Tulsa: October 2003 Archives

DNS weirdness


My hosting provider has moved to a new server, and I'm finding that there's some cyberspace confusion as the Domain Name Service (DNS) record for www.batesline.com is moved from pointing to one machine to pointing to another.

On the Internet, a diverse and diffuse system, such changes are not made instantaneously across the Internet from "Internet Central Control". (Internet Central Control doesn't exist. In fact, that is the key design feature of the Internet.) Instead, a change to the correspondence between a domain name (www.batesline.com) and a numeric Internet Protocol address ( -- the new address) spreads through the Internet like ripples through a pond, as one DNS server tells several others about the change.

Ultimately, your ISP needs to find out about the change, as does software in your own computer. At the moment, my computer at home and work still have batesline.com pointing to the old address, while my laptop is pointing to the new. This creates certain side effects -- I've posted to the blog from home, and it goes on the old server, but I don't see the post from my laptop, which is somehow pointed to the new server, which has the site as it was when the ISP moved my files over.

This will just be a weird couple of days, I'm afraid, until the DNS change is fully propagated, so bear with us. I will try to post to both old and new servers until the changeover is complete.

The good news is this -- the move to a new server is necessary because my hosting provider -- BlogHosts -- is doing a great job of providing affordable hosting, so they're winning lots of new clients. I recommend them highly.

Republicans saddle up and ride


Joe and I headed out to a barbecue Saturday night -- a fundraiser for the Republican State House Committee at the Kellyville ranch of Todd Hiett, five-term state rep, House Minority Leader, and the next Speaker of the State House (I hope). It was too chilly and windy, but we had a good time and great food anyway. (Dinner was sliced pork -- appropriate.)

Nearly all the Republican members of the State House were there, as were many candidates. Congressmen Ernest Istook and John Sullivan were there, along with Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune, and Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys. Another ex-Congressman was there as well, and a Democrat at that -- Clem McSpadden, rodeo announcer and lobbyist, who served eighteen years in the State Senate, and a single term in Congress (elected 1972) before an unsuccessful run for Governor in 1974.

The Congressmen and Mayors each had a chance to speak. Mayor LaFortune recounted a conversation at the OU-Texas game with Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- LaFortune described him as the leader of the competition -- who told LaFortune that nothing Oklahoma did to compete for jobs would matter until we dealt with our income tax and tort reform.

The highlight of the evening was the bullriding competition -- most of the state legislators got aboard a mechanical bull and tried to hang on for the prescribed time, as Clem McSpadden provided commentary. Kirk Humphreys took a spin on the bull as well. (The amateurs had a chance to ride earlier. I took a pass -- back problems -- but Joe rode it twice.)

There was some juicy political gossip floating around. There's a rumor that County Commissioner Randi Miller may face primary challenges next year from both proponents and opponents of Vision 2025. I'm told that the issue is not so much the sales tax election but a perception that she's timid and unwilling to make tough decisions. Her absence during the recent vote on raising county salaries (including her own) is cited as an example of trying to dodge politically tricky issues.

As the sun went down, the party wound down, and the conversations continued as Joe played hide-and-seek with some of the other boys.

I can't close without mentioning that on the way to and from the ranch, we passed the old Max Meyer spread -- the ruins of his native stone tourist cabins are still visible, on 66 just west of the 33 junction, just east of the Creek County Fairgrounds. (If you haven't read Lewis Meyer's book about his amazing father, you have missed a treat.)

The state Attorney General's office is holding seminars around the state this fall to help citizens and public officials understand the Open Meetings and Open Records act. These two acts are important tools in ensuring public access to the decision-making process. They have sometimes been misunderstood and abused -- for example, twisted to stifle public comment at public hearings, on the grounds that a citizen has brought up a topic not on the agenda. So it's important for ordinary citizens concerned about the way government is being run to educate themselves on their rights and the government's responsibilities.

Unfortunately, all the seminars appear to be outside the metropolitan areas and during working hours. Here's the schedule of remaining events:

Oct. 27 Ardmore Southern Oklahoma Technology Center
Oct. 29 Lawton Great Plains Technology Center
Nov. 12 Alva Northwest Technology Center
Nov. 14 Weatherford Weatherford Pioneer Center
Nov. 19 Claremore Rogers State University
Nov. 24 Ponca City Pioneer Technology Center
Nov. 25 Stillwater Meridian Technology Center
Dec. 8 Seminole Seminole State College
Dec. 9 McAlester Eastern Oklahoma State College

All seminars begin at 1 p.m. They are free, open to the public, and no reservations are required.

Change the charter?


One of the interesting items on the City Council agenda this week is consideration of proposed changes to the City of Tulsa's charter -- our City's constitution, which defines the structure of City government. Tulsa's charter was completely rewritten in 1989 and took effect in 1990, replacing a system of five elected commissioners acting as both executives and legislators with a "strong mayor, weak council" form of government, which vested all executive authority in the Mayor, and creating a relatively powerless City Council designed to provide representation for all parts of the city. The charter has rarely been amended. I've proposed a few changes in the past, mostly advocating for election reforms: non-partisan elections (a first round election, followed by a runoff if no one gets a majority), adoption of "instant runoff voting" when voting machine technology makes it practical.

The charter specifies that amendments will be put before the voters at the biennial general election. The Council sets the timetable for considering amendments, receiving suggestions from the public and from Councilors the summer before the election, then selecting some for which a draft amendment will be prepared by the City Attorney's office, and finally settling on which amendments will be put before the voters. Few amendments have made it all the way to the ballot, and of those that have, I think all of them have passed.

The proposals are scheduled to be discussed at this Tuesday's Council committee meetings (2nd floor of City Hall, 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.), and a public hearing will be held on November 6.

This year there were proposals to increase the Council's term from 2 years to 4, to make the City Auditor an appointed official, and to move city elections from the spring of even-numbered years to the fall of odd-numbered years. I haven't seen all the details yet, but I like the election date proposal and am skeptical of the others.

There are two good reasons to support moving the election date. The current election sequence culminates with the swearing-in on the second Tuesday in April. Within two months of taking office the Council must consider and approve a city budget for the coming fiscal year. New councilors have complained that there isn't enough time to get up to speed on such a complex document. The current schedule has new councilors taking their seats in the midst of the budget process, dealing with a budget largely shaped by their predecessors. Moving the elections back to the previous November -- swearing in could be that same month, December, or January 1 -- would give incoming councilors plenty of time to find their feet before budget crunch time.

It's been suggested that moving the start of the fiscal year to January would alleviate the problem and eliminate the need to move the election dates. But there's another great reason to move the election dates to the fall of odd years: It's better for grass-roots campaigning, putting the candidates in touch with the voters.

Door-to-door campaigning is important for a number of reasons. Candidates learn a lot about what matters to their constituents, often changing their preconceived set of priorities, and making them more effective representatives. Voters get a chance to talk to the candidates face-to-face, get their questions answered, and form an impression of a candidate unfiltered by the media or by the candidate's own publicity machine. And door-to-door campaigning is an equalizer -- you can knock doors even if you don't have the money for lots of direct mail or newspaper ads.

Currently the primary is the first Tuesday in February, leaving only four weeks to campaign for that hurdle -- no one will be paying attention before Christmas and New Year's Day. And that campaigning must be done during the darkest and coldest part of the year, with very little prime time for door-to-door campaigning between when people get home from work and when the son goes down. Although I've been blessed with unseasonably warm weather for most of my two campaigns, I did take a nasty spill on an icy driveway toward the end of the 2002 race.

A fall campaign enjoys warmer weather and plenty of sunlight, as most of it will be conducted during Daylight Savings Time, and during the late summer and the warmer part of autumn. Candidates will be able to start campaigning as early as they need to to allow them to meet as many prospective constituents as possible.

On appointing an auditor: By default, I'm skeptical of any proposal to make an elected official no longer elected. When Tulsa's charter was proposed, Bob Dick, who campaigned for the new charter, described the Auditor under the new form of government as the "anti-mayor", someone with enough power and scope to act as a check on the Mayor's power. It hasn't worked out that way, perhaps because of the man who has held the office since before the charter changed. Phil Wood is a dedicated public servant and committed to the ethics and principles of the auditing profession, but tempermentally he will never be an "anti-mayor". The proposed change would create a nine-member board, one member appointed by each councilor, to appoint the auditor. Advocates of this change believe it will make the auditor more responsive to the City Council and provide more of a counterweight to the Mayor.

I don't like the idea of longer terms for councilors either. I think running for election every two years helps keep councilors from becoming alienated from their voters -- at least it should, assuming the councilor has a strong challenger and has to work hard for re-election. I would also oppose staggered terms -- I think it's healthy to have a way to throw all the bums out at once. I hear that supporters of the idea believe that it would give councilors who wish to challenge the status quo more time to pursue reforms before the establishment comes after them in the next election. Again, I'm skeptical.

I'll add a link to the proposals once their available online.

If you're curious, Savannah has its municipal elections in the November of the year before the presidential election. The City Council consists of a Mayor, elected at large, two at-large councilors, and six councilors elected by district. Day-to-day, the city is run by the City Manager. All the councilors are up for election every four years. Elections are non-partisan -- everyone is on the initial ballot, and if no candidate gets more than 50%, a runoff between the top two contestants three weeks later. The election was in full swing during my visit, and the Mayor's race is a wide-open, six-candidate contest. The incumbent was term-limited out. Here's a link to the election coverage of the Savannah Morning News, and a link to Savannah city government's home page. The paper had nice things to say about all six mayoral candidates, but they favor Dicky Mopper, owner of a real estate company.

Parks website


A cool site -- if you've ever wondered where a particular Tulsa city park is, or where the nearest park is, the city has a clickable map on its website and a clickable lists of parks. Clicking on the park will bring up an aerial photo with the park outlined in color. Clicking on "Upper Haikey Creek" will reveal that said park is an undeveloped 40 acre tract between 71st & 81st east of Mingo and currently inaccessible by road. Hours of entertainment for map lovers and park lovers alike, and handy to find a park by name.

County Commission update


No time to elaborate -- hope to get time this weekend to provide you with a full report -- but the Curtis Killman's story (continued here) in the Whirled did a good job of capturing the essence of the meeting. The quotes from the former Mayor of Edmond are interesting:

Authority member Bob Dick said there was a "great deal of value with having a team that understands the government they are serving." But not all with experience in selling bonds believe sticking with past practices is always the best decision. Edmond city officials discovered they could save money in bond issuance costs if they considered proposals from other firms.

Former Edmond Mayor Randel Shadid, now a private attorney, said his city saved "a bunch of money" when officials decided in the early 1990s to test the market prior to issuing bonds.

Like Tulsa County, the Oklahoma City suburb for years used the same bond counsel and bond adviser. Shadid said "there are plenty of people out there that can provide those services that have the expertise. I guarantee you when you get them into a bidding war, it's a feeding frenzy."

How does that Lending Tree slogan go? "When banks compete, you win."

A browse through bondbuyer.com revealed that there are a number of other Oklahoma firms that serve as financial advisors and bond counsel on local government bond issues.

With at least half-a-billion to be financed, it would only take a tiny difference in interest rates and fees to make a huge difference to the bottom line. While I understand the desire to work with a familiar team, I'm disappointed that none of the commissioners chose to pursue competitive bidding for investment banking services.

More later.

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.)

If the previous entry got you riled up, if you believe that education ought to be about the development of understanding, knowledge, and judgment, and you want our local public schools to be engaged in that enterprise, you should consider running for school board. All too often school board races draw only one candidate, or an incumbent and a weaker opponent. Occasionally they draw no candidates at all. It's a shame because, in Tulsa, a school board term is four years long, and giving an incumbent a free pass means it will be a long time before there's another chance to replace him with a reform-minded board member. For the sake of public accountability, terms ought to be shorter, and all board members should be up for election at the same time.

In Oklahoma, school board filing period this year is December 1-3, but if you're going to make a serious run, you need to make a decision soon. Let me know if I can help.

Found this in the archives of the Underground Grammarian, as a result of a Google search on "Tulsa Tribune". The column sheds some light on the state of public education in Tulsa in the late '70s and early '80s. I'm quoting at length, but you still should go and read it all -- it's brilliant, and I don't say that lightly.

Indeed, we have to begin our sixth year with a couple of the most sickening documents we have ever seen. We found them quoted, and appropriately, although not sufficiently, derided, in an editorial in The Tulsa Tribune.

What documents? The Grammarian quotes one:

Students do not read, write and do arithmetic as well as they used to because they can get along quite nicely without these skills. . . . Americans are finding that they need to rely less and less on "basic skills" to find out what they want to know and what they want to do. Our basic skills are declining precisely because we need them less. [Peter Wagschal, Futurist, University of Massachusetts]

And the Grammarian comments:

YEAH. And that’s not all! Just you take a good look at the standard American dogs and cats. They live pretty damn well, tolling not, neither spinning, and they’ve never even heard of stuff like reading, writing, and arithmetic. They "do quite nicely without those skills," and so do tropical fish and baboons. And so, too, did black slaves and Russian serfs, and all those marvelously skillful and industrious ancestors of us all who gathered nuts and roots and killed small rodents with sticks. They all knew everything they needed to know.

Why was the Tribune interested in Massachusetts futurist Peter Wagschal? Because Larry Zenke, Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, brought him to town to help explain declining test scores.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa category from October 2003.

Tulsa: September 2003 is the previous archive.

Tulsa: November 2003 is the next archive.

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