is on the ballot, but he has withdrawn from the race because of illness. Phil Armstrong (D) and Amy Shelton (I) have been actively campaigning for the seat. Vote411 has questionnaire responses from both candidates. Both candidates expressed hostility to school choice.

Tulsa Public Schools, Office No. 3: Everything north of I-244, except for the portion that falls in District 2.

Incumbent Lana Turner is opposed by Jennettie P. Marshall (D). Here is video of Turner speaking at the "Exploring Equity community conversation" last week. Whitney Cole also filed but is not actively campaigning.

The Oklahoma Eagle has endorsed Armstrong for Office 2 and Marshall for Office 3.

Union Public Schools, Office No. 2:

Patrick Coyle (R), the incumbent, is opposed by Lisa Ford (R) and Glenda K. Puett (D). Ford and Coyle both responded to the Vote 411 questionnaire. Coyle expressed hostility to school choice, while Ford seemed to think the question concerned students transferring into Union from other districts.

Tulsa Technology Center: Office No. 1 (seven-year term): City of Tulsa north of 21st and west of Yale, including Gilcrease Hills, plus Turley.

There is no incumbent. This election is for a full term. The candidates are Keenan H. Meadors (D), Melanie Sweeney McIntosh, and Ray A. Owens (D).

Tulsa Technology Center: Office No. 5 (unexpired term): Tulsa County north of 86th St. N., plus all of Owasso; Tulsa County west of the City of Tulsa, plus the sections of the TTC district in Creek, Pawnee, and Osage Counties (except Gilcrease Hills).

Danny Hancock (R) and Roy D. McClain are running for this unexpired term. The Vote411 voter guide has a candidate questionnaire, but Hancock was the only candidate to respond.

Owasso City Council, Ward 3:

Incumbent Bill Bush, who appears to be backed by city government insiders, is opposed by JC Prince and Randy Cowling. Prince has the support of the Owasso Taxpayers Alliance.

Sand Springs City Council, Ward 4:

The candidates are former State Senator Nancy Riley and Christine Hamner. Riley gained notoriety by switching from Republican to Democrat after her unsuccessful 2006 run for Lt. Governor, resulting in the State Senate being evenly split between Republicans and Democrats during the 51st Legislature.

Here is a press release from a month ago about the Center for Women's Studies at Northeastern State University. NSU is funded by the taxpayers of Oklahoma (with additional subsidies from people who shop in Broken Arrow) and governed by the board of regents of the Regional University System of Oklahoma. Emphasis added.

Northeastern_State_University_Logo.pngNSU, College of Liberal Arts announce new director of the Center for Women's Studies

(Tahlequah, Oklahoma)--In 2015, the Institute for Women's Policy Research gave Oklahoma an overall grade of D+. Dr. Suzanne Farmer, the new director of Northeastern State University's Center for Women's Studies, is one of many working to change that grade. A professor of history at NSU since 2011, Farmer has served as co-director of the center since 2013.

The Center for Women's Studies is a multidisciplinary, integrated program that seeks to empower NSU students to become socially responsible global citizens through fostering learning about gender roles and relations across cultures and history. Honoring both the university's history as a female seminary and the legacy of Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation and Sequoyah Fellow at NSU, the Women's Studies program prioritizes study of minority women, indigenous women and women's leadership.

Farmer said that it is an honor to be named director of the center, where she is able to highlight national and regional issues that affect women in Oklahoma.

"Historically, the roots of Northeastern State are firmly planted in female Cherokee education, and as a historian, that continues to inspire me," Farmer said.

Dr. Phil Bridgmon, professor and dean of Liberal Arts, said that the College of Liberal Arts made a wise choice in selecting Farmer for this role.

"She has shown very capable initiative and leadership as co-director, and we expect that she will continue to heighten awareness of issues facing women particularly in Oklahoma, and globally," Bridgmon said.

Courses in the Women's Studies program support many of the university's core values and goals: promoting an environment of learning and discovery, full inclusion, civic engagement, along with encouraging global knowledge and cultural sensitivity.

Objectives of the Women's Studies program include teaching the history of women's movements in the United States and other countries, bringing attention to the issues facing women in Oklahoma, raising the global consciousness of women's and gender issues, investigating the way gender intersects with social movements, education, society, history, criminal justice, politics, communication, the arts, family life, and popular culture and encouraging activism and other forms of civic engagement around women's issues.

Farmer would like to see the center become a center of advocacy for the region and a touchstone for women in the Green Country community.

"We plan to continue to seek out programming that emphasizes our goal of making NSU students socially responsible global citizens, but I also hope to include members of the community and our alumni as we work to build up the center's presence here on campus and in the region," Farmer said.

At a university founded as a female seminary, where approximately two-thirds of NSU students are women, and in a state where many social issues disproportionately affect women, Bridgmon places high importance on the success of the center.

"We must continue to do our best when honoring our past, serving our students, and influencing a better world through awareness and service. The Center for Women's Studies is an important part of these efforts within the College of Liberal Arts."

For more information on the Center for Women's Studies, please visit

Published: 8/30/2016 5:11:12 PM

Notice the highlighted phrases: "empower," "heighten awareness," "raising the global consciousness," "encouraging activism," "influencing." This is not an academic enterprise. The NSU Women's Studies Center is engaged in activism, advocacy, and evangelism for a particular religious perspective using public dollars, arguably in violation of Oklahoma's Constitution, the same provision that was used to remove the Ten Commandments from the grounds of the State Capital. Note too what's acting as the spur: A radical feminist organization's D+ grade for Oklahoma, based on Oklahoma voters' rejection of radical feminist views of family and the value of human life.

If you want to understand how feminism, working through college women's studies programs, works as a corrosive influence on our culture, I encourage you to browse the research done by reporter Stacy McCain in his "Sex Trouble" series. A couple of years ago McCain decided to read the textbooks that are often assigned by college women's studies courses and to report on the destructive ideas they promote. At the same time, he has investigated how those ideas have influenced popular thinking as it emerges in blogs and on social media. He has serialized his research on his blog, "The Other McCain," and has produced the first edition of his research in book form, Sex Trouble: Essays on Radical Feminism and the War against Human Nature (available in softcover and Kindle), and is working on an expanded second edition.

Scholars combing through historical documents to understand how women's roles in family and society have changed over the centuries would be a worthy academic pursuit, no more or less worthy of state subsidy, I suppose, than other historical research. Advocating for a worldview, particularly one that has been destructive of civilization, is not worthy of our tax dollars. NSU's regents should shut down the center. If they're unwilling to take such a step, they should be replaced as soon as opportunity allows.

Back in October, my youngest and I joined our homeschool community on a field trip to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art on the University of Oklahoma campus to see a special exhibit from Rome's Capitoline Museum. "Immortales: The Hall of Emperors of the Capitoline Museums, Rome" features 20 ancient busts of Roman emperors and their consorts from the very beginning of the empire through its final century.

The exhibit was originally scheduled to run through December 6, 2015, but I was excited to learn this weekend that it has been extended through February 14, 2016

This is not part of a tour, but the sole showing of these ancient sculptures anywhere in the world beyond Rome, and it's part of a broader collaboration between OU and the Capitoline Museums, bringing ancient Roman artifacts to Oklahoma for study. According to the press release:

The exhibit in Oklahoma is the second phase of the Hidden Treasures of Rome program, which was launched in 2014 by Enel Green Power, in partnership with the world renowned Capitoline Museums of Rome and served as a first-of-its-kind initiative to exchange cultural, educational and technological resources and artifacts between the Capitoline Museums and U.S. universities.

The program's expansion allows EGP-NA to bring the ancient culture of Rome to the state of Oklahoma, creating a distinctive exhibit for the university and innovative way for the company to engage with local residents and communities, Venturini said....

This collaboration also includes the transfer of epigraphs and materials from the
Capitoline museum's Antiquarium to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at OU. These artifacts - dating to the period of the Roman Republic (fifth to first centuries B.C.) - are part of 100,000 pieces that were stored for more than 100 years in the Capitoline Museums' Antiquarium but have never shown to the public, creating the opportunity for undergraduate students from the university's department of Classics and Letters to catalog and analyze these artifacts for inclusion in the Digital Latin Library project.

We were fascinated by the realism and detail of these ancient marble sculptures, which showed hair texture, brow furrows, and smile lines, and even scars and double chins. Perhaps the most impressive were the portraits of Vespasian and Livia, both of which used several different types and colors of marble. Vespasian, founder of a new dynasty in the wake of the chaotic "Year of Four Emperors," looked like someone you might see around town, with his broad face and nose, large ears, and receding hairline. Our guide said one visitor thought he resembled Lyndon Johnson. One of our group thought he looked like an old football coach.

It was interesting to compare the marble portraits of Octavian and Augustus -- the same man, but depicted first as ordinary politician and then as deified emperor. In the transition, the sculptor gave Augustus a civic wreath, a svelter nose, and smaller ears than his civilian portrait.

We noticed the addition of carved pupils, beginning with Antoninus Pius, and increasing in sophistication through the years. The exhibit caption noted the emergence of beards after the Greek fashion beginning with Hadrian. The bust of Alexander Severus, showed him with a beard, but a rather insubstantial one, reflecting his youth -- he ascended to the principate as a 14-year-old.

Elsewhere in the museum, we enjoyed the permanent exhibit of French impressionists, were drawn in trying to decipher the Greek and Slavonic captions on the McGhee Collection of Orthodox icons, and were fascinated by a temporary exhibition of works on paper from 18th and 19th century Europe, which included satirical engravings by Goya and Hogarth, a landscape engraving by J. M. W. Turner, and a page from William Blake's Book of Job.

Later in the day, after a picnic lunch at Reaves Park (where the fort-like play structure was the perfect setting for a battle with foam-rubber swords and axes), we visited the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. The dinosaur exhibit is the star of the museum, but we also enjoyed playing mancala in the hands-on Discovery Room and viewing a special exhibit on Galileo and the publishing society of which he was a member, which rescued a book on the birds of North America from oblivion.

OU is celebrating Galileo this year of its 125th anniversary with a series of exhibits around campus. Please note that "Through the Eyes of the Lynx: Galileo, Natural History and the Americas" will close on January 17 to make way for another exhibit on Galileo and Microscopy at the Sam Noble Museum. The exhibit "Galileo and the Scientific Revolution, currently on display on the OU-Tulsa campus in Schusterman Library, will close on December 18.

Run for School Board

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Next Monday through Wednesday, December 7 - 9, 2015, is the filing period for public school board positions in Oklahoma. Most school districts will have a single seat, Position No. 1 up for election to a five-year term. Skiatook will have one additional seat on the ballot to fill an unexpired term, and Glenpool will have two additional seats. (Here is the Tulsa County Election Board press release listing the school board offices up for election. And here's where you'll find maps showing school district and election district boundaries.)

School board filing always comes at a busy and distracted time of year. As I wrote last year, it's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious consideration to running.

The Tulsa district, largest in the state, has two out of seven seats up for election to a four-year term, Posts No. 5 and 6. The election will be held on February 9, 2016, with runoffs on April 5, 2016, for those seats where no candidate won a majority of the vote in the February election.

Tulsa Election District 5 covers Riverside to Yale from 21st to 41st, plus Riverside to Harvard between 41st and I-44, plus Utica to Yale from 11th to 21st, plus a small section just south of I-44 between Peoria and Riverside. The current member, Cindy Decker, was appointed to the post in May 2015. Her bio suggests that she's part of the problem with American education, tied in with the social services non-profit and educational consulting world. "Decker has been an education researcher since 2002. She is passionate about ensuring all children have a quality education. She works as Director of Research and Accountability at CAP Tulsa while also consulting for various groups including the U.S. Department of Education and Howard County Public School System in Maryland. She is Chair of the Board of Moto, Inc., a family-owned business based in Illinois. Formerly, she was a Senior Economist working with the education team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office." Cynthia Gustafson Decker is a registered Democrat.

Tulsa Election District 6 covers, roughly, I-244 to 51st Street from Yale to Mingo, plus 51st to 61st, Sheridan to Memorial, plus (oddly) Memorial Park Cemetery. The incumbent is Ruth Ann Fate, who was first elected to the seat in 1996. Ruth Ann Fate is also a registered Democrat.

Looking through the online biographies, I think it's fair to assume that there is not a single conservative on the Tulsa School Board. One member is a Democrat political consultant. Another is a former Democrat County Commissioner. One of the members is a teacher in a different school district and a member of the OEA, the far-left teachers union.

In addition, Tulsa Technology Center board seat 5 is up for a seven-year term, representing northern and western Tulsa County beyond the Tulsa city limits, plus those parts of Creek, Pawnee, Osage, and Washington Counties within the TTC boundaries. TTC seems to have more money than it knows what to do with; it would be lovely to have a fiscal conservative on the board who could curb their building spree.

If you're a conservative, you should give serious thought to running, even if you have no school-aged children, even if you have children that are homeschooled or in private school, even if you've never had a child in the public schools. The public school system exists to serve all citizens by educating the children of the community, so every citizen has an interest in the curriculum being used, the way discipline is handled, the condition of the school buildings, and the credentials, skills, and philosophical presuppositions of the teachers, principals, and administrators. Property owners support the school system through ad valorem taxes, and so they have a reasonable interest in the proper and efficient expenditure of those funds. So do all citizens who pay state income and sales taxes, which provide funds to supplement local property taxes.

If you are, like me, a homeschool or private school parent, you will have experience and valuable insights with successful, classical alternatives to the faddish and failing teaching methods, priorities, and content currently in use in the public schools.

I ran some numbers, comparing 2010 census data, broken down by age, with the closest school attendance data I could find, from the 2010-2011 school year. In the Tulsa school district, the average daily attendance was only 67.2% of the number of school-aged children (5-18) who lived in the district on Census Day 2010. That means about a third of school-aged kids were either homeschooled or in private schools, the highest proportion of any district in the metro area. The Tulsa district also had the lowest percentage of residents in the 5-18 bracket -- 17.9%. Compare that to the Sperry district, where 91% of school-aged residents attended the public school, and where 22.6% of the residents were school-aged.

It seems that a substantial number of families move from the Tulsa district to the suburbs when their children reach kindergarten, or, if they stay, many opt for homeschooling or private schools. Those numbers make a strong case for new leaders in the Tulsa district. And if the school board is going to be strictly representative, at least two of the seven members should have children in homeschool or private school, and a majority should be conservative.

Filing is simple: A notarized declaration of candidacy, and a signed copy of the statutory requirements for school board candidates. For this office there is no filing fee. You can view the Oklahoma school board filing packet online. And although school board elections are officially non-partisan, the local and state Republican Party organizations will provide assistance to registered Republicans who are candidates for non-partisan office. (I suspect the same is true of the Democrats.)

There was a time when it was generally agreed that schools existed to transmit knowledge and the values of the community to the rising generation, working alongside parents. At some point, as part of the Gramscian long march through the institutions, the public schools were infiltrated by Leftists who saw them as a venue for missionary work, converting children away from the values of their parents, away from the ideals that made America a prosperous and peaceful nation. The Left has influence over schools of education, textbook publishers, teachers' unions, and continuing education for teachers, administrators, and board members.

There are, it must be said, many good conservatives, many devout Christians serving in Oklahoma's public schools. But they need support in the form of school board members who will set policy and curriculum and ensure that the paid staff adhere to it. Conservative school board members should not give undue deference to "professionals" who have been trained to see education through a Leftist lens. The subject matter taught, the methods used, and the values undergirding it all should be firmly under the control of our elected representatives on the school board.

Education is necessarily ideological, because it rests on presuppositions about knowledge, truth, goodness, and beauty. The ideology of the public schools should reflect the ideology of the community.

If I were running -- and for family and business reasons I can't -- here are some of the planks that would be in my platform:

  • Introduce the classical trivium as the philosophy and method of instruction in schools that are currently failing. That includes a heavy emphasis on memorizing facts in the elementary years, which gives children a sense of mastery and accomplishment and provides a solid foundation for subsequent learning.
  • Instill pride in our city, state, and country. America has its flaws, but it is a beacon of liberty and opportunity that inspires hope in hundreds of millions of people around the world who wish they could live and work here. Our children should understand the aspects of our culture and history that have made our country prosperous and peaceful.
  • Keep the Land Run re-enactments in our elementary schools. It's a fun and memorable way to introduce students to our state's unique history. There is an activist in Oklahoma City who managed to convince historically ignorant principals and school board members there that the '89 Land Run was an act of genocide. Oklahoma City, founded by the '89 Land Run, no longer has reenactments of that event, because of a zealot who pushed her slanderous revision of history on ignoramuses in charge of the schools.
  • Return music to the elementary grades. An early introduction to classical music and learning to make music by singing have tremendous developmental and behavioral benefits.
  • Review all federal grants and determine whether the cost of compliance and the loss of independence is worth the money.
  • Young people who foolishly believe that swapping sexes will solve their deep unhappiness deserve pity and guidance. It is utter cruelty to humor their misplaced hope that "changing gender identity" will cure their misery. Leadership at each school should craft a way to accommodate these deluded young people with compassion and dignity, while protecting the dignity of everyone else, and while affirming the biologically undeniable reality of the two sexes.

On that last point, doing the wise thing will require resisting Federal pressure. If the U. S. Department of Education refuses funding based on its perverted interpretation of Title IX, the school should sue the DoE.

Our public schools need principled, intelligent conservative leadership. Will you step forward to serve?


Stella Morabito writes, "Ask Not Who's Running For President, Ask Who's Running For School Board," and she cites the recent battle in Fairfax County, Virginia, over transgender policy as one among many reasons:

The board voted 10-1 with one abstention to shove the policy down the throats of startled parents. There was no discussion and no consideration given to the concerns expressed. Instead, the parents were in effect smeared as intolerant bigots.

The ten board members voting in compliance with this federal harassment behaved like a bunch of cronies who seemed most interested in securing their places of privilege in a coming nomenklatura by regurgitating Orwellian-style talking points about "equality" and "non-discrimination."...

When informed citizens of goodwill vote en masse locally, they can provide an effective check on corruption and force government to be more responsive to its citizens. This kind of citizen activism serves as a buffer that can prevent state and federal governments from absorbing local governments.

As we've seen from the Fairfax County case, our distraction from local elections and neglect of local politics is fertile ground for growing laws under the radar on issues that have not been debated or thought through.

More than ever, we need to push back against the use of local elections as a back door to enforcing agendas established by central, national, or even international agendas.

Walt Heyer, a man who underwent sex-change surgery and then, realizing that the change failed to give him the happiness he had hoped for, changed back, writes that the Obama Administration is using its perverted interpretation of Title IX to force public schools to trample their students in the transgender war against science and reason.

Let's look back and unmask the founders who started the gender madness we see infiltrating into our public schools today. As I detail in "Paper Genders," changing boys into girls started in the perverted minds of three abhorrent pedophile activists from the 1950s who were at the forefront of promoting a movement for sexual and gender experimentation... [Alfred Kinsey, Harry Benjamin, and John Money]....

Public schools are becoming centers for gay, lesbian, and gender-pretender activists and only secondarily fulfilling their purpose as institutions for sound academics. The laws are being interpreted far beyond the original intent of non-discrimination based on gender to where they protect gender pretenders at the expense of the rights of non-trans kids. Gender pretenders are assured access to every school facility and program available to the opposite gender, up to and including girls-only dressing rooms and showers.

Every child's rights to privacy and protection from exposure to inappropriate opposite-sex nudity are now in jeopardy. According to these new legal interpretations, if you like your gender and want to keep your gender that's fine, but you cannot keep your freedom, rights, or protections in public-school dressing rooms or restrooms. The current conflict of interest playing out in school locker rooms between girls born as girls and the self-acknowledged gender pretender trans-kids is real and it is not funny. Non-trans students have lost their right to privacy and parents have lost the freedom to parent and protect their children....

Studies show that people with gender issues also have other psychological issues 62.7 percent of the time. When the co-existing illness is treated, often the desire to change gender dissipates. By not treating the co-existing illnesses first and instead putting the patient through gender reassignment--hormones and surgery--the medical community does irrevocable harm to the patient's body and long-lasting harm to his mind.

The harm is deeper for impressionable children and adolescents who experiment with gender-change behaviors and hormones or hormone blockers. Studies have shown that the majority of kids who are gender confused will grow out of it if they are left alone....

Gender pretenders--also known as trans-kids, crossdressers, or transvestites--should get counseling, not encouragement. Social terrorists who use child transvestites to advance an agenda of sexual perversion should be shut down, not be guiding public school policy.

It's time for parents and kids to fight against the social terrorism of gender change. It's time to take schools back from males who wish to expose themselves with impunity in the girls' locker room.

Hack-proof your mind

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Is the current generation of Americans especially susceptible to propaganda and emotional manipulation?

Early this past summer, Stella Morabito wrote a column for The Federalist called How to Escape the Age of Mass Delusion. Morabito pondered the startling turnaround in societal norms on sexual identity issues, the backlash against modest attempts to protect the liberties of dissenters from the new consensus, and the mob eruptions in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore:

American conservatives are by and large clueless about propaganda methods and tactics. And it shows. There are virtually no conservative social psychologists around. You'd think once a liberal social psychologist hits the public over the head with this fact some on the Right would take notice and at least try to get clued in.

Meanwhile, the Left has been employing social psychology and depth psychology on the masses for decades. President Obama's campaign staff was filled with social psychologists. In this context, those who believe conservatives can subsist on reason and logic alone are kidding themselves. It's no wonder GOP leaders are caving on so many principles, and being absorbed so easily into the Left's machine.

A lot of people are scratching their heads today, wondering how life got to be so surreal, so fast in the United States of America. Based on the silencing tactics revealed by the LGBT lobby, many observers are likely now thinking: "Gee, I thought marriage equality was merely a gay rights movement. I didn't realize that fascism was part of that package." The Great Unraveling continues at a rapid clip when slipping on a pronoun in these days of transgender rule could cost you your career or earn you massive social media rallies chanting "hater" at you.

To understand these phenomena, Morabito turned to a nearly 60-year-old book, The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing, by Dutch psychiatrist Joost A. M. Meerloo. Meerloo wrote the book "after years immersed in the study of social psychology and countless interviews with victims of mental coercion, including Nazi officers and American prisoners of war in Korea." Morabito quoted the opening of Meerloo's forward:

"This book attempts to depict the strange transformation of the free human mind into an automatically responding machine - a transformation which can be brought about by some of the cultural undercurrents in our present-day society as well as by deliberate experiments in the service of a political ideology."

Further quotes from Meerloo:

"It is simply a question of organizing and manipulating collective feelings in the proper way. If one can isolate the mass, allow no free thinking, no free exchange, no outside correction and can hypnotize the group daily with noises, with press and radio and television, with fear and pseudo-enthusiasms, any delusion can be instilled."

"The totalitarian potentate, in order to break down the minds of men, first needs widespread mental chaos and verbal confusion, because both paralyze his opposition and cause the morale of the enemy to deteriorate - unless his adversaries are aware of the dictator's real aim."

"The techniques of propaganda and salesmanship have been refined and systematized; there is scarcely any hiding place from the constant visual and verbal assault on the mind. The pressures of daily life impel more and more people to seek an easy escape from responsibility and maturity."

Morabito explored the social and mental engineering that laid the groundwork for today's mob eruptions:

Unfortunately, too many Americans have been sleeping through most of its propaganda battles, and for a very long time. When it comes to understanding the inner workings of social psychology and political correctness, we seem to be at a loss.

Meanwhile, the power elites who now control the media, academia, and Hollywood seem to understand social psychology well enough to exploit it on a massive scale. They have engaged in psychological warfare against the private mind by inducing "collective belief formation." There's really nothing new here. Conditioning and nudging the masses into groupthink is a very old trick of all wannabe dictators. The bloody twentieth century is filled to the gills with examples.

Yet it feels like we've awakened to an ambush. A lot of Americans watched in shock while cultish mobs suddenly attacked the RFRA that [Indiana Gov. Mike] Pence initially defended. But the groundwork for mass hysteria like this was stealthily laid for decades, and the minefields sown.

Family breakdown led to community breakdown, which we can see in the decline of trust in society. Ignorance was cultivated in the schools through political correctness and squashing free debate. The academy's disparaging of western civilization virtually wiped out respect for any serious study of history and civics, as well as for the Socratic method and the rules of civil discourse. Political correctness sewed confusion into the language, particularly regarding identity politics. Youth are now set to be programmed for conformity through the K-12 "Common Core" curriculum mandates.

All of that and more promotes the semantic fog that allows for mind rape. It amounts to an act of "logicide," to borrow a term from Meerloo, whom I will continue to quote below. To kill logic and reason that might stand in their way, wannabe dictators "fabricate a hate language in order to stir up mass emotions." Leaders in Indiana, Arkansas, and Louisiana have been unable to understand this tactic and are grossly unprepared to deal with it. So they simply surrendered. In effect, they joined the mob, further endangering everybody's freedom....

I encourage you to read the whole article, in which Morabito goes on to call for action to fight against mass delusion through free speech and targeted ridicule and to fight against societal atomization through genuine friendship.

So, in the end, freedom truly depends upon breaking down the walls of separation that tyranny builds. It means cultivating the art of friendship, boldly exercising our rights to free association and to communicate our thoughts to others. It means cultivating knowledge instead of cultivating ignorance.

After all, political correctness is primarily a tool for crushing people's ability to have open conversations in friendship and mutual respect. In this context, it seems very much like a tool to bring all personal relationships under state control. And it shouldn't surprise us that this is being done today in the name of equality for certain kinds of personal relationships. Tyrannies always pretend to promote the very thing they seek to destroy.

The ongoing campus war against free speech inspired Morabito to write a follow-up: 10 Resources For Hack-Proofing Your Mind

The dynamics are similar wherever there is obstruction of the free exchange of ideas. They include: using silencing tactics to achieve conformity of thought; blind rage and intolerance towards any ideas that diverge from the agenda; and all-out efforts to eliminate perceived enemies.

But the visible actors who are shutting down freedom seem not to be free agents themselves. They act more like recruits whose behavior has been conditioned through political correctness, an effective behavior modification tool. It's been entrenched for decades in the West, in education, media, and pop culture. With terrorists, we know that indoctrination is far more direct.

Either way, messing with your mind--or coercive thought reform--is a common denominator of any agenda that depends on shutting down real conversation. Whatever the grievance du jour, it serves mostly as a distraction from the main goal: collectivist conformity that ends up empowering an elite. Campuses are prime recruiting grounds....

Student agitators are not the root of the problem, though. They seem more like victims of coercive persuasion since universities stopped valuing independent thought for conformist thought. They're easy targets for mind-rape by the elites and lobbies who can use them for mass mobilization behind various agenda items. We can now see the student agitators acting as deployable agents for hacking the minds of others. Kind of like a Borg.

To resist this (submission is futile) we must first be aware of our own human susceptibility to coercive thought reform and mind manipulation. So, where to start?

Why not start a mind-rape prevention book club? Students who wish to retain their sanity on PC-conditioned campuses should be especially interested in exploring this. But everyone should try to learn how to fight mob psychology either on their own, or, ideally, in conversations with others.

Below is a very select list of books and other materials that can help to inoculate the mind against mass delusion. None of the titles are recent. That's partly because I've found the greatest clarity and respect for independent thought in material written decades ago....

In these times of growing confusion and delusion, we must try to learn all we can about how to keep our minds free from coercive manipulation. Let's recognize political correctness for what it really is: a political tool to imprison us into conformity of thought. The PC-induced "safe spaces" on campuses amount to nothing more than Pavlovian conditioning chambers. Sane spaces--places that allow real learning and real relationships--are what people really need, because without free expression, there is no diversity.

One of her recommendations is the Mind Hacking Alert pamphlet from NJ Safe and Sound. It focuses on the special vulnerability of young adults under the age of 25:

You're already at risk for mind-hacking because of your age. The part of the brain that's responsible for emotions, judgment, decision-making, planning, and impulse control- the prefrontal cortex- is not fully mature until around age 25. That doesn't mean you're stupid - only that you have to be extra smart around mind-hackers.

The pamphlet goes on to list specific vulnerable conditions, including many that apply to new college students.

RELATED: Sharyl Attkisson, an award-winning investigative journalist and a former reporter for CBS news, spoke recently about "Astroturf and manipulation of media messages" (10 minutes).

What is astroturf? It's a perversion of grassroots. Astroturf is when political, corporate, or other special interests disguise themselves, and publish blogs, start Facebook and Twitter accounts, publish ads, letters to the editor, or simply publish comments online, to try to fool you into thinking an independent, or grassroots, movement is speaking. The whole point of astroturf is to try to give the impression that there's widespread support for or against an agenda when there's not. Astroturf seeks to manipulate you into changing your opinion by making you feel as if you're an outlier when you're not....

Astroturfers seek to controversialize those who disagree with them. They attack news organizations that publish stories they don't like, whistleblowers who tell the truth, politicians who dare to ask the tough questions, and journalists who have the audacity to report on all of it. Sometimes astroturfers simply shove, intentionally, so much confusing and conflicting information into the mix that you're left to throw up your hands and disregard all of it, including the truth.

Attkisson calls Wikipedia "the astroturfers' dream come true" as paid operatives "co-opt pages on behalf of special interests," violating Wikipedia's policies "with impunity." As an example, she discusses the connection between an apparently objective study on sleeplessness by the National Sleep Foundation, which turned out to be funded by the makers of a new sleep drug.

She then offers tips on how to protect yourself against astroturf, listing hallmarks of astroturf". One example: "Instead of questioning authority, they question those who question authority."

(Here's Attkisson's take on the media's attacks on Donald Trump over his statements, corroborated by contemporaneous news reports, about Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey. Her weekly program, Full Measure, airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. on KTUL channel 8 in Tulsa and KOKH channel 25 in Oklahoma City.)

MORE: The latest example of either herd mentality or coordination: The attack by leftist bloggers and politicians on anyone offering "thoughts and prayers" for the victims of today's shootings in San Bernardino, California.

A speech by President Ronald Reagan about parental choice in education forms the framework of this video montage, which begins with remarks from Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker, all supportive of giving parents real choice in finding the right education for their children. Many of them were involved in implementing effective school choice programs in their own states.

But Oklahoma lags behind many of these states in providing the same range of choices to their families, despite overwhelming Republican majorities in the legislature and total control of statewide elective offices. During the second half of the video, Oklahoma Republican elected officials -- Sen. James Lankford, Congressmen Jim Bridenstine and Steve Russell, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb -- and Republican party leaders -- GOP vice chairman Estela Hernandez, OFRW President Pam Pollard -- urge bold action by our state legislature to improve educational choice.

Sadly, six key Republican leaders aren't on this video. Perhaps they weren't asked (surely they were), perhaps they didn't have time (isn't this worth making time?), but I'm disappointed not to see Gov. Mary Fallin, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, State Senate President pro tempore Brian Bingman, State House Speaker Jeff Hickman, and education committee chairmen Sen. John Ford and Rep. Ann Coody. These are the people in the best position to make something happen and are likely the reason that very little has.

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, writing in USA Today, about OU president David Boren's decision to expel two students and a fraternity for a video containing racist speech:

As a state institution, the University of Oklahoma is constrained by the Constitution. Among other things, that means that it must respect the free speech guarantees contained in the First Amendment, even if that speech is repugnant. Just because the university doesn't like what students say, thinks it's hateful, or worries that it will produce an unpleasant atmosphere on campus, doesn't grant it the authority to punish people for speaking. One would think that Boren -- a former U.S. senator who took an oath to uphold the Constitution when he was sworn into office -- would know better. Apparently not....

Boren's behavior was not only illegal -- and clearly so -- it was also a betrayal of the duty of fairness that he, as a university president, owes to every student enrolled in his university. To have acted so hastily, in violation of OU's own student conduct code, bespeaks a dishonorable willingness to throw students to the wolves in order to avoid bad publicity -- accompanied, perhaps, by the sort of generalized hostility to fraternities that seems all too common among university administrations these days. (That hostility, based on a general dislike of fraternities as bastions of "white male privilege," is itself racist and sexist, of course.)

As Reason's Robby Soave notes, OU administered lighter punishment to a football player who punched a girl so hard it broke four bones in her face than it meted out to the SAE fraternity for singing a song. After this assault, caught on camera, Joe Mixon was suspended from playing, but allowed to remain on campus, attending classes with other students as usual. No expulsion there.

In theory, universities are supposed to be the bastions of reasoned thought and fairness. In practice, you will seldom find a place where mob justice is more likely to prevail with the willing participation of the authorities....

The Daily Caller summarizes more incidents where student athletes received light punishment for violent behavior.

Happy National Handwriting Day! January 23rd was so designated because it's the birthday of John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, whose bold signature graces our Declaration of Independence and became an eponym for a signature.

Cursive handwriting is a rarity anymore. I learned it in 4th grade, when it was still commonplace. As I remember it, it was a year-long process, and certain letters were just weird. Within a few years, I had given up on cursive and wrote in a somewhat slanted manuscript that wasn't joined up. By the time my kids learned it in school, we were told that many other schools had dropped cursive in favor of spending classroom time on other subjects. Many of today's teachers never learned cursive, much less learned how to teach it.

But now a Tulsa educator has come up with a way for students to reap the benefits of learning cursive with a much smaller investment of time.


Some time ago, an adult literacy student asked his teacher, Linda Shrewsbury (pictured above), to teach him cursive so he could learn to sign his name. She realized that the traditional letter-by-letter elementary school approach would be frustrating for an adult student, so she looked for a more streamlined approach. Writing the lower-case cursive alphabet out on a large sheet, she noticed four common patterns -- ovals, loops, swings, and mounds. Master the four patterns and you could quickly learn to combine them to form the entire alphabet.


When I explained the patterns to Josh, his response was intuitive and fast. He caught on to forming the entire lowercase alphabet in 45 minutes and became so enthusiastic about his success that learning his uppercase initials was easy. After just one session, Josh signed his name.

After teaching more students from many different background all with similar results, I realized I was onto something--a greatly simplified way to help students master cursive handwriting. CursiveLogic's process teaches the entire lowercase alphabet in four lessons, greatly shortening the time required to master cursive handwriting.

Shrewsbury, who homeschooled her children and has taught in various settings from 1st grade to college, teamed up with her daughter Prisca LeCroy (who homeschools her children in Dallas) to turn this approach into a full-fledged curriculum, called CursiveLogic.

CursiveLogicLogo.pngA small number of prototype copies of the student workbook have been printed, but Cursive Logic has launched a $25,000 Kickstarter project to fund a full commercial print run of student workbooks and teacher manuals and, if enough funds are raised, to develop instructional videos. The project has been honored as a "Kickstarter Staff Pick."

Is learning cursive just good for signing checks and contracts? Dr. William Klemm, Senior Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, wrote in a Psychology Today blog entry, that cursive has benefits for brain development:

Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn "functional specialization"--that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice....

The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument. Not everybody can afford music lessons, but everybody has access to pencil and paper. Not everybody can afford a computer for their kids--but maybe such kids are not as deprived as we would think.

Prof. Klemm recently reviewed the CursiveLogic curriculum and was delighted:

Learning cursive provides crucial benefit to children at an age when they need it most: a sense of involvement and ownership, hand-eye coordination, patience, and self-control.

Now comes a short manual, "Cursive Logic" by Linda Shrewsbury that shows teachers and parents how to teach cursive the way it was done when I was a kid. I recognize many of the key elements that I learned from my 7th grade penmanship teacher: the proper way to hold a pencil, the role of forearm movement, and the need for deliberate practice on ruled paper. But this manual has an important innovation: a logic that groups the alphabet into four shape categories that share certain common movements.

I hope this book can keep cursive in the school curriculum. Educators no longer have the excuse that cursive is too hard to learn and that they can't find teachers who can teach it. Write on!

Perhaps you'd like to teach yourself or a loved one cursive using the CursiveLogic method. The only way to get a copy of the workbook is to help fund its printing through Kickstarter. For donations starting at $25, the reward includes a copy of the workbook, with more copies at higher donation levels. From $500 and up, you get a piece of a page in the first 10,000 copies printed for your own "tribute to the cursive tradition." As with all Kickstarter projects, pledges are only collected if the full amount is pledged. CursiveLogic is seeking $25,000 in pledges by February 19; they're already over a quarter of the way toward their goal.

Tulsa Community College has for several years offered a program to Tulsa County high school graduates called Tulsa Achieves: Free tuition and fees for up to 63 credit hours or three years, which ever comes first. To qualify, you have to have a C average or better in high school and enroll in TCC for the fall after you graduate.

These scholarships are primarily funded by the property taxpayers of Tulsa County and the sales and income taxpayers of Oklahoma out of the TCC budget:

The FY 14 budget includes the following components: approximately 34.4 percent from local appropriations; 32 percent from state appropriations; 31.6 percent from tuition and fees; and 2 percent from grants and other sources.

So the same families that send their young adults to TCC on a Tulsa Achieves scholarship are paying the property taxes (either directly as owners or indirectly as renters) and sales taxes to fund the scholarship. The same board of directors that pays for the scholarships are also in control of institutional costs. If the board were to allow spending to spiral out of control, the same people would have to decide whether to make up the difference by cutting the number or scope of Tulsa Achieves scholarships, raising tuition, or seeking outside funding. Raise tuition or cut scholarships too much, and students drop out. There's no disconnect between funding and spending, and that creates an incentive to keep costs under control.

President Obama has proposed federal funding to cover all community college tuition. I haven't seen a description of the funding formula, but the effect is almost certain to be the same as any situation in which a third party is paying the bill.

Right now TCC tuition plus fees is about $130 per credit hour, not counting flat fees on top of that. 30 credit hours per year is roughly what you'd need to take in order to graduate in two years with an associate's degree. So for the sake of example let's round it off to an even $4000 per academic year in tuition and fees.

So the federal government comes along and says we'll cover community college tuition and fees for qualified high school graduates. TCC would realize that they could phase out the Tulsa Achieves program or end it altogether. They wouldn't lose any students because the net cost to the student will remain the same, but now TCC would have an extra $4000 a year per student to play with. They could raise salaries, increase administrative perks, pay for more conference travel, build fancier facilities.

Then, suppose TCC should raise tuition and fees from $4000 to $5000 -- a 20% jump and far faster than the rate of inflation. A few adult learners may yelp, but not much, since they're only taking a course or two, not a full load. The students who qualify for free tuition from the federal government won't feel it at all. And now TCC would have even more money to spend on salaries, perks, travel, and facilities. They would regard it as "other people's money," even though it's really money ultimately but indirectly coming from Tulsa taxpayers and from the grandchildren who will have to repay the money the feds borrowed to fund "free" community college.

With a federal guarantee of free community college, would there be any pressure on TCC to control costs? No. If the federal government tried to limit reimbursement under the program to the original tuition baseline, there would be protests that the government is going back on its promise of free tuition.

I don't know how many Tulsa Achieves students have attained two-year degrees or gone on to four-year degrees. I don't know how many of those students would not have received a degree without the help of Tulsa Achieves. But I do know that Tulsa County residents are getting more educational opportunity for their tax dollars because the same board that determines the scope and size of the grants also has to account for the cost that those grants have to cover.

MORE: The New York Times' David Brooks points out that retention is a much bigger problem than tuition cost for underprivileged students trying to get an education:

The problem is that getting students to enroll is neither hard nor important. The important task is to help students graduate. Community college drop out rates now hover somewhere between 66 percent and 80 percent.

Spending $60 billion over 10 years to make community college free will do little to reduce that. In the first place, community college is already free for most poor and working-class students who qualify for Pell grants and other aid. In 2012, 38 percent of community-college students had their tuition covered entirely by grant aid and an additional 33 percent had fees of less than $1,000.

The Obama plan would largely be a subsidy for the middle- and upper-middle-class students who are now paying tuition and who could afford to pay it in the years ahead....

In short, you wouldn't write government checks for tuition. You'd strengthen structures around the schools. You'd focus on the lived environment of actual students and create relationships and cushions to help them thrive.

We've had two generations of human capital policies. Human Capital 1.0 was designed to give people access to schools and other facilities. It was based on the 1970s liberal orthodoxy that poor people just need more money, that the government could write checks and mobility will improve.

Human Capital 2.0 is designed to help people not just enroll but to complete school and thrive. Its based on a much more sophisticated understanding of how people actually live, on the importance of social capital, on the difficulty of living in disorganized circumstances. The new research emphasizes noncognitive skills -- motivation, grit and attachment -- and how to use policy levers to boost these things.

The tuition piece of the Obama proposal is Human Capital 1.0. It is locked in 1970s liberal orthodoxy. Congress should take the proposal, scrap it and rededicate the money toward programs that will actually boost completion, that will surround colleges, students and their families with supporting structures. We don't need another program that will lure students into colleges only to have them struggle and drop out.

Brooks mentions several specific challenges:

Community colleges are not sticky places. Many students don't have intimate relationships with anyone who can guide them through the maze of registration, who might help bond them to campus....

A quarter of college students nationwide have dependent children. Even more students at community colleges do. Less than half of community colleges now have any day-care facilities. Many students drop out because something happens at home and there's no one to take care of the kids.

My late mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, saw this need many years ago when she began working with "displaced homemakers" -- women who found themselves suddenly widowed or divorced and in need of a job. She founded the Benton County, Arkansas, Single Parent Scholarship Fund and helped begin similar funds statewide and nationwide. The fund helps with costs beyond tuition -- it may be books, childcare, or car repairs -- anything that might otherwise force a student to drop out. The aid is provided in the context of relationships with mentors and peers. Because the funds are raised and distributed by a private organization, funds are distributed according to compassionate judgment rather than rigid rules. Thousands of students in Benton County have been helped since the program's inception.

Rather than spend money our federal government would have to borrow and establish another federal bureaucracy, it would be better for state and local higher education officials to encourage more of these private scholarship funds to be established.

It sneaks up on us every year -- the filing period for next spring's school board elections across Oklahoma. It's the first Monday in December and the two days following, at the start of the Christmas season as popularly defined. This year the timing of the filing period is the worst possible as it comes right on the heels of the long Thanksgiving weekend. The elections themselves will be the second Tuesday next February, followed by a runoff, if necessary, the first Tuesday in April. It's almost as if school board elections were deliberately scheduled to escape the notice of potential candidates and voters.

The filing period for the 2015 school board elections will close on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. So far no seat in Tulsa County has drawn more than one candidate, and seats in Skiatook, Liberty, and Keystone have no candidates at all so far.

Conservatives shouldn't overlook these races. Oklahoma's tax-funded schools can and should be reformed to reflect the priorities and values of Oklahoma's conservative majority.

When public schools were founded by local communities, they were designed to prepare students to function capably as free and equal adult citizens in the community and to assist the parents of the community in propagating their ideals and values to the next generation. Schools had high expectations of their students, regardless of their wealth or ethnic backgrounds, and students graduated ready to make their own way in the world and contribute to the betterment of the community.

As part of the Left's Gramscian Long March through the nation's institutions, the Left has come to claim public schools as its own mission stations among the benighted and savage conservatives of Flyover Country. Since, in the Left's view, the American civilization established by our Founders is utterly corrupt and in need of fundamental transformation, the political, social, and moral values that built American civilization and American liberty must be junked. The schools can be used to alienate children from their parents and their community's values and to prepare children to accept the Left's political and moral indoctrination. Court decisions divorcing schools from community values have abetted the transformation, as have the public's neglect of the school board as a tool for accountability. Too often, a school board can see itself as enablers and servants of the "professionals" in the administration, rather than as the public's proxy as bosses of the paid staff.

There are many good teachers, administrators, and board members in the public schools who are not on the side of the Left. They are attempting to carry on the traditional purpose of the public schools. They deserve our appreciation and our help in obtaining reinforcements.

Gifted teachers are often frustrated by the bureaucratic tendency for the mediocre to rise to the top. Testing, often imposed out of a well-intentioned desire to hold schools accountable for results, instead inhibits creativity and pushes curriculum toward centralized conformity -- providing another channel for Leftist suppression of local values.

Adding to the corrupt mess, curriculum decisions are driven by textbook publishers and test makers who are pushing new products, trying to make a buck at the expense of school children who would benefit from time-tested teaching methods instead of the latest fad.

Grants are another source of distortion. Grant money comes with strings, and schools may divert other funds to meet the conditions required to receive a grant. Our Oklahoma legislators and governor had the courage to reject a short-term boost of Obamacare funds because of the long-term harm the program would do and the long-term costs the deal would incur. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had public school boards filled with men and women who had the courage to reject federal, state, or private grants that would distract from the school's mission or compromise the school's support for the community's values?

Every school district in Oklahoma has at least one seat up for election every year. All but the very largest independent districts are on a five-year cycle -- five board members, each serving a five-year term. This time the Office 5 seat is up for election. In Tulsa County, that affects every school district except Tulsa and Keystone.

Dependent (K-8) districts have three members each serving a three-year term; Office 1 is up this year.

The Tulsa district is a special case; its board has seven members, elected by district to four-year terms. Most years, Tulsa elects two members, but this year only one seat is up: District 1, currently held by Democrat incumbent Gary Percefull, who is so far the only candidate to file. The election district covers the part of the Tulsa school district southwest of the Arkansas River, plus downtown Tulsa and precincts to the north, west, south, and southeast, and the precincts along the Sand Springs Line.

Some districts may also have an additional seat on the ballot to fill an unexpired term.

One seat on the Tulsa Technology Center board, Zone 3, is also on the ballot. This board has seven members, serving rotating seven-year terms. Zone 3 consists of 31st to 81st Street, Yale to 129th East Ave, plus 81st to 101st, Memorial to 129th East Ave, plus 31st to 41st, 129th to 145th East Ave, plus a triangular area bounded by 129th, 71st, and the railroad. Tim Bradley is the incumbent, but only one candidate, Guy Mark Griffin, has filed. (Mark your calendar: Kathy Taylor's daughter, the Zone 4 incumbent, will be up for re-election in the 2015-2016 cycle.)

Tulsa Technology Center has been in a massive expansion mode for many years. Since 2011, TTC has opened new campuses in Owasso and Sand Springs and renovated its Broken Arrow campus. It would be nice if at least one board member was willing to look at long-range financial sustainability of all the new facilities and whether TTC could let the voters decide to reduce its millage rate, allowing voters to decide whether to add that millage to meet more pressing needs via another taxing entity or to put it back in property taxpayers' pockets.

Please take a few minutes to look at the maps of school districts and board zones and the list of offices to be filled and candidate filings to see whether your district, ward, or zone has an election this year. If you don't live in a district up for election, think about good men and women you know who do. Take a look at the official school board candidate filing packet and fill it out, then get yourself or someone else down to the county election board by 5:00 p.m.

These are winnable races. School elections have low turnout, and, although the races are non-partisan, the Oklahoma Republican Party and county GOP organizations make their resources available and help mobilize volunteers and donors for registered Republicans running for school and municipal offices. Some good organization and hard work could be enough to win, but the first step is to file.

The Left has a tendency to suppress facts either because they believe it will embolden their ideological enemies, or they are concerned that the facts will lead people to unauthorized conclusions.

Here are a couple of recent examples. I will add more as I come across them.

The National Post reported recently on a study by neuroscientists that shows rote memorization lays an important foundation for higher-order reasoning in children:

In effect, as young math students memorize the basics, their brains reorganize to accommodate the greater demands of more complex math. It is a gradual process, like "overlapping waves," the researchers write, but it clearly shows that, for the growing child's brain, rote memorization is a key step along the way to efficient mathematical reasoning.

The news story's writer framed this as a finding that was "sure to inflame the math wars" between "fundamentalists" and their "popular and progressive" opponents.

As a scientific justification of rote learning, the study seems likely to further polarize the controversy over math teaching styles, in which arithmetical fundamentalists are squared off against the popular and progressive forces of "discovery-based" learning, in which students are encouraged to find their own ways to the right answer.

By illustrating the benefit of repetition and memory, and showing how it serves as a stepping stone to mature calculation, the research is likely to embolden the fundamentalists, who have only recently started to win back lost ground.

Jenks middle school principal Rob Miller has a popular blog where he evangelizes for the idea that the billions we spend on education shouldn't go to teaching actual content. Here he is talking about the Howe school district in LeFlore County, which got a failing grade from the State Department of Education because of its students' poor test scores, despite having all sorts of cool classroom technology:

But what happens if bringing back more traditional teaching strategies actually brings their scores up? This will simply empower the naysayers and it will be very difficult to return to the district's original vision for 21st century teaching and learning-processes that create globally competent critical thinkers instead of just good test takers.

God forbid we should empower the naysayers! You can't be a "globally competent critical thinker" unless you've mastered fundamental facts about math, geography, history, grammar, and logic. Those are the building blocks for competent critical thinking, but Principal Miller and the Howe school leadership seem to want to skip right by the "boring" basics in favor of gee-whiz technology.

The Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation are celebrating the 102nd birthday of Nobel Laureate and educational-choice champion Milton Friedman with snowcones at Tulsa's Mohawk Park Pavilion 2, tomorrow, Thursday, July 31, 2014, from 4 pm to 6 pm. It's a come-and-go event for the whole family, and door prizes will be awarded.


Friedman, with his wife Rose, wrote the best-selling book Free to Choose and hosted a PBS TV series of the same name, showing the essential connection between personal liberty and prosperity. Throughout his career, Friedman argued that meaningful parental choice in education would produce better schools better suited to students. Some quotes on the topic (links to original sources and context at the link):

"It is only the tyranny of the status quo that leads us to take it for granted that in schooling, government monopoly is the best way for the government to achieve its objective."
-- "The School Choice Advocate," January 2004

"Our goal is to have a system in which every family in the U.S. will be able to choose for itself the school to which its children go. We are far from that ultimate result. If we had that -- a system of free choice -- we would also have a system of competition, innovation, which would change the character of education."

-- CNBC Interview Transcript, March 2003

"Improved education is offering a hope of narrowing the gap between the less and more skilled workers, of fending off the prior prospect of a society divided between the "haves" and "have nots," of a class society in which an educated elite provided welfare for a permanent class of unemployables."

-- "The School Choice Advocate," July 1998

A poll of likely Oklahoma Republican primary voters revealed strong support for school choice generally and specific school choice proposals, as strong in the rest of the state as it is in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metropolitan areas.

The poll was commissioned by the American Federation for Children and conducted by the Tarrance Group prior to the June 24, 2014, Oklahoma primary. Scott Jensen, the former Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly and a senior advisor to AFC discussed the results last night at a reception at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame hosted by State Sen. Jabar Shumate (D-Tulsa), a leading proponent of school choice at the Oklahoma Capitol.

Oklahoma currently offers charter schools in metropolitan school districts and two scholarship programs that include private schools as options, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for children with special needs, and the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship tax credit, where donors to scholarship-granting organizations can get a partial tax credit for their donations. The Henry scholarships have the support of 76% of Republican primary voters and the scholarship tax credit is supported by 72%. Support for both of these existing measures is even higher outside of the two major metro areas, 78% and 76% respectively.

Despite overwhelming Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, two broader school choice measures were defeated this year: Educational Savings Accounts and expanding charter schools to rural areas. Jensen noted that legislators often hear first and most emphatically from those with an interest in maintaining the status quo. On school choice issues those voices usually belong to the school superintendent or school board members. Part of AFC's mission is to make the voice of parents who support school choice heard at the state capitol, through polls and through mobilizing parents who want choice for their kids to interact with legislators. ESAs were supported by 64% of likely Republican primary voters, and 82% support allowing charter schools throughout the state.

The local affiliate for AFC, Oklahoma Federation for Children, is co-chaired by Tulsa oilman Bob Sullivan and Oklahoma City publisher and broadcaster Russell Perry. This is the first Oklahoma election cycle in which the organization has been involved in educating voters about the school choice views of primary candidates. The affiliated OFC Action Fund was engaged in four primary races. OFCAF made independent expenditures in support of school choice advocate Rep. Anastasia Pittman (D-Oklahoma City) in her winning primary campaign for Senate 48, Bruce Fisher in his unsuccessful effort to unseat school choice opponent Mike Shelton in the House 97 Democratic primary, and Sen. A. J. Griffin in her successful defense of the Senate 20 Republican nomination.

In House 69, an open seat, the group opposed the nomination of Melissa Abdo, a Jenks school board member and an opponent of school choice. The Jenks district sued parents of special needs children who sought Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarships, and Abdo is personally a plaintiff in a later lawsuit to block the scholarship program. Abdo finished first in the primary but fell short of the majority; she faces an August runoff against Chuck Strohm.


State Rep. Jason Nelson has a collection of links concerning the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships.

A December 2013 Friedman Foundation survey of Oklahoma registered voters found that 59% support educational vouchers, and, while over 90% of Oklahoma children attend traditional public schools, only 39% of those surveyed would choose a traditional public school as first choice for their own children, while 31% preferred private schools, 11% homeschool, and 8% charter school.

Positive Tomorrows is a tuition-free Oklahoma City private school meeting the needs of homeless children. School leaders say that Educational Savings Accounts would allow them to expand those opportunities and serve more children.

This 24-minute documentary reports on the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program and some of the children who have benefitted.

common core with flowers.jpgNational Review has a wonderful history of the effort to pull Oklahoma out of the Common Core curriculum and the four women who spearheaded it.

[Jenni] White has spent the past four years telling Parent Teacher Organizations and anyone else who would listen that Oklahoma should not implement Common Core, the education standards that most of the country adopted in 2010.

She hasn't been working alone. "Our organization is made up of a board that just consists of four of us moms basically," White says, referring to her cohorts Julia Seay, Lynn Habluetzel, and Joy Collins. "We have bankrolled the whole thing out of our poor husbands' bank accounts."

Ask anyone in Oklahoma politics who they think led the successful fight to repeal Common Core -- Governor Mary Fallin signed the repeal into law on June 5 -- and they'll tell you that the story starts with this foursome. White served as the writer and spokeswoman for the group, which operates under the auspices of their LLC, Restore Oklahoma's Public Education (ROPE). Together, the women have spent the past four years talking to Republican-party leaders, attending conservative conferences, and lobbying state legislators. Most of all, though, they cultivated a grassroots political movement against Common Core that overcame a bipartisan coalition ranging from the Department of Education to the Chamber of Commerce. By May 2014, a poll conducted on behalf of a Republican candidate showed that 57 percent of likely primary voters held an unfavorable view of the standards while only 9 percent had a favorable view.

In short, the four moms fought the proverbial city hall and won. "Look at Eric Cantor, seriously," White suggested. "Some guy who had $300,000 beat him. You don't think that kind of thing is possible when people have had enough?"

To explain how states became willing to surrender control over their own curriculum, State Sen. Josh Brecheen drew an unusual analogy:

A rancher by trade, he compared the states that scrambled for federal funding to the feral hogs he has to bait and trap. "You get them dependent on a free handout long enough, and you can get them in that live trap," Brecheen told NRO. "What's happened to states is the same thing as what you would see in that scenario. We've been baited, and we've surrendered our freedom because of a free handout. And I think Oklahomans became aware of that, and that's why we've had success this session."

The article points out that Common Core wasn't just a danger to local control of public schools, but to private schools and homeschoolers as well:

They met with county Republican groups and tea-party organizations but found especially willing supporters among homeschoolers in the state. That might seem unusual, since homeschooled kids don't attend the public schools that would be governed by Common Core, but their involvement points to one result of combining model national standards with model national tests: The companies that write curricula modify their products to comply with Common Core.

"The options for homeschoolers have been greatly reduced," Brecheen says. "Ultimately, Common Core is a national market for services in education. It's a national marketplace. . . . When 45 states do one thing, then you no longer have experimentation with anything else."

Other interesting points in the story:

  • How massive parental opposition to the Reading Sufficiency Act spilled over into Common Core opposition.
  • How the initiative of these Oklahoma moms led to a Republican National Committee resolution against Common Core, through the work of Oklahoma RNC member Carolyn McLarty, and how that helped the lobbying effort at the State Capitol.
  • Speaker T. W. Shannon's role: Was his refusal to advance an anti-Common Core bill in 2013 tactical brilliance -- keeping a bill from getting killed before the support was strong enough to pass it -- or craven cowardice? (MORE: Here's Jenni White's account of Shannon's role and Shannon's reaction.)
  • Gov. Mary Fallin's refusal to meet with Common Core opponents and her superficial gesture.
  • How ROPE mobilized to ensure state senators heard their protests.
  • The legislative maneuvers required to get around roadblocks in the State Senate.


Jenni White responds to U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's fulminations against Oklahoma's rejection of Common Core.

It's interesting how quickly the anti-Common Core forces, once vilified as "conspiracy theorists", "fearmongers" and "liars" have become vindicated since -- and by Duncan's own hand no less. Duncan's latest temper tantrum can't help but make it readily apparent to even the passing skeptic that there must be something to the legions of arguments connecting Common Core and federal overreach into public education....

Oklahoma -- and the other 49 states -- got along for hundreds of years without education via national standards offered as carrots for federal programming dollars. In fact, it wasn't until 1970 -- after the first real federal intervention into local public education (President Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act) -- that America saw the beginning of the tremendous decline in public education we fight today.

In a personal blog post, Jenni White talks about State Superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister and contrasts Hofmeister's response to ROPE's efforts against Common Core to that of incumbent Superintendent Janet Barresi:

No, Joy did not come out whaling away against Common Core when she began her campaign for superintendent. This frustrated many of our ROPE friends. I understand their perspective, but it's important to remember what perspective is and that there are frequently multiple views of the same issue. As I talked to Joy about Common Core, it became very clear she was not going to move the way a group wanted, she was going to continue researching until she could make the decision on her own. The implied hypocrisy in the statement "She was for it before she was against it" is completely ridiculous. I was an atheist at one point in my life. Now I am a follower of Jesus Christ. So, I can't grow into a relationship with the Lord? This argument is sound for anyone who considers themselves to be an educable individual on any issue at any level.

Our current superintendent has shown she is not educable. She knows what's right and by Hell or high water, she's going to do that/those thing/s.

That is not Joy. Joy will study, deliberate, debate and discuss before she comes to a conclusion. In my experience she's not going to be led around by the nose, or decide she has the only solution, she's going to work to find her true north and move in that direction.

And finally, Jenni White's perspective on State Superintendent Janet Barresi. White worked with her at the charter school Barresi founded, volunteered for the 2010 Barresi campaign, then ran into a brick wall trying to get a hearing from Barresi on Common Core. She explains why ROPE is calling for Barresi's defeat and why Barresi doesn't deserve conservative support.

Good news from the State Capitol this afternoon:

Governor Mary Fallin Signs HB 3399 to Repeal and Replace Common Core Standards

New Standards will be developed in Oklahoma and Increase Academic Rigor

OKLAHOMA CITY--Governor Mary Fallin today signed HB 3399, a bill that replaces the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English and math with academic standards to be designed by the state of Oklahoma.

HB 3399 repeals the adoption of CCSS and directs the State Board of Education to create new, more rigorous standards by August 2016. For the first time in state history, the State Regents for Higher Education, the State Board of Career and Technology Education, and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce will be asked to formally evaluate those standards to determine they are "college and career ready." While those new standards are being written, the state standards for English and math will revert to the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards used from 2003 to 2010.

HB 3399 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers, 71-18 in the House and 31-10 in the Senate.

Fallin signed the bill, stating:

"We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core. Now is the time for Oklahomans - parents, citizens, educators, employers and elected officials - to unite behind the common goal of improving our schools. That begins with doing the hard work of building new, more rigorous Oklahoma standards.

"All Oklahomans want our children to get a quality education and to live the American Dream. To ensure our children have that opportunity, Oklahoma - and every state--must raise the bar for education standards so that our children can compete worldwide.

"Common Core was created with that well-intentioned goal in mind. It was intended to develop a set of high standards in classrooms across the nation that would ensure children graduated from high school prepared for college and a career in an increasingly competitive workforce. It was originally designed as a state-lead - not federal - initiative that each state could choose to voluntarily adopt.

"Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards. The results are predictable. What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president's plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.

"We cannot ignore the widespread concern of citizens, parents, educators and legislators who have expressed fear that adopting Common Core gives up local control of Oklahoma's public schools. The words 'Common Core' in Oklahoma are now so divisive that they have become a distraction that interferes with our mission of providing the best education possible for our children. If we are going to improve our standards in the classroom, now is the time to get to work.

"For that reason I am signing HB 3399 to repeal and replace Common Core with Oklahoma designed and implemented education standards. I am committed, now more than ever, to ensuring these standards are rigorous. They must raise the bar - beyond what Common Core offers - on what we expect of our students. Above all, they must be developed with the goal of teaching children to think critically and creatively and to complete high school with the knowledge they need to succeed in college and in the workforce. I also 'get it' that Oklahoma standards must be exceptional, so when businesses and military families move to Oklahoma they can rest assured knowing their children will get a great education.

"The process of developing new, higher standards will not take place overnight, nor will it be easy. It will require hard work and collaboration between parents, educators, employers and lawmakers. Developing these standards is worth the effort; because our children's education is that important to our state. Their futures, as well as Oklahoma's future prosperity, depend on our ability to write and implement education standards that will prepare our children for success. I know Oklahoma is up to that challenge.

"My thanks go out to the educators and schools that have already worked hard to raise expectations and standards for our children. I know they will continue to build on those efforts as we move forward together as a state."

On Monday, March 24, 2014, the Oklahoma State Senate's Education Committee unanimously passed a committee substitute for HB 3399, a bill initiated in the State House to repeal Oklahoma's adoption of Common Core national standards. (Click the link for the text of the bill, which shows deletions from current law as strikethrough text and additions as underlined text.)

The Senate committee substitute:

  • requires Oklahoma to develop its own state subject matter standards and assessments;

  • removes explicit references to the Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) Curriculum, replacing them with references to state-adopted subject-matter standards;

  • removes requirements to adhere to K-12 Common Core State Standards, referring instead to "college- and career-ready" standards to be developed in consultation with the State Regents for Higher Education and the State Board of Career and Technology Education;

  • gives the Legislature the final say on any standards adopted by the State Board of Education (the Legislature may, by concurrent resolution, amend or return with instructions);

  • forbids the State Board of Education from "enter[ing] into any agreement, memorandum of understanding or contract with any federal agency or private entity which in any way cedes or limits state discretion or control over the process of development, adoption or

  • revision of subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments in the public school system, including, but not limited to, agreements, memoranda of understanding and contracts in exchange for funding for public schools and programs";

  • gives school districts the exclusive right to determine "the instructional materials, curriculum, reading lists and textbooks to be used in meeting the subject matter standards" and the discretion to "adopt additional supplementary student assessments";

  • bans standards and assessment questions that are "emotive in nature";
  • requires instructional material to be available for inspection by the parents or guardians of students.

"Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) Curriculum" is the name for Oklahoma's implementation of Common Core standards, as shown by this Oklahoma Common Core adoption timeline on the State Department of Education website.

Restore Oklahoma Public Education ROPE), the bipartisan grassroots group working to repeal Common Core, supports the Senate substitute as a step in the right direction. There were initial indications that the Senate leadership would not allow an anti-Common Core bill to proceed, despite the overwhelming and bipartisan support in the House. Some Common Core opponents are therefore skeptical of any bill that could win the support of the Senate and Governor, but Jenni White, ROPE president, says that it's the first step in a long process which will require Common Core opponents to stay vigilant in this year's elections and in the State Board of Education's development of Oklahoma state subject matter standards.


ROPE website
ROPE blog
Stop Common Core in Oklahoma on Facebook

Also, today Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill to repeal Common Core standards.

A Cato analysis of Oklahoma educational spending and achievement shows that per-pupil spending has nearly doubled in inflation-adjusted terms since 1972, but SAT scores have grown by only 2% in that same period, in raw terms, and have actually dropped by about 2.5% when adjusted for participation and demographics. (The adjustment rationale and methodology are described here.)

And here is Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's rather underwhelming statement on Common Core Legislation from last Friday.

"Since then, I have listened to growing concerns from parents across the state concerning Common Core, the standards currently in the process of being implemented. In light of these concerns, I have worked directly with our legislators to accomplish the goals of increasing classroom rigor and accountability while guaranteeing that Oklahoma public education is protected from federal interference. My hope is that House Bill 3399, which is soon to be heard by the Senate Education Committee, will accomplish these goals. If it does so, without creating unintended consequences that would hamstring educators or invite more federal influence in education, it will have my support."

Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe with MedalWe had one fewer gift to buy this Mother's Day, one fewer card to send, one fewer phone call to make. A little more than two months ago, my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, Ed. D., died after a two-year battle with breast cancer at the age of 79.

In lieu of that gift, that card, that call, it seems fitting to remember her and, in particular, her decades of dedication to the needs of single parents. She was a remarkable woman. Everyone gets the one-line notice on the Births and Deaths page of the paper, some may get a paid obituary, but there aren't many whose passing rates a news story and an editorial commendation for a "life well spent."

From the Rogers Morning News editorial column, Friday, March 8, 2013:

... the deck is often stacked against single parents and their families. Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe of Rogers began to understand those barriers in the 1970s, first while studying at the University of Arkansas and later through her work as a vocational counselor helping students find ways to pay for higher education.

"There was one group I couldn't help, and it haunted me," Marugg-Wolfe once said of her realization single parents faced tremendous obstacles.

Nobody knew a movement to help single parents was about to be born. Since, that movement has provided nearly 30,000 scholarships valued at nearly $16 million. What happened was a perfect coalescence of a need, an idea of how to address it and the people with passion, energy and drive to make a difference. Marugg-Wolfe was their inspirational leader....

"What Marjorie has been able to do is change the lives, in one generation, of multiple generations," Jim Von Gremp, a board member of the Benton County program, said at a 2012 University of Arkansas event at which Marugg-Wolfe was named a distinguished alumna. "The families study together. The children study because the mother studies. The children see the mother work to achieve, and in one generation, you develop a second set of college graduates."...

Marugg-Wolfe was quick to note she didn't do it all on her own. What he did, however, was nurture an idea into its full realization. Where others might have seen a problem too big to solve, she saw an opportunity to help those she could.

Although she received award after award for her devotion, the real prize for her work live on in the improved circumstances of thousands of single parents who have been, and continue to be, affected, and the future generations whose lives have been forever improved.

We'd call that a life well spent.

Marjorie-House.jpgMarjorie grew up on a dairy farm on Pleasant Grove Road in the Bellview community southwest of Rogers in Benton County, Arkansas, the sixth of nine children. As a high school senior, Marjorie was society editor for the Rogers Daily News, co-edited the school yearbook, and class valedictorian.

In the middle of her senior year, her mother died of leukemia. At 17, she was the oldest child still at home. She deferred her dreams of college and scholarship offers to serve as homemaker for her bereft father and surrogate mother to her younger siblings. When her father remarried, she went on to college, earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas.

While in college she met and married Navy veteran Alfred F. Marugg from Texas and the two moved to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, where they raised two daughters. She earned a master's degree from the University of Maryland. When Al retired from civil service, the family moved back near Rogers, to an acreage just a mile from where Marjorie grew up.

With her daughters off to college, Marjorie went back to school, too, to earn an Educational Specialist degree, with a focus on "displaced homemakers," stay-at-home moms who suddenly find themselves divorced or widowed and needing a job.

As coordinator of the Homemakers in Transition Program at Northwest Vo-Tech, Marjorie found that unexpected expenses could deter single parents from pursuing the education they needed in order to escape poverty. A student might have a full-ride scholarship, but that wouldn't cover an expensive car repair.

To meet the need, Marjorie worked with countless generous volunteers and donors to start the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County in 1984. (Helen Walton was an early and generous supporter.) Marjorie co-founded the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, and the program has spread to 70 Arkansas counties.

After her husband Al's death in 1990, Marjorie went back to school once again, earning a doctorate of education at the University of Arkansas in 1993. In 1992, she was remarried to John Wolfe, a high school classmate who had also been recently widowed. They traveled to Europe and the Far East and across America and enjoyed boating on Beaver Lake and Rogers Class of '51 gatherings.

Pres Bush with Dr. Marugg-Wolfe_edited-500px.jpgMarjorie_Huckabee-2005-500px.jpgHer advocacy for single parents was recognized by President George W. Bush at the White House in 2002, when she received the President's Community Volunteer Award from the Point of Light Foundation. (The photos above and to the left show her on that occasion.) In 2005, she received the Community Service Award from the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Governor Mike Huckabee.

In 2008, Marjorie became the founding president of ASPIRE (Assisting Single Parents in Realizing Education), a nationwide support network for single parent scholarship programs across the country.


Marjorie (in purple dress, center) with Benton County Single Parent Scholarship Fund students at the 2009 awards banquet.

In 2012, the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions recognized her as Outstanding Alumna in Education.

Marjorie had a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior, rooted in her upbringing at Little Flock Primitive Baptist Church, where her father led shape-note singing. She was an early and active member of Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas, where she served in the women's ministry and helped start the GriefShare program.

Passionate about family history, Marjorie contributed the Grady Ford article in History of Benton County, Arkansas. At reunions, Marjorie was known for gathering everyone around to share family stories with younger generations.

Marjorie loved organizing large gatherings and serving her guests outdoors on her deck. She collected cookbooks and historical books on the daily lives of women. She loved teaching her daughters and grandchildren about nature, visiting the seashore, and watching the colorful visitors to her bird feeders, which she always kept filled.

In recent years, Marjorie became increasingly concerned about the direction of our country and culture, often sending letters to the editor and circulating emails to friends and family to express her views. Last November's election results were deeply disheartening to her. The connection between nutrition and health was another abiding concern of hers.

Marjorie was a devoted wife, sister, aunt, mom, and grandmother, too, concerned about the well-being of her extended family, attending as many of her grandkids' performances as she could and taking pride in their achievements. My daughter spent a cherished week with her grandmother right after Christmas 2011, learning her grandmother's sewing techniques. For many years she sent out a monthly update to the far-flung Ford clan with prayer requests and that month's birthdays and anniversaries.

Here is video of that May 2012 University of Arkansas awards ceremony. Jim von Gremp, a long-time member of the Single Parent Scholarship board, introduces Marjorie Marugg Wolfe, who describes the history and challenges of the single parent scholarship fund. Ralph Nesson, Director of Development at the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, who worked with Marjorie from the beginning, concludes the tribute.

Thursday I took the students in my Ancient Greek class at Augustine Christian Academy. We went to Philbrook to see a special exhibit of ancient artifacts -- statues, inscriptions, coins, jewelry, household items, and vessels having something to do with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love (known to the Romans as Venus), and her most famous child, Eros (aka Cupid).

I had the students spend a good deal of time looking at a Greek inscription from the Roman period, from a public bath in the Greek town of Assos in Asia Minor. We're accustomed to seeing ancient texts set mainly in minuscule letters, with spaces between words and accent marks. It was interesting to try to decipher words in all caps with no spaces or accents, with part of the inscription missing and words sometimes wrapping around the end of a line.

Here is an image of the inscription, from Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens: 1882-1883, published shortly after the inscription's discovery as part of the "first collection of Greek inscriptions ever made by an American expedition in classic lands."


Many artifacts depicted Aphrodite's role in the abduction of Helen and the disastrous war it sparked. Paris, prince of Troy, was asked to judge which of the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite which one was the fairest. Aphrodite bribed Paris with Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, who happened to be the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Menelaus rallied the Greeks to get her back, the Trojans refused, and the Trojan War ensued, ending in the destruction of Troy. Aphrodite's mortal Trojan lover, Anchises, escaped the flames on the back of their son Aeneas, whose treacherous travels to the future site of Rome are told in Vergil's epic poem Aeneid. At least one coin in the collection depicts Aeneas giving Anchises a piggy-back ride.

I was fascinated by a vessel depicting the elopement of Helen and her return to Menelaus. There were names in tiny letters scratched into the pot above most of the characters. Some of them were written left-to-right and some right-to-left. There were phis and thetas, but there were Ls instead of lambdas, and they seemed to use X for the xi sound.

The exhibit has a roped-off "mature audiences only" section; we steered clear of it. There were a few items near the end of the exhibit (relating to drinking parties and a Greek practice that I'll euphemistically call "mentorship with depraved benefits") that should have been in the roped-off area.

After seeing the exhibit the students all decided to color a picture of an amphora (one student turned hers into an ιχθυς τανκ). We toured the gardens and marveled at a magnificent display of tulips on the south allee. On the rotunda's mezzannine, there's an exhibit of glamorous black-and-white photos of Hollywood stars of the 1930s, and next to it an intriguing display of art made from books.

We topped off the field trip with lunch, appropriately at Helen of Troy restaurant, 6670 S. Lewis Ave. We had gyros, tawook, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel, and spanakopita. It was all delicious, and the students enjoyed trying new foods. The portions for the lunch sandwiches were larger than we expected.

It was a delightful day. If you have an interest in ancient Greece and archaeology, I'd encourage you to catch the Aphrodite exhibit; it's at Philbrook through May 26, 2013. And if you love the food of the eastern Mediterranean, I encourage you to dine at Helen of Troy.

LEI_Logo.jpgTulsa is famous for some high-profile evangelists, but you may not know about a low-key missions organization with a global reach based right across the street from the River West Festival Park. This week, they're offering training to help you love and serve your neighbors who can't read.

Literacy and Evangelism International was founded in 1967 to help "people connect better with their world and with God's Word." LEI teaches reading and writing in the person's mother tongue, teaches English as a second language, helps churches and other missions organizations with literacy materials and training for literacy teachers, develops literacy teaching materials, based on Bible content in multiple languages, and sends missionaries out worldwide to teach people to read so that they can encounter God's Word first-hand and also be empowered to participate fully in their own society and economy.

People from all over the world come to Tulsa each year for training in beginning literacy ministries in their own countries. LEI also trains leaders in the process of building a reading primer for a language. (See the video below.)

This week, LEI is offering a ten-hour Tutor Training Workshop on Tuesday evening (3 hrs), Thursday evening (3 hrs), and Saturday morning (4 hrs). The cost is $23 to cover the cost of materials. To participate, you must register in advance by calling Bob Biederman at 918-585-3826.

LEI estimates that 50,000 adults in the city of Tulsa are illiterate, 60% of all prisoners in the United States are illiterate, and 20% of American adults are functionally illiterate.

And while 90% of the world's population has the entire Bible in their mother tongue, 95% have the entire New Testament, and 98% have some portion of scripture, 45-55% of the world's population is unable to read God's Word for themselves.

People who cannot read are vulnerable to financial, political, and spiritual oppression by the unscrupulous. It is an act of mercy to teach someone to decode the written word:

Learning to read is a stepping stone in one's life. The ability to read opens doors to knowledge and personal development. As a person learns to read he is able to improve his life. It is like a ladder which takes the individual to higher and higher levels. For example, a new reader can fill out a job application and apply for a better job. The new reader can gain knowledge about better farming methods to increase his harvest. The new reader finds the opportunity for better health as he reads about an immunization program for his children. Literacy opens doors to help both the newly literate and his family to become the most useful citizens possible.

MORE: Here's a video introduction to the work of LEI:

And here's a brief LEI documentary on the process of primer construction:

Many of LEI's leaders maintain blogs. Executive Director Sid Rice has a lovely recent photo of a dish of fried caterpillars from a lunch in Kinshasa, Congo.

Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society, will give three lectures in Tulsa this coming Wednesday and Thursday, April 3 and 4, 2013, on the life and work of G. K. Chesterton, the prolific early 20th century English writer and Christian apologist known as "the Apostle of Common Sense." His writing ought to be part of your education, particularly if you aspire to think and write clearly. His insights are timeless, as aptly applied to the politics, culture, and academia of today as they were a century ago.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at 2:50 p.m.
"The Influence of G.K. Chesterton on C.S. Lewis."
Oral Roberts University room GC 5112

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at 7 p.m.
"Chesterton and the Christian Imagination"
Oral Roberts University room GC 4114

Thursday, April 4, 2013, at 7 p.m.
"An introduction to G.K. Chesterton"
St. Bernard Parish, Room G-8
4001 E. 101st Street, Tulsa


Chesterton (1874-1936) is hard to sum up, but here's Ahlquist's attempt: Who Is This Guy and Why Haven't I Heard of Him?. Ahlquist answers the latter half of that question:

Modern thinkers and commentators and critics have found it much more convenient to ignore Chesterton rather than to engage him in an argument, because to argue with Chesterton is to lose.

Chesterton argued eloquently against all the trends that eventually took over the 20th century: materialism, scientific determinism, moral relativism, and spineless agnosticism. He also argued against both socialism and capitalism and showed why they have both been the enemies of freedom and justice in modern society.

And what did he argue for? What was it he defended? He defended "the common man" and common sense. He defended the poor. He defended the family. He defended beauty. And he defended Christianity and the Catholic Faith. These don't play well in the classroom, in the media, or in the public arena. And that is probably why he is neglected. The modern world prefers writers who are snobs, who have exotic and bizarre ideas, who glorify decadence, who scoff at Christianity, who deny the dignity of the poor, and who think freedom means no responsibility.


Dawn Eden met Dale Ahlquist in 2004 and found him to be "a living epistle" of Chesterton:

The quality of Chesterton that is most noted by his fans, beyond his gift for insightful analysis and his counterarguments against heresies such as relativism, is his sense of wonder at the world. Over and over, in Orthodoxy, The Man Who Was Thursday, and, really, every other work of his that I can think of, he outlined the necessity of having a permanent sense of awe and gratitude for God's creation. I sensed that wonder in Dale, as well as an effervescent desire to carry out another one of Chesterton's dictums: that we should be happy.

(You'll have to visit the Wayback Machine to see the twin priests she mentions.)

QUOTATIONS by G. K. Chesterton, from the American Chesterton Society:

"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." - A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." - The Everlasting Man, 1925

"Progress is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative." - Chapter 2, Heretics, 1905

"Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision." - Orthodoxy, 1908

"My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday." - New York Times Magazine, 2/11/23

"I still hold. . .that the suburbs ought to be either glorified by romance and religion or else destroyed by fire from heaven, or even by firebrands from the earth." - The Coloured Lands

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." - ILN, 1/14/11

"Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God." - Christendom in Dublin, 1933

"The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man." - Chapter 19, What I Saw In America, 1922

"If you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will have no answer except slanging or silence." - Chapter 3, What's Wrong With The World, 1910

"For fear of the newspapers politicians are dull, and at last they are too dull even for the newspapers." - All Things Considered, 1908

"If there were no God, there would be no atheists." - Where All Roads Lead, 1922

"There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions." - ILN, 1/13/06

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - Chapter 5, What's Wrong With The World, 1910

"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." - ILN 8-11-28

"Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - ILN, 5/5/28

"The whole structural system of the suburban civilization is based on the case for having bathrooms and the case against having babies." -G.K.'s Weekly, 7-6-29

"Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle." - Wells and the World State, What I Saw in America


G. K. Chesterton's Works on the Web
G. K. Chesterton quotations
A Chesterton reading plan

One can argue about whether the death of marriage leads to big government or vice versa, but simply raising the topic shouldn't put one beyond the pale, should it?

OCPA has raised that question, and they're giving high school seniors a chance to do some deep thinking about a hot issue and maybe earn a college scholarship at the same time.

ocpalogo.jpgThe Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs will award $12,000 to five high school seniors in this year's essay contest. We asked students to answer the following question:

What impact, if any, does the structure of civil society, including family structure, have on the growth of government and vice versa?

The deadline is this Monday, April 1, 2013. For contest rules and an entry form visit

Some food for thought, along these lines:

There are those fiscal conservatives who believe that defending the traditional view of marriage and family, held nearly worldwide for millenia, is a losing cause, and so they advocate surrendering, so that the conservative movement can put all of its resources into the battle over the size and scope of government, which they presume to be more winnable.

In 2010, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a pro-life Christian and founder of an inner city classical Christian school, told the Weekly Standard:

that the next president, whoever he is, "would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We're going to just have to agree to get along for a little while," until the economic issues are resolved.

In September 2010, Mike Pence (then a congressman, now Governor of Indiana) responded to that perspective:

To those who say that marriage is not relevant to our budget crisis, I say, you would not be able to print enough money in a thousand years to pay for the government you would need if the traditional family continues to collapse.

Phyllis Schlafly calls the divide between fiscal and social issues "phony":

Contrary to politicians who want to call a truce about social issues, there is absolutely no way to separate social and fiscal issues; they are locked in a tight political embrace....

That's because the social issue of marriage, and its importance to our society, has become a tremendous fiscal issue. The problem of marriage absence is now costing the taxpayers even more than national defense....

It is obvious that when the mother of these children has no husband to support her and her babies, she calls on Big Brother Government. You and I then pay the bills for what is labeled welfare. It's not poverty that causes broken families; it's the absence of marriage that causes poverty and puts kids below the designated poverty line. Social issues cause fiscal expenses.

Columnist Mark Steyn speaking at Hillsdale College in March 2012:

Anytime I went into an ABC show all the people said, "How can Rick Santorum be a credible presidential candidate? He's so weird." Then I actually asked what's weird about him. He's weird because he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He's weird because the family is the basic building block of society. In fact, it was non-weird for almost all of human history. What's interesting to me is not Santorum's weirdness, but the fact that so much of what he says is now presumed to be weird. I think he's right on the basic issue, which is that the crisis America faces is not primarily an accounting problem or a bookkeeping problem. We're broke for a reason. This country is the most broke nation in history because it is not the republic of limited government and self-reliant citizenry De Tocqueville observed two centuries ago. So he's right in the extent that the [financial] brokenness is a symptom of the problem not the problem and in that sense I don't find Santorum half as weird as 90 percent of his critics.


Every January, supporters of expanded educational options for America's school children and their parents put on School Choice Week, events across America to call attention to and advocate for school choice. Nationally, there's a whistle-stop tour, beginning tomorrow in Los Angeles and ending eight days later in New York, with special events along the way in Albuquerque, Topeka, Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, South Bend, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany.

The goal of this tour -- along with the record-breaking 3,000 events being independently planned for National School Choice Week 2013 -- is to demonstrate overwhelming support, and demand, for school choice...while shining a positive spotlight on the hundreds of organizations, thousands of schools, and millions of Americans working every day to increase access to great schools in our country.

The National School Choice Week Special -- a historic railcar -- will depart Los Angeles Union Station on January 25, 2013 and arrive in New York on February 2, 2013. Parents, students, community leaders, education organizations and elected officials of both parties will host 14 very special events along the tour's route.

The Special will link the modern-day fight for educational equality to important movements that have shaped the American way of life -- from suffrage to civil rights -- all of which used similar whistle-stop tours to generate overwhelming support for causes that changed our history for the better.

With bold strokes, our generation can -- and will -- make its mark on the tapestry of our national experience. Social change isn't just something we read about in history books. It's something we can make a reality, and in the process, secure for ourselves not only a place in history books yet unwritten, but secure for our country a brighter and more prosperous future where no child is denied the opportunity to attend the best schools possible.

The School Choice Week train won't pass through Oklahoma, but several local events are planned:

On Monday, January 28, 2013, at 8:30 a.m., Trinity School in Oklahoma City will host a celebration of school choice. Trinity is a non-denominational Christian school with Episcopalian roots which describes itself as "the 'I can' school where bright students who learn differently can succeed."

On Thursday, January 31, 2013, at 4:00 p.m., Sunnybrook Christian School in Stillwater will hold a balloon launch for school choice.

On Friday, February 1, 2013, at 11 a.m., Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy is holding a virtual rally for school choice. To participate, download, print, and fill out a placard, completing the sentence, "I support school choice because...," take a photo with the placard, and upload it to the OVCA Facebook page.

If you'd like to organize a School Choice Week event, you can find out how to do it here. You can follow School Choice Week events on Twitter through the #scw hashtag.

MORE: To learn more about the progress of school choice in Oklahoma, visit the Choice Remarks blog and the website for OCPA's Center for Educational Freedom.

RELATED: A story from the Religious News Service notes that parents from a wide variety of faiths have found virtual charter schools to be a good fit, providing a safe learning environment, time to include their own faith and values in the school day, and flexibility to incorporate a wide variety of extracurricular activities. The story also mentions that virtual charters can meet the needs of students who struggle in the traditional classroom environment and students who want to devote significant time to pursuits like the arts, music, and athletics.

January at MIT is neither fall semester nor spring semester. It's the Independent Activities Period (IAP). Students can choose to stay back in their hometown, travel, or come back to campus, and once on campus there are hundreds of activities to choose from. Nearly every department offers for-credit courses in special topics or accelerated versions of core courses. Then there are the unofficial activities: You can change-ring the bells in the tower of the Old North Church in Boston. You can learn Israeli folk dancing and the Argentine tango. You can learn table manners, knitting, trash can drumming, and how to build your own guitar delay pedal. You can play quidditch in the snow. Bell Helicopter is giving a half-day Introduction to Rotorcraft. A couple of Ph.D. candidates are offering a week-long Introduction to Modeling and Simulation.

One of the evergreen MIT IAP activities is a lecture by Computer Science professor Patrick Henry Winston on the heuristics of giving a lecture so that you succeed in communicating your ideas to your audience. I heard the hour-long talk when back when I was an undergraduate, 29 or 30 years ago. It's being offered once again this year, and a few years ago, the talk was captured on video:

MORE: The edX consortium -- MIT, Harvard, and University of California at Berkeley -- offers free online courses in which you can earn a certificate of completion. MIT's offerings include Introduction to Solid State Chemistry (the chemistry course typically taken by majors in electrical engineering and computer science), Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, and Circuits and Electronics. The work load is real -- they estimate, for example, 12 hours per week time commitment for Circuits and Electronics -- and you progress through the material at a set pace.

STILL MORE: One IAP class is called "Designing Your Life." You can take the Designing Your Life course as self-paced study through MIT Open Courseware. Here's the synopsis and a "trailer" for the course:

  1. Promises and consequences, areas of life: We learn how to develop your personal integrity by making and keeping weekly promises to yourself.
  2. Theories: We identify theories you have about the way the world works, and discuss how they impact what you see as possible and impossible. We learn how to author new theories that better align with our dreams.
  3. Theories, purges, and thought logs: We hunt for theories by recording our thoughts throughout the day. We also learn how to rid, or purge, the mind of destructive thoughts that keep us from honoring our promises to ourselves.
  4. Excuses: Every time your life does not resemble your dream life, there is likely an excuse that takes the responsibility for being great off your shoulders. We learn how to identify and debunk the excuses that are holding us back.
  5. Parent traits: Many of our personal traits are formed in reaction to our parents. In this lecture we study this concept more deeply, and identify how our parents' traits live within us.
  6. Haunting incidents: Incidents from our past that haunt us contain valuable clues to lessons we need to learn. In this lecture we learn how to find haunting incidents in our lives.
  7. Cleaning up haunting incidents: We learn how to clean up and resolve hauntings so they do not haunt us anymore, and so we can feel proud and confident in our skin.
  8. Connecting haunting incidents, traits, and theories: We explain how hauntings arise from our traits and theories, and as such can provide valuable insights on what we need to evolve to reach our goals.

It's easy for Christians to get tangled up in everyday life or politics and to lose sight (or never gain sight) of what God is doing around the world to redeem a people for Himself "from every tribe, tongue, and nation," much less what we could be doing to participate in His redemptive work.

At 200 sites across the nation this winter and spring, including nine sites in Oklahoma you have a golden opportunity to correct that deficiency. It's a 15-week collegiate-level course called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Weekly classes begin this week in the Tulsa area, and you can sample the first night of the course for free. The course is offered by the U. S. Center for World Mission, an organization focused on mobilizing effective action to reach those cultures which are yet unreached with the Gospel.

The course begins with Biblical perspective, and God's purposes in reaching every nation as revealed from Genesis to Revelation. Historical perspective covers the spread of Christianity in the early centuries and the tremendous push over the last two centuries to fulfill the Great Commission. The final six sessions deal with culture and strategy for reaching every ethnos -- every distinct culture -- in our time with the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ.

As this preview video hints, the Perspectives course will change the way you think about world missions and can turn your life upside down.

The course can be taken for college credit through Trinity International University, for a certificate (you complete weekly homework and a semester project and receive course feedback from an instructor), or, if you don't have time for all the work, the key readings level allows you to see the lectures but do less reading and homework. Course cost is $500 for college credit, $275 for certificate or key readings levels.

There is a Perspectives course in the Tulsa area for nearly every night of the week:

Mondays: Garnett Church of Christ, begins January 7, 2013 (tonight!)
Tuesdays: Arrow Heights Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, begins January 8, 2013
Wednesdays: Baptist Collegiate Ministries Building, University of Tulsa, begins January 9, 2013
Thursdays: Tulsa Bible Church, begins January 10, 2013.

The course will also be offered starting next week in Bartlesville, Norman, Edmond, Stillwater, and Yukon.

The U. S. Census Bureau has just released 2010 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data: attendance, revenue, and expenditure data from each public school district in the country. You can download the data in Excel along with a key to each field. Revenue is broken down by federal, state, and local source and by subcategories for each source. Spending is broken down by instructional and administrative costs, among many other categories.

Languages evolve over the centuries, and so it's not surprising that there are differences of opinion as to how Attic Greek, the language of ancient Athens during the time of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, should be pronounced.

In prepping for the first session of the Ancient Greek class I'm teaching at Augustine Christian Academy, I discovered that the pronunciation guide textbook differed in several important respects from the method I'd learned in college. For example, the new book by Prof. Cynthia Shelmerdine says that eta should be pronounced as "a" in man; I'd learned it as the "a" in late. Shelmerdine says omega should be like the o in long; I'd learned it as the "o" in lone. She calls for pronouncing phi and theta as breathy p and t rather than as ph in phone and th in thin.

In addition to the formal Attic Greek courses I took in college, I took a course in New Testament Greek during MIT's Independent Activities Period (IAP), a kind of minimester in between New Year's and the start of spring classes in February. The teacher, an electrical engineering graduate student, had us use modern Greek pronunciation, which I found confusing. Part of the problem is that modern Greek uses the same sound -- "ee" -- for a wide range of vowels and diphthongs, while the traditional academic approach to pronunciation assigned different sounds to each.

The consonants changed, too. Beta was now pronounced by buzzing air between closed lips -- halfway between English v and b. I remember being puzzled that countries like Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, and Botswana weren't to be found near the front of the line for the parade of nations at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens The mystery was solved a while later, when they all showed up toward the end of the Ms. Apparently the combination m-p is as close as modern Greek gets to an English b, giving us Μπαχάμες, Μπαγκλαντές, Μπαρμπάντος, Μπελίζ, Μπενίν, and Μποτσουάνα, respectively. And since delta has turned into the th in then, the closest Greek equivalent to the English d is n-t ντ.

What I knew as the traditional academic pronunciation traces its roots back to Erasmus, the 16th century Dutch scholar who also published the first printed Greek New Testament, assembling the best available manuscripts available in northern Europe at the time and drawing on the expertise of the Greek diaspora, displaced by the Ottoman Turkish conquest of the Byzantine Empire in the mid 15th century.

From what I read (see links to a selection of articles below), Erasmus's approach is probably pretty close to the sound of the language in classical Athens; later textbook variations deviated from accuracy to achieve the pedagogical goal of a one-to-one correspondence between letters and sounds.

But among the various Greek city-states different pronunciations and spelling conventions prevailed. By the end of the classical period, as Alexander unified Greece and conquered the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, he spread a simpler language, the "common tongue," much closer in pronunciation to modern Greek.

So how should Ancient Greek be pronounced in schools? I've opted for the traditional approach, so that sight and sound work together to aid memorization.


acalogo.jpgIt's back-to-school time for the Bates family. In years past, that applied to our three kids and Mom, who homeschools the youngest two. This year it applies to Dad, too.

This morning I taught my first session of Ancient Greek I at Augustine Christian Academy (ACA) as part-time teacher. There was a need, and with clearance from my employer, I offered to teach the class.

We began today with the basics: The alphabet, accents, breathings, consonant categories, vowels and diphthongs, punctuation and capitalization. Homework included some worksheets for practicing Greek handwriting.

There's room for a few more in the class, and this is an opportunity for homeschooled students who want to learn ancient Greek. ACA allows homeschooled students in grades 6-12 to sign up for individual classes.

Becoming a part-time student at ACA also opens the door for optional participation in other aspects of school life: chapel and Bible studies, membership in one of the school's four houses, school musicals, school trips, the school's annual formal banquet, and more. To learn more about ACA's options for homeschool families, contact the school office at 918-832-4600.

The Greek I course I teach is offered two days a week at the beginning of the school day, a great way to get your homeschooler off to a good start. ACA also offers Latin and Hebrew, art, music, theater, logic, philosophy, economics, Biblical exegesis, history, literature, and the full range of math and science. Here's the full list of ACA classes for 2012-2013.

ParthenonThe Parthenon by Konstantinos Dafalias on Flickr, Creative Commons attribution license.

A bit about my background in this subject: I studied Greek at MIT, part of my self-designed dual major in classics and computer science. During my time there, MIT offered a few modern languages (French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese), but Greek was the only ancient language offered. (For Latin, you had to cross-register up the street at Harvard.)The Greek courses were taught by MIT's only classics professor, Harald Anton Thrap Olsen Reiche. Prof. Reiche served on the MIT faculty from 1955 until his retirement in 1991. In addition to formal courses, I was in a small group -- myself, one other student, and a literature professor -- reading through Plato's Apology in Greek, and I took an IAP course in New Testament Greek taught by an engineering grad student who insisted on using modern Greek pronunciation, very different from the classical pronunciation I'd learned.

State of the Union Address notwithstanding, hundreds of Oklahomans turned out for tonight's National School Choice Week event at UCO. We heard remarks by State Superintendent Janet Barresi, former Congressman J. C. Watts, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, Jeff Reed of the Friedman Institute, and political reporter John Fund (on book leave from the Wall Street Journal).

Photos and a detailed report will have to wait, as I need to eat something and get home before too late, but here are a few notes:

Fund said he'd been covering school choice issues for 25 years, but he believes we are on the verge of a breakthrough. The internal contradictions on the anti-choice are becoming impossible to ignore, even for honest liberals.

Fund quoted the late president of the American Federation of Teachers, Al Shanker, as saying, "When children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of children."

Watts told advocates for school choice to be prepared for a battle, as the left defends its judiciary and education turf more vigorously than any other.

Stanislawski focused on opportunities in the field of online education. Oklahoma already has several online charter schools, and there's proposed legislation that would expand those opportunities to make it possible, for example, for children to use online schools to supplement what their own school offers.

In mentioning her involvement as a parent, Barresi said she could have afforded to write a check for private school tuition or hired a moving van to go to a different district, but instead she and her husband opted to stay and fight, working to establish the state's first charter school.

I spoke to Oklahoma State Rep. Elise Hall, a homeschool and TeenPact alumna, who told me she's working on a "Tim Tebow" bill, that would make it possible for homeschooled children to take advantage of extracurricular offerings at their local public school. That's especially important outside the metro areas, where there may not be the critical mass of homeschoolers needed to offer sports, band, drama, and other extracurriculars that need a large group of students.

It was an upbeat, positive event, and I'll have more to share about it when it's not so late, and I don't have a two hour drive in the rain ahead of me. Thanks to Americans for Prosperity Foundation and OCPA for putting together a great event.

A reminder that tonight, Tuesday, January 24, 2012, is Oklahoma's National School Choice Week event, "Restoring American Exceptionalism, an Oklahoma Town Hall," at UCO in Edmond, tonight at 7 p.m.

Speakers include John Fund from the Wall Street Journal, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, former Congressman J. C. Watts, and Tulsa State Sen. Gary Stanislawski.

John Fund is always a provocative and entertaining speaker, and J. C. Watts is always inspirational, but it will be especially wonderful to hear those, like Superintendent Barresi and State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, who are directly involved in reforming Oklahoma education. It's wonderful at long last to have a State Superintendent who understands that the focus of government support for education should be teaching children effectively, not propping up and making excuses for ineffective institutions.

American 15-year-olds rank 35th out of 57 countries in math and literacy! America shouldn't be 35th in anything. It's time to Restore American Exceptionalism!

Rather than protecting and promoting failure, let's put our kids first. Let's do even more to support the teachers and the schools that are succeeding, but let's hold those that are failing firmly accountable. Whether it's a private school, a charter school, or a traditional public school, parents should have the right to choose the school that will do the best job educating my children. Every child deserves the best education we can give them - and every family has a right to choose the education that's best for their child.

Restoring American exceptionalism to our schools and putting kids first isn't a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It's an American issue. Join the conversation today!


Click the ad or this link for event details and free registration.

What: Restoring American Exceptionalism -- An Oklahoma Townhall

Who: Former Congressman J. C. Watts, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, and Jeff Reed of the Friedman Foundation.

When: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.

BatesLine is proud to welcome a new advertiser about a topic near and dear to our hearts: school choice. John Fund from the Wall Street Journal, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, and former Congressman J. C. Watts will be speaking later this month, at Restoring American Exceptionalism, Oklahoma's National School Choice Week event, at UCO in Edmond on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.

John Fund is always a provocative and entertaining speaker, and J. C. Watts is always inspirational, but it will be especially wonderful to hear those, like Superintendent Barresi and State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, who are directly involved in reforming Oklahoma education. It's wonderful at long last to have a State Superintendent who understands that the focus of government support for education should be teaching children effectively, not propping up and making excuses for ineffective institutions.

American 15-year-olds rank 35th out of 57 countries in math and literacy! America shouldn't be 35th in anything. It's time to Restore American Exceptionalism!

Rather than protecting and promoting failure, let's put our kids first. Let's do even more to support the teachers and the schools that are succeeding, but let's hold those that are failing firmly accountable. Whether it's a private school, a charter school, or a traditional public school, parents should have the right to choose the school that will do the best job educating my children. Every child deserves the best education we can give them - and every family has a right to choose the education that's best for their child.

Restoring American exceptionalism to our schools and putting kids first isn't a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It's an American issue. Join the conversation today!


Click the ad or this link for event details and free registration.

What: Restoring American Exceptionalism -- An Oklahoma Townhall

Who: Former Congressman J. C. Watts, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, State Superintendent Janet Barresi, State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, and Jeff Reed of the Friedman Foundation.

When: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7 p.m.

Three recent documentaries critical of K-12 education in America are now available for online viewing. Each film dramatizes the failures of public education, the efforts by lower-income parents to secure a better education for their children, and the ways that bureaucracy and entrenched interest groups work to thwart those efforts. (Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ.)

The Cartel (92 minutes) is available for free streaming on Hulu and is also available for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers.

Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. These are just some of the people we meet in The Cartel. The film also introduces us to teens who can't read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn. We witness the tears of a little girl denied a coveted charter school spot, and we share the triumph of a Camden homeschool's first graduating class.

Together, these people and their stories offer an unforgettable look at how a widespread national crisis manifests itself in the educational failures and frustrations of individual communities. They also underscore what happens when our schools don't do their job. "These are real children whose lives are being destroyed," director Bob Bowdon explains.

The Lottery (80 minutes) is also available for free streaming on Hulu and for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers.

In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future.

Directed by Madeleine Sackler and shot by award-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, The Lottery uncovers a ferocious debate surrounding the education reform movement. Interviews with politicians and educators explain not only the crisis in public education, but also why it is fixable. A call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children, The Lottery makes the case that any child can succeed.

Waiting for "Superman" is not available on Hulu, but is available for instant streaming to Netflix subscribers. It's notable as a critique of the public school system from the left side of the political spectrum.

It was a morning like any other -- as Academy Award winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim was taking his young children to school -- that he was moved to act. Like many parents in America who are lucky enough to have the means, Guggenheim's children were headed that morning to an expensive private school, where he was assured they would find themselves in an invigorating environment with talented teachers devoted to bringing out the best in them.

But as he drove past the teeming, troubled, poorly performing public schools his family was able to bypass, Guggenheim was struck with questions he could not shake: What about the kids who had no other choice? What kind of education were they getting? Where were the assurances that they would have the chance to live out their dreams, to fulfill their vast potential? How heartsick and worried did their parents feel as they dropped their kids off this morning? And how could this be right in 21st Century America?

I would hope that anyone seeking a position on a school board will have seen these films and be prepared to talk about how they and the school system they seek to serve. Here in Tulsa County that should mean to encourage and facilitate the creation of new charter schools and to stop trying to use lawsuits to obstruct voucher programs like the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program.

Yet another Tulsa-area school board has voiced support for the lawsuit by Jenks and Union school districts to strike down the law that provides for adequate education for Oklahoma children with special needs. The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act allows parents of a special-needs child to transfer some of the money that has been allocated for their child's public education to pay for special education at a private school. The Sand Springs school board voted unanimously in favor of a resolution condemning the scholarship act in solidarity with Jenks and Union.

Brandon Dutcher at Choice Remarks noted the Sand Springs superintendent's claim that "education hasn't failed, except maybe in a few overcrowded, underfunded urban districts."

But on a global scale, Sand Springs students would get mediocre grades at best. According to, the average Sand Springs student would perform only as well or better in math than 16% of students in Finland and as well or better in reading than 39% of Finnish students. Comparisons to other developed countries are similarly dismal, particularly for math proficiency. (Jenks and Union numbers aren't that hot, either.)

If our public school districts are unable to provide an adequate education for children without learning challenges, how badly must they be failing children with special needs? Shame on Jenks, shame on Union, shame on Sand Springs, and on every other school board spending tax dollars to try to block this very modest legislation, rather than trying to do better at accommodating special-needs kids.

Attention, Sand Springs residents (and residents of any district seeking to block the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act): Filing period for school board across Oklahoma is December 5, 6, and 7. Please consider running. It's apparent that the current school board members are more devoted to preserving their power than to providing the best education possible so these special-needs kids can reach their full potential.

The Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA), a free-market think-tank focused on state policy, will hold its annual gala here in Tulsa, on October 6, 2011, at the Renaissance Hotel. Keynote speaker for the event is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Single-seat tickets for the gala begin at $125 (of which $75 is tax-deductible). Proceeds go to support the work of OCPA.

In May, Daniels signed into law a school voucher program with the largest eligibility pool of any such program in the country. In addition to vouchers for students in public school seeking to enroll in private school, the new Indiana law provides for up to $1,000 state tax deduction for private school and homeschooling expenses for those families that had already opted out of the public school system.

An early Happy Independence Day to one and all!

There are fireworks somewhere around Tulsa every night this weekend, and Tasha has the definitive list of Tulsa's 4th of July 2011 fireworks celebrations, with links to parking and traffic information for the bigger displays.

There's more to the weekend than just fireworks, and Tasha's got that list, too. One interesting Saturday item: Gilcrease Museum is screening 1776, the movie version of the musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Full of memorable lyrics and melodies, it's one of our favorite musicals. ("Someone oughta open up a window!")

I hope all of us will take the time this weekend to remember the reason for the season. My wife pointed me to a blog entry about Independence Day as recorded in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town on the Prairie:

Consider this passage from the story in which a local politician is chosen to read the entire Declaration of Independence to the crowd:
Laura and Carrie knew the Declaration by heart, of course, but it gave them a solemn, glorious feeling to hear the words. They took hold of hands and stood listening in the solemnly listening crowd. The Stars and Stripes were fluttering bright against the thin, clear blue overhead, and their minds were saying the words before their ears heard them.
As I read this passage to my family, I realized that these pioneers took it for granted that the Declaration of Independence would be read in its entirety every July 4th. More than that, they assumed that everyone in the crowd had it memorized and would be silently reciting the words along with the reader. Having this annual celebration and a shared cultural document makes this a crowd of ardent patriots, and binds them together in a unified community....

For Laura Ingalls Wilder, the combined reading of the Declaration of Independence and the singing of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" sparked new thoughts about freedom as she contemplated words which were old and familiar.

The crowd was scattering away then, but Laura stood stock still. Suddenly she had a completely new thought. The Declaration and the song came together in her mind, and she thought: God is America's king. She thought: Americans won't obey any king on earth. Americans are free. That means they have to obey their own consciences. No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself. Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do, and there isn't anyone else who has a right to give me orders. I will have to make myself be good. Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought. This is what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. 'Our father's God, author of liberty--'The laws of Nature and of Nature's God endow you with a right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God's law is the only thing that gives you a right to be free.

Blogger Jennifer Courtney points out that this sort of insight is the product of the traditional emphasis on memorization in the early years of school, the grammar stage of the classical trivium:

This transition for Laura is a perfect illustration of a child moving from the grammar stage (memorizing and reciting the songs and the Declaration) to the logic stage. Her solid foundation in American history gave her a firm basis for later thinking big thoughts about the idea of freedom. She reasons out the source of freedom and rightly draws conclusions about the both the liberties and the restrictions of handling freedom properly.

Rote memorization has been trashed by progressive educators for a century or so, but learning texts like these by heart helped children internalize the ideals contained within and made them resistant to those who would undermine our founding principles. (Maybe that's why progressive educators trash memorization.)

So amidst the heat of the day and the celebrations, remember our founders, and their bold resolve to make our nation free.

And keep safe. Stay away from the blue-green algae.

This past weekend I visited Boston and the MIT campus for the first time in 14 years to attend my 25th reunion, which coincided with the centennial of my fraternity's chapter at MIT (Xi Chapter of Zeta Beta Tau) and MIT's sesquicentennial.

The headline in the latest issue of the Tech and an exhibit at the MIT Museum awakened yet another regret about my college years: I didn't take 8.01, the standard first-semester physics class covering classical mechanics.

Instead, I decided that, since I had AP credit for first-semester calculus, I should challenge myself and take 8.012, the version of first-semester physics that required calculus. The course was taught by the professor who wrote the textbook. 8.012 met twice a week for 90 minutes in lecture hall 26-100, where the lecturer dryly repeated the material from his book. The ZBT pledges would sit on the back row (we always sat on the back row) while struggling to stay awake. Over the course of the semester, our numbers dwindled as students came to their senses and transferred to 8.01 the mainstream physics course. I stayed with it, passed (freshman year is pass/no-credit) with a B-, but failed to grasp rotational physics.

It was in 8.012 that I scored in the 50s on a test for the first time that I could remember. (Thankfully, so did my classmates.)

This is the sort of thing I missed by not taking 8.01:

I wised up after first semester and enrolled in 8.02 (Electricity and Magnetism) for the spring, so I wasn't completely deprived of Prof. Lewin's teaching.

Lewin has retired, and he gave his final physics lecture in 26-100 last month.

"I have given, in this lecture hall, about 800 lectures. And it is wonderful to be back here, but it really hurts to know that this is my last lecture in 26-100," he said. "I have therefore decided that I want to leave you in style. The way I will do this, is I will leave 26-100 in my own private rocket."

Off to the side, Lewin promptly grasped his cherry-red three-wheel vintage bike, sat down, and released the tab on a canister of CO2, which propelled him across the speckled floor of the lecture hall's stage.

Despite his retirement, you can still enjoy learning from Prof. Lewin. You can see his last lecture online, and you can watch the entire set of his 8.01 lectures from the Fall 1999 semester, his 8.02: Electricity and Magnetism lectures from the Spring 2002 semester, and his 8.03: Vibration and Waves lectures from Fall 2004 at the MIT OpenCourseWare site.

State Sen. Judy Eason-McIntyre (D-Tulsa) has come under attack twice in recent days by prominent Tulsans who evidently oppose educational choice and individual liberty, according to two recent stories by CapitolBeatOK.

Last Thursday, lobbyist Margaret Erling harangued the Tulsa senator on the floor of the Senate over Eason-McIntyre's support for the conference report of a bill that will change the cutoff date for school enrollment from September 1 to July 1. (Margaret Erling is the wife of former KRMG morning show host John Erling Frette.) Under HB 1465, "a child would have to be four by July 1 to enter Pre-K programs, and/or five years old by July 1 to enter kindergarten," according to the CapitolBeatOK story.

In the Monday interview, Eason-McIntyre said that at the time of the incident, she had decided to support two Republican bills in the conference, and had approached "my leader," state Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City to give him a heads up on her decisions. The upper chamber had just recessed for the day. Sen.Rice was working at his desk, according to Eason-McIntyre.

She briefly explained to Rice her support for the two measures in the conference process (signing a conference report does not bind a member to support a measure on final passage), including H.B. 1465. She said Sen. Rice told her "not to worry about it."

He had, she recounted, asked members of the minority caucus to remain unified through the redistricting process to assure protection of Democratic interests. She explained that with that issue now headed toward resolution, Rice told her he understood her positions on the two measures.

Just as the two had finished speaking, Erling approached. As Erling confronted her, Eason-McIntyre was so perplexed by Erling's attitude that she was, she confessed, briefly confused over which of the two bills had so angered her.

"She was irate, and ranting. I thought she was going to have a stroke," Eason-McIntyre told CapitolBeatOK. Erling, who has several major clients at the Capitol, including Tulsa Public Schools, claimed to Eason-McIntyre that another client, George Kaiser of Tulsa, opposes H.B. 1465.

(The story also reports that the chief of staff of State Superintendent Janet Barresi has also been lobbying against the legislation.)

Then, on Sunday, Kara Gae Neal, the superintendent of Tulsa Technology Center (formerly known as Tulsa Vo-Tech), sent a scathing email to Eason-McIntyre for signing a conference committee report for HB 1652, which would allow concealed-carry permit holders to keep their guns locked in their vehicles in parking lots on vo-tech campuses and a few other types of public venue. According to Neal's email, Eason-McIntyre had the leverage to kill the bill in committee.

(Kara Gae Neal is the wife of retired Tulsa World editorial page editor Ken Neal.)

"I cannot believe that under the cloak of no public vote, you signed out of committee the only gun bill left alive this year, HB 1652, which will bring guns to Career Tech campuses across the state.

"I cannot believe that you have said Democrats have no power this year but YOU, single handedly, could have stopped that bill in its tracks. Two others on that committee held firm, one a Democrat and one a Republican and true friend to education, Dr. [James] Halligan. It took 4 votes to secretly slip it through the committee without a recorded public vote and YOURS was the 4th vote...after giving a verbal commitment in advance to Brady McCullough from Tulsa Tech that we could count on your support to kill the bill in committee.

"I cannot believe that YOU, who represents the District with the greatest number of CHILDREN shot in this state every year, did this to them and to us. Our Tulsa Tech facility in your district not only has high school students but a CHILD CARE center on that site.

"I cannot believe that when asked why you did this you said you liked the bill's author, Sen. Russell, and that he had done a lot for you. And what would that be? Surely getting 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot' as the state spiritual/blues song was not it. Maybe they will play that in your memory at the funeral of children shot in your district.

Eason-McIntyre replied:

"For the record you can tell anyone you want that I signed the conference committee report at the request of my friend Sen. Russell. For your information there was no deal made!

"I have never hidden behind any excuse for what I decide to do. I do strongly believe that if Republicans believe in guns then openly vote for their gun related bills.

"You mentioned the problem with guns in OUR community, not just my district but I have yet to hear of any effort you have provided to solve Tulsa's gun problem, particularly in my district.

"The catty remark about the State's gospel song being sung at a funeral in my district, I will ignore and assume it had no any racial overtones intended.

"As it relates to our 'friendship' I am sorry always to lose a friend, but you made that choice."


School choice activist Brandon Dutcher, linking to these two stories, writes:

State Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre (D-Tulsa) is a liberal pro-abortion Democrat with whom I have virtually nothing in common. But I've always admired the way she has stood up for giving underprivileged students more school options -- even when doing so has been difficult for her politically. So I must say I felt sorry for her recently when she had abuse heaped upon her in the most inappropriate of ways. ...

The good senator will live to fight another day. Here's hoping she comes back next year and helps push another school-choice bill across the finish line.

It's odd what sticks with you over the years. A blogpal's Facebook quotation of a surprisingly emotional and romantic passage from Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged (the film version debuts this weekend) was a reminder that Rand and her admirers were not exactly Vulcans, and it brought to mind a cartoon that was published in The Tech, MIT's student newspaper, in the issue following Rand's death in 1982 (PDF). Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I could find the comic strip, which features two anthropomorphic animals as MIT students, Beaver, the protagonist, and Darwin the Duck, who belongs to MIT's "Objectionist" Society and works on the Ego. (There was a weekly newspaper called Ergo, published by objectivists from MIT and other area colleges.)

Comic strip about Ayn Rand's death in the March 9, 1982 issue of The Tech

I could easily get lost browsing through issues of The Tech from college days. All 131 years of The Tech are online. In 1982, there was a well-drawn, consistently funny strip called Space Epic by Bill Spitzak -- still funny after all these years. Spitzak was a computer science major and went on to develop the Nuke compositor for use with computer-generated special effects, first used in the movie True Lies.

In that same issue, the Tech Coop advertised a special deal on cases of Coke and Tab -- 24 cans for $5.99 (regular price $8.75). It's amazing to think you can still get a case of soda for the same price, when it's on sale.

A few issues later
, there was this front page chart with MIT admission stats for application years 1980, 1981, and 1982. I've added the stats for the most recent two years from reports in The Tech (for 2010; 2011):

1980 1981 1982 2010 2011
Applicants 5643 5893 5790 16,632 17,909
Acceptances 1773 1694 1884 1,676 1,715
Waitlisted 335 429 300 722
Men 1349 1249 1414 53% 51%
Women 429 445 470 47% 49%
Minority 147 170 182 23% 26%
Foreign 55 52 68 7% 8%

Stunning. Applications have almost tripled, while acceptances (and incoming class sizes) have remained constant over 30 years. Notice too that the male-female ratio has gone from 3 to 1 my freshman year (which already represented a decline) to almost 1 to 1 today. Also, it appears that "underrepresented minorities" (African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, but not Asian Americans or Jews) are no longer underrepresented. And despite the higher ratio of international students, they have the worst ratio of applications to acceptances -- about 3%.

Over Christmas and New Year's weekend, BBC Radio 7 broadcast all seven of the Focus on the Family Radio Theater adaptations of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. I've been listening to them in publication order -- I've just finished The Silver Chair.

Paul Scofield, who won an Oscar for A Man for All Seasons, is the narrator. David Suchet, known for his portrayal of Agatha Christie's Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, provides the voice for Aslan. Ron Moody, famed as Fagin in the stage and film versions of Oliver!, is perfect as pessimistic Puddleglum. British comedy fans will recognize other voices in bit parts: In Prince Caspian, John Bluthal (parish clerk Frank Pickle in The Vicar of Dibley) can be heard as a soldier near the beginning of the story, and Betty Marsden (from the radio sketch shows Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne) turns up as the hag.

The voice characterizations, incidental music, and sound effects are all very well done, and they all work wonderfully to keep the listener fully engaged in the story. In the best radio tradition, this is theater of the mind.

Focus on the Family Radio Theater has produced audiodramas of classic works of both fiction and non-fiction, including A Christmas Carol, Anne of Green Gables, Silas Marner, and Les Miserables, and biographical dramas about William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Corrie Ten Boom. There's also a dramatization of the Gospel according to Luke: "The Life of Jesus: Dramatic Eyewitness Accounts from The Luke Reports."

Next Media Animation is a Taiwanese media company that is making a name for itself with video-game-style retellings, often hilarious, of American news stories, narrated in Chinese. You may have seen their version of the Al Gore "crazed poodle" allegations or their take on the 2010 midterm elections.

Here's NMA's take on Waiting for "Superman", the new documentary on the failings of the American education system. Even if you don't speak Chinese, the two-minute clip sets out the key points of the school choice debate in memorable images.

For the real trailer (in English!) for Waiting for "Superman", for updates on school districts refusing to comply with the new law providing scholarships for disabled students, and for all the latest developments, click the banner above to visit, a valued BatesLine sponsor.

On Friday, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett spoke to CapitolBeatOK regarding the decision by several Tulsa-area school boards not to obey House Bill 3393, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act.

"When I took office as Superintendent of Public Instruction, I swore an oath to obey federal and state laws. I have sought every day to uphold that promise. Whether or not I like a particular law is not material. It is my job to obey the law and to implement it.

"The way I look at it, the local officials on these boards of education who have acted not to comply, or to prevent implementation of this program in their districts, are not fulfilling their duties.

"I believe they are in violation of their oaths of office. This law was passed, and implemented in a timely manner by the state.

"To be clear, in my work every day there are laws I don't necessarily agree with but which I am required to carry out."

Garrett concluded, "I think these school board members have been ill-advised."

Garrett is retiring at the end of this year after more than 20 years as State Superintendent.

An October 6, 2010, CapitolBeatOK story has some interesting details about the scholarship program and the number of students involved:

The Oklahoma program is similar to laws in Florida and Georgia that have easily withstood legal challenges. The Florida program has been in place since 1999 and now serves approximately 20,000 students with special needs. The scholarship program was designed not to require new spending, but to redirect existing state funds that are currently spent on the student.

School officials claimed the transfers authorized by the scholarship program would somehow harm their financial standing, but only seven students have applied for the scholarships at Jenks and eight at Broken Arrow, according to the Tulsa World. Both schools are among the largest in the state.

Somehow I don't think it will take the law firm of Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold much time to burn through the amount of money that would cover such a small number of scholarships.

Leftists seeking social transformation have long seen public education -- K-12 and college alike -- as a golden opportunity to alienate young people from their parents' benighted customs, morals, and opinions, so that they can be re-educated to a progressive point of view. But seldom has this missionary misuse of taxpayer-funded institutions been so blatant and so close to home.

Not only is Oklahoma State University officially recognizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month, the university has invited an atheist philosophy professor to campus today to preach to OSU students that their views on homosexuality, shaped by their religious faith, are all wrong, according to a September 30, 2010, story in the Stillwater NewsPress:

John Corvino, a philosophy professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, will deliver a guest lecture, titled "What's Morally Wrong With Homosexuality?" at 3 p.m. Friday in 10 Willard Hall on the Oklahoma State University campus.

Corvino said his lecture will deal with a number of arguments against homosexual relationships. Those arguments generally claim that homosexuality is unnatural, harmful or in violation of religious principles....

During the lecture, Corvino hopes to break down those arguments, showing fallacies in each. In response to claims that homosexuality is unnatural, Corvino said he will explore what the claim means and if it matters. In response to arguments that homosexuality is harmful, Corvino said he will confront certain myths about homosexuality. And in response to claims regarding religion, Corvino said he will point out inconsistencies in the use of religious texts to support the argument.

Corvino, now an atheist, has a strong background in the church, and was once a candidate for the priesthood. He said he hopes to reconcile progressive ideas about sexuality with religion, particularly Christianity....

Corvino's lecture is the first of three events in OSU's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month program.

It is an outrage that a state university, funded by Oklahoma taxpayers who are overwhelmingly conservative and Christian, is using taxpayer dollars to bring in an atheist, someone who abandoned his Christian faith, to "break down" traditional moral arguments against homosexuality and specifically to "point out inconsistencies" in religious arguments.

This is not a matter of academic freedom. A professor might invite a provocative speaker with one perspective as part of an overall balanced curriculum. Nor is this a case of a student-funded and -organized group inviting a speaker, where freedom of speech and association come into play. Corvino was invited by the OSU administration, as part of a university-sponsored lecture series for LGBT History Month.

Here's what an OSU administration official, Jen Macken, coordinator of women's and LGBT issues, had to say about Corvino's upcoming lecture:

Jen Macken, OSU's coordinator of women's and LGBT issues, said Corvino's lecture is a good fit for Oklahoma in general, and OSU in particular.

"Because Stillwater is located in the Bible Belt, many discussions about sexuality are based in terms of morality or religion," Macken said. "Dr. Corvino's academic training in philosophy equips him to frame the discussion in these terms, but to offer an alternative to the perspective that one may normally think of as the moral position on LGBT issues."

Macken said she expects a strong turnout for the event. She said she hopes the event will give listeners a broader understanding of LGBT issues.

Worse yet, the title of the lecture is deceptive: "What's Morally Wrong With Homosexuality?" is a title that might attract students with traditional moral views looking to bolster their ability to argue in favor of traditional values, not seeking to have their moral views undermined.

Ms. Macken, who is also the vice chair of the Employees Queers and Allies League, sent out a university press release promoting the OSU LGBT History Month lecture series. Here are descriptions of the second and third lectures in the series:

The Department of Counseling Psychology and Counseling, in conjunction with Stillwater Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the Employee Queers and Allies League (EQuAL) will be sponsoring a viewing of the film For the Bible Tells Me So on Monday, October 18th at 6:00pm in 313 Classroom Building. The film examines the intersection between religion and homosexuality in the United States and will be followed by a panel discussion with university and community representatives.

On Tuesday, October 19th, scholar Mary L. Gray will be giving a talk titled, "'There are no gay people here': The politics of queer visibility in the rural United States." Mary L. Gray is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Culture and an affiliate faculty in Gender Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research looks at how everyday uses of media shape people's understandings and expressions of their social identities. This lecture will take place at 4:30 in Bartlett 109 and is sponsored by the Gender and Women's Studies program, Sexual Orientation Diversity Association, and National Organization of Women at OSU.

OSU has an entire department called "Institutional Diversity," a great example of the institutional bloat and loss of focus that drives up the cost of higher education. The only reason for the state to be involved in higher education is to train the professionals -- engineers, agronomists, attorneys, doctors, veterinarians, etc. -- needed for the state's economic development. It may well be that this can now be accomplished more efficiently through distance learning.

But even if you believe in a more expansive role for the state in higher ed, surely we can all agree that taxpayer-funded colleges shouldn't be in the business of moral re-education, particularly of the sort designed to attack and undermine the values held by those taxpayers.

If OSU is going to bring in speakers to convert students to a certain point of view, shouldn't it be the point of view held by the vast majority of the taxpayers who fund the university? The OSU administration could invite Ravi Zacharias to a university-sponsored lecture to point out inconsistencies in atheist arguments or bring in Dawn Eden to argue for the benefits of chastity and to explain the emotional damage caused by promiscuity. At least those speakers and topics would be a good match for Oklahoma values.

I suspect that the Institutional Diversity department's true purpose is to provide employment for people with worthless college degrees (e.g. a Master's in Women's Studies).

The OSU regents should shut down the Institutional Diversity department, shut down the office of LGBT issues, cancel official recognition of LGBT history month, and fire the OSU executives responsible for approving and implementing all of the above. And if the regents are unwilling to take action, then the legislature should.

Taxpayers are beginning to wake up to the massive waste of their money happening on both public and private college campuses. (Taxpayers subsidize private colleges through financial aid, subsidized student loans, and government research grants.) Young people are beginning to realize that college as a general-purpose credential isn't worth much. As Michael Barone wrote recently, the higher education bubble is about to burst. This latest outrage from OSU is one more reason Oklahoma taxpayers and their elected representatives should take a metaphorical ax to worthless college departments and programs that add no educational or economic value.

While at breakfast yesterday morning, I saw a very well done TV ad with a sarcastic take on how the Washington, D.C., teachers' unions impede educational progress:

Mom: "I think it's great how they put politics above my child's education." Student: "It's cool how the union makes it almost impossible to fire bad teachers." Teacher: "It's impressive how my dues money supports politicians I don't even like."

I'm glad they included that last point. Many teachers join the union because they want liability coverage or representation in local negotiations. That doesn't mean they also want their dues going to support every left-wing cause under the sun. My mom founded the classroom teachers' organization at Catoosa Public Schools (affiliated with the OEA and NEA) and served many years on negotiating teams. One of the reasons she quit OEA and joined Professional Oklahoma Educators was because of the OEA and NEA's support for liberal causes and candidates.

I couldn't find a way to embed the commercial here, but you can view the 30 second TV spot and related print and video ads at

In Oklahoma the teachers' union wants to hold Oklahoma's budget priorities hostage to the decisions of the legislatures of our surrounding states. The idea behind SQ 744 is that more money will solve the problems with public education in Oklahoma. The reality is that over 40 years the cost of a K-12 public education (the national average) has almost quadrupled (that's adjusting for inflation) while performance has remained flat or actually declined. In Oklahoma over the last twenty years, education funding has increased by 40%, while ACT scores have only gone up 4%.

Money is not the problem with public education; it's how we're spending the money we have.

The other day the following post by a Facebook friend who is a former Democrat legislator:

So, we have a repuke who opened 2 private schools running for superintendant of public education. Anyone see something odd about that?

Repuke? Oh, nice, as Onslow says.

The attempted slam (which failed for inaccuracy) was aimed at Janet Barresi, a Republican running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Barresi helped to open two charter schools, which are not private, but public, funded with public funds and under the sponsorship of a public agency, usually the local public school district.

When I pointed this out, the response was that charter schools "can be set up in such a way so that it denies equal opportunity."

How so? At Harding Charter Prep School (one of the schools that Janet Barresi helped to start) 77% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and nearly half of the student body is African-American (24%), Hispanic (11%), or Native American (6%). The numbers are about the same at Independence Charter Middle School (the other school Barresi helped found, and the first charter school in Oklahoma). And over 90% of the graduating class is headed to college. It looks to me like Janet Barresi has been helping to create opportunity for Oklahoma City students. We should want more of that, shouldn't we?

According to Newsweek, which ranked Harding Charter Prep 69th among the top high schools for 2010: "There are no requirements as to which students can attend; it is a public school. There are no tuition fees. No entry test is required, nor interview or audition."

From a Janet Barresi press release about the Newsweek ranking:

"When we founded Harding, the naysayers claimed low-income students could not handle the rigor of a college preparatory curriculum," said Barresi, a Republican candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. "After seven years of operation, it's clear the critics were wrong and the Newsweek ranking is further proof of that fact. I believe we can now take the lessons learned at Harding and apply them to all Oklahoma schools to benefit every child in the state. My mission is to make every local public school so successful that it is parents' first and best choice for their children."...

"Harding's success is not based on cherry picking students, but is the result of successful teaching strategies that can be employed anywhere," Barresi said. "When you set high expectations, children will rise to the challenge - my experience with Harding proves it. I am very proud of Harding's students, but I believe all Oklahoma children are capable of similar achievement. My goal as state superintendent will be to raise the performance of all Oklahoma schools."

(I think it's wonderful that the charter school uses a historic school building and the school's historic name, connecting present-day students with a legacy that spans over 80 years.)

I'm excited about having Janet Barresi's vision, drive, and experience at work to improve education for all Oklahoma children. I hope you'll join me in voting for her for State Superintendent in Tuesday's Republican primary and again in the November general election.

It's rare that you will find me quoting, with approval, a lesbian, atheist, leftist East Coast professor, but Camille Paglia's love of Western Civilization and her critique of what passes for education in America warms my heart. Paglia's recent interview with Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail reads like a commercial for the classical education movement. A few choice quotes:

I've always felt that the obligation of teachers is to have a huge, broad overview and to provide a foundation course to the students. The long view of history is absolutely crucial. There are long patterns of history. Civilizations rose and fell, and guess what! It's not a fiction. I believe in chronology and I believe it's our obligation to teach it. I've met fundamentalist Protestants who've just come out of high school and read the Bible. They have a longer view of history than most students who come out of Harvard. The problem today is that professors feel they are far too sophisticated and important to do something as mundane as teach a foundation course. So what the heck are parents paying all this money for?...

I want world culture taught. I believe in Hollywood and jazz. Those are America's great contributions to the world. But I don't want this ideology that the West is the great rapist of the world. The Western art tradition is incredible. Then feminism came along and decided greatness was a conspiracy foisted on us by men. People would criticize me by saying, "She's writing about Michelangelo when the really important person was this woman...." But wait. There's no way she came up to Michelangelo's ankle. So what we're getting now is people who never heard of Michelangelo or Leonardo because they are dead white males. They think it's better to read minor works by African-American or Caribbean writers than the great literature of the world....

The kids are totally in the computer age. There's a whole new brain operation that's being moulded by the computer. But educators shouldn't be following what the students are doing. Educators need to analyze the culture and figure out what's missing in the culture and then supply it. Students find books onerous. But I still believe that the great compendium of knowledge is contained in books....

Wente asked Paglia: "But in education today - even in primary-school education - all we hear about is 'critical thinking.' All the facts are available on the Web, and everybody has a calculator. So why make kids memorize the times tables or the names of the biggest rivers in Canada?" Paglia's reply (emphasis added):

"Critical thinking" sounds great. But it's a Marxist approach to culture. It's just slapping a liberal leftist ideology on everything you do. You just find all the ways that power has defrauded or defamed or destroyed. It's a pat formula that's very thin. At the primary level, what kids need is facts. They need geography, chronology, geology. I'm a huge believer in geology - it's all about engagement in physical materials and the history of the world.

But instead of that, the kids get ideology.

There are an increasing number of options for parents who want their children to get a foundation in western culture, to learn chronology and geography and times tables and how to diagram a sentence. In Tulsa you have schools like Augustine Christian Academy and Regent Preparatory School and homeschool communities like Classical Conversations, which now has groups meeting in southeast Tulsa, at Victory Christian Center, in Owasso, Jenks, and, starting next year, in Skiatook.

My oldest son has been a part of the Tulsa Classical Conversations community for three years, and it has given him a great grounding in such diverse subjects as historical chronology, essay writing, anatomy, Latin, and geography. His geography final assignment this year involved a large poster-sized world map drawn freehand with countries and capitals labeled. He has a framework for understanding news stories and novels.

Unfortunately, the idea that kids need facts doesn't have much support in our public education system, and I'm not sure that it's possible to get anything like a classical education in Oklahoma without turning to a private school or homeschooling.


"The Lost Tools of Learning," an essay by Dorothy L. Sayers and a foundational text of the classical education revival. Sayers makes the case for memorization in the early years of schooling and explains how it lays a foundation for developing the skills of sound argument and persuasive speech in the later years.

Ten myths about classical education busted.


In a New York Times oped, Charles Murray explains why test score comparisons aren't the most compelling argument for school choice, and in the process sings the praises of classical education (thanks to reader and commenter Stephen Lee for the link):

If my fellow supporters of charter schools and vouchers can finally be pushed off their obsession with test scores, maybe we can focus on the real reason that school choice is a good idea. Schools differ in what they teach and how they teach it, and parents care deeply about both, regardless of whether test scores rise.

Here's an illustration. The day after the Milwaukee results were released, I learned that parents in the Maryland county where I live are trying to start a charter school that will offer a highly traditional curriculum long on history, science, foreign languages, classic literature, mathematics and English composition, taught with structure and discipline. This would give parents a choice radically different from the progressive curriculum used in the county's other public schools.

I suppose that test scores might prove that such a charter school is "better" than ordinary public schools, if the test were filled with questions about things like gerunds and subjunctive clauses, the three most important events of 1776, and what Occam's razor means. But those subjects aren't covered by standardized reading and math tests. For this reason, I fully expect that students at such a charter school would do little better on Maryland's standardized tests than comparably smart students in the ordinary public schools.

And yet, knowing that, I would still send my own children to that charter school in a heartbeat. They would be taught the content that I think they need to learn, in a manner that I consider appropriate.

This personal calculation is familiar to just about every parent reading these words. Our children's education is extremely important to us, and the greater good doesn't much enter into it -- hence all the politicians who oppose vouchers but send their own children to private schools. The supporters of school choice need to make their case on the basis of that shared parental calculation, not on the red herring of test scores.

There are millions of parents out there who don't have enough money for private school but who have thought just as sensibly and care just as much about their children's education as affluent people do. Let's use the money we are already spending on education in a way that gives those parents the same kind of choice that wealthy people, liberal and conservative alike, exercise right now. That should be the beginning and the end of the argument for school choice.

In the Republican primary race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Shawn Hime, a former assistant to incumbent Democratic Superintendent Sandy Garrett, has attacked Janet Barresi in a fundraising letter for having contributed in the past to Democratic candidates. Barresi responded tonight with a press release, which you can read in full on Jamison Faught's Musings of a Muskogee Politico. Here are some key excerpts:

Contrary to his mudslinging, I am a lifelong conservative Republican and have been a staunch supporter of pro-life organizations and conservative Republicans - 86 percent of all my political contributions have been to Republicans and GOP organizations.

I have contributed to a handful of Democrats who (at least at the time) were supportive of education reform, particularly school choice. I have always been upfront about those contributions because I wanted to work within the system. When I saw that wasn't possible, I announced that I was running against Sandy Garrett - before she dropped out.

Hime also claimed in the letter that Barresi lacked experience working in education. In fact, Barresi helped start two very successful charter schools:

One of those schools, Harding Charter Preparatory High School, was named to Newsweek magazine's list of the best high schools in the country after only six years of operation. Last year Harding saw its first National Merit Finalist, another student named to the Academic All-State team and Harding students received $1.65 million in college scholarships. One hundred percent of our students graduated last year and 96 percent went on to college.

Their accomplishments came in spite of the fact that the majority of Harding students are from poverty level backgrounds. Twenty two percent of last year's class were the first in their family to graduate high school, and 65 percent were the first in their families to go to college.

As you can see, I don't believe in excuses. I achieve results. And I have no problem putting my record on education against the Garrett/Hime record anytime, anywhere.

DISCLOSURE: Given the huge banner ad on the sidebar, it's probably superfluous to point out that the Janet Barresi campaign is a sponsor of BatesLine.

I told a friend a few weeks ago, "I don't even like writing software anymore." That's a problematic sentiment, given that I'm a software engineer by trade. I'm happy to report, however, that in the heat of hardware/software integration and long hours of focused effort on Making Things Work, I'm back in flow and enjoying tinkering with code again.

That's not leaving me much time for blogging, so here's a selection of some really thoughty stuff from other bloggers

Erick Erickson of RedState: Slaves to Government: Constitutional Gnosticism will destroy a free republic":

Consequently, we have gone beyond a point where you can sit down and read the constitution and really understand what the heck Congress can and cannot do....

We have reached a point where we have to rely on men and women in black robes and lawyers to tell us what we can and cannot do. A society begins to breakdown when the average citizen can no longer understand what his government can and cannot do without relying on men and women in black robes and lawyers all of whom have as many opinions to that question as there are opinions.

Then you cross into the territory where we have already arrived. A Congress can pass a 2,700 page piece of legislation to do something Congress arguably cannot do by making states do it, which is arguably unconstitutional. The legislators who voted on this 2,700 page piece of legislation, when asked, have no clue what is in the legislation.

You cannot sustain a free republic when the citizens who are expected to comply with the law have no understanding of what the law is or how their government works without paying the gnostics to enlighten them and the people who write the law do not know what is in the law.

(Did you know you can't tell how many state senators and state representatives Oklahoma has and how they're apportioned by reading our state constitution? The number and method was fixed by court order in 1964 and reaffirmed in statute with every decennial reapportionment.)

RH Potfry of satirical news site The Nose on Your Face is "Quitting the Blog Thing":

That 2 guys with demanding day jobs and families could cobble together some of the work we've done, get linked by everyone from Mark Steyn to Ann Coulter, and even get featured on the Huckabee Show, says a lot about how the ambitious amateur can use the internet to chase a dream.

But that chase has its price. Over the past six months, I've been nagged by the realization that I'm watching my daughters grow up over the top edge of my laptop. That if not for my wife's bizarre appreciation of my oddness, she could divorce me for neglect....

All things considered and given the limited hours in a day, I need to choose the job that comes with a paycheck, and make sure I'm fully present in the lives of the people I love.

Will Republican leadership walk back from the call to repeal the Obamacare monstrosity? Iowahawk seems to think they've already started and predicts the future with a few words per month.

Ace: Letterman Interviews Tea Party Leader & Grand Unified Theory of Everything Political -- some brilliant analysis of how political appeal works at a sub-rational level, and why the left-stream media is working so hard to convince you Tea Party supporters are wackos:

Successful politicians are often -- almost always, really; one struggles to find a contrary example -- able to appeal to those who should be opposed to them, based on purely rational inputs (past voting history, stated positions, rhetorical priorities) to nevertheless support them based on non-rational or pre-rational inputs -- a general sense of a guy as one of your own.

Non-ideological independents are, well, non-ideological, and tend to be deeply suspicious of those who are strongly ideological. Partly due to their ideology of not having much of an ideology, and partly due to sub-rational reasons: People who are strongly ideological are "not like me" and therefore viewed with antipathy....

Newt Gingrich, back when he was Speaker, gave seminars to conservative candidates on how to win elections, and he highlighted the importance of describing one's opponent (or his ideas at least) as (and I quote) "bizarre," "weird," and alien. (Not sure if that last one was used, but that was the idea.) This is the flip-side of appealing to the "One of Us" feeling -- portraying your opponent as "Not One of You."

Now, of course, the media engages in similar political rhetoric on a daily basis in the service of its cherished liberal party. The media is heavily invested in the Weird, Dangerous, Alien narratives when discussing the Tea Party. That is the biggest reason for the constant denigration of Tea Partiers as racist, homophobic, ugly, uneducated, zombie-like, etc. The media is always trying to paint Tea Partiers as "Not One of You" to discourage people from joining in the cause or viewing their claims as legitimate.

Also remember how CNN described the Coffee Parties. Did they deploy their "Weird, Dangerous, Alien" storyline in describing this group of mutant Obama Zombies? Oh dearie me no. For groups CNN likes and wishes to promote, it employs the "One of Us" Narrative....

So that's the media's template -- the left is portrayed by using the most broadly inclusive nouns, expressing the most broadly palatable and vague ideology. (All the CNN pieces on the Coffee Party refuse to divulge the Coffee Party is leftist and insist it is a centrist group concerned only with non-ideological concerns such as fair process and clean politics.)

The right is portrayed by using the narrowest possible categorical nouns and their ideology is represented as specifically as possible (to discourage those who don't share those particular views) and the Weirdness Factor is highlighted-- just in case some of those specific positions are actually attractive to a lot of people, the Weirdness Factor ought to keep you away.

He has an extended example from CNN's coverage of the "Coffee Party" movement. He also has links to Letterman's interview with Pam Stout, a leader of a Tea Party group from Sandpoint, Idaho. It's notable because it runs counter to the narrative -- Mrs. Stout comes across as normal, likable, and sincere.

Try viewing the news through this lens for a few days. You've probably seen it done at a local level, too, with phrases like "Gang of Five" used to render the legitimate concerns of a group of city councilors unworthy of public discussion.

National Review's Jim Geraghty has a list of "The Complete List of Obama Statement Expiration Dates," including his opposition to individual health care mandates, his commitment to shut down Gitmo, etc. Some are campaign promises that have expired since he took office, some are statements made since Inauguration Day that are now inoperative, and some are campaign promises that expired during the campaign itself.

Ivy League graduate William Deresiewicz writes in the American Scholar (the journal of Phi Beta Kappa) on "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education." One of the disadvantages: It hinders intellectual activity.

Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside of your assumptions and the system that enforces them. But students who get into elite schools are precisely the ones who have best learned to work within the system, so it's almost impossible for them to see outside it, to see that it's even there. Long before they got to college, they turned themselves into world-class hoop-jumpers and teacher-pleasers, getting A's in every class no matter how boring they found the teacher or how pointless the subject, racking up eight or 10 extracurricular activities no matter what else they wanted to do with their time. Paradoxically, the situation may be better at second-tier schools and, in particular, again, at liberal arts colleges than at the most prestigious universities. Some students end up at second-tier schools because they're exactly like students at Harvard or Yale, only less gifted or driven. But others end up there because they have a more independent spirit. They didn't get straight A's because they couldn't be bothered to give everything in every class. They concentrated on the ones that meant the most to them or on a single strong extracurricular passion or on projects that had nothing to do with school or even with looking good on a college application. Maybe they just sat in their room, reading a lot and writing in their journal. These are the kinds of kids who are likely, once they get to college, to be more interested in the human spirit than in school spirit, and to think about leaving college bearing questions, not resumés.

That ought to keep you busy while I get some sleep.

WAIT: Almost forgot about this, by Richard Fernandez, which touches in different ways on the themes in Ace's post:

Who makes monsters? Mostly the Left: because of its huge presence in the media and the arts, the Left has traditionally manufactured the most hate-objects. They've done it for so long that it has become almost a birthright. The photographer Zombie has documented dozens of calls from the left, from demonstrators to celebrities, for the assassination and murder of President George W. Bush. But that's not a crime, is it? "Threats to the president aren't excusable now, and weren't excusable in the past -- and yet death threats against Bush at protests seem to have been routinely ignored for years (and readers who have any evidence showing that the threateners depicted below [in the Zombie post] were ever prosecuted for threatening the president, please tell me and I'll update this essay with the new info). Why the discrepancy?"

The discrepancy is probably because the Left has long appointed itself the guardian of the freak-minting industry. It is a prerogative that is jealously guarded. Thus Glenn Reynolds could receive this insulting email calling for civility without the slightest irony. "I cannot emphasize this enough: your brand of public discourse is hurting our country. It us poison. So f[***] you, you GOP utensil, and f[***] your mother for bringing you forth." Get it Glenn? So too could Ann Coulter be threatened by protesters at the University of Ottawa to prevent her from making a "hate speech." S**t flows downhill. There is no mystery to that. It's Leftist physics.

But the unintended consequence of uncontrolled and systematic distortion; the unforeseen effect of shipping funhouse mirrors everywhere is that sooner or later frustrated audiences put on corrective spectacles. The most sophisticated audiences eventually have a pair of corrective spectacles to suit every context. The term for this method of fixing distortions is adaptive optics. My grandfather had a simple rule of thumb for understanding the controlled news broadcasts in the last days of World War 2. Whatever the Japanese broadcasts claimed he believed the reverse. After listening to one strident description of a vast Japanese naval victory he concluded, "the IJN is no more."...

One might argue that the explosive growth of the blogosphere has been driven by its utility as an adaptive optical appliance through which to view the media. But it's a hell of a way to run a railroad. Since the reality "out there" is first distorted by the media to the point where the discerning members of the public must apply a further distortion to make the image sensible, we inflict a huge signal loss on the viewer. There is no guarantee that the applied corrections don't do more harm than good. Back in the days of the anti-Marcos underground I asked someone why he bothered to read either the government newspapers or the Communist Party propaganda sheet. He replied, "I buy it for date, my friend. It's still good for telling me what day it is."

A better situation would be one in which billions of independent sensors gathered an image and left the end user to process the information. The terrible memetic distortions of the 20th century are partly rooted in the ill-matched marriage between news gathering and meme-minting. The phrase the medium is the message was originally intended to convey the sense of absolute divorce between content and information. In an environment dominated by the formal medium, real information content actually declines. A point is reached where all news stories become variations of a few didactic themes.

Flickr photo by Francisco Diez

Last Sunday was Pi Day, (3/14), and at 1:59 pm, MIT released its admission decisions for the class matriculating in 2010. ECs got to see the results Tuesday morning, and once again, some really bright, personable young men and women weren't offered admission. Many of those bright young people wasted their time in applying.

As some of you may know, I'm an alumnus of MIT, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1986. (I don't say much about it -- I figure when you've been out of college for more than a decade, what you've done since graduation matters far more than where you went to school.)

My only ongoing involvement with the school is my work as a member of the MIT Educational Council, a group of hundreds of alumni worldwide who assist with the undergraduate admissions process. We serve as a local presence for the admissions office, and our main role is to interview applicants for admission. I've been an EC (as Educational Members are known) since 1987.

There are five ECs in northeastern Oklahoma. Gary Bracken '59, chairman of Ernest Wiemann Ironworks, is the current regional coordinator, responsible for managing the load of applicants among the alumni, making the arrangements when touring MIT admissions officials visit Tulsa (usually every other fall), and holding meet-and-greets for admitted students in the spring. (Gary was preceded in that role by John McGinley '52 and, before John, petroleum geologist Bob Rorschach '43, who interviewed me when I applied to MIT.)

The opinions presented here are my own, the description of admission processes and policies are my impressions and understandings, and they do not necessarily -- almost certainly do not -- represent the official views and policies of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My use of the masculine form of the third person singular pronoun is in accordance with traditional English usage and is not meant to suggest that women are unwelcome at MIT. In fact, the sex ratio is nearly 50-50, a far cry from the 3:1 male-to-female ratio in my freshman class. Click this link for the official MIT admissions website.

Currently, I interview applicants from Bixby, Jenks, Cascia Hall, Holland Hall, Memorial, Hale, and Edison, but occasionally I'll pick up an interview from a different school if another alumnus is overloaded. This year I interviewed six applicants, including one from Azerbaijan. (That interview was conducted via Skype, which enables students in remote locations where there are no ECs a chance to meet with an alumnus.)

I'm pleased and proud to welcome a new BatesLine sponsor: Janet Barresi, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Barresi has an impressive background in K-12 education, including direct experience in dealing with the challenges of urban education as a founder of two successful charter schools in Oklahoma City.

janetbarresi.jpgI believe our schools should be as great as our state, but that goal cannot be achieved without solid leadership in the Department of Education, which is why I have chosen to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

My platform is very simple. I want to ensure that parents are always encouraged to be involved in the education of their children and that they have the ability to choose the correct education for their child. I want to create a State Department of Education that is a resource for local districts, and I want to ensure that our testing of students is a byproduct of good teaching that enables us to truly understand how effective we are being, while empowering teachers to do what they do best: teach.

I know we can do better than we are today. Through my experiences in launching what is now Independence Charter Middle School, as well as Harding Charter Preparatory High School (which was recently recognized as one of the top high schools in America by Newsweek), I have seen that high expectations, a rigorous curriculum and an involved staff can be successful, regardless of the socio-economic background of the students.

Beyond her volunteer work in the schools, Janet Barresi was a speech pathologist and then a dentist for 24 years before retiring.

Tulsa Chigger, who is our local watchdog on charter school issues, had this to say:

I whole-heartedly endorse Dr. Janet Barresi and her campaign for the office of Oklahoma State Superintendent of Schools. She is an experienced reformer with the right set of priorities. I have personally worked with her on some charter school issues in years past.

I urge you to learn about Dr. Barresi by clicking that ad in the sidebar and visiting her website. I think you'll be impressed.

(A click-through is also a nice way to tell her thanks for sponsoring BatesLine.)

Grace & Truth Books

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One message you've been hearing a lot this year is to shop locally. Shopping in your own town keeps money circulating in the community, which keeps your friends and neighbors employed, and generates sales tax to help fund local government.

The Tulsa area has many unique local businesses that can help you stuff your Christmas stockings as you help the local economy. One of those businesses is Grace & Truth Books, based in Sand Springs:

Grace and Truth Books is a Christ-centered Christian book publisher and Christian book distributor that provides character building children's books and books for fathers and Christian women's books to help develop family devotion in the home. Many Christian book sellers carry and promote what "sells" and not what is spiritually profitable to build Christian charcter and strong godly families. At Grace and Truth, our focal point and goal has always been to bring the great, character-building books of past centuries to the attention of this generation of families! At Grace & Truth Books you'll find a great selection of Christ-honoring Christian Books for the whole family.

Grace & Truth Books is owned and operated by the Gundersen family, the realization of a long-held dream. They began selling classic 19th century books on character building from a small specialty publisher, became that publisher's biggest distributor, then acquired the publisher and began developing their own catalog of books.

You'll find contemporary books and classic books in Grace & Truth's catalog. The list of December specials includes

  • Christian in Complete Armour, the (3 volume set) by William Gurnall
  • A Simple Christmas: 12 Stories that Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit by Mike Huckabee (autographed-by-author copies)
  • Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching, and Appreciating Boysby Hal & Melanie Young
  • Before You Meet Prince Charming - A Guide to Radiant Purity by Sarah Mally
  • For You They Signed: Character Studies from the Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence by Marilyn Boyer
  • Morning by Morning: TruTone Leather, ESV edition by Charles H. Spurgeon
  • The Person I Marry ~ Things I'll Think About Long Before Saying "I Do" by Gary Bower, featuring the oil paintings of Jan Bower

There's also a special collection of 19th-century children's books -- 11 titles, 900 pages total, on sale in December for $39.

Continued on sale for December! One of the best Christmas gifts you could ever give a child: the renowned, classic 19th century Children's Character Building Collection, in the highest-quality edition ever printed, as all 11 titles have beautiful new hand-painted covers! This is our all-time favorite set of children's stories from last century, and all with fresh artwork that captures the era!

Each of these delightful volumes are full of Biblical truth, presented in the most winsome possible stories, sure to warm the heart and teach the mind of every family member. The reading level for this set is said to be 4th - 5th grade, but we find children of all ages enjoy them, and even adults often tell us they find them delightful to read....

Filled with rich, Christ-centered (not merely moralistic) content, these reprints from the best of the American Tract Society's children's selections of the 1800's will be valued by any family who desire your children to be saturated in God's truth, as portrayed in fascinating stories.

Not on special this month, but if you're looking for books that will help history come alive for your children, they have G. A. Henty's historical novels.

According to Dennis's Facebook page, "Still taking Saturday book orders - and we can get them to you by Christmas."

A new documentary on the state of public education in America opens in theaters today. The Cartel takes a close look at the disconnect between how much taxpayers spend and the results we see. For more info, read my latest post at Choice Remarks, the blog of Oklahomans for School Choice.

Too tired and on the verge of getting sick, so no actual writing tonight, but here are a few links of interest from hither and yon:

Steve Lackmeyer raises a concern for "Lost Bricktown," the part of Oklahoma City's warehouse district west of the Santa Fe tracks that escaped 1960s urban renewal. These surviving buildings may be doomed by Core to Shore, and these most vulnerable buildings are slated to be the last to be covered by a historical survey of downtown architecture and may be gone by the time the survey gets around to them. Pictures here.

Chicago-based blogger Anne Leary, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last year's RNC, had an interesting encounter with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist and pal of Barack Obama, at the Starbucks at Reagan National Airport. Apparently prompted by Anne's statement that she was a conservative blogger, Ayers told her that he wrote Dreams of My Father, Barack Obama's autobiography, at Michelle Obama's request. In a more recent post she rounds up some of the reaction. Was he pulling her leg? Christopher Andersen's new book on the Obamas' marriage reports that Ayers took Obama's notes and tapes and turned them into the book.

Tulsa Chigger offers a platform for public education reform in Tulsa and salutes the announcement that charter school founder Janet Barresi is running for State Superintendent.

Ephemeral Isle has a birthday salute to Le Corbusier. And there's a link to this interesting BBC story on how central heating has changed family life, not necessarily for the better.

Doncaster, Yorkshire, England, has a mayor named Peter Davies who ran on an anti-political-correctness platform. He is canceling funding for the gay rights parade ("I don't see why council taxpayers should pay to celebrate anyone's sexuality"), ended the town's sister cities relationships ("just for people to fly off and have a binge at the council's expense"), asked to reduce the number of councilors from 63 to 21, saving £800,000 a year, got rid of the mayoral limousine, cut his own salary by more than half, and cut council tax by 3 percent. All that in his first week in office. (The Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster has just under 300,000 residents, somewhat smaller than the City of Tulsa.) By the way, Doncaster uses a limited form of instant runoff voting that has voters mark their second preference. If no candidate receives a majority all but the top two candidates are eliminated and their votes redistributed according to second preference. Not the ideal, but better than no runoff at all. Telegraph blogger Gerald Warner writes of Davies:

Davies, the father of Tory MP Philip Davies, is one of just 11 directly elected mayors and he is enjoying increasing media exposure because of his outrageous agenda which, against all the tenets of consensual British politics, consists of doing what the public wants.

You may be feeling disorientated, overcome by a surreal sensation, on hearing such extraordinary, unprecedented views. They are the almost forgotten, forcibly extinguished voice of sanity which most people had thought forever excised from British politics. These policies are common sense, which is something we have not experienced in any council chamber, still less the House of Commons, in decades. The establishment is moving heaven and earth to discredit and obstruct Davies. He is that ultimate embarrassment: the boy who reveals that the Emperor has no clothes.

Michael Palin, the incoming president of the Royal Geographical Society, spoke out in support of strengthening geography as an academic subject in the latest issue of Geographical, the society's magazine, according to a story in the Daily Mail:

ptp_101_01_l.jpg'It's a subject that still seems to be neglected,' he said.

'It's seen as a slightly nerdy subject, and I can't really begin to think why when you look at what's happening in the world.

'Whether it's endemics, terrorism, or global warming, knowing the geography is so vitally important. I want to overcome the feeling that geography isn't really a serious subject, or a subject you should choose to study - and say that it's the subject you ought to choose.'

In the same article, Palin said it was time for Britain to stop apologizing for the British Empire:

The TV star said: 'If we say that all of our past involvement with the world was bad and wicked and wrong, I think we're doing ourselves a great disservice.

'It has set up lines of communication between people that are still very strong.

'We still have links with other countries - culturally, politically and socially - that, perhaps, we shouldn't forget.'

(If the name seems familiar, you might recall Mr. Palin's role in a TV series that first aired 40 years ago this week. It seems to me that much of Monty Python's humor reflects the rigorous instruction in history, geography, and literature that Britons of Palin's generation received.)

(UPDATE: Just rediscovered where I found this story linked -- belated hat tip to Violins and Starships.)

Geography as a separate school subject had disappeared by the time I came along, having been replaced by "Social Studies," which mushed together a lot of related disciplines, teaching none of them well. (On the other hand, we had some great history classes, including Frank B. Ward's 7th grade American History and the U. S. Constitution test that you had to take over and over again until you achieved proficiency.)

One of the things I love about my oldest son's homeschool curriculum is the emphasis on learning the world map. Each week he has to learn a new continent or region -- it's South America this week; last week was Central America and the Antilles -- drawing the map freehand and labeling it with countries and capitals four times over the course of the week. The beginning of the course covered the US, with rivers and mountains along with states and capitals. He had to learn to draw Canada's provinces and territories as well. By the end of the class, he should be able to find any country on a map, and he'll have geographical hooks on which to hang information he picks up in news stories, history books, and fiction. Those geographical hooks will complement the chronological pegs he established by memorizing the timeline from the Veritas history cards. Without memorizing places, names, and dates, how can anyone organize the other facts one learns about the world?

Meanwhile, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service alumni are appalled at the watering down of a traditional subject called Map of the Modern World. The challenging course walked students through the evolution of political boundaries from the Napoleonic upheaval to the present day. The revamped course will include lectures on plate tectonics and global climate change and will emphasize physical geography over political geography. The course is considered a rite of passage for Georgetown SFS students, compared by this alumnus to a "boot camp":

In an earlier post on geography, I mentioned a course I took at Georgetown called "Map of the Modern World", a 1-credit boot camp of world geography and geopolitics. As a student at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service (SFS) I had to take this course as a graduation requirement-since the qualification exam rendered me, in Professor Pirtle's thundrous voice, "geographically ignorant." Even though it was a killer for a one-credit course, it was one of the most rewarding courses I took. I know of no other university that has a geography course that even comes close.

Yet, just as it does in the world of education, the "boutique" theories seem to be adopted by administrators as if they were flavors of the month. Such is the case at SFS, where the new dean, James Reardon-Anderson, wants to take over the course personally. Instead of the classic geopolitical survey that each student in the SFS has received (gratefully) for decades, Reardon-Anderson plans to restructure the course as a study of geographic forces and human interactions. The grit-and-grind of the Mercator map is replaced by the soft Venn diagrams of interactions, encounters and relationships.

The change has inspired a Facebook group called Take Back Map of the Modern World, which offers the catalog descriptions of the old and new versions:

Faculty: Keith Hrebenak

This one-credit-hour course is designed to provide you with regional overviews of the evolution of the world political map since 1800. The objective of this course is to enhance your basic working knowledge of the political map of the modern world as a first step in understanding world events and international relations. The method of instruction
will be lectures supported by a heavy dose of maps and short outside readings. The lectures will focus on the evolution of the modern political map of each region and on major nationalist, ethnic, boundary, and territorial conflicts and tension areas.

Faculty: James Reardon-Anderson

This one-credit course is designed to provide basic knowledge of the physical and political geography of the world. Weekly lectures cover the fundamental forces that shape the physical geography and the effects of physical geography on human behavior in ten regions of the world. The final exam covers information presented in the lectures,
the location and capitals of contemporary states, and the identification of major geographical features. The final examination is multiple choice and graded pass-fail. The course is required for graduation from the School of Foreign Service.

Since Georgetown's School of Foreign Service provides the United States with many of our career diplomatic leaders, I hope the school reverses course and again includes a rigorous political geography course as a core requirement. Better still, let's restore geography as one of the basic "grammars" to be learned by young school children, alongside parts of speech, spelling rules, and multiplication tables.

(Note: The photo above is from the photo section of Michael Palin's travel website.)

Wearing Irlen lenses during Tulsa Boy Singers spring 2009 concertIrlen Syndrome, also known as scotopic sensitivity syndrome. There's an informational meeting tonight, Monday, October 5, 2009, at 7 p.m., at the La Quinta Tulsa Airport, east of Sheridan on the south side of I-244, presented by Catherine Barnes, an Irlen diagnostician. To make a reservation or for more information, contact Mrs. Barnes at 859-489-7773.

Our oldest son has been helped immensely by Irlen filters. His fourth grade year at Regent was the school's first in the old Higher Dimensions facility. The walls were painted bright white, the fluorescent lights were very bright, and there was sunlight, too. The combination gave him severe headaches, and there were many days when he had to come home early. He loved to read, but he preferred to do so in dim light. (Of course, we wouldn't let him read in the dark because it was bad for his eyes.) Grid paper and sheet music were particularly problematic for him.

He had a number of medical and ophthalmological tests, including an MRI, trying to figure out the source of the headaches. Everything appeared to be normal. Contrary to occasional parental suspicions, there was something between his ears. :)

Wearing Irlen lenses and a FedoraMy wife remembered that her sister had had trouble filling in the bubbles on standardized tests, and that the use of a translucent pink overlay sheet had helped immensely. My wife found out about the Irlen Institute started working with a diagnostician to find a color that would help him. A dark shade of purple seemed to work best, and so he began using purple overlays to read text and to photocopy assignments and music onto purple paper. Wearing hats helped, too, by shading his eyes. (Hats have become his trademark.)

After finding a tint that seemed to work, he was fitted for glasses with Irlen filter lenses -- no optical correction, just tint. Direct light leaking around the sides continued to be a problem, so we found some wraparound frames that keep the stray light out. He doesn't need them all the time, but they're a must for working with music or doing schoolwork.

What's happening here is a visual processing problem that's aggravated by certain parts of the visible spectrum. The problem is not in the eyes -- it's not optical in nature -- but in the visual processing portion of the brain. Filtering out the offending wavelengths makes the letters look to him they way they do to the rest of us. He no longer has to strain to read and write, and the headaches have gone away.

Irlen lenses have been helpful to people with dyslexia, other reading problems, writing difficulties, and headaches related to bright light. If you've had these sorts of problems or know someone who has, visit the Irlen Institute website to learn more, and, if you can, come to tonight's informational session at the Tulsa Airport La Quinta, 123 N. 67th East Ave.

MORE: Here's an ABC News video about Irlen.

And this Salt Lake City news report shows some examples of ways black on white text appears to Irlen syndrome sufferers:

STILL MORE: This critical blog entry attacking Irlen lenses drew many testimonials from people who have benefited from using colored lenses and overlays and from parents of those who have benefited. As several responses point out, Irlen lenses don't cure dyslexia, but they remove a significant barrier to learning to read -- words seeming to shift, whirl, dance, blur, or fade from the page. In my son's case, he has never had difficulty reading fluently and voraciously, as long as he could read in subdued light.

Ora in lingua Latina

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A cool bit of news from Linda Duntley's Tulsa Home Educators e-mail list:

Starting Sep 9, 2009, Grace Lutheran Church (located on the corner of 5th Place and Lewis) will be offering a 20-minute Latin morning prayer service for Latin students and their families. Starts at 9:00 a.m.

Held in the beautiful medieval-style sanctuary of Grace Lutheran Tulsa, the Latin service is based on the "Ordo Oficii ad Completorium," as found in the "Brotherhood Prayer Book."

The Latin service will be held every 2nd and 4th Wednesday.

This is an excellent supplement to any Latin class--demonstrating that Latin is a living language!

I love Latin and love the tradition of the divine office -- meeting together for a daily liturgy of scripture and prayers -- and it's wonderful to see the two brought together by this traditional, liturgical Lutheran church.

By the way, if you're a homeschooling family and don't subscribe to T.H.E. News, you're missing out on a lot -- for $15 a year you get a comprehensive monthly newsletter and regular news items in your inbox. The next newsletter is due out on September 28, and it's the annual field trip guide.

Back in the early '80s, my mother-in-law, Marjorie Marugg-Wolfe, started teaching at a vo-tech school in Springdale, Ark., and working with "displaced homemakers," women who, by reason of divorce or widowhood, found themselves looking for work after years of not working outside the home. Her involvement grew out of graduate research at the University of Arkansas. She helped women with resume preparation, learning how to present oneself in an interview (including learning how to dress for the job hunt), and getting additional education and training. Many of her clients still had children at home, and they often ran into financial obstacles that forced them to drop out of classes. It might be as simple as the car breaking down and needing to work overtime to pay for the repairs. There were expenses that financial aid through the school would not cover. So she started a scholarship fund in her home county, Benton County, to meet those needs.

Yesterday's Benton County Daily Record reported on a volunteer appreciation luncheon marking the 25th anniversary of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County. According to the story, since 1984 the fund "has awarded more than 4,987 scholarships totaling $3,478,943." According to the program website:

Designed to supplement existing government assistance, college grants and loans, the scholarships awarded by Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County encourage students to enter school and prevent them from dropping out of school because of unexpected financial hardships. Often times, scholarship funds are used for:
  • Transportation
  • Child care
  • Housing & utilities
  • Medical insurance
  • School supplies
  • Glasses
  • Computers and desks
  • Other day-to-day necessities
  • Clothing, food and necessities for children

Here are a couple of stories from scholarship recipients:

Christie Parvin-Vogel is one of the many whose lives have been changed by Single Parent Scholarships.

"I came into the program as a 19-year-old mother of a baby boy," Parvin-Vogel said. "I knew I needed to go to college and have an education so I could support myself and my child, but there were no scholarships available to me."

Through the Single Parent Scholarship Fund, Parvin-Vogel was able to get two associate degrees and later a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and a master's degree in management information systems.

"SPSF has been a blessing to me not only because of the money, but because of you guys," Parvin-Vogel said, referencing a room filled with people who helped launch the program 25 years ago.

Another scholarship recipient, Geri Lovelace-Lee, told of her decision to apply for the Single Parent Scholarship Fund: "When I came to a crossroads where I found myself without a car, without a home, and I had these two children and a few pieces of furniture, I knew I had to do something. This program not only helped us with an education, but it came full circle. It helped with everything in life. Thank you," she said.

Anyone know if such a program exists in Tulsa?

TulipGirl tweeted a link to an anti-homeschooling blog rant by a teacher named Jesse Scaccia. He begins, "Homeschooling: great for self-aggrandizing, society-phobic mother...... but not quite so good for the kid," and he goes on to list his "top ten reasons why homeschooling parents are doing the wrong thing." His "reasons" include: homeschooled students are "geeky," homeschooling is selfish (because your child won't be in public school to help teach his peers), it's arrogant for a homeschool parent to think she can teach as well as Jesse Scaccia with his many academic degrees, and, most significantly, "As a teacher, homeschooling kind of pisses me off."

In the blog post's comments, a diverse assortment of homeschooling parents take Mr. Scaccia to task for his ignorance and prejudice. Of the many solid responses, this one by The Princess Mom, who blogs at Growing Up Gifted, was my favorite:

Homeschooling is the ultimate in school accountability. I can't pass the buck to next year's teacher-I *am* next year's teacher. I can't blame the parent's poor attitude-I *am* the parent. I can't justify poor test scores by comparing to the whole neighborhood, or blaming the diverse student population or being an urban district. (I've heard all these excuses from teachers and administrators across the country.) I'm accountable to someone even more important than the district or the state department of ed. I'm accountable to my kids. If I don't prepare them for college and life in the world, that's my fault. And if that didn't matter to me, I wouldn't be homeschooling in the first place.

MORE from homeschooling parents:

Dana at Principled Discovery does an interesting thought-experiment with a paragraph from Scaccia's follow-up ("Homeschoolers: Do They Care Too Much?").

Tammy Takahashi liked what she saw in homeschooling families and wanted it for her own:

Here's what I noticed:

1) The teens and the parents liked each other.
2) The teens all had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted to do with their lives, and most of them were already doing them.
3) The parents and kids were all relaxed, happy, well-spoken. (Even when we disagreed a LOT.)
4) The kids were incredibly interested in life. They were enthusiastic about what they were doing in their lives and in planning for their future. (BTW, so were the parents, about their own lives, not just the kids'.)
5) The teens were not judgmental of each other, were not afraid or wary of adults, and treated the little ones well....

They had this way about them that I had never seen before - the geeks, jocks, musicians, brainiacs... they were all cool with each other. There are no gangs, or "us against them" mentality (granted, I chose to only attend inclusive conferences and park days). When someone acted like a jerk, they dealt with it, then moved on and forgave. They liked themselves and each other. Some were gawky and some were attractive, some were buff, others were lanky, yet, they were all cool with each other. There is a ton of social pressure in homeschool groups, and that's to be cool to one another....

The truth is this: kids and families who go through public school (and even private schools to a certain degree) have to struggle and fight to stay in a good place, and to maintain involved in the world around them. Kids and families who homeschool are naturally in a place to have these things, without fighting. Why choose to fight if we don't have to? If see two lines at a grocery store, one long and one short, which one would you choose? If you get a job offer and one has a comfortable working environment, and the other requires longer hours and lots of work at home, for the same pay, which would you choose?

We knew we wanted a liberal, open-minded, accepting, and involved life for our kids. In the world around us, not just in school. And we just couldn't see how we'd have enough time to have all these things without killing ourselves, if they went to public school.

An MIT admissions officer offers advice to homeschooled applicants.

Via Jeff Lindsay on Twitter, I learned about Classical School in Appleton, Wisconsin, a charter Pre-K - 8 school of 450 students that follows a classical curriculum. The school follows E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum. Hirsch is the author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. From the Core Knowledge FAQ:

The "Core Knowledge" movement is an educational reform based on the premise that a grade-by-grade core of common learning is necessary to ensure a sound and fair elementary education.... Professor Hirsch has argued that, for the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, early schooling should provide a solid, specific, shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge.

The FAQ is worth reading for their responses to questions like:

"Students are unique individuals, so can we really expect them all to learn the same material? Shouldn't schooling respond to the unique learning styles of each individual child?"

"Is the specific academic content in the Core Knowledge curriculum developmentally appropriate for young children?"

Since knowledge is changing so rapidly, isn't the best approach to teach children to "learn how to learn," rather than to teach specific knowledge?

Without coming right out and saying it, the Core Knowledge approach rebuffs the philosophies and fads of modern public education while embracing the classical Trivium, which begins with "Grammar." The Grammar of the Trivium is not merely how you put words together, but it encompasses the facts and rules of a range of disciplines, including math, history, music, the visual arts, and science, as well as language.

Here's part of the Core Knowledge response to the "learn how to learn" concept:

...Children learn new knowledge by building upon what they already know. It's important to begin building foundations of knowledge in the early grades because that's when children are most receptive, and because academic deficiencies in the first six grades can permanently impair the quality of later schooling. The most powerful tool for later learning is not an abstract set of procedures (such as "problem solving") but a broad base of knowledge in many fields....

...The basic principles of science and constitutional government, the important events of world history, the essential elements of mathematics and of oral and written expression -- all of these are part of a solid core that does not change rapidly, but instead forms the basis for true lifelong learning.

And in response to the criticism of rote memorization and the idea that children need critical thinking skills, not just a bunch of facts:

No one wants schools to think of curriculum solely in terms of facts. We also want -- and students need -- opportunities to use the facts, to apply them, question them, discuss them, doubt them, connect them, analyze them, verify or deny them, solve problems with them. All these activities, however, rely upon having some facts to work with. Without factual knowledge about an issue or problem, you can't think critically about it -- you can only have an uninformed opinion.

Oklahoma has three officially certified Core Knowledge schools -- schools that have implemented at least 80% of the curriculum with a goal of full implementation: Cleveland and Sequoyah Elementary Schools in Oklahoma City, and Clegern Elementary School in Edmond.

Clegern Elementary is certified as a Core Knowledge visitation site, a model school where the curriculum has been fully implemented. Clegern is also a "parent choice school" -- any family in the Edmond district may apply to attend; students are chosen by lottery. It's telling that much of the school's FAQ page has to do with who does or doesn't get an edge in the selection process.

Another 13 schools in Oklahoma City and one in Anadarko are "Friends of Core Knowledge," which means that the schools are implementing the curriculum at some level.

The curriculum of Classical Charter School in Appleton reminds me in many respects of the curriculum at Regent Preparatory School in Tulsa -- for example, both use Saxon Math and Shurley Grammar. I like the fact that instead of the vague "social studies," they have history, geography, and literature.

Now that the Tulsa Public Schools board has dropped its senseless and expensive lawsuit against the state's charter school law. An editorial in the Oklahoman noted a report that the Tulsa school board spent $103,000 on attorney's fees to pursue the suit; appealing to the State Supreme Court would have cost another $125,000. The Oklahoman's advice:

This lawsuit was a bad idea from the start. Money that could have been spent for the benefit of teachers and students went to lawyers instead. That was the only guaranteed outcome, and by no logic could that be considered good for children or taxpayers.

What's good for children -- and by extension taxpayers -- is for Tulsa to not just accept but embrace quality charter schools. Those schools exist to serve Tulsa's children. Their success doesn't reflect poorly on the district; rather, it says that the district cares enough about its students to step outside its comfort zone.

Oklahoma City has 12 charter schools. Tulsa has three. Perhaps now the Tulsa district will be open to new charters, or perhaps one of the universities would sponsor a Core Knowledge charter school here.

TulipGirl linked to this post on a blog called Quiet Garden. It's a letter from one mom to another on making the shift away from some of the controlling, behavioristic parenting methods popular in evangelical circles and toward a way of Christian parenting that reflects God's fatherly grace towards his children. It is packed with helpful and convicting insights. Here are just a few:

I started questioning all of the things I had been taught about "christian parenting", and I did word studies in the Bible on things like "obedience" and "discipline". I was shocked at what WASN'T in there... none of the harshness or retribution I expected; instead, obedience was almost always linked to *love*, especially in the New Testament. "If you love me, you will obey me"... not "if you don't obey me, you will suffer". It was obedience based on relationship, not fear of punishment, which was a totally foreign concept to me. I guess in my mind I thought it was "if you obey me, then I can love you".

I had to really look at how I viewed my relationship with God... is that the way I thought he saw me? If I was obedient, he would love me and be nice to me, but if I wasn't, he would make bad things happen to me? I couldn't find that idea anywhere in scripture. Instead I found him saying "if you focus on loving me, you will WANT to be obedient". The focus was always on my relationship with him, my obedience was supposed to be a natural product of my love for him.

When I started asking God to show me how to parent, it didn't happen the way I expected. Instead of getting "Holy Spirit parenting tips" on how to make my kids behave, I started getting convicted for my OWN behavior. When I started to get angry at them for something they were doing, I would be reminded of a situation where *I* was doing the exact same thing my child was doing, only in an adult context....

If I wanted them to handle frustration calmly and reasonably, then I had to demonstrate self-restraint and not fly off the handle and yell at them when they ticked me off. The idea is not just to *tell* them how to act, but to *show* them what it looks like. After all, how can we expect them to do something we can't?...

If I could not behave better than my child, how could I be so arrogant as to stand in judgement over him and be less merciful than I would want God to be to me? God showed me all of the times I made excuses for myself for my bad behavior, for being crabby or impatient or selfish, or just plain rebellious towards him. It was so easy to rationalize my own behavior, but my children, who were immature and still learning were expected to jump to it, never have a bad day, never make mistakes?...

Take your cue from the Holy Spirit... one who is called along side to help. Instead of MAKING your kids do what you want, work on finding ways to HELP your kids do what you need them to do. Don't see yourself as standing over them, but be someone who comes in alongside them and helps them do what they need to do. More kindly coach/mentor and less crabby old school teacher.

There's more. She unpacks the description of love in I Corinthians 13, turning each phrase into a question for parents to ask ourselves about our motivations in how we direct and discipline our children.

We read the Ezzo books before our oldest was born. Many of our friends -- good, loving Christian people -- recommended them to us. I regret it. That approach to discipline alienates parents from children, and sets mom and dad up as scorekeepers and penalty managers. I found myself denying myself the enjoyment of time with my brilliant, funny, and beautiful kids for the sake of teaching them a lesson. And a child's natural desire to please mom and dad turns to despair -- the feeling that nothing he does will ever be good enough, so why bother trying?

It is hard to ditch the Ezzo mindset. You're confronted with regrets over years wasted and damage done, as the letter on Quiet Garden discusses. There's also the inner Ezzo nagging you that you're being too lax, too lenient, that you're spoiling your kids. But I'm starting to think that the worst kind of spoilage would be if my child no longer felt connected to me, if my child felt alienated from me, no longer identifying with my values, uninterested in my advice, unwilling to learn from my experiences.

I'd rather work alongside my children, enjoying their company, sharing laughter, and guiding them down the right path -- not like the guy back at the gas station who gave you directions but like the sherpa who is with you step-by-step up the treacherous mountain trail.

I posted this question on Twitter

Question to young midtown Tulsa hipsters: What are your plans when you have school-age kids? TPS, private, homeschool, or move to burbs?

and got several quick replies; thought I'd post it here, too, in expanded form:

If you're young and have moved into an older core neighborhood in midtown Tulsa, or any of the neighborhoods within a mile or so of downtown, what will you do when your children (if/when you have them) are old enough for school? Will you stay put and send your kids to Tulsa Public Schools or a private school or homeschool them? Or will you move to a suburban school district?

If your answer is TPS, is that contingent on getting your children into magnet programs like Eisenhower or Zarrow or transferring them into a highly regarded neighborhood school, or will you be content with the assigned school for your neighborhood?

Whatever your answer, I'm curious to know your reasons as well.

Back in 1998, I first ran for City Council and got involved in the Midtown Coalition. At the time, I met a number of younger couples who either didn't have children yet or had children who weren't old enough for school. They lived in cute 1200 sq. ft. cottages and bungalows, but they all seemed to move as soon as the first child approached the age of five. I'm wondering how many of the young adults from the current cohort who are attracted to traditional neighborhoods and urban living will stick around when the babies start coming.

Feel free to post a comment below or e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com. This is for an upcoming column on the connection between schools and urban revitalization. If you'd prefer I didn't quote you at all, or if I can quote you but not by name, please mention it when you write, otherwise I'll assume I have permission to quote you by name.

Brandon Dutcher, whose wife homeschools their four children, reacts to State Sen. Mary Easley's plan to regulate homeschooling by requiring families to register with the local school district and provide progress reports. He tells Sen. Easley he'd like to see progress reports from the public schools so he can know, for example, just how far behind his children are from the public-schooled kids:

For example, when my oldest son was in 8th grade, all he was really able to learn that year was Algebra II, Henle Latin I, intermediate logic, physical science, grammar, and composition. Well, plus he read and discussed The Epic of Gilgamesh; The Code of Hammurabi; The Odyssey; The Histories; The Oresteia Trilogy; Plutarch's Lives; The Theban Trilogy; The Last Days of Socrates; The Early History of Rome; The Aeneid; The Twelve Caesars; Till We Have Faces; The Unaborted Socrates; Genesis; Exodus; I and II Samuel; I and II Kings; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Chosen by God; and Socrates Meets Jesus, among others.

Now, I'm not naïve. I realize that 8th graders in Oklahoma's world-class public school system are learning all this and more. Who among us didn't have an 8th-grade history teacher/football coach wax eloquent on the influence of Stoic philosophy on Gaius Gracchus? Heck, as a retired teacher you know better than anyone that the 8th graders in your hometown of Tulsa (or Owasso, or Grand Lake Towne, whatever) are learning all this and more.

Later, he points out that his family has saved Oklahoma taxpayers over $200,000 by homeschooling their children.

Oklahoma's freedom to homeschool has encouraged the growth of a diverse homeschooling community, with all sorts of co-op groups, special classes, sports, field trips, clubs, and other school activities to provide learning opportunities beyond what parent-teachers can easily provide at home. Instead of breaking something that works well, we ought to promote the state to attract homeschoolers from across the country to move here. Who knows -- we might grow enough to get back that 6th congressman we lost 10 years ago.

In a Friday editorial, the Oklahoman took the Tulsa school board to task for continuing its lawsuit against the state's charter school law. The TPS board claims the law is unconstitutional because it limits charter schools to certain parts of the state based on population and district size.

Charter schools exist because many parents and educators aren't happy with what they see at traditional schools. Some are in direct competition with traditional public schools; others have programs that serve students who have struggled in a traditional education setting. That's not to say all charter schools are perfect and a great fit for every student. But we believe the marketplace will sort the good from the bad, and parents ultimately will vote with their children's feet.

Charter schools were designed to be incubators for new ideas that could be replicated. Instead, we tend to hear excuses on why some of their innovations won't work in regular schools. Even Oklahoma City, which has been a more welcoming environment for charter schools than Tulsa, has had tense and sometimes hostile relationships with charter schools.

We said when the lawsuit was filed that it was a waste of money. It still is. Schools -- and school boards -- would do better to embrace the competition as an opportunity for students to receive a better education and a challenge to do better. That's not too much to ask.

The editorial refers to a December 15 attempt by TPS board members Brian Hunt and Lana Turner-Addison to drop the lawsuit. The motion failed by a 4-2 vote.

(Crossposted at Choice Remarks.)

There's no place for "plaice" in this dictionary. Words about Christianity (vicar, sin, parish), Christmas (carol, mistletoe), the monarchy (coronation, duke, monarch), seafood (lobster, mussel), pets (corgi, goldfish, hamster), fairy tales (elf, goblin), woodland flora (tulip, sycamore, pasture), and fauna (doe, starling, terrapin) are gone, too, from a popular children's dictionary:

Oxford University Press has removed words like 'aisle', 'bishop', 'chapel', 'empire' and 'monarch' from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like 'blog', 'broadband' and 'celebrity'. Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled.

How can you read Winnie the Pooh or The Wind in the Willows without words like stoat, beaver, gorse, or (oh, bother!) piglet? And what fiend would flush "budgerigar" down the lexicographical loo? As one commenter on the linked story wrote:

What a pity! Future generations will not be able to understand Monty Python until they've studied it at university.

(This isn't necessarily a new phenomenon: Some advanced individuals in previous generations used comedy and comic strips as a personal curriculum in cultural literacy.)

Another commenter writes:

I've got to 62 and have survived life still not quite knowing what a trapezium is. But the same could not be said had I not known the meaning of buttercup, fern and hazelnut. Our children's lives are being impoverished by this kind of misguided editorial policy.

As a teacher for 30 years, I was saddened by the increasing disappearance of basic idioms from children's language; the Oxford Dictionary policy is symptomatic of the cultural impoverishing of children's vocabulary, language and its use.

And another:

Take away our language and who are we? Our beautiful words, many of which date from Anglo-Saxon times, are now taken from us and generations of future children. They are more than words, they are the golden threads that bind together the rich tapestry of our country's story.

Reading the words taken out is absolutely heartbreaking. They read like the roll call of honour for a country that is dying.

This seems to put it all in a nutshell, referring to the sets of words deleted from and words added to the dictionary:

It would be interesting to try to write two poems: one with the first set of words, the other with the second.

The list of removed words brings to mind "Last of the Summer Wine," "The Archers," and All Creatures Great and Small. The list of added words brings to mind "Only Fools and Horses" and "The Office."

This sentence from the Telegraph story suggests that the shift away from church and countryside has already taken place in children's literature:

Oxford University Press, which produces the junior edition, selects words with the aid of the Children's Corpus, a list of about 50 million words made up of general language, words from children's books and terms related to the school curriculum. Lexicographers consider word frequency when making additions and deletions.

This defense of OUP's omission of these words didn't give me any comfort:

Critics tend to assume that children either read dictionaries for fun to learn new words (which they probably don't) or look up words that they meet in reading or in everyday life. In fact, it's older children who use dictionaries to look up the meanings of words; children aged 7-9 tend to use dictionaries to help them with spelling when they are writing out what they did at the weekend, or keeping a diary - typical school writing tasks. Therefore the contents of the dictionary need to reflect children's actual lifestyles, not an idealised picture of how we would all like childhood to be.

This suggests that children 7-9 aren't reading good books in school, where they might encounter unfamiliar words.

Read the full list here.

(Via Roger Kimball, via NRO's Corner.)

Jonathan Aitken, an alumnus of Eton, sees the best aspects of the education he received reflected in the methods of Geneva School, a new classical Christian school in Orlando, Fla.

Like many an Etonian I chafed under what seemed to be the excessive burden of studying Latin for five years. However, in later life I have come to acknowledge at least some truth in Lord Macaulay's dictum "No man can write a decent English sentence until he has first learned to construe a Latin one." I have also come to respect the valedictory words of my Headmaster, Sir Robert Birley, to the leavers' class of 1956, "I hope you will come to realize that the main purpose of your education at Eton has been to enable you to know when the fellow opposite you is talking rot."...

But perhaps the most central principle of Geneva is the ancient imperative of classical education that students must be given the intellectual training that will enable them to think for themselves.

"Most American education consists of teaching how to pass knowledge-based exams," says Geneva's headmaster, the Rev. Robert Ingram. "We are different here. Of course we do not neglect knowledge but we go deeper than substance. We strive to give our students the tools with which they can succeed at reasoning, analysis, argument, and presentation. We want to give them the ability to ask questions such as 'What is this author saying and is it true? How do I know it is true? How can I defend the truth in a rhetorical battle to persuade others by presenting arguments that are winsome, attractive, and convincing?'" Headmaster Ingram also gives priority to the teaching of Christian values and aesthetics, saying: "We help our students to discover what is morally good, aesthetically beautiful, and Biblically philosophically true."

From Sen. John McCain's acceptance speech in St. Paul tonight:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm President, they will.

(Crossposted at Choice Remarks.)

McCain's remarks, quoted above, brought the delegates to their feet with loud cheers several times.

School choice received many prime-time mentions from the podium of the Republican National Convention this week.

GOPAC Chairman Michael Steele:

Some just talk about change, but John McCain believes the resiliency of the American people is the real source of the change America needs; and that means putting country first.

So, do you want to put your country first? Then let's change the way we educate our kids.

Let's empower those whose minds are shackled by a poor education with real choices in where they go to school....

John McCain knows we must empower working families and stand with them against the erosion of our constitutional rights, the corruption of our school systems, the weakening of our families and the taking of human life - born and unborn.

Mitt Romney:

Opportunity expands when there is excellence and choice in education, when taxes are lowered, when every citizen has affordable, portable health insurance, and when constitutional freedoms are preserved.

Rudy Giuliani:

And as we look to the future never let us forget that - when we are at our best - we are the party that expands Freedom. We began as a party dedicated to freeing people from slavery ... And we are still the party that is willing to fight for freedom at home and around the world. We are the party that wants to expand individual freedom and economic freedom ... because we believe that the secret of America's success is not central government, it is self-government. We are the party that believes in giving workers the right to work. The party that believes parents should choose where their children go to school.

From the 2008 Republican platform about Washington, D. C.:

Washington should be made a model city. Two major Republican initiatives -- a first-time D.C. homebuyers credit and a landmark school choice initiative -- have pointed the way toward a civic resurgence, and a third piece of GOP legislation now guarantees young D.C. residents significant assistance in affording higher education.

From the education section of the platform.

Parents should be able to decide the learning environment that is best for their child. We support choice in education for all families, especially those with children trapped in dangerous and failing schools, whether through charter schools, vouchers or tax credits for attending faith-based or other nonpublic schools, or the option of home schooling.

Over on Choice Remarks, the blog of Oklahomans for School Choice, I've linked to a clip from the classic British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister, in which the PM and his cabinet secretary argue about whether parents should have the right to choose where their children go to school. It's a brilliant spoof of the typical arguments of school-choice opponents.

Be sure to check out the Choice Remarks home page, which today includes an item that proves satire can't outdo educratic reality: The Broward County, Fla., school board chairman supports making it a felony to lie about your address for the purposes of school enrollment, saying, "There shouldn't be school shopping."

RELATED: I received an e-mail from someone who has heard that seven of the Tulsa school district's nine high schools will be on the No Child Left Behind "needs improvement" list this year. The only two off the list are Washington and Edison, and as a magnet school, Washington doesn't accept NCLB transfers. Edison parents are worried about overcrowding. More charter schools and tuition vouchers and scholarship fund tax credits would relieve the pressure on Edison and make living in the Tulsa school district more attractive to families with children.

Strategic Vision polled 1200 Oklahoma voters for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Here is the executive summary:

This scientifically representative poll of 1,200 likely Oklahoma voters measures public opinion on a wide range of K-12 education issues. The underlying theme of the Friedman Foundation's Survey in the State series is to measure voter attitudes toward their public institutions, leaders, innovative ideas, and the current K-12 power and priority structure.

In particular, Oklahomans have shared with us their views about "school choice" in the forms of taxcredit scholarships, school vouchers, charter schools and virtual schools. Results imply that voters like the idea of customizing the school selection process in a way that best meets the needs of a child and his or her family. So how high is the support for school choice reforms? Percentages favoring tax-credit scholarships, school vouchers, and charter schools are consistently in the 50s--generally and across nearly all subgroups.

In some cases, favorability to a particular school choice reform reaches the 60s. For example, 60 percent of African-Americans favor a scholarship granting system funded through business tax credits; 63 percent of African-Americans like charter schools; and 63 percent of Hispanics favor "allowing students and parents to choose any school, public or private, to attend using public funds."

School choice is not a partisan issue among voters in Oklahoma. Favorability spans political parties and political self-identification. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans favor publicly funded scholarship granting systems (through business or individual tax credits), school vouchers, and charter schools.

Proportions are very similar across these subgroups on school choice-related questions. In some cases, support is extraordinarily high: 61 percent of Democrats favor tax-credit scholarship legislation; 60 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Independents favor a scholarship granting system funded through individual tax credits; and all three political groups are more likely to vote for rather than against a candidate who supports a tax-credit scholarship policy.

A total of 1,200 phone interviews were conducted by Strategic Vision, between April 25 and April 27, 2008. The margin of error for the full sample of likely voters is ± 3 percentage points; the margin of error is higher when considering the response percentages for a given demographic subgroup.

Key findings include:

  • About two-fifths of Oklahoma voters are not satisfied with the state's current public school system--41 percent rate Oklahoma's public school system as "poor" or "fair." Excluding the one of five voters who are undecided, this proportion rises to 51 percent.

  • Nearly two out of three Oklahomans are content with current levels of public school funding. A large majority of voters (64 percent) say Oklahoma's level of public school funding is either "too high" or "about right." At least 67 percent of the poll's respondents underestimate the state's actual per-pupil funding, which suggests that the funding satisfaction level is probably a conservative figure.

  • More than four out of five Oklahomans would prefer to send their child to a school other than a regular public school--only 17 percent say a regular public school is their top choice. This low figure is consistent with what we have learned from previous state polls asking the same question, most recently in Idaho (12 percent), Tennessee (15 percent), Nevada (11 percent), and Illinois (19 percent).

  • Oklahoma voters value private schools--they are more than twice as likely to prefer sending their child to a private school over any other school type. When asked "what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child?" 41 percent of respondents selected private schools. This finding is consistent with other recent state polls asking the same question: Idaho (39 percent), Tennessee (37 percent), Nevada (48 percent), and Illinois (39 percent).

  • Oklahomans like having a range of schooling options. Majorities express support for school vouchers (53 percent) and charter schools (54 percent), with many also open to virtual schools (40 percent), even though nearly a third of respondents stated they "have never heard of virtual, cyber, or online schools." School choice is not a partisan issue among likely voters. There is solid potential for building bridges between Democrats (D), Republicans (R), and Independents (I). Voters who identify themselves differently in terms of political affiliation are likely to have common views on various school choice reforms and policies spanning charter schools (D: 52 percent | R: 56 percent | I: 55 percent), virtual schools (D: 38 percent | R: 40 percent | I: 42 percent), school vouchers (D: 53 percent | R: 54 percent | I: 53 percent), or a generic public-funded school choice system (D: 55 percent | R: 53 percent | I: 56 percent).

  • More than half of voters are favorable to a tax-credit scholarship system. When asked "if a proposal were made in Oklahoma to create a tax-credit scholarship system," 54 percent say they favor a scholarship system funded by business charitable donations. A slightly higher figure (57 percent) say they favor a scholarship system funded by individual charitable donations.

  • Likely voters view recent tax-credit scholarship legislation positively--58 percent say they are favorable to such school choice legislation. Majorities cut across Democrats (61 percent), Republicans (55 percent), and Independents (53 percent).

  • Oklahomans are more likely to vote for a state representative, state senator or governor who supports a taxcredit scholarship system. Nearly twice as many voters say they are "more likely" (21 percent) rather than "less likely" (11 percent) to vote for such a candidate. Independents are nearly five times more likely to vote for a person supporting tax-credit scholarships (23 percent vs. 5 percent).

  • Knowledge about school vouchers is at a low baseline in Oklahoma--there is an information deficit about this type of system reform. Although a majority of Oklahoma's likely voters (55 percent) said they were either "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with school vouchers, there is still a lot of potential for educating citizens on the issue. This figure is comparable to what has been measured in other states such as Idaho (59 percent), Tennessee (45 percent), Nevada (55 percent), and Illinois (51 percent).

Read more about the battle for school in Oklahoma at the Choice Remarks blog.

Incredible: The Republican-controlled State House of Representatives voted today to kill SB 2093, the New Hope Scholarship Act, by a vote of 40 to 57.

Fred Jordan, who represents Jenks, Glenpool, and south Tulsa, and Weldon Watson were the only Republican s representing Tulsa who voted no. (Earl Sears, who represents a small piece of north Tulsa County along with much of Washington County, and Skye McNiel, who represents Creek County, plus a small piece of southwest Tulsa County, also voted no.) I can only speculate about the motivation of Fred Jordan, a suburban homebuilder. The lack of adequate educational options in the Tulsa Public Schools district creates outward pressure that would help him sell new homes in far south Tulsa County.

A glance at the names of other naysaying Republicans reveals a number from rural and suburban areas. Perhaps they have the attitude, "What's in it for the schools in my district?" Perhaps their school board members and superintendents pressured them into voting no.

North Tulsa Democrat Jabar Shumate was a leading advocate for the bill, which would have been a great benefit to students in his district, which is plagued with underperforming public schools, but his Democratic colleagues in neighboring districts -- Lucky Lamons, Jeannie McDaniel, Darrell Gilbert, and Scott BigHorse -- abandoned him. It's hard to understand why the first three, who represent parts of the Tulsa Public School district, would oppose a measure that would provide educational choice and thus incentive for families with children to remain in the older parts of central and north Tulsa. I suppose pressure from the OEA, the most influential interest group in the Democratic Party, was a factor. Their votes may have been good for their political careers, but they were bad for their districts.

David Derby (R-Owasso) and Eric Proctor (D-northeast Tulsa) did not vote -- they are listed under "Constitutional Privilege."

This was a very modest bill that would have created a tax credit for donations to scholarship funds. These scholarship funds would be designated for students in underperforming schools. It was too limited -- capped at a certain dollar amount each year -- but it would have provided more school choice than we currently have for the students who need it most. Shame, shame on the House members, particularly the Republicans and those who represent inner-city districts, who voted against this bill.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma continues to languish at the bottom of the school choice charts with a failing grade.

If city officials want to bring families with children back to the older parts of our city, they ought to be lobbying the legislature to expand school choice -- more charter schools, vouchers, tuition tax credits. Here's a recent example from the Cincinnati area of the positive effects of school choice on the revitalization of older neighborhoods:

The homes are square and solid, like the dark-red bricks from which they're built. Old steps and wrought-iron railings lead to small porches shaded by big trees. The uneven sidewalks, postage-stamp yards and 1950s styles look like so many neighborhoods in Cincinnati's aging first-ring communities.

But something is happening on the quiet, clean streets that straddle Golf Manor and Amberley Village: It's a mini-population boomlet.

While most of the city has been losing families to suburbs that offer more land, newer houses, lower taxes and better schools, this neighborhood is a magnet for young professionals with large, growing families.

A recent inventory of new residents includes an ophthalmologist, a Procter & Gamble manager, an Internet entrepreneur, a journalist, two in real estate, two in construction, two in the nursing home business, a restaurant owner and seven rabbis.

Nearly all of these Orthodox Jewish families were attracted by two things: Cincinnati Hebrew Day School, and vouchers provided by Ohio EdChoice.

The vouchers are especially important to young parents who are still working on advanced degrees or medical school, said Rabbi Ben Travis, development director at the Hebrew Day School on Losantiville Road, which has become "the cog around which the community revolves."...

Tuition at Hebrew Day School is $6,365. Students in neighborhoods with failing public schools are eligible for private school vouchers up to $4,375, depending on income, Motzen explained. Families usually pay more of their tuition as their careers take off, Travis said.

The two communities mentioned are called "first-ring suburbs" -- bedroom communities, just outside the limits of the core city, set up to accommodate the post-war baby boom wave of new home buyers. Fifty or sixty years later, these inner-ring communities have long since been passed over by families in favor of newer suburbs further out. Often the infrastructure, housing stock, and retail stock has aged badly. They're in a kind of no-man's land -- lacking the amenities of the core city and newness of the newer suburbs.

The nearest examples of inner-ring suburbs can be found around Oklahoma City -- e.g., Midwest City, Del City, Warr Acres. Because of the annexation policies Tulsa pursued in the '40s and '50s, we don't have these kinds of communities as separate municipalities. (Highland Park -- 31st to 36th, Yale to Hudson -- was one, but was annexed by Tulsa. Tulsa used its water supply and much higher rates for out-of-city customers as leverage to bring new neighborhoods into the city.) But we do have neighborhoods with similar characteristics -- e.g., along Peoria north of 36th St. N. and the 21st and Garnett Area. Some are in better shape than others, but in many of them, homes that once housed families of four or more now house singles and couples. The density is no longer there to support the level of retail that once existed in these areas.

School quality is the major deterrent to attracting families back to these areas. In this case from Ohio, vouchers are giving young families the ability to have affordable housing and high-quality schooling at the same time.

(Hat tip: Brandon Dutcher. Crossposted at Choice Remarks.)

MORE: State Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre and State Rep. Jabar Shumate, both Democrats who represent north Tulsa, including the area I mentioned above, are receiving national recognition for their support for school choice in the Oklahoma Legislature. Here's syndicated columnist Star Parker's salute to McIntyre and Shumate. An excerpt:

No Child Left Behind allows parents to move their child to a performing district public school if the child's school is failing and does not improve for three consecutive years. But this provision is effectively meaningless because rarely is there an available public-school alternative.

The Tulsa and Oklahoma City School Districts have 7,000 students in such failing schools.

Graduation rates in Oklahoma City and Tulsa are 47.5 percent and 50.6 percent, respectively.

Legislation is now moving through the Oklahoma legislature that would allow a 50 percent tax credit to individuals or businesses contributing to a fund that would provide scholarships for low-income kids in failing schools to go to a private school.

The heroes here are two black Democrats -- Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre and Rep. Jabar Shumate. Going against the grain of their party, and against the Oklahoma union and public-school establishments, these brave souls are championing this initiative.

The bill is SB 2093, the New Hope Scholarship Act. Here's a rebuttal to some of the attacks against the proposal. And one of the sponsors, State Sen. James Williamson, explains the proposal in an op-ed in today's Oklahoman.

The best place to follow the school choice debate is at Choice Remarks, the blog of Oklahomans for School Choice.

A recent California appellate court ruling has Golden State homeschooling families nervous. Brandon Dutcher and J. Scott Moody of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs urge them to load up the jalopy and migrate east on the Mother Road to the most homeschooling friendly state in the nation:

Indeed, HSLDA notes, "Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to home school." The state constitution directs the legislature to provide for attendance at some public or other school--"unless other means of education are provided."

As one delegate to the Oklahoma constitutional convention argued in 1907, "People ought to be allowed to use their own discretion as to how to educate their children."

Not only do we have freedom to homeschool, Oklahoma's lower cost of living and lower taxes make our state an even sweeter option for homeschooling families.

Something that Dutcher and Moody don't mention is that Oklahoma also has wonderful support networks for homeschooling. There are bookstores that buy and sell used curriculum, co-ops that provide mutual support on advanced topics, and plenty of informal support from other homeschooling families who can provide advice and encouragement.

(I wonder if the State, Oklahoma City, or Tulsa Chambers of Commerce have ever thought of using our homeschooling options in marketing the state to potential residents. Targeted to the right audience, homeschooling could attract new residents here.)

(Plain-text version found at the McCarville Report.)

Choice Remarks

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Oklahoma is lagging behind the rest of the nation in offering a variety of affordable K-12 educational options to our children and their parents. In hopes of improving the situation, there's now an organization called Oklahomans for School Choice, with an official blog called Choice Remarks, headed up by Brandon Dutcher, vice president for policy for the Oklahoma Center of Public Affairs.

The blog's sidebar offers a synopsis of the issue:

School choice refers to any education policy which allows parents to choose the safest and best schools for their children, whether those schools are public or private. As state school Superintendent Sandy Garrett has correctly noted, "We have a lot of choice already in Oklahoma." Oklahoma is fortunate to have interdistrict choice, intradistrict choice, charter schools, magnet and specialty schools, privately funded K-12 vouchers, a thriving homeschool sector, and more. Unfortunately, we don't yet have what many other states have--vouchers or tax credits which allow thousands of students to choose private schools.

I've been invited to contribute to the blog, so as I come across news items relating to charter schools, tuition vouchers, scholarship fund tax credits, and other means of expanding parental choice in K-12 education, I'll be posting them at Choice Remarks.

PonderInc considers the choices in tomorrow's Tulsa Public Schools board election:

The Tulsa World endorsed Guess, citing her extensive educational experience and training.

On one hand, I want to believe that an education background is a good thing; but on the other hand, I think that many of the problems with our school system (inept teachers, principals, and administrators) are caused by people with education degrees.

My skepticism increased after taking education classes 10 years ago when I was considering teaching. I thought: this is the dumbest stuff I've ever heard, who invents this crap? It led me to believe that the school system would be much improved if everyone had a degree in the subject they teach...instead of a goofy education degree.

So...can an "insider" reform from the inside? Or is it better to support an "outsider" who might just bring some common sense to the table?

At the same time, I disagree with the pragmatists who think all schools should do is prepare students for the business world. Education is different from training. And those who would limit art, music, and theater programs for the sake of more "hard skills" don't realize the importance of creativity, experimentation and imagination.

I don't really know where each of these candidates stands on these topics. And I'm not sure who to vote for tomorrow. Looks like I've got homework to do!

That point about schools of education is the crucial issue in school reform, but it's overlooked amidst discussions of funding, testing, discipline, etc. One of the advantages that charter and private schools have over public schools is that it's easier for a charter or private school to hire a teacher who has a degree in the subject area he or she will be teaching. Public schools can hire teachers outside the usual ed-school track, but there are many more hoops to jump through with alternative certification, and many school officials can't be bothered, especially if there is no shortage of ed-school graduates, who won't require the extra effort to get them into the classroom.

Courses in an education degree program tend to be all about process, rather than content. If you love math or English lit or history and dream of imparting your love of the subject to young skulls full of mush, the process of gaining certification -- whether by traditional or alternative methods -- may very well drain you of your enthusiasm.

A friend of mine with an MBA and many years in the corporate world had the urge about a decade ago to go into teaching. He had gained some classroom time as a Junior Achievement sponsor and enjoyed the experience immensely. He thought he might teach math or business at the junior high or high school level, so he began working for his alternative certification. Texas, where he lived, had pioneered the process, but he wasn't able to get the time of day from two of the major school districts in the DFW Metroplex. (Thinking back on it, he might have had more cooperation from a smaller district.) He gave up on the idea.

It may be that schools of education, with their focus on process and theory and their ideological attacks on practices that work (e.g. phonics, math fact drills, and high expectations), are the heart of what's wrong with public schools in America. They deter many with the gift of teaching from getting into the profession, and they provide a bad foundation for those who do pursue teaching.

Sadly, people don't become aware of the problem until they encounter it directly as my friend and PonderInc did. PonderInc gets it now. I wish she were running for school board.

To keep families in the center city, offer them real school choice. It's working in Cleveland:

When Citizens' Academy [a Cleveland charter school] surveyed its parents, more than 40 percent said the school -- consistently among the state's top performers -- played an integral role in their decision to remain in Cleveland. To Perry White, the East Side charter school's director, that means successful schools are as much an economic development issue as an education issue.

"To stem the exodus of families from Cleveland, we must leverage our best public schools -- charter and district -- as catalysts for creating neighborhoods of choice," White said. "The future of our city and region depends on it."

Josipa Peric can vouch for that. Peric, who works as a waitress, has a fourth-grader at Citizens'. Another son graduated from the school two years ago and was awarded a scholarship to attend University School, a prestigious private school.

Peric said she and her husband had planned to leave Cleveland and move to Eastlake with other Croatian immigrants. Through friends, they discovered Citizens' and transferred their two sons there from Catholic school. Now, they plan to stay in town and open a bakery here.

"We were planning to move, too, but the school is great," Peric said. "They are like family to us."

That kind of symbiotic relationship between parents and schools, which died in some neighborhoods decades ago, could be the greatest legacy of the charter movement.

When will Tulsa's business leaders -- people with an economic interest in the prosperity of the inner city -- start putting the pressure on our public school system to be more hospitable to charter schools?

Thursday, it was reported that employees at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) were banned from using the word Christmas. Here's the latest statement from SWOSU president John Hays on the matter:

Update: No Ban on Christmas December 21, 2007

After the stories about Christmas were published stating that Southwestern Oklahoma State University banned the word 'Christmas' or Christmas decorations, I made inquiries to discover if there was any basis to the reports. The university does not have a policy that bans the word 'Christmas' or Christmas decorations. However, some supervisors or department leaders within the university who meant well may have suggested to employees that caution should be taken with respect to Christmas decorations. One thing led to another and the result was that some mistakenly assumed that Christmas decorations were being prohibited. I have met with various staff members to get to the bottom of the matter and have also had a pleasant discussion with Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel.

The university will continue to follow the law and to respect the right of all its staff members. Thus, the university will follow the general principles set forth by the courts regarding the display of religious symbols and/or Nativity scenes. A publicly sponsored Nativity scene on public property is constitutional so long as it is displayed in the context of other secular symbols of the holiday, like Santa Claus or a Christmas tree, so as not to appear to be endorsing a particular religion. A privately sponsored religious symbol or Nativity on public property where members of the public are permitted to display such symbols does not need an accompanying secular symbol to be constitutional.

In applying this general rule to the university, if a Nativity or other religious symbol of the holiday is displayed in a place open to the general public (like a lobby), the university will include secular symbols of the holiday in the nearby context. However, employees in their cubicles or offices may personally display a Nativity or other religious symbol of the holiday. In such setting, the employee need not include secular symbols of the holiday. Employees have always been and continue to be permitted to greet one another with the greeting 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays.' The decision is up to each employee.

I trust that these guiding principles will clarify the matter regarding Christmas for the staff and the general public.

John Hays
SWOSU President

Am I wrong in noticing a bit of a contradiction with his earlier statement?

No Ban on Christmas December 20, 2007

An attempt to be respectful of the diverse religious population at Southwestern Oklahoma State University has been misinterpreted as an attempt to ban Christmas on the Weatherford campus.

The rumor of this ban is not true.

The university attempted to prevent the appearance as a state agency of endorsing any particular religion.

John Hays
SWOSU President

On December 20, he refers to an official university action: "The university attempted to prevent the appearance as a state agency of endorsing any particular religion."

On December 21, he denies that official university action was involved: "The university does not have a policy that bans the word 'Christmas' or Christmas decorations. However, some supervisors or department leaders within the university who meant well may have suggested to employees that caution should be taken with respect to Christmas decorations. One thing led to another and the result was that some mistakenly assumed that Christmas decorations were being prohibited."

I'm happy that they've come around in support of freedom of expression, but it still looks like someone is playing a game of CYA.

Liberty Counsel, the national group which first called attention to the issue, is very pleased with the outcome:

Mr. Hays deserves a big "Thank You and Merry Christmas." His leadership in resolving the controversy over Christmas and the general guidelines he has set forth regarding the appropriate way a state school and its employees may acknowledge and celebrate Christmas serves as an example for others to follow. Christmas is a wonderful time of the year and it can and should be enjoyed by all.

The Oklahoman story adds a detail from the SWOSU spokesman:

Spokesman Brian Adler said employees were asked to keep public areas of the campus free of religious decor because not all students celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

Mark Tapscott, who brought the story into the blogosphere, spoke with John Hays by phone:

"We don't have any written guidelines now, but Matt [Staver of Liberty Counsel] tells me the court cases are pretty clear that when you do have something like a nativity scene on public property, like on City Hall, you also have to have some secular items with it," said John Hayes, SWOSU's president. Staver promised to provide Hayes with materials on court cases on the issue that would be useful in writing guidelines for the school's existing policy, the SWOSU official said.

Hayes said his university doesn't have "a new policy, there has just been a big mis-understanding. One of the offices told somebody they couldn't do something and it was over-emphasized." An employee had placed a snowman in a public area of an office that said "Merry Christmas," according to Hayes. The snowman was then moved to a different area, he said.

An edited version of this column appeared in the December 12, 2007, edition of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The published version is no longer available online. Posted online on September 10, 2017.

Make the School Year Better, Not Longer
By Michael D. Bates

Last month a task force urged Oklahoma's State Board of Education to require all school districts to extend the school year. If the legislature approves the recommendation, the minimum number of school days would increase from 175 to 190. The national average is 180 days.

The idea is being pushed by longtime State Superintendent Sandy Garrett, who also wants to increase the length of the school day from six to seven hours.

The idea is that more time is necessarily better, and it's just not possible to fit in all the required instruction in the time available.

The push for more time in school is not limited to Oklahoma. A longer school year is just the latest public school reform idea to spread across the country.

Proponents point to the success of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a nationwide network of charter schools. Students in KIPP schools are at school for at least nine hours a day, for four hours on alternate Saturdays, and for three extra weeks in the summer. Tulsa has a KIPP middle school, which began operating two years ago in the former Woods Elementary Building near Washington High School.

According to the website of KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory Middle School, KIPP students spend 62% more hours in school each year than students at neighboring public schools. In 2006 the school outscored all but three Tulsa middle schools (Carver, Edison, and Thoreau) on the state's Academic Performance Index (API).

But is it just a matter of more hours at school? Deborah Brown Community School, a K-5 charter school located downtown and primarily serving the north Tulsa community, follows a traditional school schedule and calendar. In 2006 DBCS scored a perfect 1500 API, with every student performing satisfactorily in math and reading.

Despite the difference in hours, KIPP and DBCS have several things in common: High standards for teachers, parents, and students, a structured learning environment, and a focus on mastering basic skills and knowledge. As charter schools, KIPP and DBCS are not allowed to screen students based on intelligence or academic record, so they are achieving these results with children with a wide range of abilities.

While some students may benefit from longer hours and more school days, there won't be any benefit if that time is squandered on everything but academic achievement.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents went to school fewer days per year, for fewer hours, without the benefits of computers and DVD players as learning tools, and were often beset by poverty and disease, and yet they were better educated and better prepared for a lifetime of learning after eight years in school than most of today's high school graduates are after 13 or more years.

Their schools succeeded in part because they focused on imparting basic skills and a fundamental body of knowledge - phonics, grammar, spelling, arithmetic, historical names and dates.

Rather than focus on achieving a simple mission, today's public schools are expected to meet every need in a student's life. Federal and state legislators add more and more topics to the list of "essentials" that need to be included in the curriculum. Too frequently, special programs and special speakers disrupt the daily routine.

And the education industry itself seems to prefer spending time on anything but drilling students in the basics.

Activity-based learning is one of the culprits. Gilbert T. Sewall, writing in the Summer 2000 issue of American Educator, reported a growing preference for using skits and special projects to fill up the school day, justified on the grounds that some children aren't naturally geared toward verbal learning.

The problem is that learning activities are a very inefficient way to impart knowledge. Building a papier-mache volcano to learn about the eruption of Vesuvius is fun, but too much time, energy, and attention must be devoted to the mechanics of the activity. You may be spending hours on an activity to teach a fact or idea that could be explained verbally in a few minutes.

Sewall writes, "No one contests some legitimate place for projects and activities in classrooms. But lost in the whirlwind, this doing and doing, is a sense of where the real action should be - in the minds of students. Activities enthusiasts are right not to want passive students. But they have made a dangerous error. They have substituted ersatz activity and shallow content for the hard and serious work of the mind."

While it's important to try to accommodate children with differing learning styles, there's no substitute for memorizing facts and using repetition to teach the rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and arithmetic. There are creative and fun ways to drill and memorize, but learning is hard work.

So is teaching. Growing up with a teacher in the house, I saw the long hours of lesson preparation at home over and above the long hours spent at school. Teachers and students alike are already flirting with burnout by the end of the current school year. Adding three weeks to the school year won't help.

A state mandate to lengthen the school year and the school day would be missing the point. School districts have the right to lengthen the school year if they feel it would be beneficial and if their patrons are willing to fund the extra days.

There's already plenty of time to accomplish the task of learning what's needful. Before we add more time to the school year, let's make better use of the time we have.

Saint Augustine Academy's fall banquet, titled "Wisdom and Eloquence at the Renaissance" (the Renaissance Hotel, that is), was a wonderful event. People even thought the 25 minutes when I spoke went well; at least that's what they told me. It was a privilege to serve as the keynote speaker.

I'm used to writing for publication, where I can perfect the delivery of my thoughts before I actually "deliver" them to the reader. I'm used to speaking extemporaneously on whatever topic is thrown my way, as I do every Tuesday morning at 6:10 on KFAQ with Gwen Freeman and Chris Medlock. Giving a prepared speech is in some ways the worst of both worlds. There's a need to be conversational and engaging and to "read the room" (a challenge when everyone is sitting at banquet tables a great distance away). At the same time, there's a need to choose words with great care, something that can't be done spur of the moment. I'm afraid I wound up reading most of my speech.

I was preceded by the local chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, a 100-voice gospel choir sound produced by about 15 singers. They were a fitting and rousing introduction to my talk, which I announced as "Tax Increment Financing: The Benefits and the Risks." (Another dad told me afterwards he was sort of hoping I would talk about TIF districts. I told him to read my column in this coming Wednesday's Urban Tulsa Weekly. Or you could read about them here.)

Later we had the pleasure of listening to testimonials from Caleb Gayle, class of '07, and Leah Farish, whose daughter Colleen graduated from SAA. Both spoke about the excellent preparation that SAA gives to its students to prepare them to think and to contend for the truth. (Colleen served in Congressman Sullivan's Washington office and as an intern in the White House speechwriters' office. She served as a scheduler and constituent services assistant for Texas State Rep. Dan Gaddis in the last legislative session. You can read about her post-SAA background in the resolution passed by the Texas House thanking her for her service.)

Kirk Post, the principal and one of the founders of SAA, then spoke eloquently about the school's distinctive qualities, and Dr. Larry Ehrlich, the school's administrator, closed out the evening with an appeal for funds to support the school's programs.

At some point, probably not until after the weekend, I'll post the audio of my talk. In the meantime, several people asked me about some of the anecdotes and quotes I used and the books I mentioned, so here are some links to point you in the right direction. (You'll find many of them in the linkblog, which is on the left sidebar of the main page. I used the linkblog to bookmark quotes of interest as I worked on the speech.)

The anecdote I opened with came from the blog of the Dallas Observer, in an item by Julie Lyons, "How Jesus Found Dawn Eden Goldstein". Here's a link to Dawn Eden's blog and the website for her first book, The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On.

You can read G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. You can also download the book in various formats.

Dorothy L. Sayers' essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning," may be read on the Saint Augustine Academy website. As I mentioned in my talk, it's one of the foundational documents for the present-day effort to recover classical education. In the essay, she explains the concept of the trivium and its suitability to the ways children learn at different stages in their growth. I'll give you one paragraph to whet your appetite for more:

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and the radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area? Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?

"Today" in that quote was in 1947.

The Joel Belz quote came from his May 13, 2006, WORLD Magazine column, "Confessing Our Weaknesses." (For some reason, I was able to Google into the full article, but following my own link, I only get the opening paragraphs.)

Although I didn't quote directly from it, I was helped by this Susan Olasky column from 2001.

The Gene Veith quote was from an interview about homeschooling and classical Christian education on The Old Schoolhouse website.

I mentioned the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA), a free-market think-tank leading the effort for school choice in Oklahoma. Here's a recent column by OCPA's Brandon Dutcher, reminding us that, "Yes, school choice is alive and well in Oklahoma--if you can afford it. Simply pay tuition to a private school, or buy a house near the public school of your choice. If you can't afford it, well, sorry. No exceptions."

UPDATE: Here are several audio excerpts:

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has developed a 60-question civics quiz, and you should give it a whirl. Here's how they describe the test:

Each question included was intended to test important knowledge. Working with a distinguished board of professors from around the country and outside reviewers, we identified 60 themes that appear in the first column of the following table. This listing illustrates the range of ideas tested in American history (questions 1-17), American government and political thought (18-31), international affairs (32-47) and the market economy (48-60). The themes consist of basic civic knowledge or concepts, not obscure or arbitrarily selected knowledge.

It's multiple choice, and each question has five choices. 70% is the average so far among those taking it on the Internet.

I aced it, to my surprise. There were a few where I wasn't positive about the right answer, but I was able to eliminate all the other answers.

Take the quiz first, then read on below.

They've tabulated the results among college freshmen and college seniors at 50 colleges and universities. The most missed question among freshmen and seniors had to do with the traditional criteria for a just war; only 16% and 19% got the answer right, respectively.

Only five questions cracked 80% in either group. They had to do with (in descending order) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Cold War and the USSR, the inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration, the New Deal, and Brown v. Board of Education.

(Via Wizbang.)

I'm honored to have been selected as the featured speaker for this year's fall banquet for St. Augustine Academy, to be held on Friday, October 26, at 6:30, at the Renaissance Hotel in Tulsa. The theme of the event is "Wisdom and Eloquence at the Renaissance" -- I hope I manage to live up to the title with my speech.

I can't provide a better description of the school than this paragraph from their website:

St. Augustine is a small, independent, Christian classical school dedicated to training students to take the lead in their personal lives, in their educations, and in their communities. St. Augustine boasts a climate that is truly conducive to the free exchange and development of ideas. At SAA education is built on the best traditions of our academic, intellectual, cultural, and moral heritage, allowing the student to shape their future in a setting that is both challenging and supportive.

You can learn more about the school's distinctives on this page.

The school is relatively young (just 10 years old), but in that time they've turned out many sharp young people who are well-trained in mind and spirit. The banquet is an excellent opportunity to learn about the school, as you'll hear brief testimonials from alumni and parents. I think you'll be impressed.

The cost is $25 per person. Monday, October 22 is the last opportunity to buy tickets for the event. For more information, contact the school at 832-4600.

My friend and fraternity brother Jim Reisert writes to let me know about a recent story in Computerworld about how Tulsa's Monte Cassino School is solving the problem of providing adequate and backed-up disk space for faculty and students.

Monte Cassino, a Catholic K-8 school, is paying a hosted storage service called School Web Locker, which will give each 7th & 8th grade student 100 MB of space, and a gigabyte to each faculty member.

"We knew this year [students] would be creating movies and doing other things, [so] they needed a lot more space," she said. The hosted offering "resonated with me as easy to manage," Stutsman said, adding that "we had problems with kids' files disappearing a lot last year. [The new system] would relieve a lot of that."

School Web Lockers also includes chat, calendaring and collaboration capabilities, she noted. In addition, the hosted system lets school administrators monitor and track all files uploaded to the system and enables them to lock out individuals for misuse.

And there's no need for boltcutters if someone forgets their combination or tries to use the locker to conceal contraband.

The system also includes password access that students must share with their parents, she said. The system also scans all files uploaded to School Web Lockers servers for potential viruses using Sophos PLC's security software and default controls, said Kelly Agrelius, marketing associate for School Web Lockers.

A school official estimates the system will cost them about a dollar per user per year.

I'm stunned by today's banner headline article on the front page of today's Whirled. Here's the headline:

Test results spike after change

The story breathlessly tells of "remarkable results":

The statistical leaps being reported by area districts in the percentage of students deemed proficient in Algebra I are staggering -- up 51 percentage points in Glenpool, more than 60 percentage points in Sapulpa and 44 percentage points in Broken Arrow.

In Tulsa Public Schools, the percentage of students deemed proficient in Algebra I at Washington High School jumped from 17 to 86 percent, and Memorial High School's numbers went from 9 to 50 percent.

What change caused these results? A return to traditional methods of instruction? Better control of classroom behavior?

Nope. They just lowered the passing grade. Instead of needing to answer 41 questions out of 55 to be deemed proficient, now students only need to answer 26 out of 55 questions. In percentages, the passing grade was dropped from 75% correct to 47% correct. A student who gets as many answers wrong as right still is deemed proficient in Algebra.

What might be motivating this change in standards?

End-of-instruction exams are given to secondary students in Oklahoma in four subject areas, but only the results for the Algebra I and English II tests are used to gauge overall student achievement under state and federal school accountability systems.

They lower the standard and more students are able to meet the lowered standard. I'm just amazed that the Whirled would think that's worth a banner headline.


Retired algebra teacher Michael Phillips comments on the Whirled website about the use of competency tests:

I am a retired Tulsa Public Schools teacher, who taught mostly algebra through out my career. I dreamed of someday seeing end-of-instruction exams in my classroom. There was a time in the mid 80s when Tulsa had a version of this. We were required to give what we called Competency Tests to each student in any high school level math class. Those students who passed were given the grade the teacher believed they earned through their course work. Those who failed the Competency Test failed the course. This system worked out well for those teachers who were demanding of their students. It was disaster for those teachers who offered little or no instruction and things were even worse for the students in their classes. The Tulsa Board of Education did away with these tests after a few years because too many parents were complaining about their children, who appeared to be doing well all year long and then suddenly failed their algebra course. I was of the opinion that they should have gotten rid of the do-nothing teachers, and kept the tests.

Much easier to fudge the numbers than to fix the problems that the numbers are revealing. It's like taking your child's temperature, finding out he's running a 102° fever, and instead of taking him to the doctor, re-marking the thermometer so it reads 98.6.

TRACKBACK: Stan Geiger says it's an example of the "media leg of the political-educational complex at work."

Our great "heroes of the classroom" have moved to increase the number of passing students by lowering the bar. And one of the biggest newspapers in the state offers no criticism. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The way this story is written and its placement on the page are worth scrutiny. While the facts that reveal the number-fudging are in the story, they aren't called to the reader's attention in the headline or lead. The skimming reader may come away with the impression that Commissar Sandy Garrett has worked an educational miracle.

Regent Open House

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Regent Preparatory School of Oklahoma, a classical Christian school in Tulsa, is holding an open house tonight beginning at 7 p.m. for parents interested in the kind of education the school offers. The evening includes a chance to tour the school, visit classrooms, meet teachers and parents, see a video presentation of special school activities, and hear a discussion of the school's philosophy and approach to education.

Regent's new campus is located at 8621 S. Memorial Drive; park and enter on the south side of the building. Call 918-663-1002 for more information.

UPDATE: Brandon Dutcher reminds me about Pat McGuigan's profile of Regent Preparatory School, which appeared in the OCPA's April 2003 newsletter:

In our conversation, I discerned ways in which this institution separates itself from some other private schools where much of the emphasis seems to lie in separation from modern culture and its problems. Regent’s leaders and teachers view the school not as a retreat from the "real world," but as a place to prepare children for that world—and for the life beyond this one.

See also Gene Veith's article from that same newsletter on the resurgence of classical education in America.

Nail Yale*

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Yale University has admitted as a special student Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, who had been a high-ranking official in Afghanistan's brutal Taliban regime. John Fund had the story in the Wall Street Journal, writing of his spring 2001 encounter with Rahmatullah:

After a meeting in which he defended the Taliban's treatment of women and said he hadn't seen any evidence that their "guest" Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, I felt I had looked into the face of evil.

I walked Mr. Rahmatullah out. I will never forget how he stopped at a picture window and stared up at the World Trade Center, which terrorists had failed to destroy in 1993. When I finally pried him away, I couldn't help but think, He must have been thinking about the one that got away.

In his latest column, Yale alumnus Clinton W. Taylor relays a creative way for alumni and others to protest Yale's action. In honor of the Afghan women who had fingernails pulled out by the Taliban for the crime of wearing fingernail polish, Taylor calls on us to send press-on nails to the school's president and head fundraiser. Taylor helpfully provides addresses for the recipients of your nail snail mail, and suggestions for more worthy recipients of what you would have given to Yale's alumni fund this year. And he encourages you to mail these tips along with the nail tips:

Feel free to point out the hypocrisy of Yales decision to admit Sayeed Rahmatullah Hashemi, who supported a regime that killed homosexuals, stoned women, tortured/killed many, and destroyed Buddhas, even though Yale keeps ROTC off campus and files briefs with the Supreme Court protesting the militarys right to recruit on campus.

I'm sure Yale administrators won't appreciate it, but I appreciate it when alumni like Taylor use what leverage they have to exert pressure on our elite academic institutions counter to the prevailing forces of political correctness and Western cultural suicide.

(* I know, somebody else beat me to this headline, but I thought of it as soon as I read the e-mail alerting me to Taylor's article, before she posted it over there. Really. And if my first idea was identical to that of an award-winning headline writer, there wasn't much point in trying to come up with a better one.)

It's the golden age of the autodidact.

An increasing number of universities are making course materials available online for free. The materials can't be used for course credit, but they are available for one's personal enlightenment and enrichment. Two institutions where I gained some higher learning offer online course material.

First, there's the MIT OpenCourseware program.

For example, the Urban Studies and Planning department offers materials from well over 50 undergraduate and graduate courses, with syllabi, reading lists, lecture notes, and assignments. Their introductory course, 11.001J, looks like an excellent, well, introduction, to the history, terminology, and trends of urban planning.

The Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department offers everything I took in my undergraduate program, including the four foundational courses taken by all Course VI undergrads (Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Circuits and Electronics, Signals and Systems, Computation Structures); Artificial Intelligence; Automata, Computability, and Complexity. They even have Strobe Lab, including the required lab experiments (student must supply own stroboscope, rifle, ammunition, and target objects).

Back in the early '90s, our church offered extension courses from Covenant Theological Seminary, and I took about a half-dozen until our church dropped out of the program. Covenant, in St. Louis, was founded in 1956 as the seminary of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), a denomination which, through a couple of mergers, became part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which denomination the seminary now serves. (There's a newer EPC, founded in the 1980s, which has no connection with the earlier denomination.)

Anyway, Covenant Worldwide offers materials from the 20 courses that would constitute the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program if you were taking the courses on campus. For each course there is lecture audio in MP3 format, plus lecture notes in PDF format, and a list of recommended reading materials.

I can highly recommend Ancient and Medieval Church History and Reformation and Modern Church History, both taught by Prof. David Calhoun. One of my fond memories about his lectures is that he always began with a prayer written in the age he is covering in the lecture.

The Francis Schaeffer course is interesting, too -- not only because it's about the background, life, and work of the renowned evangelical writer, but because the milestones of his life were the milestones that shaped modern evangelicalism, from the fundamentalist/modernist controversy in the '20s, through the break between separation-minded fundamentalists and evangelicals in the '50s, to the beginnings of Christian political activism in the late '70s.

I've never heard his lectures on theology, but Robert Peterson served as pulpit supply at our church during two periods when we were between pastors, and he's a wonderful teacher. His course, Humanity, Christ, and Redemption is online.

Many thanks to TulipGirl for the tip.

Bring back trade schools

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Sarah Beth has some sensible things to say (here and here) about higher education: Let's stop pretending that most college students are getting a broad, liberal education and recognize that for most students, even in the finest universities, college is little more than vo-tech, except that it takes longer and costs more.

Just now learned about this website, Operation: Information, which has a voter's guide for today's school board election in the Union school district. The site belongs to a group called Oklahomans for School Accountability.

More on the vo-tech board race


After my entry last week about Tulsa Tech Board member Jim Baker's reelection campaign, and after mentioning him again this morning on KFAQ, I've heard from some friends who have positive things to say about Baker's challenger, O. M. "Bud" Sanders, Jr. I'm told that he's anti-recall, which is good, and that he would be the first board member in a very long time to be first elected to office, instead of getting on the board by appointment.

I haven't received any info by e-mail from him yet, but would be happy to post it when it comes in. In the meantime, he can be reached at 446-5194 or on his cell phone at 633-5032 if you have questions for him. His e-mail address is

UPDATE: Here's Sanders' website from his previous campaign for State House. My wife spoke to him and said that he was concerned that there hasn't been an election for this seat in over 15 years, as board members have been appointed to fill vacancies but haven't faced opposition at election time. He also feels that it is wrong that Tulsa Technology Center is getting away from serving high schoolers (the original purpose of the Vocational-Technical education system) and trying to be more of a community college on a padded budget.

Greg and Susan Hill have put together a comprehensive guide to Tuesday's school board elections around the Tulsa area, complete with the names and phone numbers of all the candidates, and the precincts voting in the Tulsa County school board districts. (I converted their Word document to HTML -- unfortunately, the conversion made the tabs come out funny. Sorry.)

The Hills urge voters to call candidates and ask them their positions on the issues. School board elections are traditionally low turnout, and if enough reform-minded voters turned out to vote for a reform-minded candidate, some positive changes could be accomplished.

As I promised -- if Tulsa-area school board candidates will send me their contact information and something about their candidacy, I'll post it, in advance of next Tuesday's school board elections. Here's the first and only candidate who's taken me up on the offer so far.

Dr. Jim Baker is the incumbent member of the Tulsa Technology Center Board of Education for Office 7.

First, here is Dr. Baker's contact information: Phone number 918-299-3491, e-mail is

You'll find his bio after the jump.

I received the information from Jonathan Goodwin, someone I met when I was helping to make get-out-the-vote effort at Tulsa County Republican HQ. Jonathan is now working with Dr. Baker's campaign, and he tells me that Baker, a two-term incumbent, is the conservative candidate in the race. He pointed out that Baker's opponent, Bud Sanders, ran in 2002 as a Democrat in State House district 68 against Chris Benge, the Republican incumbent. In that race, Sanders supported a general tax increase and was endorsed by the unions and the Tulsa Whirled.

Textbook payola


Donald Luskin posts a message from reader Jameson Campaigne about corruption in textbook purchasing decisions. Some excerpts:

At a meeting of the nuns who chose elementary reading texts for the diocese schools in Chicago some decades ago, the head honcho nun praised a look-say basal reading series that nearly destroyed American literacy, and a voice from the back of the room quipped, "C'mon Sister, we know they buy you a new car every year!" ...

The cartel even conspires to prevent competition by lobbying through state laws which say, roughly, no state money can be spent on a textbook series with a copyright older than "X" years. In other words, a tried-and-true textbook series which really teaches kids how to read -- like that of the small firm Open Court, which consequently was forced to sell its superb program to McGraw Hill -- has to be scrapped or completely revised every "X" years, at the cost of $20+ million, an amount only the giants can afford.

The reasonable desire for every child to have his own textbook, combined with a belief that newer is better, provides fertile ground for textbook profiteers. Campaigne makes the point that centralized purchasing decisions make a publisher's job easier: Instead of having to convince someone in every school district to buy its books, it can target its marketing campaign (and possibly bribery) on a handful of individuals in each state. He advocates eliminating federal involvement in education and reducing the state role to administering tests and providing funds in the form of vouchers, so that parents can reward the schools that perform best. Campaigne quotes Wheeler's Law: "The way to get rid of corruption in high places is to get rid of the high places."

Textbook publishers don't make any money if schools are content with the books they have. It becomes essential for the publisher's bottom line to encourage new research revealing that their previous edition is inadequate and must be replaced. Universities are happy to receive funding to conduct such studies and to reach the conclusions desired by their sponsors. The mainstream media turns a blind eye to all this because many media conglomerates include a textbook publishing division.

Parents and children just want something that works.

Hat tip to Ace of Spades, who linked to that article, commenting on President Bush's failure to communicate clearly on this issue:

But Bush has this tendency to speak in shorthand, and it gets him into trouble. This person actually supported Bush's call to return to older, more effective ways of teaching children to read, but because he didn't make a very strong effort to explain what phonics was, this person thought he was calling for some newfangled and untested pedagogy. When in fact he was doing the opposite: calling for a rejection of the newfangled pedagogy, now tested and found wanting, and calling for a return to the old ways of teaching reading, the exact methods she favored.

Bush is the Great Miscommunicator, alas.

For speaking in shorthand, no one could beat Bob Dole, who chose to deliver all his 1996 campaign speeches in Senatese. It's easy to forget that not everyone is working from the same frame of reference.

Soft bigotry


A search for "slimy" and "Rhodes Scholar" turned up this item. Baldilocks tells the story of an educated and successful young black man who wanted to give back to his community and applied to teach in the metro Atlanta area. He was turned down -- here's part of the rejection letter:

"Though your qualifications are quite impressive, I regret to inform you that we have selected another candidate. It was felt that your demeanor and therefore presence in the classroom would serve as an unrealistic expectation as to what high school students could strive to achieve or become. However, it is highly recommended that you seek employment at the collegiate level; there your intellectual comportment would be greatly appreciated. Good luck."

Appalling -- read the whole thing.

(Oh, there was just an incidental Rhodes Scholar reference in the comments.)

Brian Micklethwait reports on Samizdata that the British free-market think-tank Civitas is nurturing the development of a chain of local and affordable private primary schools, called the New Model Schools.

A look at their curriculum reveals that their approach is similar to that of the classical Christian school movement in the US. They will be drawing on proven techniques for teaching basic skills, using direct instruction rather than the "child-centred discovery approach" favored in state schools. Storytime will draw on the best of Western culture -- "Bible stories, classic myths and legends, and other traditional tales" -- to build cultural literacy, including a basic knowledge of history and geography. Discipline will be grounded in Judeo-Christian ethics:

The New Model School has no problem with the idea that there are immutable moral laws and that, even with well-behaved children, there will always be a need for sensible rules....

The New Model School will be Christian in ethos, and will treat Judaeo-Christian ethics as an authoritative set of principles to be aspired to, rather than simply as one lifestyle choice among others.

During "reception year" -- for six-year-olds apparently -- the children will be in school three hours a day. By the end of the year, they will have learned phonics and high frequency sight words, and will be able to read a complex sentence. They will also be able to add and subtract two-digit numbers.

Their approach to education means you don't need extensive and expensive facilities like a pool or a computer lab or a campus. Local school organizers will be responsible to find an affordable place to hold classes. The aim is to keep the cost per pupil for reception year below £1000 (about $1800) a year.

The only thing I see missing is a hands-on component, something Regent Preparatory School (my son's school) provides through nature studies and art and music classes. This aspect of learning is emphasized in classical Christian schools influenced by the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason.

It is wonderful to see a think-tank going beyond simply making recommendations for government action and instead stimulating and guiding private action to fill a glaring societal need. As these schools are established and prove their worth, they should create pressure for public schools to drop the educational fads they've been embracing. In the meantime, British society needs the kind of educated citizens that these schools should produce if it is to have any capable civic leadership in the future.

Yesterday I posted some educratic bilge from 20 years ago:Larry Zenke, then superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, defending declining test scores by saying that knowing things wasn't really important anymore, and teachers would no longer be "disseminators of cognitive information". I closed by writing, "I suspect that Zenke's ideas are now mainstream among public education administrators, but perhaps better disguised behind a veil of Educanto."

A reader whose daughter takes French at a Tulsa high school writes and confirms my fears. [Identifying info has been redacted.] "This is what I received back from [my daughter's French teacher]. I was concerned when my daughter was complaining that they have not been studying or learning any French yet. I did figure that she was stretching it a bit but I was surprised at the answer I got back from the teacher as to why. Am I just out of the loop?"

Here is the answer he got back from the teacher:

On the first day of school, the students were given a course expectancy sheet with a copy of the syllabus on the back side. They were asked to read and sign the sheet and to have their parents/gardians read and sign it also and return it the next day. It was their first homework assignment. [Your daughter] has hers, signed, in her notebook.

The theme for the year is Discovery. The concept for the first 6 weeks is systems. Then the concepts are perspectives, celebrations, economics, exploration and adaptation.

The training I received this summer on the Tulsa Model for School Improvement stressed the importance of accessing the knowledge that students already have about the themes and concepts and then building on it. Building the background knowledge they will need for the new learning, introducing the themes and concepts is to be done in broad generalizations that they can apply to their lives now and in the future before it is "narrowed" for specific classroom use. After a summer of asking the experts what they would do/how they would do it, I decided to introduce the new learning in English to enable the students to more easily and quickly grasp the concepts that we will be using. New strategies and techniques are to be non-academic the first time the students use them to allow them to concentrate on learning the new strategies and techniques before they are used academically. To this end, I have been teaching the 7 Learning
Community Guidelines and the Life Skills, class and team building activities to teach the new strategies and structures. Teachers are also expected to teach students about the 8 Multiple Intelligences and how they learn best, the 7 Learing Community Guidelines and the 18 Life Skills which are the basis of the Tulsa Model discipline plan. This is what we have spent the first several weeks concentrating on.

What has been "French" in the classroom:

The day, date, month and classroom directions are given in French. We have reviewed classroom objects. The 7 Learning Community Guidelines and Life skills have been translated into French. The colors (used for learning preferences and communication styles) have been learned in French, also. Since we have been working with the names of the colors in French, the students have created a pattern book about the colors in French that will be read and donated to a local elementary school. This meets the community service/social action component of the Tulsa Model and satisfies the PASS objective of using the foreign language outside of the classroom in the community. The quiz on the colors was 10/3. The students saw a video on the French impressionist artist Edgar Degas when I had to have a substitute for a professional development day. The students evaluated how effectively Degas, the ballerina and Degas' housekeeper used the Life Skills and what the students would have done in the same situations.

We have been working on class and team building activities and stressing mutual respect and attentive listening since research proves that students learn best in cooperative groups. Sadly, most students do not know how to work effectively in a group and these skills must also be taught. What does this have to do with learning French? It is setting the background for the rest of the year and the rest of their lives. It is also part of the Tulsa Model for School Improvement that I am expected to teach the students in addition to teaching them French.

I am doing my best to integrate into the curriculum everything that I am expected to teach the students in addition to teaching them French and to do so in a brain-compatible manner. (This includes using music and movement activities.) The Multiple Intelligences, the Learning Styles, the 7 Learning Community Guidlines, the Life Skills, how to work effectively with others and so on fit best at the beginning of the year. I am open to suggestions on a better, more effective way to accomplish what is expected of me.

I hope this addresses your concerns.

Yow! That really is appalling. This isn't the raving of some rogue teacher, imposing her own nutty ideas on her defenseless pupils, but a teacher trying to do what her school district has trained and instructed her to do. This is the "Tulsa Model for School Improvement".

This approach to teaching is ill-suited to learning a foreign language, which is, I believe, the point of a French class. Learning French in America means learning sounds and words with which you have no personal experience. (It would be different for an English-speaking student in Quebec.) Learning a language has nothing to do with grasping big ideas and key concepts. It's about learning spelling and pronunciation and verb forms and sentence structure -- many little details that you just have to learn. J'ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont. Yes, a good teacher will draw on the student's experience to help explain concepts or teach vocabulary words, but much of a foreign language is by definition foreign and just has to be learned by heart. Yes, a good teacher will draw on different techniques to help students with different learning strengths, but memorization, learning by ear, and learning by sight are essential to learning a language well enough to use it.

This sort of thing is why my wife and I are willing to spend the money to send our son to a private school, where they still have the idea that school is about learning facts.

(UPDATED 2008/01/21 to replace broken link with a working link to the Wayback Machine.)

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