Staff Editorial: Higher standards, better pay key to great teachers

The Basic Skills Test used to be a breeze for potential teachers to take. However, this soon changed in 2010 when changes were made to how the test is scored. Students now need to score an 80 percent in each of the subtests to pass the test.

The number of students who passed the Basic Skills Test decreased by 57 percent since the change in 2010. As we reported Oct. 3., 90 percent of students passed the test before the change and now only 33 percent do.

This is huge change. It will undoubtedly make life more difficult for education majors. Nonetheless, it is a good change.

Before the change, basically any student who thought they could be a teacher could hope to pass with flying colors. Nine out of 10 of them were right.

Hard work should go into passing the Basic Skills Test and becoming a teacher.

A student shouldn’t be able to just roll out of bed and take the test and score a 90 percent on it. Students should have to study and work hard to get that 90 percent to prove they have what it takes to handle the responsibilities ahead of them.

Enrollment has been down because of the job market, but the education department suspects that the harder test is also intimidating potential education majors.

We think potential teachers shouldn’t look at the changes in the test as a barrier. These changes should be looked at as a challenge that can be overcome.

If a student really wants to be a teacher, she shouldn’t let a little thing like changes to the Basic Skills Test get in the way of her dream.

But, more importantly, the country’s education system needs improvement. Granted, there are many, many factors contributing to the backward slide of American education. Many of the problems have little or nothing to do with the quality or dedication of educators. But there is no doubting that better teachers make for a better education.

As Doug Bower, associate dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies told us, “If we want higher quality teachers, we need higher standards.”

These changes came from the State Board of Education. We think legislators should recognize these higher standards and reward them by raising the salaries for incoming teachers.

If we want higher quality teachers, we ought to be willing to pay for them. This is not just to reward their hard work, but to lure more potential teachers into the profession.

We give teachers a crucial societal responsibility. We should ask more of those who we trust with the fertile minds of our children. And they should expect more from us.

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Column: When you’re struggling, ‘much love’ is all you need

By Julian Russell/Columnist

Call it being a senior, or perhaps it’s just life in general, but lately I have felt more stressed than I have in years. As I let the stress overwhelm me, I found myself becoming more difficult to talk to and I found myself participating less, both in and out of the classroom.

Today I was sitting at the doctors office—and no, I wasn’t there because of stress—where, as my mind wandered while I sat in the waiting room, I slowly felt myself overwhelmed with a calm that has been non-existent in my life for a bit of a spell now.

The calm came over me as I began to think of the words that my friend, who has now passed on, used to say to people in my shoes. “Much love.”

Whenever times glimmered a moment of heated words or aching hearts, Shane would say, “Much love brother, much love.”

I don’t think those words necessarily slipped my mind as much as they were just crated into a warehouse of mathematics and communications lessons. As I was sitting in his father’s doctor’s office, those words re-birthed themselves within my mind and cured my stress better than any medicine on earth could have.

I began to think of all the things in my life that made my heart ache and my mind stretch, and I simply thought: much love will cure all.

There will always be things we cannot change and where all else fails in life, love will prosper, love will shine its way through and love will keep us going.

There is no room in our lives for hate and sadness, and if you think that either are about to overwhelm your soul, reach out to yourself and say, “Much love, that is all I need.”

Two words have never had so much wisdom. If you would have had a chance to meet Shane’s parents like I have had the blessing and honor to do over the past few months, you would understand where such wholehearted wisdom and kindness comes from.

No two words exist that cannot be over-taught, over-stressed or over-exaggerated like “much love.” I would give my own heart to hear him say those words again to open ears, but I’ve found that an open heart and an open mind works almost as well.

To Con and Mary, I thank you for being the parents you are to have instilled the greatest of minds and hearts in the son that I did know and to the ones that I haven’t had the honor of conversing with. I know with the utmost of ease that the same exists within, for such greatness doesn’t travel that far from the tree.

When life gets you down and you feel like the bottom isn’t very far away, “much love” will keep you going, “much love” will live on and “much love” will keep the song of happiness alive in your heart.


Julian Russell is a senior communications studies major. He can be reached at 581-7942 or DENopinions@gmail.com.


Guest Column: The Berkeley bake sale: A sober liberal response

By Jason Waller, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of PhilosophyEastern Illinois University

Recently, a group of conservative students at the University of California at Berkeley staged a protest against affirmative action. The protest was a mock bake sale where they charged white students more for the same cookies than black students. Liberal groups staged a counter-protest. The debate quickly became hysterical, predictable, and frankly dumb.

In this essay I would like to present a sober liberal response to this protest. I do not think that the students are racists, but I do think they are scientifically ignorant. And here’s why:

The problem is that the bake sale is not relevantly similar to affirmative action programs. The mock bake sale treats a group of similar people (namely, students at one of America’s top universities) differently for no good reason. The assumption behind the protest is that the system is fair and then affirmative action programs come along and make the system unfair. Without such programs everyone would have an equal opportunity, but then these programs mess up this fair system by giving some people an undeserved advantage.

But supporters of these programs argue that affirmative action programs do not actually give “preferential treatment” to minorities, but they correct (at least a little) for pre-existing undeserved disadvantages suffered by minorities. (Or, put another way—these programs help give minorities the same undeserved advantages that whites enjoy.) These programs take a system that is currently unfair and help to make it a little more fair.

So who is right? Is the system fair to start with? Do minorities in America suffer from significant and undeserved disadvantages because of their race? Ultimately, this is a scientific (not a political) question. The only way to answer this question is by doing some science.

Decades worth of social science has built up a compelling case for the conclusion that minority groups (not only in America but in many societies around the world) suffer from pervasive and significant disadvantages.

In her new book “The Imperative of Integration” (Oxford: 2010), philosopher Elizabeth Anderson provides a good summary of this data. Not all of these disadvantages arise because of overt racism (although there is strong evidence that such racism remains pervasive.) Rather, the disadvantages arise from a host of less obvious causes.

To give just one example, studies find that people tend to socialize mainly with members of their own race. This general tendency results in certain racial groups being systematically excluded from the broader society.

Studies of many different societies have found that this type of systemic social exclusion (however benign its causes) deprives the members of the excluded group of many important opportunities enjoyed by other members of the society.

Perhaps affirmative action programs are not a good way to correct for the unfair disadvantages that socially excluded groups face (that is a political question), but proposing a plausible conservative alternative will require a more sober and scientifically informed discussion than the one the bake sale provoked.

Letters to the editor

“Google God” cannot give us love

I’m writing this letter as a short commentary of Sarah Bigler’s Sept. 27 column, “Praise be to Google, Who doth know all things.”

I had mixed feelings after reading her column. I found it to be very witty and clever. Yet I was also saddened to a certain degree regarding her characterization of what “God” is and her use of Google to, as I see it, poke fun at the Christian concept of God.

I believe that her column unintentionally revealed a kind of values mentality that seems to be very insufficient. She displays a lack of comprehension when comparing Google’s characteristics to God (it doesn’t bother me that she makes the comparison, only the way she does so.)

She seems to find Google so “holy” and “never failing” that she compares it to a God. Why? Because Google provides information and knowledge. She “feels the need to worship.” I’m not a Fundamentalist, but her feeling of veneration toward information is where I see the danger.

Atheists often seem to place human intelligence and knowledge as the supreme virtue (Christopher Hitchens is a case in point). This is not so with Christianity. The traditional Christian explanation of God has always been this, “Deus Caritas Est,” or, “God is Love.”

My point is this: We must never forget as a society that what is most valuable in our world is love, not just intelligence. Both are extremely important, but Google cannot give us love, that most fundamental human longing.

Geoffrey Zokal 

Charleston

Column on Tea Party diversity refreshing

Congratulations to Mr. Sainer for his spirited and fact-filled defense of the Tea Party against the attacks of racism being leveled against us. He is writing in the spirit of Eastern’s first President, Livingston C. Lord, whose words are engraved at the entrance of Old Main. They are, “…not who is right, but what is true.”

As a participant in the Sept. 12, 2010 rally, I saw the diversity of opinion expressed there. Young black Americans joined us there and I have the pictures as evidence.

As we marched together, they began the chant, “Black and white must unite.” Many of us joined in the chant. Apparently, Justice Clarence Thomas is not the only one to have “fled the plantation.” Some of us have indeed found common ground.

Very truly yours,

Leonidas H. Miller 

Mattoon


Staff Editorial: State should pay off its 2010 debts first

There are 21 million reasons to question the accountability of Illinois paying its dues.

According to the Sept. 30 article in The Daily Eastern News, Illinois owes Eastern $21 million for FY11, which is about 42 percent of our total appropriations.

This is no small chunk of change we are talking about here. It is the equivalent of buying a $3 cup of coffee from Starbucks every day for around the next 20,000 years.

It seems like you can count on the state being behind on payments as much as you can count on there being air to breathe on Earth.

However, the aspect of this situation that seems most questionable is the fact that the state has changed the way it is making its payments.

According to the article, when the state was behind on FY10 payments, they didn’t begin paying FY11 until FY10 was paid off. The state is implementing a different strategy that is making us nervous.

The state has decided to pay FY12 on time, in the amount of about $7 million, and we have not received FY11 payments for nearly three months.

On the surface, it seems like a good thing that the state is taking the initiative to make timely payments for FY12. However, we hope that the state does not think that it can sweep $21 million under the rug.

“We are not digging a hole further but it is still an awful lot of money from last year’s budget that they still owe us,” Treasurer Paul McCann said in the article.

The fact that the state is behind on such a large amount deters Eastern from buying supplies, doing construction and hiring faculty and staff members as others leave the university.

“Unfortunately, I think it makes it difficult for a lot of the faculty who are not getting all of the supplies they might need,” McCann said in the article. “We play a balancing game trying to keep enough money going into that process, but we do not always succeed.”

Eastern has been staying afloat by making these expense cuts and being conservative with funds, but doing so is a band-aid to the problem, not a solution.

Playing the waiting game is putting us on edge and $21 million is not going to be forgotten easily.

Hopefully the state will try to pay for FY11 and FY12, but right now the state seems to be freezing its payments for FY11.

The state should be more clear as to why they are not paying FY10 so Eastern can better plan its own budget.