Category Archives: education news

Keep eyes on school board races

Republican Party officials are casting a wide net across the national political landscape in their attempt to shape public policy at all levels of government to their liking.

School board races, normally those that draw little public attention, deserve voters’ careful eyes and ears.

My wife and I live in a North Texas community that could become a target of the far-right wingers who think our public school system might need to be, um, “regulated” a bit more carefully.

I am going to keep my eyes and ears wide open to what’s being said throughout the Princeton Independent School District.

Right wingers are attacking that thing they call “critical race theory.” They also want to ban certain books that discuss sex education.

Voters will select candidates running for two school board seats in November. I intend to pay careful attention to those who are running. I don’t want far-right-wing ideologues serving on our public school board. I prefer my school trustees to be broadminded, individuals who aren’t driven by ideology but instead by determining what’s best for the entire district, its students, parents and educators.

Princeton happens to be a racially, ethnically and religiously diverse community and for that I am grateful. There is no way in the world that our school system can adhere to a rigid curriculum that — for example — refuses to speak to the racial prejudice that soaked our society at large.

I don’t know much about the men and women who serve on our school board. I do intend to pay careful attention to what they are saying as they run for re-election.

I damn sure intend to listen to the messages being delivered by those who might want to succeed them.

After all, these races determine who sets policies that have a direct impact on our lives. I can think of nothing more impactful than policies involving the lives of our young people.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

War eclipses everything

War has this way of overshadowing all other concerns that should be at or near the top of our minds. Here in Texas, one of them involves undocumented immigrants and whether the state should allow them to attend public colleges and universities.

Gov. Greg Abbott has this thing against people who are illegally, even when they come here as children — perhaps even as infants or toddlers. They know no other country than the United States of America.

Abbott wants to ban undocumented students from our public colleges, despite a federal law that requires states to provide the education for all residents. He is right, though, to suggest that the federal government should do more to help the states. That’s a fair request.

However, he need not demonstrate some sort of false machismo by declaring Texas’s public university and college systems should be closed to those students who came here only because their parents wanted to create a safe environment for their children.

That, I dare say, is inhumane.

It’s an issue that deserves our attention, except that we are so terribly worried and appalled at the inhumanity being brought to Ukrainians at the hands of the Russian invaders. Hey, I’m concerned about them, too!

I just want us to turn our attention — perhaps if only for a brief time — to the many other important issues that need repair.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Patrick goes to war … against higher ed

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, no shrinking violet to be sure, has decided the latest “enemy” of the public are the educators who lecture our students attending public universities.

Patrick wants to restructure the tenure status granted to professors, making tenure subject to annual review rather than every six years. He wants public college and universities to stop teaching “nutty” notions. He said, according to the Texas Tribune: “I will not stand by and let looney Marxist UT professors poison the minds of young students with Critical Race Theory,” Patrick wrote on Twitter. “We banned it in publicly funded K-12 and we will ban it in publicly funded higher ed … “

Let’s hold on a minute, shall we?

https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/18/dan-patrick-texas-tenure-critical-race-theory/

I have been critical of universities that ban conservatives from speaking at, say, convocations or commencement ceremonies. Our institutions of higher learning are supposed to be open to all ideas, to all principles, all perspectives, all world views. Why not, then, let students decide which of them they embrace? Why not expose these young people — and, frankly, some students who aren’t so young — to all ideas?

Patrick favors only those ideas that comport with his own rigid conservative view of the world.

He targets “critical race theory” because, according to Patrick, it promotes a hatred of the country. Why? Because professors would dare to tell students about the nation’s original sin, the enslavement of African Americans. Uh, Dan? It happened, man! Telling our students of that sad chapter in our history is no “looney Marxist” theory.

As for the frontal assault on tenure, Patrick needs to stop politicizing a policy that grants academic freedom in a place where it should be honored, not vilified for political gain.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Tenure war in Texas?

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has found a topic on which he wants to run for re-election. He wants to demonize college professors who dare teach their students about elements of U.S. history that include slavery and racist efforts to subjugate American citizens on the basis of their skin color.

He vows to eliminate tenure for those professors who teach what is called “critical race theory.” His first target will be new hires at Texas public colleges and universities. He also threatens to broaden his fight to include tenured professors; he might seek to strip them of their tenure status.

All of this hysteria makes me shake my noggin.

The Texas Tribune reports:

Conservatives over the past year have used “critical race theory” as a broad label to attack progressive teachings and books in college and K-12 schools that address race and gender.

Tenure is an indefinite appointment for university faculty that can only be terminated under extraordinary circumstances. Academics said Friday that tenure is intended to protect faculty and academic freedom from exactly the kind of politicization being waged by Patrick.

https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/18/dan-patrick-texas-tenure-critical-race-theory/

CRT is a red herring. Pure and simple. I find nothing wrong with teaching students about the aspects of our history that include the inhumane treatment our government leveled against Americans only because they were black, or brown, or anyone who isn’t white.

Yet such curricula have been labeled by conservatives — such as Dan Patrick — as being “anti-American,” or that it teaches young students to “hate America.”

Good grief! It doesn’t do anything of the sort.

Patrick, thus, has become the latest demagogue to seek to make political hay out of a legitimate field of academic study.

Disgraceful.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

CRT: not about ‘hating’ America

Someone has to explain to me: How does teaching our public school students about race, racism and discrimination indoctrinate them into a “hate America” thought process?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he intends to prevent teachers from educating students in his state about such things as slavery, racial discrimination and how that played a part in the development of our nation’s history.

They call it “critical race theory.” Perhaps it’s the name of the concept that has so many politicians up in arms. The terms “critical race” somehow are interpreted to mean that students who learn about racism in this country will grow up hating themselves as Americans, that they will be so darn ashamed of their country that will grow up to seek to create a vastly different country.

I don’t get it. I do not understand why public educators must be told they cannot teach such things to our students.

It is a fact that this country enslaved Black people. It is a fact that those people were denied the rights of citizenship in the country of their residence. It also is a fact that society didn’t value Black people as full-fledged human beings; they were deemed the “property” of their “owners.”

Shouldn’t teachers be allowed to educate students on what all of that means to citizens today? And shouldn’t teachers also be allowed to tell students what the country has done over many years to repair the damage that was done to those who were enslaved? Yes and yes … in my view.

I see nothing wrong with teaching children about the racial history of this country. It is a major part of our national story, the one that is still being written.

Someone has to explain why that is such a bad thing. Let’s discuss. OK? I’m all ears.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Schools see exodus

A disturbing trend appears to be developing in North Texas as nine school superintendents have announced they are leaving their posts at the end of the current academic year.

It’s an unusual number of top public school administrators heading for the exits, according to officials, as reported by the Texas Tribune.

The culprit? It appears to be a combination of culture wars, pandemic politicization and perhaps some normal retirements. From my vantage point, it appears that the culture wars and the politics of the pandemic are playing too heavy a role.

North Texas superintendents leave as school culture wars heat up | The Texas Tribune

Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeanne Stone perhaps is the most notable resignation. She quit in the middle of the school year after being pressured by parents over mask mandates. She was mum at the time she quit, but she has opened up in recent days to the media.

“Heartbreaking is a pretty accurate way to describe this,” Stone said. “It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s all I’ve ever done. It’s all I ever wanted to do.”

The Tribune reports: Stone is just one of many public educators who have borne the brunt of a shifting culture war — filled with fierce accusations and rising tensions often stoked by state officials — about how K-12 students learn. And she is among at least nine North Texas superintendents who have announced they would leave their jobs since the start of the school year.

School administrators generally have a relatively short lifespan in their posts. However, the current climate seems to be quickening the exodus from public school admin buildings. It is a shame to see such turnover.

The other biggie appears to be this thing called “critical race theory.” Parents are fighting among themselves over whether schools should allow teachers to instruct students on racism and its impact on our national history; they also are fighting with school administrators and elected board members, too.

And, of course, we have the children who are being caught in the middle of all this tempest and turmoil.

They are suffering the most. It shouldn’t happen.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Teachers are heroes

I want to say a good word or three about those who practice a profession I took a swing at not long after my journalism career came to an end.

That would be teachers. They are heroes in my book. I would bet they are heroes in your book, too. The good teachers, those who are committed to educating our young people deserve all the money we taxpayers can afford to pay them.

My full-time newspaper career ended unceremoniously in August 2012. To earn a little income after I resigned from the Amarillo Globe-News, I decided to try substitute teaching with the Amarillo Independent School District.

I learned something profound about myself during my brief stint as a “sub.” It was that I am not wired to teach young boys and girls. It takes a special breed of human being to commit themselves to the well-being of someone else’s children.

Before long, I threw in the towel and decided that substitute teaching wasn’t in the cards for me. I have gone on to do other things in my retired — or semi-retired — life.

However, my brief exposure to public education classroom work revealed to me the goodness that is required of good teachers and the sacrifices they make each day to prepare our young people for the life that awaits after their school days have passed.

We hear often about teachers who reach out to help struggling children. How they comfort them, encourage them, promote them. They scold the children in their charge when they mess up but do so with love in their voice.

These are special folks who embody the best in the rest of us.

I just feel compelled with this brief post to tell them all how much I appreciate what they do for us and for our children.

And, if you’ll pardon what has become a bit of a cliche, to thank them for their service.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

 

No debate on Holocaust

The dust-up that erupted the other day over that North Texas public educator/nitwit who suggested that teachers ought to provide “opposing views” on the Holocaust has brought to mind this thought: Just who out there actually espouses any doubt over what occurred during World War II?

I know the answer: It’s the right-wing crackpot wing of the great divide.

Gina Peddy is a director of curriculum for the Carroll Independent School District. She was overheard telling teachers that they need to provide instruction that includes those who might question whether the Holocaust actually happened.

Well … it did. It happened. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen sought to eliminate Jews from Europe. They killed as many as 7 million Jews during World War II.

There is no legitimate “opposing view” to the historical fact of what occurred.

Peddy’s employers at Carroll ISD were quick to disavow what was overheard in that teachers’ meeting. I don’t know what they’re going to do about Peddy and whether she should stay employed by the district. That is their call; my own view is that she needs to go.

As for any serious denial of what transpired at Hitler’s grimy hands, there isn’t any to be discussed.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Teachers deserve our honor and respect

My wife and I live one block from an elementary school in Princeton, Texas and each day when we take our stroll through the ‘hood, we see evidence of great things happening with the children who go there each day.

I want to salute the men and women who serve those children, their parents and, yes, the rest of us who don’t have kids attending that particular school or even in the school district where we live. What I witness often are teachers interacting joyfully with their students, who interact with equal amounts of joy with the teachers.

I know it’s a little thing. Then again, it’s not so little, particularly if the child gets too little joy when he or she goes home at the end of the day.

Some years ago I took a turn as a substitute teacher in Amarillo, where my wife and I lived before we relocated to Princeton. It was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned one thing about myself right away from that stint: I am not wired to teach children. 

More to the point is that I am not wired to take the abuse that kids dish out to subs who fill in for the regular teachers. Yes, I got a form of abuse from those kids. They were high schoolers. I won’t tell you which high school; just know that it was one of the public HS’s in Amarillo.

I am not casting aspersions on a particular generation of children, or on the community where we lived, or on the school system. It’s just the way it is and the way it has always been since the beginning of recorded human history. Kids look for ways to game the system in their favor. Their “victims” are their elders. I did some of it myself when I was that age.

My experience as a substitute teacher filled me with admiration for those who choose that profession. I also am amazed at those full-time substitute teachers who answer the call to report for work wherever the school district needs them.

The good ones are among the most special human beings I can imagine.

I salute you.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Why the no-mask mandate?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am willing to admit that there are a lot of things in this cold, cruel world I do not  understand.

One of those things is the nutty notion that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has embraced by declaring that only he can tell local governments how to react to the surge in infection from the COVID pandemic and its associated variants.

Abbott issued an executive order that bans school districts and other governmental jurisdictions from issuing mandates requiring masks indoors.

Several large independent public school districts — starting with Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston — have defied the governor. They have ordered everyone in their buildings to mask up. To which I say, “Good for you!”

My 8-year-old granddaughter started school today in Allen. The Allen Independent School District hasn’t followed the lead set by its bigger district neighbors in Dallas and Fort Worth. The kids aren’t being told they must wear masks while sitting in class, or walking into the cafeteria, or goofing off with their friends in the hall.

I have to ask: What in the name of preventive measures is Abbott thinking when he issues those no-can-do orders to local jurisdictions?

I used to talk occasionally to Gov. Abbott when he was a mere Texas Supreme Court justice and later state attorney general. He ran for governor the first time after I left the daily journalism world, so I haven’t had a ringside seat to watch his morphing from a reasonable Republican into some sort of cultist who follows the example set by the 45th POTUS.

I am left merely to shake my head in disbelief and amazement that he has put our children’s health in peril — and that includes my precious granddaughter — by telling school systems they are forbidden from taking measures they believe will save lives.

Greg Abbott is acting like a madman!