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Roundup of Arkansas editorials

Associated Press Published: November 13, 2012

There's got to be a better way, but it never seems to occur to this administration.

Ditto, the problems of American education. Are our schools failing the next generation of Americans? Are we spending more on basic education and accomplishing less than almost every other industrialized nation?

Why, just turn out 100,000 new teachers, and that ought to do the trick. No need to go into bothersome details like whether this army of new teachers will be educated or just certified. Just turn on the spigot and out will come 100,000 of them. As if creating teachers were as simple as producing widgets or any other uniform industrialized product.

The proposal does have has some obvious political advantages, like 100,000 new members for teachers' unions. But beyond that, it raises more problems than it offers solutions. It'll certainly burden school districts and state governments, and the taxpayers who support them, with more health insurance and pension plans to pay for. With no guarantee that more teachers will equal better teaching.

To quote Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas' department of education reform:

"Unless the next teacher-hiring binge produces something that the last several couldn't, there is no reason to expect it to contribute to student outcomes." Why not? As the professor explains, "Most people expect that more individualized attention from teachers should help students learn. The problem is that expanding the number of hires means dipping deeper into the potential teacher labor pool. That means additional teachers are likely to be weaker than current ones." And their students may prove even more poorly educated.

The idea that there is some royal road to improving education, one that requires only certifying more and more teachers every year (not necessarily educating them) has proven one of the more attractive fallacies of recent educational policy. It's especially attractive to politicians looking for simple solutions to offer a gullible public. Politicians like our president.

But as the late great H.L. Mencken once pointed out, "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong."


Southwest Times Record, Nov. 12, 2012

No excuse for adults who give teens alcohol

This story had about all the heartbreak a community can stand. A 13-year-old dead. A 17-year-old sentenced to 12 years in jail. A father lost without his son and best friend. A mother praying in the bedroom her son will never reclaim.

On Thursday, a LeFlore County judge sentenced 17-year-old Brandon Brown to 12 years in jail in connection with the death of his friend Dalton Adams in May 2011. Brandon pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the case and to driving under the influence. Two other children in the car were not injured.

Still awaiting arraignment on a second-degree manslaughter charge in the incident is Brandon's grandfather, 67-year-old Elmer Brown. Prosecutors allege the elder Brown bought his grandson a 12-pack of beer as a reward for his performance in a ballgame, according to a report in Friday's edition. They say Brown then gave his grandson the car keys so he could visit his friend, Dalton.

A study released in 2008 and reported on the website showed that 40 percent of minors get their alcohol from someone 21 or older. One in 16 minors reported that the last time they drank, they got their booze from their parents. This is not teenagers sipping alcohol from the liquor cabinet when their parents aren't home. This is parents who give their minor children alcohol. And sometimes, they are providing their kids' friends with alcohol, too.

Adults, including parents or other authority figures in a child's life, may use many excuses for supplying the liquor. It was a special occasion. It was only once. I was drinking at his age, and it didn't hurt me. I wanted to be the cool parent. I'd rather have her drinking at home than at someone else's house. I didn't think it would hurt anything.

The truth is adults who supply minors with alcohol are enabling a dangerous, sometimes deadly, behavior. And young people lack the experience and, literally, the brain power to know any better.

Research shows that the adolescent brain is only about 80 percent developed, according to Harvard Magazine. Specifically, the frontal lobe, which is responsible for things like reasoning, planning and judgment, matures last in the human brain — maybe as late as at 25 or 30 years old. Teens are far more vulnerable to impulses than older people.

Also, teen brains are more susceptible to alcohol-induced toxicity than adult brains, meaning some of the damage to brain cells done while drinking may be slow to correct or even irreversible.

Frances E. Jensen, professor of neurology, puts it this way: "We make the point that what you did on the weekend is still with you during that test on Thursday. You've been trying to study with a self-induced learning disability."

So it always matters if teens drink, and it always hurts.

In the Oklahoma case, the results devastated two families.

Brandon Brown was 15 when his bad judgment killed his friend. He was under the influence of intoxicants and under the influence of an undeveloped brain. Those are not excuses, just explanations.

We wonder what explanation adults who furnish children with alcohol can offer.