Swickard: Schools becoming vast educational wastelands

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. I cannot understand why when people become educational administrators they forget the enterprise of education is supposed to be centered on children. It is not in today's world and educational administrators are unable to grasp why schools have become vast educational wastelands.
     Question: should students enjoy school? Like most discussions the problem is understanding the word, "Enjoy." Research to the contrary, most modern administrators are afraid of being criticized for students enjoying the day.
     I was at an elementary school some time ago where there were two types of teachers. One type was the kind gentle teachers who looked at and thought about each child individually. They try to make the educational experience the best it can be for each student.
      Balance that with the new breed of teachers who are just trying to show off to the administration by proving that they teach with RIGOR! That is the new buzz word, rigor. It means teachers use what some people call "Tough Teaching" and do not worry in the least that students may not like what they are experiencing.
      The teachers who center on rigor make sure no child enjoys any moments during the day because if they do then the teacher is being too easy on them. These rigorous teachers, supported by rigorous administrators never consider the feelings and emotions of students. The more students hate every moment of school, the better these educators feel. But that is completely contrary to research.
     At this school during Christmas time one teacher's class was singing songs while the teacher helped the students make presents for their mothers. In short, this classroom was buzzing with interested students. The other classroom was silent and very depressed because often they did not even get recess since to show rigor that teacher, with the support of the administration would skip recess.
     As I was standing there in the gleeful classroom a student from the other classroom walked by, looked in and spoke mournfully. He said, "Hi Mr. Snowman," to a full-size Frosty the Snowman. I wanted to go bring him into the circle but I was just an observer of instructional practice.
     Every teacher this year says that they are instructed to keep students pointed toward cheating the accountability tests by practicing the specific answers. Students do not find this interesting. They detest school and everyone in it. A few teachers keep trying to blow life into this aberrant style of education and they are uniformly smacked around by the administration who only care that their schools score better. Read full column


Tolar, NM to get historical marker where bomb-loaded train exploded during WWII

From KOB-TV.com - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Tolar, New Mexico has the distinction of being the only town in the US to be bombed out of existence in World War II. This week, 70 years later, the state will install a historic marker on a lonely stretch of US 60 between Fort Sumner and Clovis where the little town once stood.
      It wasn’t the Germans or the Japanese who bombed Tolar. In fact, there wasn’t even an airplane involved. It was an all-American self-inflicted railroad disaster – an accident that miraculously killed only one person.
      Even before the blast, there wasn’t much to see in Tolar, but after 160 bombs went off in a freight train fire, the town was pretty much obliterated. We’re talking big bombs here - 500-pounders - enough to fill four B-29 bombers.
      Railroad historian Randy Dunson grew up nearby. He’s the one who convinced the state Transportation Department to put up a marker for Tolar. “The train derailed right in the middle of Tolar,” Dunson said. “The cars in those days were mostly wooden and the wreckage caught on fire. I do know there was a tank car of naphtha involved in it. The fire reached this boxcar that was loaded with these 160 or so 500-pound bombs.”
     They blew up. Shrapnel killed a local man named Jess Brown, but the train’s rear brakeman was even closer. “He was about somewhere between two and six cars from the fire when this explosion went off and it blew him under the train,” Dunson said. “He was okay – he didn’t break a bone!”
      The explosion left a crater about 20-feet deep and 60-feet across. The town of Tolar was pretty much toast. The dedication for the historic marker is scheduled for 2 p.m. this Friday, at mile marker 344 on US Highway 60, way out on the prairie between Fort Sumner and Clovis. More

APD shooting lawsuits have cost city millions

From KOAT-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The city of Albuquerque has spent millions of tax dollars on lawsuits involving officer-involved shootings and it’s not over. Many of the shootings involving police officers end up in court with members of the family of the person shot seeking money. Since 2012, the city of Albuquerque spent $11,455,991 in settlements, judgments and legal fees.
      “We defend police officers like every city employee, vigorously and zealously,” city attorney David Tourek said. Some of those cases turned out in favor of the city, but most have not.
      A big payout went to the family of Alan Gomez. In 2011, police got a call that Gomez was holding his brother and another woman against their will. Officers thought he was armed when they shot and killed Gomez. Police later discovered it was a spoon. The cost of that lawsuit was $1.048 million.
      The most expensive case involved the estate of Kenneth Ellis. He was pointing a gun to his head when he was killed in a January 2010 SWAT standoff. The lawsuit cost the city $8.305 million.
      Then there’s the case of Christopher Torres, who was a mentally ill man with a violent criminal history. Police were serving a warrant for a road rage case. Officers shot Torres during a confrontation. In June, a district court judge ordered the city to pay the Torres family $6 million. The amount was later reduced to $400,000.
      With nearly $12 million already spent on officer-involved shootings, it’s not over yet. There are still some major cases coming down the pike, including the case of homeless camper James Boyd. More

Marita Noon: Six energy policy changes to watch for in a Republican-controlled Congress

Commentary by Marita Noon - Now that the dust has settled on the 2014 midterms, we can get a sense of how things will change in Washington under a Republican controlled Senate—and energy will be front and center.
      Republicans and Democrats have very different views on energy development and policy. The past six years have seen taxpayer dollars poured into green-energy projects that have embarrassed the administration and promoted teppan-style renewables that chop-up and fry unsuspecting birds mid-flight and increase costs for consumers and business. Meanwhile, Republicans have touted the job creation and economic impact available through America’s abundant fossil-fuel resources.
      Voters made their preference clear: Republicans won more seats, and with bigger majorities, than anyone predicted. The day after the election, the Friends of the Earth, wasting no time, sent out a dramatic fundraising pitch, opening with: “The election’s over—the planet lost.” (You may not have even known that the planet was on your local ballot, but apparently it was.)
       The email’s proclamation, once again, exposes the environmentalists’ agenda: “President Obama hasn’t always done the right thing for the environment. He should have denied the Keystone Pipeline years ago, he should be rolling back unchecked fracking, and he should have taken stronger action on climate both at home and in international negotiations.”
       Gratefully, though ideologically aligned with them, he attempted to appease and didn't take the extreme level of action Friends of the Earth would have liked.
      The Keystone pipeline remains a strong possibility, though the Canadians have nearly given up on us. Fracking is regulated at the state level, which, mostly, allows it to continue to increase America’s energy freedom—resulting in lower prices at the pump. Because more than 96 percent of the wells drilled in America today use the decades-old, but new-and-improved, technology of hydraulic fracturing, a federal fracking ban, like environmental groups have been trying to pass through city and county initiatives, would virtually shut down our booming energy economy. President Obama tried, but couldn't pass a cap-and-trade bill—even when his party controlled both houses. Nor could he get a new Kyoto-like international treaty ratified. Most of the western world is now retreating on the climate pledges made in a different political era.
       Friends of the Earth is correct, though. The email states: “Now, with both the Republican Senate and the House salivating and ready to sink their teeth into our most basic environmental laws, the President’s environmental legacy is truly at stake.”  Read full column

Ski season in New Mexico is now underway

From KOB-TV.com - The lifts at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort in northern New Mexico opened Saturday. It is the first ski area to open in New Mexico for the 12th consecutive year.
       Lifts are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
       Lift tickets are $25 for adults, $19 for teens (ages 13-20) and $15 for kids (ages 7-12) and seniors (ages 61 and older). Kids 6 and younger, 4th graders, 5th graders, and guests ages 40, 60 or 70 years and better receive a free lift ticket every day. More

Would someone get ready to run for office?

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - Why would anyone run for office in today's world where outright lies and personal attacks are the currency of the political kingdom? We Americans have just endured months upon months of one candidate calling their political opponent everything but smart and handsome. The lies and innuendos have flowed throughout our towns.
       The non-stop attack advertisements sound like middle-school kids shouting, "You're a poo-poo head." Followed by the rejoinder, "No you're a poo-poo head." Mostly I am very sorry for the family members of the candidates who had to listen to attacks upon their loved ones for the purpose of politics. Some even were the targets in some communities.
       Worse, there is a price to pay for business people who run for office since the first step is to declare a party. Often members of the contradictory party then boycott that business such that the business suffers because someone wants to do their civic duty.
       Why, oh why, would anyone with any kind of sense put up with such shabby treatment? More so there is the concern that the people we would like to get into public service will not submit to this kind of treatment. The business leaders of our communities support people running for office but often will not tolerate those personal false attacks, therefore, will never run for office.
       The First Amendment question: can people knowingly lie but hide behind the Constitution's protection of free speech? Yes, they can and do. This does not mean there are no consequences for those who campaign by falsehood. We who value truth will remember falsehoods and act accordingly.
       Even though an election has just ended if someone was thinking about running next time, that decision must be made soon to get all of the things done to have some kind of chance against an incumbent. But the sting of the false statements and insults are still ringing in our ears. We may forgive but never forget the lies told. Read full column


Intense football rivalry leads to post-game brawl

From KRQE-TV.com - LAS CRUCES - A New Mexico high school football rivalry escalated into an ugly brawl, and now both teams learned there will be consequences just as they enter the playoffs.
       The Las Cruces vs. Mayfield game quickly became an example of bad sportsmanship Friday night. Five players from Las Cruces and four players from Mayfield have been suspended for their next games, the first in the playoffs.
      The post-game fight erupted in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The Mayfield Trojans had just beaten the Las Cruces Bulldawgs, winning the District 3 6-A Title. The final score was 28 to 27.
       Right after the game ended, all the chaos erupted on the field. “It’s an intense rivalry. Everybody knows that. Tempers flare. Things happen, but that being said, that’s no excuse,” said Jim Miller, Las Cruces High School coach.
      Mayfield’s coach, Michael Bradley, said, “This is one of the top rivalries in the nation. We’re under the eye of everybody, I tell our kids all the time is everybody’s watching you.” Las Cruces Public Schools superintendent Stan Rounds said the district holds its athletes to high standards and expects them to live up to those expectations.
       “For 48 minutes we had good football,” Rounds said. “For 35 seconds we had bad decisions made by athletes,” he added at a Wednesday news conference. Both teams are entering the class 6-A playoffs. Some of the suspended students are starters, but the district hasn't identified them.
       They won’t be allowed to participate in their next games, can’t travel with the team and can’t sit on the sidelines, Rounds said. Las Cruces will play Atrisco Heritage in Albuquerque Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Community Stadium.
      Next weekend, Mayfield will face the winner of the Sandia-Clovis game. More

Farmington PD evidence room theft could result in four case dismissals

From KOB-TV.com - FARMINGTON -- Almost a month after missing evidence was first reported at the Farmington Police Department, we now know how the theft of drugs and cash from the evidence lockup will affect open cases.
       "At this time there are just over a dozen - 12 to 15 cases - that have been affected by evidence problems," said San Juan County District Attorney Rick Tedrow. "Of those, we are thinking about four of those will result in dismissal of the cases."
       28-year-old evidence technician Ashley Goodvoyce has been charged with the thefts and has since resigned from the department. Police say 70 bags of evidence were tampered with and $9,069.02 dollars in cash are gone.
      "When we have a case where evidence was tampered with, it affects the chain of custody, and the appropriate and just thing to do, under the law, is probably to dismiss those cases," said Tedrow.
       While police were investigating the thefts, they have also worked on a plan to add security cameras and remodel the rooms where evidence is stored, and are examining and implementing new policies to keep this from happening again. More

From the battlefield to the oilfield, it’s all about jobs for veterans

Commentary by Marita Noon - One-and-a-half million to 2 million men and women served in America’s defense during the Global War on Terror. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 250,000 service members enter civilian life each year and that number will rise with the draw-down of soldiers from Afghanistan. 
      As troops return home, they face a new fight: finding a job in a competitive labor market that doesn't understand how their military experience translates into employees with discipline, organization, and motivation.
      Most have served in the Middle East, risking their lives for America, and ensuring an uninterrupted energy supply. They believe in the greatness of America.
      Their experiences in the military make these returning veterans ideal employees for America’s booming oil-and-gas industry. Many companies have seen the value veterans bring to their organization and are actively recruiting veterans—both enlisted and officers.
      What better way to honor them for their service than to minimize the need to return to the Middle East by making America energy secure, by developing our own abundant resources?
       The U.S. oil-and-gas industry has added millions of jobs in the past few years and expects to add more and more—especially with the new energy-friendly Republican-controlled Congress. Just the Keystone pipeline—which is now likely to be built—will employ thousands. Increased access to reserves on federal lands will demand more personnel. But finding potential hires that fit the needs of the energy industry in the general labor pool is difficult, as they lack discipline, the ability to work in a team and, often, can’t pass a drug test. Here the fit for the veteran becomes obvious. Read full column


‘E.T.’ games selling for more than $800

From KRQE-TV.com - ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – Some of the old Atari games dug up from an Alamogordo landfill are fetching a pretty penny on eBay.
      One copy of “E.T.” is going for $810 right now and there’s still four days left to bid. The city of Alamogordo is putting a bunch of the crushed game cartridges on the auction block. They were dug up earlier this year.
      Those old games were dumped in the ’80s after the release of “E.T.” for Atari, a game so bad it nearly bankrupted the entire video game industry. More