Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I don't cover state-level politics much because, by and large, there's little national interest. The budget drama going on in Carson City now is de rigeur across the nation, albeit with a few Nevada touches like gaming and mining. I have done pieces in recent weeks on the Google driverless cars law (AB511), which passed easily in the Assembly and is now en route to the Senate, and the effort to weaken the state's smoking ban. But this one awaiting Gov. Sandoval's signature or veto, AB 456, simply knocked me out. Judging from the column's Facebook/Twitter pickup, I'm not alone in being appalled, either. Here goes. -sf

Why AB 456 is a huge middle finger to Nevada’s education system
Don’t know much about math? Science? Reading? Don’t worry about it


All you need to know about why Gov. Brian Sandoval must veto AB 456 you can learn from this parlor game my partner and I play in social company.

For one miserable semester in 2004, I tried to teach journalism at UNLV, except that almost every student was so functionally illiterate I actually taught remedial English. On election night that year, each student received unique orders to chat up a certain demographic or to ask about certain topics at political gatherings. The girl assigned to ask foreign policy questions rendered a story that included this “word”: Alkita.

It took me only a moment to decipher, but over cocktails, friends offer many answers. A breed of dog? No. A battery part? No. Someone’s name? No.

That, dear readers, was how this Las Vegas child spells the name of America’s worst enemy, Al Qaeda. How many kids in 1943, pray tell, wrote about the nahceez?

The best part: She later begged me for a B to maintain her Millennium Scholarship. Which is to say, this girl who couldn’t distinguish a comma from a Cadillac graduated a Nevada high school with at least a B average to qualify for that. When I refused, she growled at me, “All my other teachers say I’m a great writer.”

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com


Mark said...

I'd leave a comment on Las Vegas Weekly, but I don't have a Facebook account. First the "more money = better teachers" mantra is a fallacy. In truth, the result is the same teachers making more money. (Try to fire a bad teacher. Good luck.) Second, politicians long ago realized that students don't vote, and more importantly, don't make campaign contributions. Teachers do. If the number of students who fail to earn a diploma gets too high, people will begin to call for reform, putting teachers in the spotlight. Easier to just lower the standards and keep the contributions coming.

As an aside, I used to instruct college grads. The first thing we did was give them a reading test. Far too many needed remedial reading classes.