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.