September 23, 2014
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My take on the news
How to keep students in line? ...fine them!!
Lonnie Barham

HIGH STAKES TESTING: Critics of the requirement that high school students must demonstrate partial proficiency in math, reading and writing before graduation blame standardized tests for discriminating against unprepared students. Keep in mind, the graduation requirement isn’t that students demonstrate proficiency on the tests; they only have to show partial proficiency. This already gives students a tremendous advantage that is totally unfair to future employers. What if the medical profession required prospective doctors to achieve only partial proficiency on licensing tests? What if airline pilots only had to demonstrate partial proficiency in landing a plane? It is high time our high school students are held to a graduation standard that will ensure America has qualified workers – not a whole generation of partially proficient employees.

STUDENT FINES: A network of 10 Chicago charter schools levies fines on students who violate school rules. Students receive demerits for infractions, with four demerits in a two-week period leading to a $5 fine and a detention. Twelve detentions in a year require behavior summer school costing $140. The schools collected $190,000 in fines last year. The schools contend the program “…helps keep small problems from becoming big ones.” It works! These schools, comprised mostly of inner city, low-income students, average only one fight per year, while other Chicago schools suffer multiple fights weekly. The students also have higher than average ACT scores and 90 percent go on to college. Critics say the rules are nit-picking and lead to unproductive badgering of students. One critic said, “It’s not normal to treat a young adult as a 2-year old … kids internalize that.” That’s exactly the point! The rules and the consequences for breaking them are meant to be internalized to teach students they must live by rules to succeed in college and in life. This leading-edge concept has tremendous potential and should be widely adopted – especially here in Rhode Island.

NO QUICK FIXES: Are you sick of hearing President Obama say “there are no quick fixes” again and again? That’s his typical response, or his excuse, for every question about how he might help fix a problem. The latest is his response to our energy crisis. With gas prices approaching $4 per gallon and probably destined for $5, Obama’s main response/excuse is “there’s no quick fix” for the problem. Well, he is certainly to blame for rejecting a partial fix – the Canada to Texas pipeline he nixed. And his restrictions on oil drilling in the U.S. and offshore add to the problem. Stop with the excuses, Mr. President, and admit you are a huge part of the problem.

ZOO’S WHITE-CHEEKED GIBBON: It seems Gloria, the Roger Williams Zoo’s white-cheeked gibbon, has suddenly become lethargic and slow moving for no detectable medical reason. Both human doctors and veterinarians have conducted numerous tests on the human-like primate and can find nothing wrong. Could it be that, after giving birth to five babies – all of whom were taken from her and given to other zoos, Gloria is finally succumbing to terminal sadness?

AIRPORT RUNWAY EXTENSION: It’s simple. All the state has to do to induce the Warwick City Council to settle the runway extension issue out of court is for the governor and the General Assembly to significantly increase state funding to Warwick for hosting the airport – the huge economic engine that benefits the entire state but adversely affects only Warwick. Warwick could then alleviate many of the problems associated with airport expansion, so long as the airport does its share by correcting problems under its control – especially those involving environmental damage related to pollutant runoff.

STOP LEGISLATIVE GRANTS: The RI Supreme Court will soon determine whether Republican legislators have standing to sue the Democrat leadership of the General Assembly over the $2 million per year handed out through legislators as grants to non-profit groups. The grant money is usually spent on worthy causes but the program has little oversight, the specifics are never included in the budget, and the grants are not approved by the General Assembly; the grant money is treated purely as the political bank account of the Speaker and the Senate President. The grants are used by legislators to curry favor among voters in their districts. In essence, it’s using taxpayers’ money to help buy the next election. It seems intuitive that legislators have standing to bring suit since the taxpayers they represent are injured by the expenditure of their tax dollars without legislative vote or sufficient oversight, especially when it is spent to help ensure the re-election of incumbents.

NASA AND MANKIND’S GREATNESS: Last week marked the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s Earth-orbiting space flight in a little ship named Freedom 7. The date serves to remind us of the national fervor that surrounded the space race and how the entire U.S. population came together in pursuit of one uplifting goal – to land a human on the moon. All Americans – rich, poor, educated and self-taught – banded together. We truly believed in ourselves. With hard work, intelligence, innovation and teamwork, mankind could transcend centuries of superstition and achieve something almost magical – the feat of entering God’s province and treading on another heavenly body. And we did it! We proved Americans could reach any goal so long as we believed in ourselves. The moon landing was symbolic of our self-confidence as a nation, a self-confidence that would lead our country to further greatness as we created new medicines, invented the Internet and the space shuttle, and led the western world in its quest for universal democracy. It lasted through the Reagan presidency and the break-up of the Soviet empire. Then we seemed to give up. It is a travesty that our country has lost the will to pursue magnificent achievements through space exploration – pursuits that would likely return our self-confidence and our willingness to again lead mankind toward greatness. Alas, with our government spending and taxing us into bankruptcy, mankind’s noble dream of roaming the stars is now only a pipe dream.


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