It rolls downhill
I was dismayed to see in last week's issue (BW, News Shorts, March 9, 2005) that the cyanide leaching gold mine near Boise is going to be allowed to move forward by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. I've admired the way your paper has spoken out against that mine, but I was also dismayed to see this important news story only in Boise Weekly. Where are you, other local media? Shame on the state of Idaho for allowing this kind of activity to continue-do we need to get poisoned like my home state of Montana to learn? Shame on The Idaho Statesman and other news sources for their weak coverage, which amounts to tacit support of what will likely prove to be an environmental abomination. Shame on the DEQ for not having the foresight to create rules to keep obvious crooks like these out. Shame on the other people in the Idaho government who whored themselves out by speaking in favor of the project, or who will probably continue to do so for the Atlanta gold project. I'm ashamed of this state today. Guess there's little choice but to sit at home and wait for the poison to come downstream.
MAIL OF THE WEEK: Let us help Mary's sadness over Idaho's future and award her the prize-two tickets to Caldwell Fine Arts' presentation of Tiller's Folly.
While most of us can agree that educational reforms are needed, there is little agreement as to what these reforms should consist of and how they should be implemented. While discussing merit pay for teachers last week, (BW, "Testing Students, Testing Teachers," March 9, 2005) Mr. Leins discussed how students from low socioeconomic backgrounds tend to perform lower on standardized tests than do students from more affluent backgrounds. This fact does indeed deal a detrimental blow to the idea of merit pay for teachers. However, it furthers support for a voucher system.
It is a gross oversimplification of the problem to say that income is the deciding factor in educational success. If success were truly tied to income, students at affluent schools would outperform all students at low-income schools. This is simply not the case.
The best indicator of educational success is parental involvement. Generally speaking, students at more affluent schools have parents that take an active role in their child's education. Parents who pay to send their kids to private schools have a vested interest in the educational success of their children. They know what is assigned, when it is due, and push their children to excel. Charter schools are having success because a high percentage of students attending them have parents who take an active role in their education. Students with active parents in low-income schools typically achieve the same results as students from affluent schools.
What is missing from low income schools is parental involvement. Vouchers are a key step in true educational reform. They give parents the opportunity to take an active role in their child's learning by letting them decide where to send their children to receive the best education.
There is no single magic bullet in education reform. However, vouchers are a critical first step in making a quality education accessible to all people regardless of personal economy.
Maybe it's a generational thing, but Bill Cope's diatribe against blogs (BW, Bill Cope, March 9, 2005) struck me as having all the force and eloquence of one of those e-mail forwards that your grandma passes along. A man whose best authorial put down is "You're no Mark Twain," and who resorts to metaphors about crab lice and zits, has no business criticizing anyone else's writing.
Cope and I agree about one thing: the vast majority of blogs out there are crap. Unfortunately, so are the vast majority of television shows produced, movies released and books published every year. If Cope is willing to condemn an entire medium based on the vulgarity of the common producer, then perhaps he should consider a career change to a more hermit-worthy pursuit. Sheep herding, for example.
As for Dan Rather, he may have been an intrepid reporter when Cope was my age, but for years now he has been just another overpaid, overstyled talking head. And whether or not 60 Minutes' accusations were correct, the use of an obviously fabricated document was a gross breach of journalistic ethics. I am not sure why Cope would attempt to defend Rather, other than sheer bloody-minded contrarianism. Or dare I say, curmudgeonliness?
It seems as if Cope's idol is not actually Rather, but a less august CBS persona: Andy Rooney. Don't worry, Bill. I'm sure you'll continue to provide material for e-mail forwards for years to come.
Editor's Note: see this week's news for another blog story.