Monday, November 26, 2012

Time to go Paddling

It's that time of year again.  Since 1996 a small band of eclectic souls have paddled a Missouri stream the first weekend in December.  What started as a meet-on-Saturday-morning has turned into a leave-on-Thursday-morning paddling trip.

This year we're off to the Eleven Point River.  Folks will arrive throughout Thursday afternoon for a few days of paddling, camping, and camraderie.  It's always a good time and this year looks to be no different.

Monday, November 19, 2012


There are lot of one-liners about Scouting, but two of my favorites are:  1) it's only an hour a week, and 2) Scouters are people who pay to do Scouting.  I've witnessed this throughout my years involved with the Boy Scouts of America.  Scout leaders put in hours each week to provide a good program to the youth they serve, not to mention some sort of event each month.  Then they'll take vacation for a week-long summer camp or perhaps more for a trip to a high adventure base.  Volunteers are the life-blood of the organization and millions of youth benefit from their efforts.

New leaders start out to get their son involved in a quality program and get sucked in ot the program themselves. It's quite common to find adults staying in the program long after their son has turned 18.  They do so because they have a passion for the program and its ideals.  With such passion they give tirelessly.

Recently I've become more familiar with another organization that garners such tireless passion -- FIRST Robotics.  In fact I spent this past Sunday serving as a judge at a local FIRST Lego League event.  This was my second time to serve as a judge at this same event and remembered many of the volunteer faces from last year.  These folks have a real passion for the ideals of FIRST and getting kids excited about STEM.  Many of them had judged the weekend prior and had other events on their calendars.

Other organizations exist all over our region that have great volunteers.  I would encourage anyone to find an organization that shares their values and ideas and give them some of your time.  There is an organization somewhere that could benefit from your talents.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just Thinking

I recently read a post by Steven Anderson about his Things That Have Me Thinking series.  It got me to wondering what's been on my mind.

In our harried world of 24-hour news and 140 character blasts, do we take the time to reflect? 

Do we, as parents, put our kids in too many organized activities?

The more we sit in front of a screen, do we become more disconnected with nature?

Does Michelle Rhee have a bully pulpit, or is she a bully?

Why is it that Republicans, the party of limited government, want to place incredible regulations on public institutions?

Why is it that Democrats have come to embrace education policies that segregate?

If parents take over a school through a parent trigger law, who is responsible for paying any debt on the school building?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Thoughts

I have seen the election, at the federal level, described as status quo...same President, Republicans still control the House, and Democrats still control the Senate.  What does that mean for us?
  • We know what the President's stance on education is, will see more of the same, and the waivers should stay in force. 
  • Will Arne Duncan will remain Secretary of Education?
  • With the waivers in place and similar agendas among Republicans and Democrats I don't see a big push to re-authorize ESEA.
  • Will this Congress address the financial issues that lay before it? 
Around the country several elections were being watched.
  • An effort in Bridgeport, CT to turn over control of the schools to the mayor was defeated. The effort to get mayoral control was heavily funded by outside groups.
  • Indiana will see a change their state commissioner of education -- they elected theirs. The incumbent was heavily funded by education reform groups.
  • Georgia voters look to have approved charter schools. The measure was heavily funded by for-profit charter providers who will no doubt benefit from the change.
  • Big money was poured into school board elections in several places.  The funds came from education reform groups.  The results were a mixed bag.
  • Washington voters look to have approved charters.  Prior efforts had been defeated.  This time the push to approve was funded by some billionaires.
At the state level:
  • Proposition B, the 70 cent increase in cigarette taxes, was defeated.  Attempts to increase the tax have now failed in 2002, 2006, and 2012.  Missouri's tax is 17 cents, while the national average is somewhere between $1.46 and $1.49.  In 2006 opponents of the tax were able to define it in a way that most folks thought it was an increase on the fuel tax.  Perhaps that was the case again.  A closer look at the numbers show the metropolitan areas and Boone County support the increase, but rural Missouri does not.
  • The Missouri Legislature has gotten more lopsided.  The Republicans control the House at 110 to 53 and the Senate at 25 to 9.  The provides a veto-proof majority.  Even though Governor Nixon was re-elected, his veto pen just got a lot weaker.  Educators will likely get a bill through that is sorely needed, but we may be in trouble on some others.
And more locally:
  • There was no opposition on the county races.
  • Bryan Spencer won the newly created 63rd House District that constitutes Wright City, Foristell, and Wentzville.  We'll be reaching out to him to build a relationship.  Bart Korman now represents only the very southern part of the school district.
  • Proposition K, the 1/2 sales tax to fund children's services in Warren County, was defeated for the second time.  Warren County youth metrics continue to lag behind other counties in the area.
And so it's over...for now.  Candidates for 2016 are already starting to be mentioned.  Hopefully our newly elected leaders will do the serious work that needs to be done.  For a brief period they can actually do their job instead of trying to keep their job.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Our Civic Duty

Today we have the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to exercise our civic duty of voting. 

I taught with someone who had a sign that read, "Don't complain about what you permit."  It stayed up most of the time, but it was always prominent during parent-teacher conferences.  This message often helped reduce the blame parents would sometimes try to place on teachers when kids weren't doing their work.  It was a simple way to communicate that we all play a role.

Today we get to play one of our most important roles as citizens.  If you don't vote, should you be able to complain?  Your candidate may not win, but when you do vote you let your opinion be heard.

Much has been written about the election leading up to today and much will be written after.  Regardless of your political leanings let's hope (I know it's a big one) that Congress will get down to the serious business that faces our nation.  It's time for them to stop trying to keep their jobs and actually do their jobs.