Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dear manipulator on the train . . .

I remember the last time we took the train together. It was four weeks ago today. The officer quietly asked for tickets, and you spent so long arguing with him and giving excuses that I could have ridden two stops for free and gotten away with it. I remember you admitting to him that it was your second time (being caught, which means you probably ride all the time without paying).
So this morning, even though I didn't recognize you when you were complaining to the other guy next to you that you needed to get a loan to pay your DUI citations, I could certainly recognize you when you tried to talk your way out of your third citation. It was rather entertaining watching the officer very pleasantly and politely catch you lying to him three different ways. You seemed not to listen when he explained to you that what you needed was to start making better decisions. So, even though you're not listening, I have two pieces of advice for you:

  1. When he's got you--I mean, got you so thoroughly your tongue may as well be nailed to the floor--stop talking. You're only making it worse.
  2. You might consider taking another train than the 8 o'clock on Tuesdays. The two times I've watched you get cited are the only two times in three years my ticket has been checked.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Clearfield FrontRunner Railstop

Council member Bush asked me Sunday (knowing that I am a regular FrontRunner rider) what I would like to see at the Clearfield Railstop for FrontRunner.
If you want an answer to how a railstop should look, hop on the train and go to Farmington (only $3.10 each way), where a private developer took an absurd station design from UTA and built around it the only viable business plot next to a FrontRunner station. (I won’t say that Farmington Station has cornered the market on inaccessibility from the outside--Layton and Roy certainly make it difficult for passengers to access.) However, the land at Clearfield’s station already belongs to UTA, so public development bidding is not an option. Unfortunate--a shopping park there (like what Clinton has developed at its main intersection) could have been a major boon to the city.
Council member Bush lamented to me that UTA’s plan is for housing and offices. While there is significant merit in that plan for businesses or individuals involved, it would do nothing to serve the hundreds of people like me who are already using the railstop. Bush suggested a convenience store where rail users could buy gasoline for the cars that are constantly filling the parking lot at the railstop. That would answer the need in my first thought: drinks. I don’t generally drive to the station--I take my bike, and the others like me would probably like to see something where we could buy a drink when we miss out train and have to wait an hour in the July heat. So let me brainstorm a few ideas of businesses I might like to see at the Clearfield FrontRunner station, that would serve the needs of the present riders:
  • A convenience store (that’s a really good idea, Kent!)
  • A juice bar
  • A newsstand/bookstore
  • A breakfast shop (as in bagels, coffee, doughnuts, or even a place that makes food)
  • A bike repair shop (there are a lot of thorns in Clearfield, and the bike car on the train is always full!)
  • A wireless retailer (because everybody on the train is already using that free WiFi)

Now, housing and offices are also a great idea. People would move into the housing units due to the convenience--probably not as many people as UTA thinks, but some. Businesses would locate in the offices, and may even subsidize train passes for their employees since they won’t have to maintain a parking lot. But smart building can put condominiums and businesses like I’ve suggested under the same roof.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

In Response to the Common Core Protest

In Thursday’s Deseret News appeared an article describing the rally at the Capitol by protesters against the state core standards. I am more than a little troubled by the response from a loud minority to Utah’s adoption of the new core standards. I am particularly troubled that my own legislator attached his name to Cherliyn Eagar’s resolution which calls for defunding the school system unless the state renounces its adoption of the standards. I have held my peace in public throughout this debate, expecting that the teaching of the standards in our schools will allow their own merit to silence the critics. Yet this Wednesday’s rally has convinced me that silence will likely never come.
I am a school teacher myself, and in my brief career thus far I have taught under the auspices of three different state core curricula for English language arts. The standards unveiled as the Common Core are by far the best standards I have seen. Indeed, they are a testament to the power of collaboration--a product of many shows itself to be superior to a product of only a few.
As a teacher, I can offer evidence to refute Eagar’s claim that the standards are “unproven” and “inferior.” I taught my classes in the 2012-2013 school year using the state standards, fully implemented now, even though the state would be testing my students at the end of the year on a test focusing on the old (2006) core. All but five of my ninth graders reached the proficiency level on that test--far more than in any previous year. Even the students who did not quite make the proficiency level demonstrated improvement--four of the five of them were very close to proficiency. If the standards I am teaching my students are indeed inferior to the standards I used to teach them, shouldn’t their performance on the very same test regress? The fact of their progress demonstrates that their learning is certainly not inferior nor unproven. However, as the evidence continues to establish the superiority of the core as we teach it to the students, I worry that these critics will remain unsatisfied.
One criticism of the core raised by Eagar this week is that is was developed by “the unelected.” However, it is absurd to suggest that only elected officials have the knowledge and expertise to design curriculum standards. It would make far more sense if she were to complain that the standards were developed by non-educators--they weren’t, by the way--than to grant authority to elected lawmakers to create educational curriculum themselves. Indeed, Eagar neglects to mention that neither she nor her loudest supporters are elected themselves. However, those who are elected have given largely positive endorsements of the core. I applaud Governor Herbert for his continued defense of the core, in the face of its critics. The voters also applauded his defense by re-electing him. The State School Board also stood by their decision to adopt the core in the face of public pressure, and they were largely re-elected as well. Further, the first endorsement of the core came from the National Governor’s Association, a body composed entirely of elected officials. Where are the dissatisfied voters Eagar seems to imply in her argument? The continued re-election of officials who support the core would seem to suggest that the voters approve of the core.
Perhaps my strongest objection to the protesters this week, however, should be leveled at Oak Norton, whom the Deseret News quoted as saying that “Common core is preventing the needs of a child to be met.” On the contrary, the training teachers around the state have received at the Utah Core Academy this summer has focused largely on using the standards to meet the individual needs of students. The new formative assessment tools developed for the state, which are scheduled to go online this fall, are specifically designed to identify areas where each individual child needs attention, helping teachers to tailor instruction to meet the needs of their kids, rather than following any set instruction guide.

I would hope the legislature, the State Board, and the public will see the through the rhetoric and the fallacious arguments being leveled at the core and examine it on its merits.