Improving statistics, not achievement

To the editor:

The disconcerting responses by a Clark County School Board member and the superintendent in your Friday article “Panel backs lifting math mandate” are all too familiar. British politician Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics,” and, unfortunately, that phrase is fitting once again.

Both School Board President Mary Beth Scow and Superintendent Walt Rulffes are pleased, not about achievement, but about statistical manipulation that will be brought about by lifting the district’s mandate that all students take algebra by the eighth grade.

“Clark County School Board members accepted the (Expert Math) Committee’s recommendations for consideration with enthusiasm Thursday night,” James Haug reported. “Board President Mary Beth Scow predicted math scores would ‘go through the roof,’ as she praised the committee’s work.”

The School Board president is overjoyed that lowering a measure will substantially increase a positive statistical achievement in reports, not actual classroom achievement. Changing standards in a minor fashion is often acceptable, but to be glib that doing so will result in favorable statistics and not actual math proficiency is simply not acceptable.

Clark County School District officials, particularly in the face of difficulty or failure, like to give themselves high marks after mediocre results, or “project” that schools will eventually score high in the distant future.

When classroom results are negative — which happens all too frequently — officials introduce their own achievement flags, create an overpriced committee, conveniently blame No Child Left Behind or, as in this case, simply change the standards.

And next year, perhaps when the results are touted as a remarkable success, there will be a false sense of achievement once again akin the to social promotion standards that have prevailed for far too long.

Martin Dean Dupalo


Speaking in code

To the editor:

I thoroughly enjoy the election season. I love the exchange of ideas and the new veneers that get plastered onto old issues. I even get a kick out of the hypocrisy that I see from the soldiers on both sides who eschew plain, direct speech in favor of obfuscatory tactics. Thursday’s column by the Review-Journal’s Erin Neff is a prime example of the latter (“Code words can’t obscure GOP’s racial politics”).

It is obvious that she is a fairly committed Democrat/liberal/left-leaning writer — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But I have to take a moment and point out some of the weak, lame and intentionally limited arguments she employed.

I find it amazing that she is able to point out some words and phrases that people use to describe Sen. Barack Obama as some sort of “code.” Seems to me that if the Republican Party wanted its members to understand the hidden meanings behind this liberal-imagined code, they would have sent out the key to its party members. I’m still waiting for my copy. Perhaps Ms. Neff could share hers.

Her use of the “Swift Boat politics” metaphor is entirely dishonest. The Swift Boaters were simply a group of men who were in Vietnam and who had an opinion of the things they saw and did, and who had the same right and privilege to express those opinions and viewpoints as did Sen. John Kerry. To refer to them as an invective seems to imply that anyone who dares to speak out in opposition to the anointed liberal candidate of the moment is in danger of becoming an epithet for future name calling. Or is that some sort of Democrat code?

Although Sen. Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment could be taken a number of ways, to use it when he did so shortly after Gov. Sarah Palin’s lipstick joke during her convention speech invited a direct association. Everyone in the office in which I work immediately associated it as a direct attack on her, with some supporting her and some supporting him. But the association was universal. It is difficult to imagine that such a divinely inspired person would need to stoop so low.

And let’s not forget former President Carter’s media-ignored comment congratulating Sen. Obama for a “black boy” to have come so far.

Had a Republican uttered those words, he or she would have immediately been the target of an angry media with demands for apologies and heads on platters.

Unless, of course, that is some form of liberal code to which only mildly addled former presidents are privy.

Bruce Parshall


Ban pit bulls

To the editor:

Because of the recent pit bull attack (“Baby killed by dogs identified,” Tuesday Review-Journal), I think it is time that Clark County outlaws pit bulls.

How many more people are going to be attacked by these mad dogs before something is done?

These dogs are bred to kill. They should not be allowed in the county.

Henry Hertel


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