The Edmond Sun


December 20, 2013

Educational follies threaten our nation’s future

EDMOND — Just because trends are unfolding together it doesn’t mean they have common cause. It doesn’t even mean they’re related. But they might be. Three items pertinent to America’s schools are orbiting in and out of the headlines and maybe we should consider whether they might have a dangerous common denominator.

Let’s start with a story appearing in the Dec. 17 issue of the Washington Post. We all remember the 7-year-old second grader suspended from school for chewing his pop-tart into the shape of a gun. He was suspended from school for “the offense,” served that suspension and is now in the third grade.

His parents requested the Park Elementary School of Arundel County, Maryland, grant a hearing to consider whether the school record should be amended. The boy’s parents want to prevent him from being stigmatized by some administratively approved label suggesting he might somehow be guilty of threatening school violence. Hearing on the parents’ request is scheduled for Feb. 7.

The next story relates to the Dec. 2 release of the 2012 results of the Program for International Student Assessment. This report, published every three years, analyzes the relative scholastic capabilities of students across the world. The 2012 report covers test results for about 510,000 15-year-olds from 65 countries. The subjects considered are math, science and reading.

According to this most recent report, US student performance is flat. Compared to their international peers, American students are clinging to a tenuous hold on an “average” rating. The star pupils are found in China, Singapore, Japan and Korea who score near the top in all categories with the Netherlands and Switzerland not far behind.

In the 2009 report, 23 countries outscored American students in math. According to the 2012 report, that number jumps to 29. Among the nations “leapfrogging” over our students were Latvia, Australia and Vietnam.

In reading, nine countries surpassed the United States in 2012. In 2013, 19 were ahead of us — including Poland, Germany, Estonia and Ireland. This anemic performance by American students vis-a-vis their international counterparts is even more disappointing because the United States is near the top in terms of per student expenditures.

The third story deals with the cynical attempt to sever all connections between American schoolchildren and traditional schoolhouse celebrations of Christmas.

The Wausau School District of central Wisconsin boasts an award-winning high school choir. In October, the choir director was ordered to delete most of the carols from the performance list and replace them with secular substitutes. The mandated ratio required five secular songs for each carol on the list. The director refused threatening to disband the choir. Overwhelming public support for the director forced the school board to back down. The choir was permitted to re-establish the original playlist — including Christmas carols.

As I write this column, the school board has scheduled another meeting to discuss potential litigation liabilities that might crash down on them if they allow the singing of carols to proceed as planned.

Likewise, fearing the threat of litigation, Superintendent Constance Bauer banned all religious music from the McFarland Intermediate School of Bordertown Township New Jersey. Again, community outrage was so overwhelming that Dr. Bauer rescinded the ban. As this column is being written, the McFarland Intermediate School Christmas program will proceed — Christmas carols at all.

So what is the common denominator here? All three of these trends have the net effect of leaving our schoolchildren with an education less valuable, less secure and less fun than the one experienced by their parents.

What we may be witnessing is the transformation of the American citizen into a timid, mouselike creature afraid to explore or play for fear of drawing the wrath of authorities who have power to label you for life. We may be seeing the creation of a citizenry whose education puts them at a disadvantage in a global economy at the very moment when America must be at its best. We might be standing idly by as holiday traditions so instrumental in binding together our families, our communities and indeed, all nations are being bullied out of existence.

There was a time, when schoolchildren were encouraged to fight back against bullies. They were encouraged to get involved when the underdog was being overwhelmed by violence. There was a time when American students took pride in being the best in the world. And there was a time when Christmas celebrations were occasions for joyous outpourings of goodwill to everyone in the community. It will be a tragedy we leave our children and grandchildren a sad copy of the secure, competent joyous nation we treasured. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.


Text Only
  • 'Too big to fail' equals 'too eager to borrow'

    Four years ago this month, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, promising that the 848-page financial law would “put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all,” he said. But recently, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a Detroit crowd that “the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they got too big to fail in 2008.”
    Who’s right?

    July 30, 2014

  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014


The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
     View Results