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.