High School Musical Chairs

Monday night, according to each of the area newspapers, the Fayetteville School Board met in workshop formation and apparently informally agreed with the recommendation of Superintendent Bobby New about the best solution for the ever-more-crowded Fayetteville High School. He favors building on to the current facility. He said a second option, building an entirely new and larger high school, was stalled because the most likely buyer of the current campus, the University of Arkansas, wasn’t ready to make an offer.

This debate has been continuing for months. Early on an Option C was considered, but no one brings it up any more, not administrators like New, not School Board members or municipal officials either and not columnists and editorialists.

Option C: Building a second high school while keeping this one. It’s not as if this is a revelation. Until recently, FHS had a sister, West Campus, Continue reading

Your Other Right Foot

“Everybody! Step out on your right foot.
“I said your right foot!
“No, son, your other right foot.”

Coach Malone, I think it was Bill Malone, was the admired football coach of Ramsey Junior High in Fort Smith. I remember at a school reunion where a lot of us in physical education class that day in the 1970s remember that line, but forgot the name of the classmate.

Now that we’re all grown, it has come to be true that just like history and algebra, you really don’t need to know your right from your left any more. Sure, you could be driving somewhere and hit the clutch instead of the brake, and be reading this in heaven, but when behind the wheel you do not consciously think Right Foot Go and Left Foot Shift. It’s automatic. In fact, if your vehicle is automatic, you’ll have to think about this.

Fortunately, we have the leisure of being idiots for nearly the whole of every day because of enough people who think for us. Isn’t that nice of them?

Charity is good. We’re to give heartily to worthy causes. “Give to the college of your choice,” is the slogan of some old-time commercials. Many of us do.

When you give to a disease foundation, or public radio, you often get a premium or bonus or gift, like a mug or tote bag. You also get a slip of paper for your tax records noting the incredibly modest cost of the T-shirt so it can be deducted. So why should anyone be surprised that buying super-duper tickets to college athletic events would not have a deduction built in. Continue reading

Set Your Alarmist Clock

Several Bentonville [Ark.] High School students were suspended last week after being caught on camera in what school officials believe was a gang initiation, according to Bentonville Superintendent Gary Compton. Compton described the incidents as a possible ‘gang jump-in’ that took place Jan. 22 and 23 at the high school. ‘We believe it was a gang jump-in,’ Compton said. ‘It looks like one boy was being jumped-in to the gang. The ritual involves one boy being beaten by the others. That’s his rite of passage to enter the gang.’ … All the students involved — included the one beaten — were suspended from school, Compton said. Police Chief James Allen said there were no arrests in connection with the incidents. Allen said it is not being handled as a criminal matter. He would not speculate on the reasons behind the incidents.”

I have read the article from which the above was excerpted backwards and forwards, several times. The reporting is done well, taking down what various responsible parties have to say, and letting all that speak for itself. Yet I cannot see any gang tie-in, can you? For all the world it looks like a kid whom other kids did not like directly letting him know what they thought of him.

Did they jump him? Well yeah. That’s how they took him by surprise. Lions find it works on gazelles. Is that a “jump-in”? I never heard of the phrase until this article; it’s in Google.

Did they gang up on him? Well yeah. Outnumbering assures a victory. Is that gang-related? Only in the sense of an “arranged or coordinated set.” That’s a dictionary for you.

When the school has health day, authorities may have to dock the nurse if she explains infection: Gangrene must be gang-related. -30-

Pro Forma Pro

Professionals — as opposed to, what, amateurs — and professions, as opposed to, what, trades, already were on my mind when a Fayetteville High School English teacher decided to set the record straight in a carefully written op-ed piece that just appeared in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Milton Burke, the teacher, began by explaining the hours required each year by the school district for “professional development.” Other professions, trades and crafts call this continuing education. Burke had several points: It’s a lot of hours for his group. His group is just as much a profession as medicine or law. His group is underpaid, especially when compared to other professions.

Burke quotes Plato. Rather, he quotes a scholar who quotes Plato who quotes Socrates.

Pay unfortunately is not related to working in a profession. Teaching at any level (kindergarten to college and including vo-tech, I mean) is certainly a profession and more important than even journalism or architecture. It is so important in this country it is part of government, to ensure its universal access. Government work is cheap. Continue reading

Milk fails the Pepsi Challenge

We in Arkansas are proud of our governor, Mike Huckabee. It’ll be a shame to lose him to term limits in 2 1/2 years, as he has grown in office even in the eyes of progressive sorts. He went from being a rigid Republican and a member of the evangelical right — he’s an ordained Southern Baptist minister — to forming alliances with almost every sort of leader and legislator around the country for the betterment of Arkansans.

Huckabee has not grown as an average American, though. In fact, he’s shrunk; he’s become his own best example of healthy living. He’s published a book of advice on wellness, and he’s worked with national figures to encourage us flabby types to get moving. Mostly, though, he’s focused on children’s obesity.

In Arkansas, though it took some years, he’s gotten candy and soda machines banned from schools. To be fair — and don’t you have to be fair? — vending machine companies may play out their contracts with school districts, which will take just a few years.

Meanwhile, the wise regulations, as they must be general, stipulate common drink container sizes rather than ingredients. In today’s Northwest Arkansas Times, we read on the front page that milk has been banned from Fayetteville High School.

The smallest bottle dairies can put in machines are 16-ouncers, and drinks greater than 12 ounces are not allowed, under regulations. Still “grandfathered” in, though, are 20-ounce Pepsi products. So in the milk machines are rows of pints of water, an exempt beverage.

I asked a recent high school graduate a while ago why she preferred bottled water to the fountain at work. I said, you know that tap water throughout the nation is safe, though sometimes minerals might make it taste different if you’re not used to it. She said she accepted that, but still, bottled water was better for you or they wouldn’t sell it, right? This I could not win.

So, you can lead Americans to running water but you can’t make them drink, unless it costs extra. So if milk is banned, would that make it more tempting? Maybe this is part of the Healthy Arkansas Kids plan, after all. -30-

Neigh, Justice

Copyright 2006 Ben S. Pollock

Justice for horses

Sunday, Jan. 1, 2006. NEWS ITEM — Fayetteville High’s band is scheduled Monday to march two places behind the Rose Parade’s grand marshal, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

They’ll find it easier to stay in step than me. In Fort Smith parades, my high school’s band always marched after the horses. -30-