Texas Governor wants Textbooks Online

Sunday, April 11, 2010
"The Honorable Rick Perry (front right), ...Image via Wikipedia
This is a fairly progressive statement for then Texas governor. I am wondering why with all the controversy going on Gov. Perry wants textbooks online. Is it so they can more easily add creationist content to their textbooks?

Governor: Texas should move to online textbooks


Gov. Rick Perry proposed Wednesday that Texas abandon using traditional textbooks in public schools and replace them with computer technology.

"I don't see any reason in the world why we need to have textbooks in Texas in the next four years. Do you agree?" Perry asked participants at a computer gaming education conference in Austin.

During his wide-ranging speech, the governor offered some new ideas for boosting student performance and defended his education record. Perry, a Republican seeking re-election this year, also addressed a dispute with Democratic challenger Bill White over Texas' dropout rate.
Paper textbooks get out of date quickly, Perry said, sometimes even before they reach the classroom. He noted that since he took office in 2000, some schools have used textbooks saying Ann Richards was governor. She served from 1991-95.

Perry said using computer software to teach students allows the curriculum to be updated almost instantly and said children learn through technology, including math computer games.

"There's obviously opposition (to switching to totally computerized material), but there's always opposition to change," Perry said. He said the switch would have to be done cost effectively and that he didn't yet know whether such a move would save money. The governor said he wants to explore the proposal when the Legislature meets in 2011.

Rep. Mark Strama, an Austin Democrat who also attended the gaming conference held at Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s campus, said he's interested in pursuing that goal as well. He said lawmakers took a step in that direction last year by allowing schools to spend textbook money on electronic instructional materials.

This is the right time for schools to invest in technology, with Apple Inc.'s recent launch of the iPad and similar products that are likely to follow, Strama said.

Perry said students who have no computer at home may obtain access as technology keeps developing and costs come down. Strama said that's part of the answer, but that he sees a move away from textbooks as an opportunity to ensure that children have computers available.
"This is the way to solve the digital divide problem for children who don't have access to technology at home, because if every child is getting something like an iPad or a tablet (computer) that has all their instructional content on it, it also is something they can use for other purposes when they're at home," Strama said.

White's campaign said the Legislature already has given the State Board of Education authority to review some online materials and add them to the approved list for schools to use, but the state board hasn't done so. Spokeswoman Katy Bacon asked why Perry hasn't urged the education board chairman to speed up the process.

In his speech, Perry touched on Texas' high school dropout rate, acknowledging that there are improvements to be made. He repeated his suggestion that high school-age teens be required to be enrolled in a traditional school or a "virtual" school online before they can get driver's licenses.

There are different ways of calculating the dropout rate, and Perry and White dispute the numbers.

Perry's campaign says the dropout rate is 10 percent. White's campaign cites studies showing the rate may be higher, possibly above 20 percent. Bacon said Perry and state officials don't know what has become of about 30 percent of students who do not graduate or get a GED credential within 10 years.

"There's a whole category of kids that is simply lost in the last five years," Bacon said.

The Texas Education Agency says the high school dropout rate is 10.5 percent, according to a definition that all state governors have agreed upon. The four-year graduation rate is 79.1 percent, the agency says. That doesn't include dropouts, student who continue in high school for a fifth year and those who receive a GED.

Perry said White's method of calculating dropouts includes students who die before graduating.

"If a child dies they count that as a dropout. I think that's a little harsh," Perry said.

But the White campaign said statistics show the number of students who die doesn't account for the gap.
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Educating the Uneducated Texas SBoE

Saturday, April 10, 2010
Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis (D) District 13 attempts to educate the Texas SBoE in an editorial on the Houston Chronicle website.

Now's the time to educate State Board of Education


April 8, 2010, 8:19PM

We already know that the Texas Legislature will face a huge fiscal deficit when it meets in January. But it's clear now that legislators must also address a deficit of trust in the State Board of Education.

Parents have become increasingly concerned about state board members who seem more interested in promoting personal and political agendas in public schools than ensuring that our schoolchildren get a sound education. The last three months have once again highlighted why they are worried.
For nearly a year, teachers and scholars worked hard to craft new curriculum standards for social studies classrooms. Then in just two meetings in January and March, the state board shredded their work, making hundreds of ill-considered changes.

Things got so bad in January that even a Republican board member charged that her colleagues were simply “rewriting history.”

For example, political extremists who control the board changed the standards to suggest that Joseph McCarthy's political witch hunts in the 1950s were justified. They removed the concepts of “justice” and “responsibility for the common good” from a standard on good citizenship. They even claimed that women and minorities who struggled for equal and civil rights over decades owe thanks to the “majority” for finally gaining them.

Board members also exposed their own faulty and superficial research by removing Bill Martin — author of the popular children's book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? — from the third-grade standards. Some members mistakenly thought he was a different Bill Martin who wrote a book about Marxism.

The board's March meeting was not any better. Among scores of changes, the board deleted Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard on Enlightenment thinkers who have influenced political revolutions around the world. Board members said Jefferson, who was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and argued that “a wall of separation between church and state” is essential for freedom, didn't belong in the standard.

The board also rejected a proposed requirement that students learn why our nation's Founders barred government from promoting one religion over all others. Opponents claimed that the Constitution doesn't really protect religious freedom by keeping religion and government separate.

The board made all these changes without asking for the guidance of even one teacher or scholar at the meetings. Their contempt for real expertise could hardly have been clearer.

This kind of nonsense is not new. For years now, extremists on the board have turned issue after issue before them into a divisive, unnecessary “culture war” battle. Those battles reached a high pitch last year. Despite the pleading of world-class scientists in Texas — including Nobel laureates — and businesspeople worried about the education of their future employees, the board inserted creationist arguments against evolution in new science standards.

As the battle over evolution raged, legislators meeting in Austin considered more than a dozen bipartisan bills aimed at reining in the board's power. Many of those bills would have given authority to set curriculum standards and adopt textbooks to teachers and academic experts with the training and knowledge to make informed decisions.
I wrote two such bills and co-sponsored another along with three Republican senators. We warned that the state board's political warfare was recklessly undermining the education Texas students need to succeed in our modern economy. Indeed, putting ideological agendas ahead of education will make it harder for Texas to attract and keep the industries and jobs that our state needs to compete.

None of those bills passed the Legislature last session, but they should have served as a clear warning to the board about the limits of our patience with their irresponsible actions. We will certainly consider similar legislation this spring because Thomas Jefferson was right about the importance of public education. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization,” he wrote, “it expects what never was and never will be.”

Board members appear to have forgotten those words. It's time they were reminded.
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School Superintendent, Former Baptist Minister Resigns Over Relationship

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Although, this started almost a year ago in my own backyard I could not post about it because of my employers involvement in the case. Now that it is resolved here are some of the details as reported by CalCoast News reporter Karen Velie:
An investigation authorized by the San Miguel School Board resulted in charges for terminating Superintendent Dean Smith. Smith, 55 agreed to resign rather than face termination for an inappropriate relationship with a former student.

Smith, a former Baptist minister, recently left his wife of more than 30 years for a young woman he began “mentoring” while she was in the sixth grade. Supporters of Smith claim the relationship did not become intimate until after she turned 18.
Earlier this year, board members took their concerns to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department. The investigation, which included interviews with Smith, the young woman and her mother, concluded that nothing illegal occurred.
“We found no evidence of criminal activity,” said Rob Bryn, sheriff’s public information officer.

Smith, when principal of Templeton Middle School, first met and began spending time with the young woman when she was in sixth grade in about 2003. Smith continued his relationship with the girl after he left Templeton Middle School for his position as superintendent in San Miguel. The young woman graduated from Templeton High School in June, shortly after she turned 18 and in July, Smith took her to a San Luis Obispo County Office of Education board meeting. When some of his fellow area superintendents realized the teenager accompanying Smith was not his niece, they began questioning what Smith was doing there with the teenager.
Additional articles:

Scandal plagued school superintendent replaced

Details of superintendent’s relationship with student released

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Northwest Arkansas CoR Puts Up Billboard

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Monday, April 5, 2010
... to me.

Today No 2 Religion is one year old.

One year ago today I wrote my inaugural post, "Do Atheists Need Their Own Religion?". I wrote the post in response to a comment on "What is Atheism?" by Vjack at Atheist Revolution.

Here is the comment and reply that started it all:
In a comment to Vjack's post on What is Atheism?, David Hockey writes,
"History suggests that humans can’t manage without a religion of some kind. Religions give hope, console, provide support, suggest ways-to-behave that try to improve society, etc."
Atheists do not need a religion but I do I think what atheists need is a community. I say this because a need for community is what brought me to the atheist blogosphere.
So what has changed in the last year? Well, I have certainly found community, a lot of community. I have known for many years that I was an atheist but I never felt comfortable talking about it. However, joining and participating in the online atheist community allowed me to talk and learn about my atheism. I was shown that there are many, many others like me in world. I have allowed myself to be more open about my atheism with my family and my community.

A few months ago I joined a new local atheist Meetup group. It has been a fantastic experience and while we are still working on our mission we are looking forward to doing some good in our community.

Here are a few of my favorite posts from the past year:
Thanks to all my reader's and commenter's.
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Did God Send a Quake Because Catholic Sex Abuse?

Sunday, April 4, 2010
An earthquake rocked Mexico and parts of the South western U.S. today. So, it shouldn't be long before the evangelical's claim it was God's wrath. I am sure it will be claimed that the earthquake was because of homosexuality, pre-marital sex, masturbation or atheism. But, just once I would like them to say it was because of something the religious did. I can see the headline now, "Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron claim the earthquake in Mexico was because of the Catholic church's role in pedophilia". Hey, it could happen. NOT!
USGS Quake Info
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What are you doing for Easter Sunday?

Saturday, April 3, 2010
Easter MumImage by surfma via Flickr
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, what are your plans? Easter egg hunts, Easter baskets, family events?

Since tomorrow is Sunday I will be doing the same thing I do every Sunday, grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and household items at Target. In other words it is just another Sunday with no religious meaning.
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