Saturday, May 10, 2008

Articles on the Election

Here's an article in the Denton Record-Chronicle. (April 27, 2008)

Here's the Dallas Morning News (April 27, 2008, same content as the Denton Record-Chronicle).

The Murphy Monitor,

The Plano Star Courier waited until the day before the election to pretend to cover the election. The Courier ignored everything I said about issues and the proposals I made to improve education. All the Star Courier said was, "Incumbent Brad Shanklin is challenged by Robert Canright for Place 4 on the PISD School Board." By the time the Courier published this single sentence, 60% of the voters had already voted.

I thought you had to go to Putin's Russia to see ideas so thoroughly suppressed. Who would have thought we'd have censorship in Plano, Texas?

The Courier provided better coverage after the election was over: link.

This goes to show that if you read one newspaper, you need to read at least a second paper for balance. I do think that newspapers are dying because people get better information from the internet than from newspapers.


Friday, May 9, 2008

The TAKS Test is Trouble

I've spoken out against the TAKS test at meetings. This link shows the answer I gave at one meeting.

If you want change, vote for me. Remember, I endorse David Hall for Place 5.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Plano Can Rock the World

We are more interconnected in this world than we realize. Wall Street financiers develop a really bad idea and the Northern Rock Bank in England fails.

Enron fails in Houston and British Bankers go to jail.

I say that if bad things in Texas can ripple around the world, then good things in Texas can ripple around the world. Good things in Plano can ripple around the world.

The education of our children is the greatest trust placed upon us parents. And I believe the education we give our children is not just important for them, it is important for Plano, for Texas, and even for the world.

I encourage you to believe the education of your child is more important than we can understand. We cannot predict where, or when, or for whom some special nugget of wisdom will make a huge difference in the course of events. Education is not just about getting into the best college and chasing a high paying job. Education is about moving society forward. Education is about making a difference.

Here is the poem,
"The Arrow and the Song"
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Let's believe that a great education from Plano can rock the world!


Voting and Yard Signs

I encourage everyone to vote. Pericles, according to Lord Acton, said that, "...every Athenian who neglected to take his part in the public business inflicted an injury on the commonwealth."

I believe money corrupts politics. Considering the national election going on now, I believe we can be better informed about elections by using the internet than by watching TV advertisements. Think about the compromises politicians make to get money to buy advertisements. Television ads are the main driving force for political corruption. If we ignored political advertisements then politicians would not need to compromise their ethics to get campaign contributions.

We can best take part in the political process by being informed voters, ignoring paid advertisements, and voting on issues. If you call or email your friends about an election, then that increases the strength of our political process. Professional political operatives become wealthy, and I'm talking about millions of dollars, by convincing politicians that voters can be manipulated.

Now let us return our attention to the local election: People volunteer to put up my yard signs, but I don't use yard signs because we should be able to do without them. I know politics can be fun and that yard signs are part of the election tradition, like ornaments on a Christmas tree, but it is important that we find ways to reduce the cost of elections and increase genuine communication about real issues.

The Plano ISD elections have had better quality recently. We are beginning to see real discussion of issues.

Please vote and remind your friends to vote!
Here is a link to polling places.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Let's Improve Math at Plano ISD

I've mentioned that we need to make improvements in elementary school mathematics. I will share a few ideas here.

One step is to change the attitude towards math. The attitude conveyed is that math is confusing and hard to understand. My son got honest-to-goodness Algebra problems in 2nd grade homework. One problem was to solve two simultaneous equations in two unknowns. Most children cannot do that in 8th grade, and there I am at the kitchen table showing my son how to solve 2 equations in 2 unknowns. That was absurd. Of course children will think math is confusing and hard to understand when they do not get age-appropriate problems.

The elementary school curriculum is disjointed. The home work problems in 2nd grade were too hard. Then the home work problems in 3rd grade are too easy. The over-all math curriculum in elementary school is a hodge-podge and needs more coordination.

We need to convey the attitude to elementary school students that doing math is easy if you listen in class and practice at home. Math is like putting money in the bank: you make regular deposits and you end up with a good account. The student invests efforts regularly and ends up with good math skills: it is predictable and guaranteed.

The buck-shot approach taken in elementary school makes math seem confusing. They do not master a skill before moving on, they hop around frequently so the children are always being reminded they did not master the material the last time they saw it or they discover they have forgotten what they learned.

The key to elementary school math is to focus on doing math and mastering the key skills.

The State of Texas has given us a curriculum: the TEKS. We need to implement it and here is a simple set of guidelines for success in math:
1.) Master addition in 1st grade
2.) Master subtraction in 2nd grade
3.) Master multiplication in 3rd grade
4.) Master division in 4th grade
There is no emphasis on mastering these skills. Children must learn their math facts.

I have a friend who graduated from UT Austin with a Masters in Computer Science who told me he went to college not knowing his multiplication facts. He eventually learned his multiplication facts in college because he needed them.

Something else the district can improve is teacher training. Too much teacher training in math is directed towards teaching games the teachers can use in the classroom. It is my observation that some of the math teachers can benefit from improving their own math skills. From elementary school all the way up to high school I have seen certified math teachers who cannot solve some of the math problems they are trying to teach the students. Young math teachers have not had enough practice in college doing the math they are expected to teach. Young teachers who need help should get that help.

Plano students can reap large rewards from improving elementary school mathematics, which are the foundation for all mathematics. The changes I suggest are not expensive and not difficult.


Monday, May 5, 2008

A Personal Question I Get Asked

I am surprised by how often I am asked if I am a Christian. I am a student of philosophy and I believe in borrowing good ideas from smart people. Because I borrow from philosophers and moral teachers that are not commonly studied, I can understand that people wonder how my faith compares with their faith.

I was reared as a Catholic. I looked to study the Bible with people who knew the Bible well and could answer my questions. I was satisfied with the answers I received and I was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins. Yes, I am a Christian.

I have friends of every religious persuasion that I can think of. I believe in tolerance and respect for people of all faiths. I am grateful to live in a country with religious freedom.

I have been asked if Confucianism is a religion. Confucius was a teacher. In our culture we would call him a philosopher. He is comparable, in some regards, to the American philosopher John Dewey. Dewey has followers today who are pretty zealous, but neither John Dewey nor Confucius started a religion.

I am glad people ask questions. People are really looking and thinking during this election, and that is great!

Robert Canright

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Let's Improve Reading at Plano ISD

My daughter is a Junior in high school now. Since she entered PISD in elementary school, the district has told the children to guess the meaning of words instead of telling them to look up the words in a dictionary.

Her elementary school teachers told her to guess the meaning of words. When she was in Jasper High School her English teacher was giving her advice on guessing the meaning of words. My son is in elementary school now and PISD still does not give vocabulary the attention it deserves.

The Plano school district needs to change its ways and help our kids develop a better vocabulary. We should not have to pay for Kumon. I respect Kumon, but it should not be a substitute for a weak PISD program. Kumon should be used to help children needing help, not to help a school district overcome its problems.

I did use the DISTAR system to teach my son to read. I knew not to rely on the schools for something that important, but teaching vocabulary is not as complicated as teaching reading. PISD really can succeed in setting vocabulary standards for the different grades. You and I should not have to figure out what vocabulary our children need to master every year. Why do we pay administrators to work on curriculum if we parents have to do their job for them?

In addition to improving vocabulary, the school district needs to set higher standards for the reading material it puts in front of our children. The material given our children to read can be more challenging. When my daughter was in 10th grade I told her English teacher the newspaper article our children were given to analyze from the Dallas Morning News was too poorly written to give to our students. I suggested the New York Times as a source for better articles. She said the Dallas Morning News was written at an 8th grade level and the New York Times was written at a 12th grade level. I think that is exactly the point. We should not give a 10th grader something written at an 8th grade level.

Our children can do better. The Plano administrators tell the teachers what to teach. The Board of Trustees needs to tell the PISD administration to improve the caliber of the reading program, starting with elementary school and rolling the improvement all the way up to high school.

Our students will be more successful in school as their reading skills improve. They will get higher SAT scores in reading, and their improved reading skills will make them more successful in college.

Robert Canright

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Successful Life Built Upon Good Character

The purpose of education is to help our children have a great life. That means education imparts practical skills. Some skills do not seem practical to some young people, like Algebra. Some skills might not seem practical to some adults, like character development.

For thousands of years successful civilizations have have taught math skills and character development to their youth.

When success is obtained by underhanded ways, that success is fleeting. We want our children's success to be a lasting success. When other people strive for success, we do not want their success to be at the expense of our children's future.

We need to emphasize that your success does not need to be at someone else's expense. A wise man said,

"To advance, help others to advance. If you desire success for yourself, then desire success for others." (Analect 6.28)

The Bible says, "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

Notice that Paul says "whatever." It is my belief, and I can quote a supporting scripture for this, that all true wisdom comes from God. There are many wise lessons from history and historical sources that are are unaffiliated with religion and therefore are appropriate for use in public education.

As I have mentioned earlier, Abraham Maslow has said, "Education must be seen as at least partially an effort to produce the good human being, to foster the good life and the good society."

I want to improve math and reading in the elementary schools, but we must include character education to foster the good life and the good society.

The early years, K-3, are the foundation for everything. We cannot stand on a 2 legged stool. We need 3 legs on our stool to stand upon it firmly and reach for greater heights:
1.) Better math
2.) Better reading
3.) Character development

Robert Canright

Friday, May 2, 2008

Our Children's Future: 4x4 and the Koreans

The State Legislature has reduced the electives our children can take in high school to achieve a well-rounded education. They have legislated 4 years of math and 4 years of science to graduate. This requirement is called 4x4. (Here is one link about it, here is another.)

Let's consider the path our legislators have put us on: the path of competing scholastically with the Asians. There is an excellent article in the Sunday April 27, 2008 New York Times, "Elite Korean Schools, Forging Ivy League Ties," by Sam Dillon.

Mr. Dillon describes a life of constant study: every waking moment is study, study, study. Is this how one develops leadership skills? I don't think so! I believe in scholarship and I study regularly, but the degree of commitment described in the article is madness. By making their children slave relentlessly to enter Harvard, these Korean parents are preparing their children for a life of slavery. We should want to prepare our children for a life of liberty.

More math and science is the path to servitude. We should instead take the path to leadership, which would include the lessons of history for leadership instead of more science. The corporations are sending all the math and science jobs to Asia, so the path to success for our children is where they start their own businesses and hire these hard working Korean students to do the work.

Let's think about what the Texas State Legislature has done:

1.) They have stolen a billion dollars from Plano.

2.) TAKS testing has warped education. It has diminished education at good schools and done nothing to improve unsuccessful schools.

3.) A fourth year of science is a waste of time and money because science jobs are being outsourced.

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Our state legislators are misguided and they are diminishing our children's education and future.

You need a Board of Trustees who will speak up and work to undo the damage the state legislators are inflicting on your children's education.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008


At the "Meet the Candidates" meeting at the Islamic Association of Collin County there was a question asked about education for those not planning to go to college. First, let me point out that the Plano senior high schools do offer "career" classes.

Mr. David Hall, running for Place 5 on the school board, mentioned that teaching the fundamentals of starting a business is an opportunity for improvement. I supported Mr. Hall's suggestion and said we need to emphasize to students that if they do not want to get a college education, they should plan to the the boss of their own business because uneducated workers are not going to be valued in the long run.

One of the men spoke with me after the meeting and told me a story they use in Morocco:

A teacher asks the children in his class what they want to be when they grow up. One says, "a truck driver." One says, "an engineer." Another says, "a construction worker." Then one child says, "I want to be free!"

"What to you mean," the teacher says? "You are not a slave, so how can you say you want to be free when you grow up?"

The boy says, "No one who works for another is free!"

Wow! That is great!

We do need to prepare our children to be free: financially free and politically free.

We do not want our children impoverished nor disenfranchised. We must educate our children to be free!

If we do not value our liberties we will lose them, financially as well as politically.

Vote for Robert Canright (Place 4) and I will work to safeguard your child's future!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I have spoken of incorporating Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans within the PISD curriculum. My son is in 4th grade and I think the level of writing in Plutarch is a bit much for a 4th grader, but I decided to buy a set for him anyway. I will go through the life of Alexander the Great with him now and I'll save the rest for later.

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are within his reading skills and I've ordered a copy for him. They are pithy and wise. I would caution you to take care if you buy a copy of the Meditations for your child. Not all translations are created equal. I've seen some awful translations. I can recommend the translation by Maxwell Staniforth. The book is out of print but available from, you just have to do an author search on Maxwell Staniforth instead of a title search. Here's a link to what you will find: LINK.

If the citizens of Plano go out and vote and choose to seat me on the Board of Trustees, then I will to my best to ensure all our children get a great education.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Love of Learning

I've mentioned elsewhere that we need a love of learning. Here are the words of the wise man:

Sit and hear the importance of a love of learning.

Loving goodness without loving learning leads to foolishness.

Loving knowledge without loving learning leads to confusion.

Loving trustworthiness without loving learning leads to harmful actions.

Loving virtue without loving learning leads to harshness.

Loving courage without loving learning leads to rebellion.

Loving inner strength without loving learning leads to stubbornness.

Wow! What great words. The love of learning is part of the path to wisdom!

You normally do not hear about the love of learning. The schools use the Six Pillars of Character: (1) Trustworthiness, (2)Respect, (3) Responsibility, (4) Fairness, (5) Caring, and (6) Citizenship.

The Character First organization uses a list of 49 character traits. It is a great list, but the love of learning is not on the list.

The love of learning is an important key to removing the barriers to success that plague unsuccessful schools. It has been 25 years since the Bell Report, A Nation at Risk, came out. We've seen twenty-five years of sweat, tears, and frustration, twenty-five years of money into failing programs, and we have not improved the failing schools because no one has talked about the love of learning.

We must break with the status quo. We need a better vision to advance education. Vote for Robert Canright (place 4) and David Hall (place 5) if you value education.

Robert Canright

PS: the NY Times has an excellent OP-ED piece, "A Nation at a Loss" by Edward B. Fiske, Friday, April 25, 2008.

Texas Renaissance

I started talking last year about a Texas Renaissance. I believe we should be expecting a benefit from better education.

I believe Texas can have a renaissance in business and the arts. Better educated citizens will see more opportunities for creating business or art. We need to be alert to this flowering of creativity and help it blossom.

Music, movies, computer games, video games, and magazine and book publishing come to mind as the confluence of business and the arts. When these types of endeavors start in Plano or neighboring communities, we need to be alert and be supportive. This is our future. A lot of people hope to go to a successful company and ask for a high paying job, but how does a small business become successful without support?

There was a small book publisher in Allen, Texas, Timberwolf Press. They published a book by a child here in Plano or Frisco. I bought a copy and incorporated the book into my young child's bedtime reading. It was a nice book, but how many people in Plano bought the book when you see the company website is off-line? They appear to be out of business. We need local businesses to succeed!

The South-by-Southwest music festival has lasted 20 years and is now very successful. That is good for Texas, but it is in Austin. We had a South-by-So-What music festival here. Great! But we need to help them succeed.

Texas and North Texas is on the verge of greatness, but we have to be alert to the opportunities and be supportive of those who are striving to create successful enterprises in business and the arts.

If we want our children to be successful, we need to give them a great education and then give them an environment where that great education can flourish.

Let's move forward together. Let's embrace a vision of greatness.

Robert Canright

Sunday, April 27, 2008

We Are All in the Same Boat

I was at a "meet the candidates" meeting, hosted by the Islamic Association of Collin County, when a question was asked about maintaining Plano as a 1st class community.

I found myself talking about maintaining America as a 1st class country, and I told this story:

Imagine we are in a boat. Our feet are getting wet, and we see the boat is leaking. The captain is on the upper deck drinking champagne with the millionaires and doesn't want to be disturbed. So we have to plug the hole and bail out the water ourselves, without help from those running the boat.

This is why I say we need better leaders for a better future: we cannot count on Wall Street or Washington to fix America's problems. We have to be prepared to roll up our sleeves, plug the holes, and bail out the boat because we are in the same boat together and we cannot count on others.

I commend the members of the Islamic Association of Collin County for their involvement and their good questions. Our democracy is strengthened when citizens care enough to ask questions and be involved.

Robert Canright

Friday, April 25, 2008

Leadership: Morality and the Mundane

I believe good leaders are moral leaders. I've said, "morality is the root of education." What do I mean by that? Abraham Maslow is a famous pyschologist, whose hierarchy of needs is studied by teachers. Maslow said, "Education must be seen as at least partially an effort to produce the good human being, to foster the good life and the good society."

One can define morality many ways, but I think, "being a good human," is simple and direct.

We should educate our children as though a future President of the United States will come from our schools. We can develop the best leaders in America right here in Plano.

Besides morality, there are mundane aspects to preparing for leadership. Good speaking skills, good speech writing skills, and good debating skills are important for leadership. Plano students have done well in speech and debate contests.

The Roman historian Tacitus, in his "Dialogue on Oratory," expressed a belief in a connection between good oratory and liberty. Speech seems mundane, but it is not. Writing a good speech is difficult.

I believe there is room for a course in Advanced Speech, where great speeches are studied, where the careers and work of presidential speech writers are studied. Have you noticed that if you become a presidential speech writer then you are set for life?

One thing we can do immediately is to pay more attention to the success our children have in speech and debate contests. I think we packed our side of Texas Stadium for our football game against Trinity Euless, but who knows when Plano last won a speech or debate contest? We need to care more about the non-athletic activities. And our children deserve good publicity whenever they succeed.

But to return to the mundane, we have to remember that connections are very important in politics. We should have a committee in Plano that understands what it takes to become a Rhodes Scholar and start grooming students while they are in high school to compete for this honor. A Marshall Scholarship is also available. The Fullbright Scholarship/Grant is not just to being foreign students here, it also sends U.S. students overseas. These are all for post-graduate study, but it can help to understand these programs when you start college so you can aim for them.

We can establish Plano networks for local grads to connect with grads from every college anyone in Plano has attended. Connections are important, we should foster more connectivity.

Sending a Plano grad to the White House is not pie-in-the-sky. We really can do it by developing leaders with good character, with a profound understanding of history, with good speaking and writing skills, and with the best connections we can help them foster.

Let's work together for a great future for our children.

Robert Canright

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Education is More than a Piece of Paper

Sometimes people act as though an education is just a diploma. With a diploma you are ready to get a job, right? And we talk about having our graduates "workplace ready," right?

Education is more than a piece of paper. Education is more than preparation for a job.

With education we explain what we know to our children about our humanity, our civilization, our society, and the world.

Our children must know who we are and how we got here so they can cope with the world they have inherited.

Our children need the best skills we can give them to survive and flourish.

Education is the foundation for our children's future.

Robert Canright

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Top Ten Percent Rule

I would like to see the next Texan in the White House be from Plano. I believe we can develop the best leaders in the world right here in Plano, Texas. And I would like to see our next Texan in the White House be a graduate of a Texas university instead of graduating from Harvard or Yale.

America needs to free itself from the strangle-hold of Harvard and Yale. We have many fine universities here in Texas. When I worked in Research and Development at a Fortune 500 company I checked out the credentials of a rising executive who crossed my path. This executive got an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M and a doctorate from Cal Tech. So I was in Florida reading about a successful Texas Aggie.

The University of Texas has crossed my path a few times recently. When Dr. John Wheeler, the physicist who coined the term "black hole," died I saw in his obituary that he taught at the University of Texas. A friend of mine told me that Edsger Dijkstra, a very famous computer scientist, worked at UT and that UT has an online repository of his papers. The New York Times Book Review recently had good things to say about a new book by Philip Bobbitt, and mentioned he taught at UT.

It's great to read good things about UT or Texas A&M, but we do not read that a President of the US graduated from either of them. We need our best students to go to school in Texas, and we need to offer them the best education in America so they do need to go to Harvard or Yale. But then Texas Bill 588 sends the top 10 percent of the worst schools in Texas to UT and Texas A&M.

Think of it: a child can graduate from an academically unacceptable school, be unprepared to go to any college, have absurdly low SAT scores, and still be guaranteed a seat at UT or Texas A&M. After all the years that these schools have worked to build their national and international reputations, then the Texas Legislature stabs them in the back. And the work to raise Texas up the ladder of power in America goes down the drain along with the average SAT scores at our formerly top schools.

What the Texas State Legislature is saying to children trapped in failed schools is, "don't worry that you are getting a substandard education, here's a pass to enter UT or TAMU." That's awful! The Legislature should be trying to fix bad schools, not deceiving those communities into thinking that it's okay to go to bad school because there are no consequences for a bad education!

The top-ten-percent fiasco is part of our failed accountability system. Neither the Legislature nor the TEA know how to turn an unsuccessful school into a successful school. This is the ghost that haunts the TAKS system: the TEA can identify unsuccessful schools, but cannot make them successful.

Consider the absurdity of our TAKS system. (1) We already know which schools and districts are in trouble, but we keep testing them even though we don't know how to improve them. (2) We make going to unsuccessful schools an advantage for getting into UT and TAMU, so why would anyone want to fix those schools?

I'm sure we are sending more of our best students to Arkansas and Oklahoma, but that does not do Texas any good. We need to build up our own universities. We should not be working hard to send our good students to Oklahoma and Arkansas, we should keep them here. And the hope is gone of replacing Harvard and Yale with UT and TAMU in the hearts of our best students.

The citizens of Texas deserve better than what we are getting from our legislature. The ISD boards across the state need to rally their communities against the mistakes coming out of Austin.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

The PSAT Test and PISD

Staci Hupp wrote this nice article, "Some Students Getting a Boost in Crucial College Entance Test," in the Saturday 4/12/2008 Dallas Morning News.

The article describes how some school districts help their children prepare for the PSAT test in pursuit of National Merit Scholarships. It's always a good idea to help our kids and I'm glad Ms. Hupp wrote the article. All schools should at least inform their students that the PSAT can lead to a National Merit Scholarship.

Ms. Hupp wrote that some districts spend public money to purchase special tutoring for their children. Spending public money is not necessary, but communication with the parents and students is important.

It is commendable that PISD has a PSAT coaching program that is self-supporting, according to the article by Ms. Hupp.

The best approach in education is to aim for excellence from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade.

We should focus on what's important, and not focus exclusively on the TAKS test.

We should strive to excel in everything we do.


Practical Applications of Morality

The economist Milton Friedman has been very influential in America. A recent article about him in the New York Times, "A Fresh Look at the Apostle of Free Markets," by Peter S. Goodman discusses his shortcomings.

Here is a particularly telling criticism: Mr. De Soto faulted Mr. Friedman for failing to temper his admonitions with an understanding of poverty and income inequality.

“The problem with Milton Friedman and his fellow libertarians is they never took into consideration the importance of class,” Mr. De Soto said. “They ignored the way elites were able to distort the policies they prescribed for their own benefit."

Teaching our young to care about the poor is a moral lesson. Chapter 31 of Proverbs has lessons given to King Lemuel by his mother. Here are verses 8 & 9 of Proverb 31:

Open your mouth for the speechless, for the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Milton Friedman, as famous as he was, failed ultimately because he did not understand that leaders should care about the unfortunate, the afflicted, and the needy.

If we are to rear up a generation of great leaders here in Plano, then we parents have to be like King Lemuel's mother: providing moral lessons that will help our children become great leaders.

Great character is the foundation for great leadership, and moral lessons must come from the parents and be echoed by the schools and the rest of the community.

We parents of Plano can develop the best leaders America has seen since the birth of our country. Let's do it for our children, our community, and our country.

Robert Canright

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Amazing !!!

I was walking out of Starbucks one day and I witnessed an interesting encounter.

A couple of high school boys were doing tricks with their skate boards on the sidewalk. One of the boys said, "Isn't that amazing?"

A man sitting outside asked the boy if he knew what "amazing" meant. The boy replied that amazing meant amazing. The man asked the boy to give a definition of the word, and the boy said he could not.

The man then asked the boy if he looked up words in the dictionary and the boy said no. The boy then expressed dislike for the conversation and said he was leaving.

I thought the high school boy handled himself well and was polite. After the boy and his friend left, I stopped and spoke to the adult.

I told him:
"You cannot blame the boys for their poor vocabulary skills.

The schools here teach the children to guess the meaning of a word and move on, not to stop and look up the word in a dictionary. The school district does this from elementary school up through high school.

And the schools do not ensure a good vocabulary. I was taught most of my adult vocabulary in fourth grade when my daily reading assignments required me to look up many words in the dictionary every day.

The schools here do not do that, so we cannot blame the kids

We forget the foundations for success in the SAT test, used for college admissions, are in elementary school. Reading and vocabulary skills start in elementary school, as do math skills. When the foundations are weak, the rest of the edifice is weak. In a race, it is hard to overcome a weak start.

A person's character is also largely shaped in the early years, and person's character might be the most important factor in long term success.

We forget how important the early years are in education. The foundations for success are in elementary school.

Vote for me and I will work to improve the foundations of our children's education.


Oh, the definition of "amazing" is "causing amazement, great wonder, or surprise"

Facing Problems

The Dallas Morning News, Saturday April 12, 2008, ran this article by Laurie Fox: "Carroll ISD Principal is Faulted in TAKS Investigation." The article describes how the Carroll ISD investigated a problem with one of its principals. The Carroll ISD did find a problem with the principal's actions regarding TAKS and special ed students, protected the staff from retribution and took action against the principal.

The same day's newspaper had another article, by Kent Fischer: "Skyline Assistant Principal Retaliated Against Teacher, Dallas ISD Finds." This article describes how an assistant principal changed the grades of some students. A teacher reported his actions to the UIL, meaning athletes were involved. Principals are not permitted to change the grades of athletes, and principals know that.

The assistant principal at Skyline fired the teacher. The Dallas ISD investigated, found the assistant principal acted inappropriately and re-hired the teacher, although the teacher did not get his original job back. The Dallas ISD took no action against the assistant principal, the Dallas Morning News reports.

There is a lesson here.

Successful school districts face their problems. Successful school districts protect the innocent and take action against the guilty. Unsuccessful school districts do the opposite. Unsuccessful school districts try to avoid facing their problems and do as little as possible to correct their problems.

Plano is a successful school district. If problems should arise, then the district needs to face them head on, and the parents need to support the district when it does the right thing.


Friday, April 4, 2008

In Defence of Liberty

One day after 9/11 I was driving to Greenville, Texas, where I was teaching Math. There is a stretch of road where the rail-road is very close to the highway. A train rolled by this morning loaded with military gear. I've seen military hardware on trains in the past and it has always been trucks or cargo. I had never in all my days seen a tank on a train. This morning I saw an entire train-load full of the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. It was tank after tank after tank as far as the eye could see. The hairs on my arm stood up and I was stunned to my core. I was seeing a war time deployment before we announced we were going over. When I got to Greenville I asked my students if anyone had relatives in the military. I heard some some say yes, so I asked for a show of hands and half the class raised their hands.

After 9/11, I drove to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne, to see my niece marry a paratrooper. There were a lot of guards at the front entrance carrying machine-guns. The gun toting guard who inspected my driver's license said, "You're from Texas, Mr. Canright. I am too. I'm from Brownsville, Texas." There are a lot of Texans in the military.

But it takes more than guns to protect our freedom. Our military can only protect us from external threats. There is always the threat that a democracy can slip into despotism. That happens frequently in the Third World and it could happen here if we cease to care about our freedoms or we forget how democracies fail.

Lord Acton is most famous for saying, "All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." But we forget that he was a great scholar of democracy. It takes more than a voting booth to create a democracy. To understand democracy, how it works and how it fails, everyone should read Lord Acton's famous speech, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, given in 1877.

I have quoted Ronald Reagan saying, “…freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection. So, we've got to teach history ….” The history Lord Acton studied was the same history our Founding Fathers studied. George Washington had a play, Cato by Joseph Addison, performed at Valley Forge to boost the morale of his troops. Cato was one of George Washington's favorite plays. The final lines of Patrick Henry's famous speech in 1775 ("but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!") and Nathan Hale's final words before being hanged by the British ("I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country") are based on speeches in Cato.

Our children in the 21st century do not know the history of freedom as well as the Founding Fathers did in the 18th century. We need to fix that flaw in their education. Have you ever wondered why do not have leaders today as great as our Founding Fathers? Perhaps it is because the Founding Fathers knew more history than we know today! We need to fix that.

Our children deserve and need the best education we can give them. Please vote for me and I'll do the best I can to persuade the rest of the Trustees that we can improve our children's education.

Robert Canright

By the way, Dr. J. Rufus Fears, University of Okahoma, has courses on audio CD on "The History of Liberty" and "Famous Romans" that are great.
And you might find some videos on You Tube about the M1 Abrams tank interesting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

He Wants to Be President

I was chatting with a mom at soccer practice. I mentioned to her how I think we should educate our children so they will be fit to be President.

She said her youngest boy has told her he wants to be President.

I told her she should tell her son he can be President, and we should educate him so he will succeed as President.

Our children who don't want to be President will be prepared to lead any enterprise.

If our children are going to have bright, prosperous futures, they will have to become tomorrow's leaders and create that bright, prosperous future.

Let's give our children the best education we can.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Springboard for a Better Future

Here is a five minute talk I have given on the subject of educating our children to be tomorrow's leaders. It is entitled, Springboard for a Better Future.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Pact Showing Commitment to Education Can Be Valuable

There was a great story in the New York Times, March 26, 2008, by Samuel Freedman: A Do-It-Yourself SAT Class, With No Whining, or Parents, Allowed. The story described a group of students who made a pact, a.k.a. a compact, to study together for the SAT test. The decided how often to meet. They committed to attend the scheduled meetings. And they agreed, in writing, not to whine or complain. They set a goal of scoring 700 on each part of the test.

Working together is a great way to accomplishment. One of the founding documents of our country is the Mayflower Compact, signed in 1620.

Not everyone in Plano is committed to education, even though the community has good schools. If we had more commitment, our schools would be even better. If Plano developed a community compact, or pact, expressing a commitment to education and steps parents could take to improve their children's education, it could be a big help to some segments of our community.

Additionally, when other districts try to improve their performance by copying our curriculum implementation, they don't get what makes Plano schools successful: supportive parents that value education. If other districts want to improve performance they need to copy more than lesson plans, they have to copy attitude. It would be good if we spelled out our attitude. If we could get more people here to value education, then we could offer an example for other districts to emulate. Showing under-performing districts how to improve community commitment to education would help them far more than the money the state legislature rips off from us.

A community compact on education would help Plano and the state of Texas.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is this Really 4th Grade Math?

Here is a problem my 4th grade boy had to work in school. Tell me if you think this is a problem 4th graders should be able to do:

Miguel planted 4 different kinds of plants in his vegetable garden. The garden contains a total of 72 plants. Of the plants, 15 are tomato and 12 are squash. The remaining plants are either lettuce or cucumbers. The number of lettuce plants is twice the number of cucumber plants. How many lettuce plants are in Miguel's garden?

If you are comfortable with algebra, you can solve this in your head without pencil and paper. So, how many lettuce plants are there? Be the first to post the answer, but tell us if you used paper and pencil or if you are an engineer or mathematician!

How many 4th graders in a class of 20 do you think can solve this?

The children were given nine different strategies to try and guess the answer, but the glory of math is that you can be taught to solve problems and not have to guess.

One reason America ranks low in math when compared to the industrialized world is that we have flawed teaching strategies. Many ninth graders have trouble solving a problem like this at the beginning of the year, so the strategy is to show algebra to kids at earlier grades. No matter how early they shove this in the curriculum, the kids who have trouble with this in 8th and 9th grade still have trouble with it in 8th and 9th grade. Eventually this ends up in 4th, 3rd, and 2nd grade. Yes, I remember showing my son how to do algebra problems in 2nd grade. Why? He still doesn't know algebra in 4th grade. Grades 3 through 5 are too early to do algebra. It is a waste of classroom time and reinforces in some kids the idea that math is too hard for them.

The idea of pushing algebraic concepts into grades 3 through 5 is part of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, but not full-blown algebra problems. The problem I shared with you here is not like the example in the NCTM website for grades 3 - 5. PISD has mis-applied the concept.

There is a lot we can do to improve mathematics education in the elementary schools. Vote for me and let's work together to improve our children's education.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Plano for the Presidency

You've heard me say earlier that Plano can and should develop good leaders for America.

Our current president came from Midland, Texas. Why can't a future president come from Plano, Texas?

As we educate our children, we should consider that one of our own could be President of the United States. I say we should bear that in mind as we teach our children. They need to know more than Algebra. They need the wisdom of History. President Harry Truman claimed his first source of political wisdom came from Plutarch, read to him by his father.

Studying Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans is how Truman's father helped shape Harry's character. History is a great way to teach character lessons, put in the context of real events. Good character is vital for good leaders. Heraclitus said, "A man's character is his fate," in his work On the Universe. This is often shortened to: Character is destiny.

David Hall is a candidate for the PISD Board, for Place 5. He talks about character education on his blog.

President Reagan said, "we've got to teach history," in his farewell address to the nation.

Truman said it. Reagan said it. I echo their wisdom. Let's educate our children as though one of them will lead America. Let's give America our very best.

Robert Canright

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Karen Dillard and Student Scores

The College Board had threatened to cancel student scores, which was irresponsible talk. I had heard rumors the College Board was taking action against our children, but now it seems those rumors were unfounded.

Karen Dillard posted a copy of a court order on her company website that says, "The College Board hereby states that it will not ... make public statements about individual test takers...."

Parents and the school district should be concerned about our children's test scores.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Plano ISD Sends Wrong Message About Theft

We need to rear up a new generation of leaders who will be better able to deal with the complexities of the world. Today's leaders are failing at every level: the local level, the state level, and the national level. Many failings are ethical failings, so we need to ensure our children are well grounded in good ethics.

But the Plano ISD is sending the wrong message to our children. The message the Plano ISD sends is that it is okay to steal if you have influential friends.

The Plano ISD named McCall Elementary after David McCall, even though he was a convicted felon.

On February 9 & 10, 2008, Channel 8, WFAA, reported that Plano ISD Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Burleson interfered with school discipline at Plano Senior High. The story run by Channel 8 can be found on their website when you search for "shoplifting cheerleaders." The school put the four JV cheerleaders off the squad and the PISD Administration put them back on the team. This constitutes a Moral Hazard for these cheerleaders. The Administration did not do them a favor by excusing their crime, it may have done them harm, according to the concept of Moral Hazard.

It is one thing for an Assistant Superintendent to make a mistake. People make mistakes. It's another thing for the Deputy Superintendent and Superintendent to both let the mistake stand. This means there is a systemic problem at the PISD Administration, and the Board of Trustees is responsible for systemic problems within the PISD Administration.

Back in June 2007 McKinney had their cheerleader scandal. There it was the school principals who interfered with discipline and it cost the McKinney North High School principal her job. Now that scandal is becoming immortalized in a TV movie about the scandal.

If we want our children to have the best future possible, they need firm grounding in good ethics. They should not be told by the PISD that stealing is okay if you have influential friends. We should vote out the incumbents on the Board of Trustees and set higher standards for the PISD Administration.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shocked by Don Williams

The Dallas Morning News ran an Op Ed piece today by Bruce Katz and Don Williams, "We Need Washington." I am shocked to hear a Texan say "we need Washington."

Bruce Katz is with the Brookings Institute and Don Williams is the retired Chairman of Trammell Crow. I can understand the Brookings Institute wanting to spend our taxpayer dollars, but I would expect a Texan to have more faith in Texans than in Washington wonks.

Like all propaganda, the Op Ed piece mixes in some truth with a lot of baloney. Government is more often the source of problems rather than of solutions. Do you want another helping of No Child Left Behind? Would you like Washington to compound the sub-prime mortgage mess they created by not doing the regulation they were supposed to do?

For years my daily prayers for my children included requests that God protect my children from evil people, from fools, and from our government.

That Don Williams signed his name to this Op Ed piece is proof that Dallas leadership feels powerless to solve the problems it faces. I agree. That is why I am running for the Plano school board.

Our leaders cannot solve today's problems. Don Williams admits it. What we need to do is to rear up a new generation of leaders that is better educated and better grounded than today's leaders.

America used to have good leaders: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. Plano can produce a new generation of leaders if we adjust the education we give our children.

The citizens of Plano need to take back our school board. To save our children's future we must resume control of their education. We can begin by voting out the incumbents.

Vote in the May 10th election.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

America Needs Good Leaders and Plano Can Deliver Them

All the newspapers and TV news shows reported recently about the government shooting down a failed spy satellite. What was not so widely reported was how the government bungled an earlier spy satellite project.

Back in November 11, 2007, Phillip Taubman reported in the New York Times an article describing how the government and Boeing bungled the development of a new spy satellite in the article, "Failure to Launch." We tax payers lost over $4 Billion when this flawed contract got canceled.

Bad leadership costs us billions of dollars. Don't get me started on the sub-prime mortgage swindle! But we also have local problems. Dallas lost the Lynacre Academy charter school due to management problems. See the Dallas Morning News article, "Former Dallas Charter School Leader Denies Theft," by Karen Ayres Smith.

America needs good leaders and Plano, Texas, can deliver them. We are a great middle class community and we are as capable of developing America's leaders as any community in America. I think it is our patriotic duty to do so.

Our children get a good education, but we can step it up a notch. There is room for improvement in the elementary school curriculum. And we must emphasize that good leadership is ethical leadership.

We cannot rely on other communities in America to develop leaders that can protect our children's future. It is not happening. The three failures I mentioned earlier in this post are just part of the daily onslaught of leadership failures. We can succeed in this task as well as anybody.

Let's do it! Let's work together to give our children the best future possible by helping them take charge of their future: better leaders for a better future!


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Karen Dillard and SAT Prep

There have been stories in the local press and the national press about the lawsuit the College Board has filed against Karen Dillard.

I heard a report about this lawsuit on Channel 5 news, which made it sound awful that Karen Dillard had the PSAT test.

There are hundreds of copies of the PSAT test floating around Plano. I have two copies of the test, along with the answers! If you are not familiar with the test, you might not know that the students get their test booklets and the answers to the test.

I recommend every parent look over the test, work the math problems their child got wrong, and coach your child on how to get past the trickery of the College Board. And if you cannot solve all the problems your child got wrong on math, how can you help your child? Why, you have to go to a school like Karen Dillard's.

The benefits of Karen Dillard's program go beyond the preparation material she uses. I believe the advice she gives on how to look at the test results and how to handle the complexities of the college application process is good advice.

We are lucky to have her in Plano. And I believe we are lucky to have Michael Novotny as Principal of Jasper High School.

As I read the articles in the newspapers I was reminded of an article in the Wall Street Journal, Wed. Feb. 20, 2008, "Big Retail Chains Dun Mere Suspects in Theft," by Ann Zimmerman. This article gave an account of how Glenn Rudge was accused by Home Depot of stealing an $8 set of drill bits. The store would not listen to him when he said he had a receipt. The prosecutor dropped the charges when Mr. Rudge showed his receipt for the drill bits, but Home Depot still gave his name to a collection agency that tried to shake him down for over $6,000.

Can you believe this? Home Depot and their collection agency wanted $6,000 payment in a dispute over a $8 set of drill bits. Eventually the handy man had to get a lawyer and sue Home Depot. Just because a big business wants money, that does not mean it is entitled to that money. I hope the College Board is mistaken in their lawsuit.

This does give us all an opportunity to talk to our children about intellectual property rights.

The PSAT/SAT/ACT tests are an important part of our kids' high school experience. The story is a good reminder that parents should stay involved with their children's education, including helping them prepare for the SAT, which is tricky.

The story is also a reminder that we can improve the Plano ISD curriculum to better prepare our children for the SAT. For example, the district policy of telling kids to guess the meaning of words instead of looking them up in a dictionary is bad for our children. This policy reduces their vocabulary and reduces their SAT verbal scores.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good Leaders are Ethical Leaders

When asked last year to explain my educational philosophy, one point I made was that "morality is the root of education."

If we want good leaders, we should expect and insist they be ethical leaders. I believe good ethics are a core competency for effective leadership.

I believe the Plano schools should take a short list of moral imperatives and stress them from kindergarten to 12th grade:
Don't steal
Don't cheat
Don't hurt

I think everyone can agree on this short list. If we expect tomorrow's leaders to be honorable, trustworthy people, then we need to give our children a firm foundation.

If a school principal needs to discipline children who might have stolen, or cheated, or hurt others, then the central administration should support the school staff.

If our children are trying to walk the straight and narrow, if they try to do the right thing, then they should perceive the Plano ISD as sharing their commitment to ethical behavior.

Let's work together to give our children the best possible future. Please vote for me for the PISD Board of Trustees in the May 10, 2008 election.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

America Laughs at Texas Leadership

The New York Times ran an article on the front page, Wed. Feb. 13, 2008, "Alice Journal: Tale of Dead Texas Dog Bites Mayor Who Told It," by Ralph Blumenthal. The article describes how Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez was accused of stealing a neighbor's dog, then lying about it.

It's a pretty sad story. The author also reminded America that Alice, Texas, stuffed Ballot Box 13 long ago to help LBJ win a primary election. I remember seeing a documentary that described how LBJ cheated his way into politics. The documentary showed a photo of LBJ with buddies posing with the famous ballot box, grinning broadly.

The New York Times is read widely across America. It is probably read world-wide, and Texas was made a laughing stock on the front page because of poor leadership in Alice, Texas.

Texas needs better leaders. We cannot drive to Alice, Texas, and teach them how to develop better leaders. We can, however, develop good leaders here in Plano. We can describe a program for developing leadership in our schools that other communities can copy.

Texas needs better leaders, and we ought to develop those leaders here in Plano schools.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

America (and Dallas) Needs Better Leaders

We need to prepare our children to become tomorrow's leaders. Besides the core lessons in Math and Language Arts, our children must be able to choose right over wrong.

America has problems with poor leadership from top to bottom. In Dallas recently, the DART Chairwoman resigned in disgrace. She was booked this week on a Class A misdemeanor: tampering with a government record. The details are in the Dallas Morning News, "Ex-DART Board Chairwoman is Booked" by Jennifer Emily, Friday, Feb. 15, 2008. Click HERE to see the article.

You are now building your child's future. Let's work together to give your child the best future possible.

Vote for Robert Canright on Saturday May 10, 2008 for the Plano ISD Board of Trustees.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Robin Hood is a Disaster

The Monday, January 28, 2008 issue of the Dallas Morning News had an article describing the dire circumstances at Wimberley, Texas.

The district has been tagged "rich" by the State Legislature and Robin Hood is killing the district. They have to use space heaters because they cannot afford the bill for central heating. That's awful. Click HERE to read the article.

Texas is suffering from a Leadership Crisis. Texas desperately needs better leaders. We need better education to develop better leaders for tomorrow.