Friday, March 20, 2009

"Ain't Nothing To Comment On"

Lone Star proud! Did you think that, in giving us the 2004 scandal that was the "Texas miracle," Houston explored the limits of our state's educational policy malfeasance? Or was that challenging standard definitively met and exceeded the next year, when the Texas Supreme Court had to strike down the state's blatantly unconstitutional system of school funding for the fourth time?

No, turns out we hadn't reached bottom yet, y'all. The Dallas Morning News reports that South Oak Cliff High in Dallas has plumbed the depths of educational disgrace, reinvigorated southern stereotypes, and set a new standard of shame for Texas schools, by officially instituting student cage fights as a combination disciplinary method and faculty spectator sport:

The principal and other staff members at South Oak Cliff High School were supposed to be breaking up fights. Instead, they sent troubled students into a steel utility cage in an athletic locker room to battle it out with bare fists and no head protection, records show.


Investigators found that security monitors routinely used "the cage" – a section of the boys basketball locker room barricaded by wire mesh and metal lockers – to force problem students to fight out their disputes.

In one incident documented by investigators, a security monitor tried to fight a student in the cage, but [former principal] Moten intervened and broke it up. In another incident, the report said, Moten told security staff to put two fighting students "in the cage and let 'em duke it out." According to the report, students told their teachers that they were "gonna be in the cage" over arguments with their peers.

Eudoxus thinks this might be something that could be implemented profitably in the graduate program.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

We Know Where You Live

Dana has the full scoop on this report prepared by U. of Iowa students for state legislators on the subject of homeschooling, but I was struck by this anxious little paragraph at the end, on the difficulties of enforcing intrusive regulations within private citizens' homes:
Little data exists on how often homeschooling laws go unenforced.... Furthermore, many states have no way of knowing if the information given by homeschools is accurate. For example, in Iowa there is no way to know if the attendance records are being accurately kept.
My! Really? If only there were some way to figure out if those homeschooled kids were actually showing up. In their homes. Where they live.

I know in this economy state budgets are tight, but surely we can find a way to fund school investigators to go to every homeschooling family's residence and inspect the attendance records. After all, it's for the children.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

UPDATE: pre-1985 children's books

Yesterday was our public library's yearly sale, at which they let the public buy, at unbelievably cheap prices, library discards (most of them in great condition) and books donated by the public. Many donations are of high quality; but the fact is that the public libraries simply don't want and can't store most of their donated materials.

This was an opportunity to see if the ban on pre-1985 children's materials had already been implemented, and the answer is: sort of.

Among the library discards, a few were pre-1985, and they were available on the shelves. I picked up a lovely out-of-print Carolyn Haywood, among other nice finds. Given that there were literally thousands of children's discards, it's not surprising that nobody was able to pick through them for publication date.

There were no donated children's materials available for sale, however. In the past, about a quarter to a third of the children's books were donated items: I've gotten some of the Offspringen's best books this way. There were still plenty of donated items shelved in non-children's areas (you can tell the donated items because they have no library markings), and a well-stocked "vintage books" section: but no donated children's books. Since there were certainly hundreds of children's books donated to the public library over the course of the year--the legislation banning the sale/distribution of pre-1985 children's books is quite recent, and only went into effect in February--I can't help wondering what happened to them all. The landfill, sadly, is the most likely option; the library can't afford to store unwanted materials in the hope that Congress might reconsider this ghastly and ill-advised legislation.