Music Matters - So Do Other "Activities"

Del Hanson
Years ago, my grandfather, father and I were trying to pull a corner post out of a fence line on the ranch with our 1966 Chevy pick-up. We wrapped it up real tight with a logging chain and put the hook on our rear bumper. Dad gunned the truck and we watched as that old corner post stayed standing and rear bumper clunked to the hard-packed earth. We looked at each other in silence, and then my grandfather broke the tension with a laugh and said, “Well, I guess we just ain’t that smart.” A study conducted by the American College Testing program a few years ago posed a series of questions to high school seniors taking the test. They were searching for the best predictor of future success in life as determined by the controlled situation in high school and standardized testing.
The study would establish whether having A. a high grade point average in high school, B. a high grade point average in college, C. a high score on the ACT test, or D. taking a meaningful series of electives in high school and being successful in them would be the best predictor of future success. The entire premise of the ACT and SAT exams is to predict potential success in college. The results were interesting.
Meanwhile, in our public schools, operating under the ominous shadow of No Child Left Behind, administrators and teachers chase the elusive rainbow that is AYP. To reach this ever-escalating proficiency, schools, by law, must provide students with tutoring and transfers to passing schools. As Diane Ravitch points out in her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School system: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, the central points underlying the massive education bill don’t work. It has been a dud and is getting worse. Ravitch, by the way, was the assistant Secretary of Education in the Bush administration. She helped implement NCLB and by 2005 had determined it was failing. How ironic. However, the bill still exacts a lethal stranglehold on school districts, and to appease the testing gods, principals and curriculum advisors require students not proficient on the exams to be yanked from class and provided “extra help.” Some of this “extra help” can be beneficial, but often it is grindingly tedious worksheet or computer practice, sometimes taught by persons not certified in the area being reviewed.
The results of the ACT inquiry discovered that the best determination of whether a student achieves success in later life is D., taking a series of meaningful electives in high school and being successful in them. Mentioned most often were music courses, but also athletics, art, and drama. Students who take music are more likely to succeed, stay in school, achieve high grades, graduate, stay out of trouble, have better reading comprehension and speed, do better in foreign language classes, and get along better with peers. Students yanked out of classes and forced into numbingly boring remediation due to poor exam achievement, are most often taken out of elective classes. Music is an elective. Although taking music is one of the best, if not the best, predictor of future success, schools diminish, curtail, or cancel music in lieu of providing basic remediation. We are throwing the baby out with the bath water.
I will make a bold statement that I think I can back up: there are no great schools which do not also possess great music programs. There may good music programs which exist in spite of a poor school, succeeding out of instructor tenacity, but great schools have great music programs. Why then do superintendents and school boards weaken or diminish music programs through funding cuts and personnel reductions? Why does elementary music gravitate to the top of the list when cuts are announced? I believe it happens out of abject ignorance. It is just dumb, but dumb decisions have become so commonplace that we almost expect them. Every decision made in every public school district must be predicated on one and only one idea: is it good for kids? Not good for school boards. Not good for superintendents. Not good for district report cards to the legislature. Not good for P.R. Not good for salaries. Is it good for kids? If not, then don’t do it. Period. It seems decisions are made on a daily basis which do not benefit kids. Eliminating music programs hurts kids.
A friend of mine who was an amazing teacher and administrator in Clovis, New Mexico, once made an astute observation of a group of sixty choir students as they stood on the risers. He said, “This may be the only time in their lives that all these kids, some black, some white, some Hispanic, some rich, some poor, some from good families, some not, some tall, some short, will be absolutely equal and treated the same.” He was right. Music and athletics in our schools teach so much more than practicing the clarinet or running plays. They teach about life. It is something paper and pencil jobs can’t assess.
I hear all manners of excuses made for NCLB from apologists on both sides of the political aisle. There may have been some good premises for the law in the beginning. But what it has morphed into is a monstrosity that has sucked precious resources from the classroom and reallocated them to testing companies with no particular interest in children except that they are a means to their end of making a profit for their company. Testing companies don’t care what happens to any particular child. They are just doing their job. Teaching is more than people just doing the job. Educators are in the people business, or at least used to be before short-term assessment and data analysis became more important than connecting with kids. The last I checked, children are people. Instead, they have recently become statistical inferences and trends. Inferences and trends don’t have a heartbeat and feelings and emotions. Schools that have vibrant and flourishing music, art, and athletic programs also excel at academics. Coincidence? Not hardly. Why then do we chip away and weaken the very programs that enhance and bolster student learning and school participation? Well, I guess we just ain’t that smart.”


A Few More Murders in Juarez

Mexican authorities are investigating the abduction of a U.S. citizen and several shooting deaths during the weekend in Juárez. Saul De la Rosa, 27, U.S. citizen, was at a house Saturday in the Galeana neighborhood when armed hit men arrived and shot to death two men at the home who are his relatives. De la Rosa and his wife had gone to Juárez to visit family members when the gunmen showed up at 12:35 p.m. Saturday, killed two men who were there with De la Rosa and took De la Rosa. Police identified the slain men as Juan Raymundo Sida de la Rosa, 41, and Juan Alberto Sida Chaparro, 22. Last week, Mexican federal police rescued an El Paso couple, Ernesto and Elvira Chavez, both in their 70s, who were kidnapped while they too visited relatives in Juárez. Their daughter sought help in finding them at the recent Annual Border Security Conference at the University of Texas at El Paso. Also Saturday, a man was set on fire and burned to death in the 9 de Septiembre neighborhood. Witnesses told police a group of men pulled the man out of a vehicle, threw him on the ground and poured gasoline on him before lighting a fire. Read more here:

Journal Poll Has Teague Up By 3

Harry Teague
From the New Mexico Independent - First-term Democratic congressman Harry Teague is polling slightly ahead of Republican challenger — and former congressman — Steve Pearce in the closely watched 2nd Congressional District race, according to results released today from the Albuquerque Journal Poll. Teague, who won the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2008, got the nod from 45 percent of all district voters surveyed while 42 percent supported Pearce, the paper reported. That’s what we call in political reporting a toss up because Teague’s three-point lead is within the poll’s 5 percent margin of error.
Steve Pearce
Even more telling, the Journal reports, independent voters in the 2nd Congressional District were almost evenly divided between the two men. Independent voters could be the determining factor in what is perhaps New Mexico’s hottest congressional race, according to the paper. Read more here:


Hassett - Chris Christie an Obama Beneficiary

N.J. Governor Chris Christie
With all the crazy talk of President Barack Obama being the antichrist, it’s sort of amusing that the anti-Obama is a guy named Christie. To understand the political force sweeping our country, one need only search the words “Chris Christie” on YouTube. The New Jersey governor’s town hall appearances have received hundreds of thousands of hits and glowing comments because the man, like Ronald Reagan before him, has an uncanny ear for what troubles Americans. The truth is, a mensch like Christie could never have emerged in American politics if super-slick Obama had not enraged so many Americans first. If Jimmy Carter created Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama created Chris Christie.
 Read more here:

El-Erian Calling for LOST DECADE in U.S.

Mohamed El-Erian
A “lost decade” in U.S. employment reflects a change in the structure of the nation’s labor market, according to Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief executive officer at Pacific Investment Management Co. “This country has very weak safety nets,” he said in a radio interview today on “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene. “It is built on the assumption that our labor markets are very flexible, that if you lose your job in California you move somewhere else, you get another job, and what we’re seeing is structural unemployment.”
Global growth will be below average during the next three to five years as developed economies struggle with mounting deficits and increased regulation in the wake of the 2008 collapse of credit markets, said El-Erian, who is also co-chief investment officer at Pimco. Read more here:

Lurita Doan - Doesn't Anybody Read In This Town?

Lurita Doan
Dismal, second quarter GDP figures, show only 1.6 percent growth, further proof of the failure of the Obama Administration’s economic and job creation policies. Earlier this month, reports showing unemployment is at 9.3% and sales of single-family homes have dropped to a fifteen year low make it clear that during the past 19 months, the Obama Administration has squandered trillions of dollars in failed policies. But you’d never guess that from Administration press releases. The dichotomy between the statistical data and the Obama Administration’s spin is nowhere more apparent than in the recently published Mid Session Review Report which discussed federal budget objectives and accomplishments to-date, as well as projections for the future. The report contained overly optimistic rhetoric not supported by the report’s distressingly dismal financial data. Read more here:

16th of September Celebration is CANCELLED in Juarez

From the El Paso Times - For the first time since the Mexican Revolution, Juárez city government has canceled the festivities of one of Mexico's most patriotic holidays. "First comes the safety of the population," said Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz. "Because of threats, because of criminal activities that exist in Juárez, we don't want to take any risks." On the eve of Sept. 16, mayors in Mexico lead crowds at city hall esplanades in the traditional ceremony of grito de independencia, or call to independence. ÁViva México! were the words shouted the same day by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810, when he launched the rebellion against the Spanish crown.
José Reyes Ferriz
The Independence party is a deep-rooted tradition in every Mexican town and city. It is mostly attended by Mexico's working class. It was the same class who witnessed the first cry for independence in 1810, when Hidalgo began the 11-year war to overthrow the Spaniards and put an end to Indian slavery. The Mexican Independence Day is, along with the Mexican Revolution, a symbol of cultural identity. Juárez has observed the patriotic holiday even before it gained its name in 1888. Read more here:


Shame on the Sun-News & the Hispano Chamber

From the Westerner by Frank DeBois - the article Report: Wilderness areas good for economy Sun-News reporter Amanda L. Bradford writes:A report on the economic benefit of wilderness conservation is being touted by one local business group as proof of their claim that federal wilderness areas help bring in revenue, but the leader of another business organization called that claim "overreaching."...The 290-member Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces, which supports the federal Desert Peaks-Organ Mountains Wilderness Act and has launched a local TV advertising campaign to promote it, said the report shows that investing in wilderness conservation and restoration in southern New Mexico provides increased employment and revenue related to tourism...Emphasis mine. I'm curious as to where Bradford got the term "wilderness conservation", as that term never appears in the referenced report. The second quote above attributes the term to the Hispano Chamber. If the term is from the Hispano Chamber, then they are once again distorting the facts.In fact, the word "wilderness" never appears anywhere in the report. The Audubon Society put out an 1100 word press release about the report, and the word "wilderness" never appears in their press release.Read the press release and you will understand the report is aimed at the New Mexico legislature to prevent any cuts in conservation funding: “In today's economy lawmakers have tough budget decisions to make, and this report clearly demonstrates that investing in conservation and restoration projects pays large dividends now and in the future,” continued Stockdale. “Our state’s leaders have an opportunity to fund vital conservation programs that will enhance our quality of life and create jobs.” Read the report and you will see most of the types of recreation and restoration projects given as examples would be totally prohibited in Wilderness areas.

Here's a picture from the report:
Try doing that in a Wilderness area.
So we have a news story with a misleading headline that mentions wilderness, with the body of the story using the term "wilderness conservation", all concerning a report that never uses either term and which is promoting projects that cannot occur in a Wilderness area.The Sun-News needs to do a better job of fact-checking their reporters and the Hispano Chamber should rein in their exec and apologize to the public.


2nd Mayor in Tamaulipas is Assassinated

Felipe Calderon
From the El Paso Times - MEXICO CITY (AP) - The office of Mexican President Felipe Calderon says the mayor of a town in the violence-plagued border state of Tamaulipas has been assassinated, the second killing of a mayor in the area in two weeks. The daughter of Mayor Marco Antonio Leal Garcia was wounded in the attack by gunmen that killed her father. There is no immediate information on the motive in the slaying. Read more here:


Star Parker - Our Own Personal Guardian Bureaucrat

Star Parker
Putting more and more wolves in charge of guarding the henhouse might characterize the big problems we’ve now created for ourselves. Government is growing. The private economy is shrinking. Those wielding political power see fewer and fewer problems they believe private citizens can solve on our own. Soon, each one of us will have our own personal guardian bureaucrat. The real difference between us and the hens is that the hens are not paying for the wolves’ salaries and benefits. This past week new rules governing our credit cards kicked in, following passage of the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility Act, signed into law last year. The point of the CARD Act is to protect us consumers from the scheming bankers from whom we get our credit cards. As result of these new protections, consumers can be grateful that credit card interest rates are the only interest rates that are not now dropping. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average card interest rate is now 1.6% higher than last year and the gap between credit card rates and the prime lending interest rate is the highest it’s been in 22 years. Read more here:

State Budget Analysis

From the Santa Fe New Mexican - In the race to become New Mexico's next governor, Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez have made financial promises that will be very difficult to keep when the winner takes office in January. The candidates pledged at a recent gubernatorial debate on education issues to exempt public schools from additional budget cuts, and they vowed not to raise taxes. Both candidates also have said they would protect Medicaid from cutbacks. The promises make for good politics but dicey budgetary policy. New Mexico faces a projected deficit of about $230 million in the next fiscal year, according to the Legislative Finance Committee. That's how much money is necessary to maintain current government services and programs — from public schools and colleges to prisons and state police. Public schools are the biggest piece of the state budget, accounting for 45 percent of spending this year. Read more here:

Journal Poll: Denish Has Work to Do

Diane Denish
From the New Mexico Independent - With just over two months before the November election, Republican Susana Martinez leads Democrat Diane Denish by 6 percentage points in the race for governor, according to an Albuquerque Journal poll.
The poll results, released today, reveal the first comprehensive local survey of voter sentiment in New Mexico heading into the traditional election season, which begins after Labor Day. They show that Denish, the Democratic lieutenant governor, appears to have the tougher path to winning the governor’s mansion. Martinez registered support among 45 percent of those surveyed, including among some Democrats, compared to 39 percent overall for Denish, the Journal reported. About 16 percent of the poll’s respondents remain undecided, the poll found. Read more here:

Flying Around New Mexico

Susana Martinez
From the New Mexico Independent - Republican candidate for governor Susana Martinez has pledged to sell New Mexico’s state jet if elected—but she told The Independent she would not sell two other aircraft that cost almost as much to operate. One of those two planes is newer than the jet. In July, KRQE-TV investigative reporter Larry Barker’s reported that Lt. Gov. Diane Denish’s use of state aircraft cost $367,236. Barker also found that Denish had violated state cost-efficiency rules 39 times. Denish has said she wasn’t aware of such rules. She defended her use of the planes, telling The Independent that flying allows state officials to get out to rural New Mexico more quickly and more often. She also said selling the jet in today’s market would be a bad move.
“Susana Martinez will sell the five million dollar jet …the remainder of the state fleet will only be used in emergency situations or official state business that is a priority,” said Martinez Campaign Manager Ryan Cangiolosi said in an e-mail to The Independent. But Cangiolosi didn’t specify what state business would take “priority” for jet usage. Read more here:

Progressive: Standing Up for Women!

Ben Roethlisberger
From Progressive Magazine - By Elizabeth DiNovella - Football season is upon us and the National Football League is out to woo female fans. It’s launching a new line of women’s apparel, meant to be “both fashionable and sporty.” According to The New York Times, the marketing blitz will feature print ads that say, “Who Says Football Isn’t Pretty?” The female fan base of the NFL is huge—more than 45 million women watch NFL games each weekend, myself included.
I’m not looking forward to this season, and not just because the Bears are going to be disappointing. I’m disappointed that Ben Roethlisberger is playing this year. The NFL suspended the Steelers’ QB for six games, since he violated the league’s personal-conduct policy. The unsportsman-like conduct charge stems from a March incident in which he was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student. The police investigated the alleged assault but never charged him. Read more here:

Also from Progressive Magazine - By Elizabeth DiNovella, October 7, 2009  - “It is due to the wrong and devastating policies of the U.S. government and NATO countries that unfortunately today Afghanistan is a mafia state and ranked at the top of the most unstable and corrupt countries in the world," says, Malalai Joya, Afghanistan's leading democracy activist. Read more here:


Joseph C. Phillips - Is America Only for White People?

Joseph Phillips
Is America only for white people? The question stuck in my mind following yet another e-mail exchange with a friend of mine, regarding my conservatism. For this particular gentleman, being black in America is at odds with conservatism. As he put it: “…Particularly as African-Americans, I feel we are in no real position to idealize the American experience and get too choked up about institutions and symbols that were not created with us in mind. Certainly, we cannot cast our lot with those who are actively seeking to destroy those gains we have made.” I have a number of issues with the above statement, not the least of which is that the principles that inspired the American founding were always viewed as universal principles, which applied to all of mankind. Curiously, it wasn’t until the introduction of Historicist and Darwinian philosophy (which gave birth to Progressivism) that some Americans began to argue otherwise. And of course, I disagree that conservatives are actively seeking to destroy all of the gains black America has made.
It is important to note that the sentiments that my friend expresses are similar to the political attitudes which continue to permeate much of the black community. These same attitudes are also particularly present in the thinking of the black leftists, who have long held the conviction that the existence of slavery at our nation’s founding renders our Constitution a hollow document; the institutions and symbols that sprang from the founding were bereft of moral authority; the founders were hypocrites and liars, and the American dream is little more than a cruel myth. Read more here: