35 School Children Committed Suicide In Last Three Years In New York City

This news story bolted me upright in my desk chair today.  When I read about the shortage of guidance counselors my heart sank.  We must do better at funding these resources that can make a difference for our nation’s youth.  Anything less is unconscionable.

I am just guessing that the number of sports-related employees did not fall by the same percentage in the city schools as guidance counselors.

Thirty-five public-school kids have killed themselves in the past three school years, the Department of Education revealed — an unpublicized trend that Chancellor Carmen Fariña only hinted at last week when she told principals in a private meeting that 10 children had taken their lives during her first seven weeks on the job.

The 2011-12 school year saw nine suicides, with 14 in 2012-13. So far this year, with a third of the term left, there have been a dozen, DOE confirmed.

Meanwhile, schools’ safety net for troubled youths is shrinking. The number of social workers, guidance counselors and psychologists assigned to public schools has fallen 7 percent since 2008, going from 5,676 to about 5,300, according to DOE data.

“It’s scary,” said Dr. Roy Lubit, a child psychiatrist. “A small decrease can be devastating.”

 

Removing Essay Requirement From SAT Misguided

This is short and says everything.

There are themes to this blog such as the importance of newspapers, how the process of government is important, and the need for gun control.  One of the other often-posted topics that spreads out over so many aspects of our society is the dumbing-down that continually takes place.  While some applauded the removal of the requirement for an essay portion of the SAT I saw this as a weakening of standards.

What is wrong with making sure a potential college student can enter higher education with the ability to communicate with a well-crafted presentation of ideas?  If they can not then we need to have a very serious discussion with the schools and teachers who failed them.

Unfortunately, the drive to educational excellence took a body blow recently when the College Board stripped from its SATs the requirement to write an essay.

In doing so, College Board officials reportedly said the exam needs to be more representative of what students study in high school and the skills they need to succeed in college and afterward. The test should offer “worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles,” according to College Board President David Coleman.

On the one hand, we can’t fault the College Board for wanting to test what students have been taught. But it is inane to suggest the essay portion of the SATs is not reflective on one’s needs in the job world.

“Yo,” “What’s up,” “LOL” or “:)” do not reflect the communication skills needed to win and hold a job. However, an ability to formulate thoughts and to convey those thoughts intelligently to others is critical to success.

Nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker recently addressed the issue:

These tweaks (changes to the SATs) are a shame as educators lose measures that provided critical information. The essay, for instance, wasn’t a call to Emersonian excellence but was a way of determining whether a student can compose a coherent sentence. You know, subject, verb — all that stuff — not to mention whether one can think. If a person can’t write a series of sentences to express a cogent thought, does that person really qualify for a college education? For what purpose?”

We understand not every student is destined to be a Shakespeare, a T.S. Elliot or a Joseph Pulitzer. But putting a noun, verb and object in the proper order is not rocket science. And asking that the SATs test such knowledge and that it be taught in our classrooms is to demand only the basics in education.

Berry College Eagle Cam Not To Be Missed–Female Eagle Protects Young From Intruder

On the right hand side of this blog is a link to the Berry College Eagle Cam.

The eagle couple spent several months repairing and adding to the nest and catching fish and coots in the nearby Berry quarry, Oostanaula River and Garden Lakes. An egg was produced on January 14, 2014, followed by a second egg on January 17. An eaglet chick hatched on Saturday, February 22, from one of the two eggs laid in January. But the other egg is not viable and has been buried in the nest.

Earlier this month there was an intruder to the nest and the female eagle took protective action.

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Scott Walker All But Shows Sheldon Adelson ‘Sign Of The Covenant’ In Las Vegas

This weekend would-be presidential candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spoke in Las Vegas before Sheldon Adelson and his group, the Republican Jewish Coalition.  When it comes to groveling and digging for any support to be found, even when there is little knowledge or background on the topics up for discussion, there may be none better than Walker.

Walker had the usual trite comments for the gathering such as the nation needing “a swift and decisive foreign policy” while at the same time admitting he did not have extensive foreign policy experience.   He could have been honest and just stated he had no such experience.

But Walker plodded along and was determined to appear he was as much akin to Jewish people as possible.

Walker made a special note of making it clear one of his sons was named Matthew, a Hebrew name meaning “gift from God”.    To further suggest that he had the needs of Israel close to his heart he let it be known that every Christmas season he has a “menorah candle” displayed.

Well if that all does not make him one with the Jewish people I am not sure what possibly could.  That is, other than a more cerebral attempt to understand foreign policy before attending an event that is slated as a forum to address such concerns.

All we can be grateful for is that Walker in his zeal to be friends with Sheldon Adelson  did not mention getting snipped.

Still this is only March 2014, and the Iowa caucus is a long time away.  Things can still happen.

Was Jonathan Karl Out Of Bounds Asking President Obama About Mitt Romney?

I noted over the past several days angst from some Democrats concerning ABC reporter Jonathan Karl asking President Obama during a press conference at The Hague if Mitt Romney was correct during the 2012 presidential election to refer to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe.  MSNBC”s The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell allowed a national audience to  get the impression the press was out to get President Obama, and Karl was one of those helping to make it happen.

Being a Democrat and a supporter of President Obama should not play into this matter. I am both, but think the question asked by Karl was proper and also important. I also think it to be professional.

There are only so many times during the trip overseas when the press actually gets to ask the President a question. Even then the number of questions are limited. Given the number one topic during the trip was Crimea, and more to the point American-Russian relations there needed to be a solid question asked that would bring to focus the larger themes that percolated over this matter.   When given the chance to ask a question there is little insight to be gained if a softball is delivered. What may seem ‘unfair’ or ‘political’ is actually the best way to force a leader to step beyond the talking points and discuss matters in a more complete and hopefully less-nuanced way.

The question was not aimed at showing Romney to be correct about Russia, but instead how the larger aims of our foreign policy is in such a place that Russia does have the stronger hand to play. Romney was merely the avenue to get to the heart of the question, while also taking into account what everyone was aware of—that being Mitt was making appearances on news shows.   Please note that no journalist at the level of Karl is unaware of the way this larger story is reported by others.  At that time The New York Times had a front-page above-the-fold review of the last 15 years with presidents of both parties having issues with Putin.  Karl was adding—in question form—to the larger narrative that was already being talked about.

I might also note that MSNBC (where the emailed article takes it quotes) can be as dreadful from the Democratic side as FOX News is from the Republican side. I think it harder to view the role of a journalist–which Karl is– when clouded with political-colored lenses.  Everything can not (or should not) be viewed with a political spin because then we get down to breaking down the very questions asked of our leaders.

Democratic Candidate Arnie Johnsrud Leaves First District Assembly Race, Likely Remains Republican After Election

A Democratic candidate for First Assembly District has withdrawn from the race and thrown his support behind the other primary candidate for the election.

I liked Arnie Johnsrud, and was hoping he might prevail in the primary contest.  Johnsrud knew how to run a race as he once had opposed now retiring State Rep. Garey Bies.

The district, though more conservative than liberal, has changed over the decades.  It is a district where a Democratic candidate who can connect personally with the voters along with the proper backing of some key people and organizations can allow for a victory.    I felt Johnsrud was that type of candidate.  Where the area was once rock-ribbed Republican it now has seen an influx of new people and ideas, and with the right candidate can be a competitive playing field.

This past week Johnsrud, however,  left the race and threw his support to the other candidate, Joe Majeski.  

So why did I like Johnsrud?

The statement he made when leaving the race sums it up.

 “We need someone in Madison who will stand up for voter’s rights, stand up for women’s rights, stand up for public education, stand up for local control over our environment, stand up for jobs with livable wages and we need to support health care for everyone.”

While there is always hope in politics I think the best candidate is no longer in the race for the First Assembly District.  Therefore the GOP can feel steady about keeping the seat in their column.

Saturday Song: Jan Howard “Daddy Sang Bass” “For Loving You” “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”

Jan Howard is one of those underrated performers in country music.

A Missouri native, Howard over the years was one of the most sought-after background vocalists in Nashville.  Her backing vocals can be heard on such Johnny Cash classics as “Ring of Fire,” “Ghost Riders In The Sky,” and she also sang the classic line “Mama Sang Tenor” in Cash’s “Daddy Sang Bass.”

Many will recall her work with veteran country singer-songwriter Bill Anderson.  They garnered three Country Music Association nominations for “Vocal Duo of the Year” in 1968, 1970 and 1971. Their duet “For Loving You” spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Country Airplay charts, becoming her most successful radio single.

My parents and I traveled to Waupaca when I was in the third grade to see Anderson and Howard perform.  Howard was not there due to illness, and I recall my Mom and I smiling about that as I had just come off my own bout of the stomach flu, but was determined not to miss the show.  If she had only wanted to be there as bad as I did….

Howard is a notable songwriter in her own right having her songs recorded by such Country Music Hall of Famers as Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Kitty Wells, Bill Anderson, Connie Smith and Johnny Cash.

Today I want to post some of the reasons Jan Howard is well-thought of here on this blog and my stereo system.

In February 1969, the Johnny Cash hit “Daddy Sang Bass” was the most popular record in country music. It remained in the No. 1 position on the Billboard country singles chart for six consecutive weeks, and it crossed over to the Billboard pop chart as well.

The female singing the “Mama sang tenor” line on the record is not June Carter Cash, but rather longtime Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard.

Wal-Mart Seeks To Save Social Net Programs

This is quite telling about the state of affairs for poor people, and the bottom line of Wal-Mart.

A couple of items stand as newcomers to Wal-Mart’s menu of risks. Here’s what the annual report released on Friday says:

“Our business operations are subject to numerous risks, factors and uncertainties, domestically and internationally, which are outside our control … These factors include … changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement[al] Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans, …”

In other words, Wal-Mart, for the first time in its annual reports, acknowledges that taxpayer-funded social assistance programs are a significant factor in its revenue and profits. This makes sense, considering that Wal-Mart caters to low-income consumers. But what’s news here is that the company now considers the level of social entitlements given to low-income working and unemployed Americans important enough to underscore it in its cautionary statement.