This Week Is Secular Student Alliance Week 2013

image with the words SSA Week

This week the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) is celebrating the work the student affiliate groups do during the year with the “SSA Week 2013”. During the week some bloggers and other online voices will be posting special content to ask people to donate to the group. The SSA does special work and needs your support to keep the quality up and to reach more students.

Continue reading “This Week Is Secular Student Alliance Week 2013”

Toledo Blade columnist doesn’t understand how education system works

Anytime a state or school system has financial problems, conservatives tend to argue that teachers are paid too much and the system can’t get out of hock because of the big bad teachers union. Jack Kelly, a columnist with the Toledo Blade, goes back to that well to attack public employees in general and teachers and unions specifically.

In 2009, state and local government employees had total compensation packages that averaged $39.66 an hour, 45 percent more than the $27.42 an hour earned by workers in the private sector, according to a study by the Cato Institute.

Education is a good example. A whopping 27 cents of every state and local tax dollar goes to K-12 education. In 2008, according to the Center for Education Reform, $10,889 was spent per student in public schools.

Public employees make too much

Kelly is barking up the wrong tree for a couple of reasons.

Teaching is a profession and as such someone can’t be a teacher unless they graduate from college. It isn’t like making butter knives where someone off the street can be trained for a couple of weeks and do the job. In order for a teacher to get a raise they have to increase their education level. The teachers who make the most money are the ones who have the highest level of education themselves. Teachers can’t just pick up a teaching job in the private sector. Private schools that hire usually stick with new teachers with only the minimum education.

Education isn’t a factory where labor is merely a variable cost. We are talking about an important part of our lives, the education of our children. I don’t think any parent would want to outsource education on the cheap. Many towns and cities “value” is in part due to the quality of the schools. Those areas with “poor” schools don’t grow and improve. It is a lot cheaper to spend money on better schools than to build new roads.

Why is it teachers have to take the hit when a school is in money trouble? No one really talks about the administrators who make more than a teacher and we don’t hear about cutting the perks those administrators get like a car allowance for example.

It seems that went cuts are needed teachers and books get the ax first. That is insane since that is the reason the educational system exists – education – without teachers or books there isn’t education.

The argument against the teacher’s union is simply silly.

It takes two to tango. No school district is forced to sign a union contract with teachers. That goes for any entity signing a contract with any union.

I’ve taken classes on how to bust unions and I know if push came to shove a school district could get out of having the union contract. It would be messy but if the issue is serious enough to do it then they should. People like Kelly attack unions because they want a scapegoat and not show any responsibility to the other group that signs the contracts.

Let’s stop the hate on teachers and unions and deal with real ways to save money as long it doesn’t hurt the children or undercut education.

Heritage Christian principal tricks student into dancing

A student going to a private Christian school in Findlay was suspended after attending the Prom of the local public high school. It seems Heritage Christian School has a rule against rock music and dancing and it seems it applies even off campus during a student’s private time. In an ironic twist, the Principal of Heritage had to sign a form allowing the student to attend the event, then when the student did, the student was punished.

“Our stand on this issue should be of no surprise to the student or his parents,” Principal Tim England said in a statement. “For the parents to claim any injustice regarding this issue is at best forgetful and at worst disingenuous. It is our hope that the student and his parents will abide by the policies they have already agreed to.”

England said he has never known a Heritage Christian student to attend Findlay’s prom. He has been principal for 13 years.

Findlay High School requires students attending prom from other schools to get a signature from their principal.

England signed the form for Frost, but told him there would be “consequences” if he attended the dance, Frost said.

“I expected a short lecture about making the right decisions and not doing something stupid,” Frost said. “I thought I would get his signature and that would be the end.”

Instead, England took the issue to the School Committee, made up of church members, where they decided to suspend Frost.

“In life, we constantly make decisions whether we are going to please self or please God. (Frost) chose one path, and the School Committee chose the other,” England said.

Don’t go to prom, school tells teen published in the Findlay Courier 05/08/2009

No one said England had to sign the form especially if you didn’t want the student to go. But because he signed the form, he and the school gave up their authority to punish the student.

What kind of message is the principal sending the student by tricking him to violate the rules? I thought only the devil could tempt us mere mortals to sin.

Plagiarizing valedictorian learns nothing

There is a common value shared by many people that one should take responsibility for their own actions. That you should “own” all your actions or decisions – good or bad – the results of them.

Our legal system is based on that value that if you step over the line – whatever line it is – you should held accountable. Except if you are President George Bush – but that’s another story…

If you make a mistake there should be some negative result to you if it was your fault. If you drive drunk you should lose your licence. If you jay walk you should get a ticket. If you cheat you shouldn’t be rewarded. And on and on it goes….

There was a story in the news a couple of weeks ago where a local high school valedictorian was forced to give up his award because he plagiarized the speech he gave at graduation.

Melanio C. Acosta IV, the Circleville (Ohio) High School valedictorian, surrendered the title after admitting that most of his commencement address on June 1 came from a video called “The Perfect Beatles Graduation Speech”, a collage of song lyrics, that had been posted on the video site YouTube.

I remember saying to myself at the time “Good. He learned a valuable lesson. Take someone else’s words or ideas and there is a penalty to pay.”

Well, not so fast. It seems the real lesson he learned is that your parents will bail you out at anytime and you lose nothing.

The Circleville High School valedictorian who surrendered the title after admitting to lifting two-thirds of his commencement speech from a YouTube video won the honor of co-valedictorian today in a settlement with the school district.

Acosta’s 4.5 grade-point average ranks him first in his graduating class of 138. He relinquished his valedictorian title and wrote district officials an apology letter June 4 after admitting that he took most of his commencement address June 1 from a video called The Perfect Beatles Graduation Speech, a collage of song lyrics.

The parents of the 18-year-old, though, maintained that district officials had coerced him to write the letter and had told him what to say. They hired Lancaster lawyer D. Joe Griffith, who argued last week that Acosta had not committed plagiarism because he had credited the Beatles as the authors in his speech.

The agreement averts a lawsuit alleging slander, invasion of privacy and other claims against the district that Griffith had said he planned to file this week in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court.

Settlement restores Circleville valedictorian

Most dictionaries define plagiarism as the act of wrongfully taking another’s words, ideas, or the like, and representing them as one’s own. Acosta’s speech did credit The Beatles for the song lyrics but the person – Cassandra Malloy – who is thought to be the first who gave a speech called “The Perfect Beatles Graduation Speech” – had the idea to use the lyrics in the format presented. Acosta admitted to cribbing 2/3 from a 2nd version by another student also posted on YouTube. But it still sounds like plagiarism to me.

But this is not the first instance of parents bailing out a child who, in fact, did something wrong.

One school district had a run in with the parents of a high school student who had violated the school system’s “zero tolerance” policy. He was involved in a fight at school with another student. The boy didn’t start the fight but he was fighting – violating the rules. Both were given 10 day out of school suspensions.

His parents raised a big stink – including attending several school board meetings – to have the transgression expunged and their child allowed back in school. The school board caved.

I remember from my school days how a parent should support their child. They should take the good with the bad in the hopes the child learns a valuable lesson and becomes a better person.

I was in 3rd grade and got into yet another fight with my nemesis Brad S. Once again he pushed all my buttons and we ended up rolling around in the snow at recess and were then sent to the principals office.

Mr. Winemuller was very upset with me. He had warned me about fighting. He had reached the end of his patience. He told me that if I got into another fight he would need to use the paddle on me (this was the late 70’s when corporal punishment was still allowed). He brought out a huge wooden paddle with large holes to reduce air resistance – causing greater pain with less effort.

He sat the paddle on his desk and I remember it went *THUNK*. I gulped and promised I would never get into another fight. He accepted my plea, banned me from recess for two weeks, then let me out of the office.

When my Mom got home from work I told her the whole story. She was mad me for getting into trouble – again – and mad at the school. She took time off work to visit the school and talk to the principal. Later she said, “he’s not going to paddle you unless I am there to witness it…”

I gulped again.

She knew and accepted I was wrong and should be punished but loved me enough to make sure they wouldn’t take advantage of the trust school administrators get for being “in loco parentis“. Which is a Latin term for a legal concept that the school is allowed to act in the best interests of the students as they see fit “in place of the parents.”

I think parents should be supportive of their children and not except the actions of a school toward their child without careful examination but if the kid did something wrong then they shouldn’t try to cover for the child by using threats of legal suits or raising a big stink. Johnny or Suzy isn’t always right just as the school isn’t always right.