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What I meant to say

So, I got carried away in the last blogging session and took aim at something unintended.

What I actually wanted to gripe about was a set of statistics appearing in a piece on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times of Aug. 28 by Natalie Wexler.

She writes:

"Consider this: In 1977, 25 years before No Child Left Behind ushere din the era of high-stakes testing, elementary school teachers spent only about 50 minutes a day on science and social studies combined. ... in 2012, they spent even less time on those subjects -- but only by about 10 minutes."

What? Oh my goodness.

Little wonder the country is adrift. Nobody has any context; it's something invented for the convenience of the moment.

And little wonder that the College Board reported this week that SAT average scores just keep right on dropping. Apparently the people who write the SAT don't know about how little time students spend on important matters like science and civics.

I have no clue what to do about this, but I'm pretty sure that reducing funds for public education is not the solution.


I don't know much about the "common core," some kind of educational movement that's been demonized by some on the right.

I know that there are those in Congress who waant to do away with the "common core," and there are a lot of others who don't.

I think maybe part of the issue has to do with local school districts being told what to do by the federal government, which is not anything new at all -- either the opposition or the federal control.

We seem to have this mythological image in our heads that proper schooling comes from the grassroots and swells upward, and that the grassroots know best.

The history of American education certainly does not prove that to be the case. Local school boards have been and can be the most stiff-necked, hide-bound, dumber-than-dirt people around. Many of them, especially in the South, were dragged kicking and screaming into desegregation back in the late '60s, years and years after Brown vs. Board was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I'm not saying that history makes opposition to the common core suspect. I am saying, though, that just because it comes from the federal level doesn't make it bad, either.


And the winner is ...

Actually, the winner is you who participated in our adult summer reading program.

The program just ended with a drawing for a Kindle Fire. The winner of the drawing was Donna Wyatt.

But, a total of 134 adults who read and turned in their names were also winners.

They read a total of 1,071 books.

The number of participants and the number of books read were significantlly higher than the totals for 2014. Last year, 582 books were read by 73 adults. The increase was on the order of 84 percent.

Seems like everyone liked the format of the program this year, which was all put together by Sarah Davis, assistant circulation librarian.

Congratulations to all!

Yes, but is it free?

A report released last year was based on a survey of college students designed to find out how much they spent on average each year for textbooks.

A U.S. News story on the study said the average was about $1,200.

That corresponds with the cost of a text I decided not to require when I taught journalism at the University of Texas a couple of years ago. That book was north of $100.

I understand the forces driving textbook costs ever upward, but I fail to understand why more college deans and professors don't figure out an alternative, especially with the ubiquity of the Web and Web-based software.

Last week, Infodocket reported that the University of Texas system had launched its first all-digital no-paper textbook degree program. It's in biomedical sciences and is offered at UT-Rio Grande Valley.

The Teagle Foundation provided the UT system with a $300,000 grant to support the program.

I'd say the UT system is not exactly blazing trails with this initiative. In fact, they are probably way, way behind other colleges and are most certainly behind what would be expected of a major university. This is not cutting edge, and UT aspires to be a world-class place.

Students and their parents need a break on book costs. But the students also need to be able to live and work and study in the 21st century.

But, wait ... are these digital books free? Or half-price? Or ...

The story doesn't say.

Kind of sad ...

We get, literally, thousands of books that are donated to the library each year.

I have no idea how many are fiction or nonfiction, how many are children's books, how many are new, how many old. I just don't keep track of these things.

I do sometimes browse through the boxes that have been dropped off, though, mainly looking for books I can take to one of our Little Free Libraries (we have four around town now).

I was doing a little trolling in the piles this week and found two copies in the same box of a book that set me to wondering.

Both were pristine copies of a book called "The Grandparents' Treasure Chest."

The idea of this kind of  book is that a grandparent will fill in the blanks on hundreds of pages, including a family tree. The pages are for memories and photos, and the titles on the pages are intended to jumpstart the mind.

The books were blank.

Which means that somewhere out there is a grandchild, maybe two, who don't know everthing about Grandpa or Grandma that they could have had Grandpa or Grandma bothered to write on those pages.

At first, I thought this was sad.

But, then, I reflected on how much my own grandkids want to know about my life: Not much, really.

I guess that's just the way it is today when family members live so far apart and have so little regular interaction.

Maybe that's the sad part.

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