STANDARDS PUTEXTRA PRESSUREON TEACHERS
Times-News, Twin Falls
The reaction has been fierce to news that a teacher let her fourth-grade students draw on each other’s faces with markers as part of a punishment system for failing to meet reading goals. The story made national headlines and the Times-News received letters to the editor and angry phone calls from across the country.
A woman from Hutchison, Kan., called the Times-News in tears the day the story hit her local newspaper. “What can I do to make sure this teacher is punished?” she asked.
It’s fair to say that Summer Larsen is being punished. She is the subject of a state ethics investigation after Cassia County School District officials filed a complaint. She has been derided in hate mail, letters to the editor and online comments.
One parent entered the school without stopping at the school office, went into Larsen’s class and yelled at her in front of the students. Larsen is not speaking publicly, but we are sure the attacks have not been limited to what we know about at this newspaper.
It’s time for cooler heads to prevail and time to ask questions beyond whether Larsen should be ostracized the rest of her life for a single incident. What Larsen did showed poor judgment. But it also demonstrated the pressure that teachers feel to meet the latest state or federal education standards. If hitting the benchmark increasingly becomes the only end goal in the classroom, then the message to teachers is that the end justifies the means. Regardless, it doesn’t justify what happened in Larsen’s classroom.
The Accelerated Reading program — which Larsen’s students were a part of — is designed for children who are already struggling with reading. Letting children draw on each other’s faces is a modern-day equivalent of the dunce cap, a device from the days when public humiliation in the classroom was acceptable. We no longer live in an era where humiliating students is considered motivational. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for how we seem to feel about humiliating teachers.
CHEERS AND JEERS
Post Register, Idaho Falls
Æ Cheers to the House Republican Caucus. We would have preferred Rich Wills, a former Idaho State Police trooper, to combative Mike Moyle as majority leader. We wish it had chosen our own Jeff Thompson instead of far right-winger Brent Crane as assistant majority leader. But, we will not complain. The Boss is no more. Oakley’s Scott Bedke is the new speaker, and Lawerence Denney returns to the back benches, where he belongs. Hallelujah. Long live the new Boss, better, we hope, than the old Boss.
Æ Jeers to the six eastern Idaho mayors who wrote a letter asking that “the state will not close the door to investigating potential interim storage opportunities.” This is in reference to Gov. Butch Otter’s nuclear energy committee and the desire of some to see Idaho begin importing nuclear waste from other states.
Æ Cheers to the Republican leaders in the Idaho Senate and House of Representatives. New legislators received ethics training this week. On Jan. 3, the full Legislature will be put through an hourlong ethics training session.
Æ Jeers to Idaho’s U.S. senators, Mike Crapo and James Risch, who helped kill a treaty that would have empowered disabled persons around the world while not costing this country a penny. Risch and Crapo joined 36 Senate Republicans in denying the treaty the two-thirds majority needed to become law.
The treaty intends to bring the rest of the world more in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The elder Bush supports the treaty. So does his son, President George W. Bush. So does former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole, 89 years old and so determined to see his country lead the world in creating more opportunities for the disabled that he showed up for the Senate vote in a wheelchair only to be disappointed. There’s no risk for an Idaho Republican to oppose a treaty sponsored by the United Nations, or in embracing crazy conspiracy theories spewed by Rick Santorum and Glenn Beck. But neither is there any honor or decency in it.