This space of your favorite weekly newspaper focuses mostly on what was in last week, and will be in future weeks:
iOpinions about iPads: It’s not surprising that the pilot program to put iPads in the hands of Platteville seventh- through ninth-grade students this year has had some hiccups.
Some of the complaints in the parent surveys strike one as being in the category of “when I was your age I walked uphill five miles to school each day.” An iPad certainly can be a distraction. So can a a laptop, a cellphone, a landline telephone, a TV, a radio, a book you’d rather be reading than your homework, people talking to you (particularly annoying siblings), noises outside, and a nice evening or weekend day. (If those seem like reasons that texting-while-driving laws are redundant, well, there’s a reason for that.)
Another common complaint was non-access to textbooks. The problem with textbooks is that the information in textbooks changes, because information changes. This insight, such as it is, goes all the way back to my middle-school days, when our geography teacher pointed out that the maps in his room weren’t up to date anymore, since in some parts of the world, he said, the borders were, shall we say, flexible. And that was more than a decade before the death of the Soviet Union. (And the maps might change again depending on how the Ukraine mess is resolved.)
Technology’s advance is difficult to predict, but it doesn’t require a leap of faith to predict that paper textbooks’ days are numbered. Textbooks are not cheap to purchase (ask any college student about that), and doctors don’t recommend filling your child’s backpacks with books that can double as doorstops. More importantly, though, information changes. Some subjects like elementary math (addition, etc.) and English grammar may not change, but certainly science and social studies change in what we know.
Textbooks are just a vehicle to deliver information. So are tablets, e-readers and smartphones.
The return of sprummer: This is the time of year where parents with more than one child in more than one activity could be justified in throwing up their hands in despair over being able to figure out everyone’s schedules. You’ve read about all the school-winding-up activities going on, while summer activities, such as baseball, have already started.
That brings to mind something the state Legislature did right this session — eliminating the 180-days-of-school requirement. The impetus was our craptacular winter and its seven canceled days due to bitter cold (four), ice (two) and snow (one — at least that’s how I remember it). The minutes-in-class requirement remains, which cover the early dismissals (one because of, yes, heat) and late starts, but I’ve always maintained that full days off are less disruptive to families than late starts and early dismissals.
It will be interesting to see how many, and when, school districts decide to save one-fifth of transportation costs and eliminate a day of school each week, lengthening class days to make up the difference. Some businesses have changed employee schedules to four 10-hour days, and others have more flexible arrangements as needed by the business. (In weekly newspapers, you work on any day that ends in a Y.)
There are those who think summer school vacation needs to be eliminated. I’m unconvinced of that, but rethinking schedules, even if you don’t change them, makes you think about what and how education takes place, not just when.
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign: Last year during a Music in the Park concert, I came upon a woman and her dog listening to the music outside of the park’s boundaries. She was there because, of course, you can’t legally bring a dog into City Park, or any other city park as far as I know, except for the Platteville Dog Park.
I can guess the reason dogs aren’t allowed in parks. Dogs aren’t allowed to do, shall we say, number two business on city streets without owner cleanup either, and yet I recall dodging piles of number two on Main Street when I started working here two years ago. (I’m not an animal excrement expert, but I’m guessing they weren’t squirrel droppings.) Platteville isn’t the only community that treats dog-owners as second-class citizens, but that doesn’t make the city’s policies right. Dog owners are property taxpayers (either directly, as homeowners, or indirectly, as renters) just like dog non-owners, and they pay for licenses for their dogs.
A learning experience: UW–Platteville student Josh Inglett describes the Headfakes group he started as a way to do on a more local level what he wanted to do as a UW System student regent. Inglett was briefly nominated for the student regent position until a conservative group discovered he had signed a petition supporting the recall of Gov. Scott Walker. Inglett may have discovered himself that local efforts are indeed more successful and long-lasting than trying to accomplish things on a higher level, particularly when partisan politics gets involved.
By the way … To read my views on the Memorial Day/second-Veterans Day/family-memorial/high-school-commencement/unofficial-start-of-summer weekend coming up, read www.swnews4u.com/archives/5483/. Of the high school commencement part of that, to read my ultimate graduation speech, read www.swnews4u.com/archives/13436/.