(Here is the second of four posts featuring posts on Blue Oklahoma’s companion blog, Okie Funk, which were published in 2014. All these posts were also published on Blue Oklahoma. Click on the title to read the entire post. It was a dismal political year for progressives in Oklahoma, but there IS hope for a coming shift and realignment in 2016, at least on the national level. As always, thanks for following this blog. Best wishes to you this holiday season.)
Injustice Persists, April 11, 2014
The unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City is fast becoming a symbol of bigotry and right-wing political incompetence as the entire world witnesses the spectacle.
The fact that it hasn’t been completed is a massive embarrassment. State lawmakers, especially House Speaker Jeff Hickman, a Republican from Fairview, are still haggling and posturing over how to come up with $40 million in state money to complete the project. Right now, Hickman is stubbornly refusing to bring a Senate-passed bill that would fund the center to a vote because he says it doesn’t have enough Republican support.
The massive delay in completing the center conjures up the sordid history of government-sanctioned discrimination against American Indians in this country. It’s a history of bigotry, terrible injustice and broken promises. Some people might argue that’s too extreme in this case, but what if the center never gets finished? What if the dominant white conservative majority in the House manages to stop it without even a vote?
Indian tribes have donated to the project, and private donors will match the state’s $40 million, but this is a state-owned facility, and the state needs to make good on its promise for the tribes and for everyone in the state. Construction on the project started way back in 2006 and had to be halted because of funding problems. Now is the time to finish it or come up with a different plan. Maybe it needs to be built in another state, one with people more tolerant of diversity and more appreciative of history.
Major Earthquake Warning, May 7, 2015
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey organizations have issued a warning that the dramatic surge in earthquakes here is “significantly increasing the chance for a damaging magnitude 5.5 or greater quake in central Oklahoma.”
In a joint statement, the USGS and OGS pointed out an analysis “suggests that a likely contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes is triggering by wastewater injected into deep geologic formations.”
For months, some researchers have concluded that the rise in earthquake activity here has been caused by oil and gas activity, specifically the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process. In that process, wastewater from the initial drilling is later injected by high pressure into underground rock formations. Oklahoma is currently experiencing a mini-boom in oil and gas production.
The USGS and OGS statement noted that there has been a rise of about 50 percent in the number of earthquakes since October 2013 alone, which increases the risk of a major, damaging earthquake. So far this year, there have been at least 145 earthquakes of 3.0-magnitude or higher, according to the statement. Last year, there were 109 such earthquakes. A 5.6-magnitude earthquake, the largest ever recorded in the state, struck near Prague in 2011, damaging buildings.
Educational Darkness, June 4, 2014
The contemporary avalanche of high-stakes testing and other assessment procedures in education is constructed upon faulty philosophical premises, which can be detrimental and harmful to students and teachers.
In medicine, the adage goes, “First, do no harm.” That should apply to education as well. What if, for example, a particular high-stakes test is poorly constructed and penalizes students for giving the right answer? What if a teacher must teach the “untruth” in order to keep her job? The implications of these errors for our society are enormous.
We must grant the possibility that this country’s obsessive efforts to quantify student achievement, along with the conservative attack on the education establishment in general, is the real crisis in education today.
Let me be clear that the deployment of high-stakes testing in our schools has been both a Democratic and Republican conquest, and I mean the word conquest as in a political attack upon and then the occupation of schools. For example, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, serving under President Barack Obama, has been a major battlefield general directing the current conquest.
I’m willing to concede there are political leaders that truly believe that high-stakes testing, which is testing in schools that can penalize teachers and students for low scores, is a method to boost achievement. Certainly, though, at this juncture anyone truly concerned with education would concede the high-stakes testing movement has created systems and procedures fraught with error.
The overall attack on the public education establishment, however, is ultimately a conservative ploy, which has used high-stakes testing in order to transfer public assets, primarily tax dollars, to private companies in order to respond to the fake crisis created by low test scores.