Wednesday, April 30, 2014

When I asked my dad if he had met Mayor Crump he shared some stories -- but what if I hadn't asked?

    I mentioned in my previous post on the Faulkner-Francisco controversy that one of the problems of documenting or collaborating the Francisco accounts is that some of the best sources have been dead for five to 10 years.
    My father, Sidney Hurdle, was truly a font of historical information. He could place every member of our large and extended family in their exact and proper place and he could do the same with quite a few Marshall County families. He died last March.
    I'm not sure why -- perhaps because I had been reading his biography -- but one day I asked Dad if he had ever met Memphis political boss E.H. "Ed" Crump, who was born in Holly Springs. Dad's response was that he had met him once, in Ed Rather's office in the First State Bank. [ADDENDUM 5/1: Ed Rather was Ed Crump's grand-nephew].
    The Crump-Dancy feud over the clearing of a cemetery plot is something of a legend in Holly Springs. Crump had sent down a crew to clean up around his mother's grave, and in the process they cut down plants and a tree Mr. Dancy had planted in his family's cemetery plots. People didn't make many phone calls back then, but I think a furious exchange of letters took place. Mr. Crump finally came down to apologize to Mr. Dancy and to seek to make amends.
    I don't know whether Mr. Rather asked my dad to come by or whether the meeting was happenstance. It's quite possible that Mr. Dancy was in the office, too. I just can't remember.
    Dad told me that Crump met my grandfather, Jesse Hurdle, twice, almost 10 years apart. On seeing him for the second time 10 years later Crump immediately greeted my grandfather by name, asked about his wife Lucy, and clearly had not forgotten a thing about him. My grandfather was amazed and mightily impressed.
    One interesting fact about Crump is that he is always referred to as mayor of Memphis but was not actually mayor after 1915. He was impeached and removed from office for failing to enforce prohibition laws by Nashville politicians eager to reduce his political power. Instead his political power increased. He was elected Shelby County trustee and earned $50,000 per year in fees -- or roughly a million a year in today's money. For the next 40 years he would hand-pick almost every mayor. Wyeth Chandler, who left office in 1982, was the son of Crump man Walter Chandler.
    There really is no point or moral to this story other than I never would have heard about my father or grandfather meeting Crump if I had never asked. In the past couple of days I've talked to a lot of friends and heard some wonderful stories, but I'm afraid a lot of information has gone to the grave.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Article to claim Faulkner ledgers story a fabrication; but Holly Springs connection is remembered

The name "Ludie," etched into a
 glass pane at the McCarroll Place,
 which has been owned by the
Francisco family for many years.
    There is an interesting article in The Awl on a claim made and accepted by many in recent years that William Faulkner's writing was heavily influenced by his friendship with the Francisco family in Holly Springs.
    This theory was outlined in the book "Ledgers of History: William Faulkner, an Almost Forgotten Friendship, and an Antebellum Plantation Diary," by Emory University professor Sally Wolff-King. King recounts claims by Edgar Wiggin Francisco III that Faulkner was a hunting buddy of his father's and that he was fascinated by old, detailed plantation ledgers in the family's possession. A window pane in the home, which had been etched with a diamond by an earlier young resident of the house also was said to have caught Faulkner's eye and was later used as a detail in his writing.
    The Awl story says the Francisco claim simply doesn't hold water and cites work by Jack Elliott, a former archivist with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and a seasoned analyst of historical documents. Elliott has written an article to be released soon, called "Confabulations of History: William Faulkner, Edgar Francisco, and a Friendship that Never Was." The article has undergone peer review and will appear later this year in the Journal of Mississippi History.
    I don't have a dog in this hunt. I will share that in the early- to mid-1970s I served as a Pilgrimage guide when the McCarroll Place, owned by the Francisco family, was still on tour. The glass etched with Ludie Baugh's name was pointed out to us and it was stated then that Faulkner was a friend of the Franciscos and that he later incorporated the etched glass detail into one or more literary works.
    I called Bobby Mitchell, my high school history teacher and a true history buff, and asked him what he knew of the Faulkner connection. He told me that he had heard of the Francisco-Faulkner connection all of his life as it pertained to the etched glass. I would say Bobby is about 75, so his memory does go back further than mine.
    There seem to be claims by some that there is no evidence that Faulkner ever even spent time in Holly Springs or drew any stories from the town. Mitchell said this wasn't the case, citing a story about Robert McDermont, who was the owner of the cafe at the depot and had a reputation for being extremely cheap. Customers sitting around the cafe would often joke about him slicing a certain piece of lunch meat so thin you could see through it. Robert's son, Tippy McDermont, carried the book "The Reivers" around with him with a passage highlighted in which Faulkner also describes someone cutting a piece of lunchmeat so thin you could see through it, in such a fashion that the person described is clearly inspired by Robert McDermont. Tippy was clearly sure that Faulkner had picked up the story while sitting at the Depot Cafe, as he would share it with anyone willing to listen or look.
    Mitchell told me that he had heard many times that Faulkner had attended a party given by the Johnson family at the Walter Place in the 1930s. He told me that L.A. "Gus" Smith, Jr. was friends with Faulkner and that he had asked Gus's son, Gus III or Little Gus, whether he was there. Little Gus said he believed so, but had no details as to the other guests. My father was Gus Smith's law partner before he became a judge and he never mentioned the Walter Place party, but I'm not sure he would.
    Finally, Mitchell told me that he believed one of Faulkner's step-daughters, a Franklin, had attended the Mississippi Synodical College in Holly Springs. This would have given him ample reason to visit the town on occasion.
    I decided to contact another source, who told me that if I quoted her by name she would kill me. She echoed doubts raised by Dr. Hubert McAlexander, a Holly Springs native, Faulkner scholar, and University of Georgia English professor. Said my friend: "It would amaze me if Edgar and Faulkner were friends. He was just not the type that you would expect to hang out with a bohemian like Faulkner. He was a meek, mild little man; and Miss Ruth, she’s not the type that I would expect to allow any carrying-ons in that house."
    My friend described Francisco as being absent-minded as well as meek. It was said that he once drove to Memphis in his car, and unable to remember where he parked it, returned by train.
    With that said, my friend went on to say that Faulkner was known to have regularly visited Holly Springs, and she had heard years later that he dated a local girl, whom she cited by name. One of the characters in Sanctuary was said to have been inspired by a Holly Springs attorney. I'll omit his name as I have no idea how he was portrayed in the book. My friend remembers reading the book as a teen back in the day and being aware of the local connection at the time: "The book was considered kind of racy, and Mrs. Lizzie Craft (the librarian) wouldn't let us check it out, so we had to get it through other means."
    My friend did tell me that she had heard that Henry Fort Gholson used to go hunting with Faulkner. I called my friend Harris Gholson, who confirmed the friendship and passed me on to his older sister, Bea Greene, who said she remembers her father hunting a number of times with Faulkner and her parents getting together with the Faulkners for dinner. They first met in the mid- to late-1950s while Faulkner's nephew, Jimmy Faulkner, was building their house. She knew absolutely nothing of the Francisco friendship, however.
    There is really no hard evidence as to any of this, and some of the best sources have died in the past five to 10 years. The Francisco claims could be a complete fabrication. But there certainly is a long connection between Faulkner and Holly Springs, and insofar as the story of the etched glass is concerned, many of us have heard of it all our lives.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Florida law dean candidate brings up dropping LSAT scores and promptly kicked off campus

    Ole Miss law school dean Richard Gershon is one of the editors of the Law Deans on Legal Education Blog. In a recent post he tells of a dean candidate at Florida Coastal School of Law being ordered off the campus for attempting to address the issue of declining LSAT scores and dropping bar passage rates at a faculty review luncheon.
    A portion of his post is below:
    The on-campus process involved dinner with the President of the school, and then a meeting with the staff and faculty during a series of small groups sessions the following day. Each candidate was to give a presentation on the candidate’s vision for the school to the full faculty at lunch the day of the interview.  That is fairly standard for dean searches nationwide.
    One oddity was that the faculty was told they could only exclude one of the seven candidates from consideration. In effect, that means that the faculty has very little role in selecting the dean from the six remaining candidates. That is odd, but not particularly alarming, provided that the faculty had a significant role in the selection of candidates.
    The disturbing part of the report involves a candidate who raised concerns about the school’s declining student credentials and bar pass rates. That candidate was asked to leave in the middle of the lunch presentation. The candidate resisted, but was told that security would be called to remove the candidate from campus. This all happened in the view of about 40 faculty and staff present at this presentation, which was being recorded so others who were teaching class could see it later.
    The concerns raised by the dean candidate are supported by publicly available information showing that the 2013 entering class at Coastal had the following 75/50/25 LSAT profile: (148/144/141). Reports indicate that the students who have placed seat deposits in 2014 have a virtually identical profile as the 2013 entering class.
    I am adding Dean Gershon's blog to the blog list which appears on the left side of this page.

h/t Above the Law

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mississippians may not be able to read, but we sure can write, and have PSAT scores to prove it

Click to Enlarge
    The late author Willie Morris once said "Mississippians may not be able to read, but we sure can write." It was a reference to the unusually large number of notable authors coming from a state known for having a high illiteracy rate.
    I was looking over Mississippi's PSAT scores and found some amazing numbers. Mississippi has fewer top scorers on the PSAT than the South and nation, but Mississippi simply blows out the competition when it comes to the writing section.
    The chart I've presented is for the most recent scores only, but this isn't a one-year phenomenon. You can look at the scores yourself by clicking here. I consider myself fairly well informed about these types of tests, and I can't come up with a good reason why Mississippi's PSAT writing scores should be substantially higher than the regional and national average while our state our state has fewer top scorers in the reading and math sections.
    One could argue that fewer Mississippians take the PSAT in comparison to the nation at large, so that our test pool is composed of more able students. This is almost certainly true, but it doesn't explain the discrepancy between the reading, math, and writing scores. And the fact that 47.1 percent of Mississippians scored a 50 or above compared to 35.8 percent nationally is a huge and significant test gap.
    It should be noted that Mississippi's average reading and math PSAT scores are actually slightly higher than the national average; this is likely due to only better Mississippi students taking the PSAT to begin with -- fewer than one in four juniors takes the PSAT. But Mississippi produces a smaller percentage of high to very-high scorers in reading and math despite its elite testing pool.
    I don't have any answers, but I certainly found this interesting. My guess is that most people could care less.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

PSAT commended cutoffs announced; my bet for Mississippi Class of 2015 Semifinalist cutoff is 205

UPDATE: This page seems to be getting a lot of hits, presumably from people interested in predicted cutoff scores for the 2015 PSAT given to the Class of 2017. For Class of 2017 cutoff predictions, click here.

    It's time for high school students to start trying to guess what the National Merit Semifinalist cutoff score will be for their state. Official announcements won't be made until September 2014, but there is enough information available now to make some educated guesses on Mississippi's cutoff score.
    The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has sent letters to schools notifying them of the names of approximately 50,000 top scorers in the annual National Merit Competition. This represents approximately three percent of the 1,579,720 juniors who took the test in October 2013.
    Of this number, 16,000 will be named National Merit Semifinalists, using a formula that attempts to recognize the top one percent of graduates in each state, and most of these will become Finalists. The remainder will be considered Commended Students. Each state has a separate cutoff score for Semifinalists that won't be released until September 2014. The Commended Student cutoff is set nationally. For the Class of 2015 the national Commended Student cutoff score is 201.
    That's two points lower than the 203 Commended cutoff last year, one of the highest ever. The Class of 2014 Mississippi Semifinalist cutoff was 207, two points higher than ever before. The year before the Commended cutoff was 200 and the Mississippi Semifinalist cutoff was 204.
    National Merit Finalist status has become one of the greatest academic prizes that a student can receive. Some prestigious honors colleges aggressively recruit Finalists with guaranteed full-ride scholarships, dedicated employees, and even special housing just for National Merit scholars. I wrote about this last year.
    So what is the Mississippi cutoff score likely to be? We can only make an educated guess using information from the chart above, which I got from the College Board website. The Commended cutoff was 201 for the classes of 2010 and 2011, and the Semifinalist cutoffs were 203 and 205 respectively. This year's reading scores have dropped relative to those and other years, but math and writing have improved.
    Selecting the top one percent of students from a relatively small state is an inexact science. My personal opinion is that a cutoff score of 206 would result in substantially fewer than one percent of graduates while a cutoff of 205 may give Mississippi more than our share. My prediction is that the Mississippi cutoff score will be 205.
    With that said, students with a 204 should not despair; some hope remains. The big drop in critical reading scores this year suggests some lopsided score totals. The student with uniformly high scores in all three subjects is more likely to get Semifinalist status than the one with only a single stellar score.
    I'm always willing to put my money where my mouth is on these predictions, although people rarely take me up on it. I'm willing to wager up to $50 straight up that the Mississippi PSAT Semifinalist cutoff score for the class of 2015 will be 205. Offer expires June 1, 2014.

National Merit Cutoff Score, National Merit Cutoff Score Mississippi, National Merit cutoff score Class of 2015, National Merit cutoff score 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

If schools want to improve the quality of education they can start by mandating Home Ec

    There was a time when virtually every teen-aged girl in the United States took home economics -- or Home Ec -- in high school, and often in college. They learned to sew, and most importantly, to cook.
    Boys almost never took these classes. These girls were in training to be good housewives, and as the world changed Home Ec fell out of favor. Today, Home Ec, if taught at all, is likely to be a course heavy on the teaching of abstract theories of nutrition and life skills and light on cooking.
    And yet if there is any skill needed by both men and women today it is the ability to cook cheap, simple, and nutritious meals prepared from scratch. We often hear complaints that poor people can't survive on a $500 per month food stamp budget, even with their children getting free breakfasts and lunches at school. Part of the problem is that they don't know how to cook anything but expensive convenience foods.
    A few months back I printed my Aunt Eva's roll recipe. (I cooked a batch, but they weren't as good as hers!). A gift of these rolls was something special to us when we were growing up. I think I may take another stab at them this week.
    Aunt Eva had this to say about her recipe:
This recipe came from one of my Home Economics teachers when I was in college. I have made rolls by this recipe since I married and I consider it foolproof.
    Let's be honest here. Most of us would snort with derision at the notion of a modern woman taking a home economics class in college. Yet my Aunt Eva's roll recipe probably brought her and the people around her as much joy as anything other single thing she learned in college.
    I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to enroll in Home Ec courses in college, but I am saying that most high school students -- boys and girls -- should take at least one year of Home Ec, and preferably more. The course could address a variety of topics dealing with personal living, but at least 50 percent should be spent in learning the art of cooking from scratch.
    Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a fan of high academic standards in our schools. But our schools need to teach students the basics of how to live as well. It's all part of education.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In 2013 OHS had almost 30 percent of Mississippi's 35-36 ACT scores, with eight out of 27

     I've made no secret that I'm impressed with the fact that Oxford High School has eight students with a 35 or 36 on the ACT this year, and that it had the same number last year.
    This is from a statistical standpoint, simply phenomenal.
    According to the official ACT report, in 2013 twenty-seven Mississippi seniors scored 35 or 36 on the ACT. Eight of that 27 were from Oxford High School. A total of 27,749 seniors took the ACT in 2013; 217 Oxford seniors took it. So Oxford seniors accounted for about eight-tenths of one percent of ACT test-takers and produced almost 30 percent of those making a 35 or 36.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Oxford High ties last year's record number of STAR Students, with eight who scored 35 or 36 on ACT

Oxford High School STAR Students are Brian Clancy, Matthew Forgette, Connor Goggins, Shreya Mathur, Joshua Redding, Cynthia Torma, Joelle Young, and Mark Zhao. 

    I wrote last year about how Oxford High set a state record with eight STAR Students. Now they've done it again! Oxford has eight STAR Students again for 2014. This is just unheard of.
    STAR Students are named each year by the Mississippi Economic Council. Recipients must be graduating seniors with a 93 average in core subjects, the highest ACT score in their class, and an ACT of at least 25. Students with a 35 or 36 on the ACT get STAR Student status whether their score is highest in the class or not.
    So in 2013 Oxford High School had eight out of roughly 225 students with a score of 35 or 36 on the ACT; and they've given us a repeat performance for 2014. Roughly 3.5 percent of the Oxford High School graduating class last year and this year had an ACT score of 35 or 36.
    In 2012 there were 5,238 students nationally with a 35 or 36 on the ACT out of 1,666,017 taking the test. So about three-tenths of one percent nationally made a 35 or 36 while 3.5 percent of Oxford seniors posted a 35 or 36.
    It's an amazing performance, and we shouldn't get too spoiled. It's unlikely to have these kinds of numbers every year, but I can sure enjoy them while they last!

    Here's the story from the Oxford High School website:
    Eight Oxford High School students have been named as STAR (Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition) Students for the 2013-2014 school year by the Mississippi Economic Council’s (MEC) M.B. Swayze Foundation, sponsor of the STAR program.    Oxford High School STAR Students are Brian Clancy, Matthew Forgette, Connor Goggins, Shreya Mathur, Joshua Redding, Cynthia Torma, Joelle Young, and Mark Zhao. The Oxford High School students were honored during the annual Education Celebration at the MEC Annual Meeting on April 10 at the Jackson Convention Complex in downtown Jackson.
    According to Oxford school officials, this year Oxford High School had the highest number of STAR Students representing any school district in the state of Mississippi.
    As part of the STAR Program each STAR Student is asked to designate a STAR Teacher, the teacher who has made the greatest contribution to the student’s scholastic achievement. STAR Teachers are Chris Baughman, Dr. Barbara Lowe, James Reidy, Allyson Movitz, Stefanie Beam, Anne Steel, Renee Dayan, and Marni Herrington. The STAR Teacher can be one of the STAR Student’s elementary or secondary classroom teachers (active, former or retired).
    STAR Students are selected on the basis of academic excellence. Both American College Test (ACT) scores and scholastic averages are compared to determine the school's STAR Student. MEC and its M.B. Swayze Foundation sponsor the STAR Program to encourage and promote academic achievement among Mississippi’s high school seniors as well as recognize the teacher profession.

A Closer look at the STAR Students

Brian Clancy
Brian Clancy is the son of Sally and Thomas Clancy. Brian is a member of the Swim Team, the Math and Science Team, FIRST Robotics Team, Envirothon Team, Science Olympiad, and the Asian Heritage Club. He is active in his church youth group and is an AP Scholar. He plans on majoring in Business in college.
STAR Teacher is Chris Baughman.

Matthew Forgette
Matthew Forgette is the son of Karen and Rick Forgette. Matthew is the Debate Team Co-Captain and has twice been named a National Debate Tournament Qualifier. He is a state finalist Mock Trail Team member and a member of the State Champion Oxford Tennis Team. He is in the National Honor Society and is a National Merit Finalist. Matthew plans on majoring in International Studies and Economics.
STAR Teacher is Dr. Barbara Lowe.

Connor Goggins
Connor Goggins is the son of Patricia Krueger and Paul Goggins. He is a member of the FIRST Robotics Team, the Math and Science Team, Debate Team, Science Olympiad Team, and the Science Team. He has been active with the OHS Theatre and is an AP Scholar with Honor. Connor plans on majoring in Computer Engineering. 
STAR Teacher is James Reidy.

Shreya Mathur
Shreya Mathur is the daughter of Masisha and Dr. Sunil Mathur. Shreya is a member of the Robotics Team, Science Olympiad Team, Math and Science Team, Key Club, Anchor Club, and the National Honor Society. At the 2012 International Science Fair, Shreya placed 4th in Mathematics and 1st Place in American Statistical Association Awards. Shreya plans on studying Biostatistics in college.
STAR Teacher is Allyson Movitz.

Joshua Redding
Joshua Redding is the son of Melinda and Steve Redding. Joshua is a Robotics Team member, and a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Envirothon Team. Joshua is active with the youth group at his church. He is Science Olympiad Co-Captain and President of the German Club. Joshua plans on majoring in Computer Science in college.
STAR Teacher is Stefanie Beam.

Cynthia Torma
Cynthia Torma is the daughter of Eva Bodnar and Tibor Torma. Cynthia is a Poetry Out Loud State Semifinalist, Captain of the OHS Swim Team, and an Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Finalist. She is a National Merit Finalist and an AP Scholar with Distinction. Cynthia plans on majoring in Linguistics and Biochemistry.
STAR Teacher is Anne Steel.

Joelle Young
Joelle Young is the daughter of Shae Wang. Joelle is Treasurer of the German Club, a member of the Envirothon Team, a National Merit Finalist, and an AP Scholar. She is the Mississippi Music Teachers Association State Piano Competition winner and a state winner in the American Math Competition. Joelle plans on majoring in Molecular Biology and Psychology.
STAR Teacher is Renee Dayan.

Mark Zhao
Mark Zhao is the son of Mei Wang and Jianping Zhao. Mark is Captain of the Envirothon Team, Co-Captain of the Science Olympiad Team, Captain of the Math and Science Quiz Bowl Team, and a member of the Robotics Team. He is a National Merit Finalist and an AP Scholar with Distinction. Mark plans on majoring in Electrical Engineering in college.
STAR Teacher is Marni Herrington.

ACT posts test results from April 12 test on April 21; that's a nine-day turn-around

    For anyone who keeps up with such things ACT scores from the April 12 test administration have been posted on the website a week earlier than originally planned.
    In the usual bureaucratic fashion, some students will get their scores while others may have to wait. But for students eager to know how they scored, log in and find out if they are available!
    For the past few years enterprising students have devised ways to get their scores early. This involved logging into the website and then running a javascript with one's test id number appended, or some similar method. Some people were able to get their scores weeks early. These holes have apparently been patched; nobody this time got their scores until the ACT decided to release them.
    Of course, with a nine-day turn-around from test day to score report there is less need to resort to devious means to find out how one did. Or how one's child did!

Monday, April 14, 2014

More than a million die each year due to DDT ban, and now Yellow Fever again threatens Americans

    For the first time in almost 50 years mosquitoes carrying the Yellow Fever virus have been found in California.
    I grew up in Holly Springs, so I am well aware of the dangers of Yellow Fever. Although the numbers vary depending on the source, in 1878 Holly Springs had a population of about 3,500. More than half fled the city in fear of the plague. Of those remaining, almost all contracted Yellow Fever. More than 300 died.

    Among the dead was the local newspaper editor, Col. Holland, who reported on the epidemic to the end. A priest and 13 nuns all contracted the disease while caring for the sick. The priest and six of the nuns died. Mississippi Secretary of State Kinloch Falconer, of Holly Springs, returned to his home town to assist and also contracted the disease and died. Supposedly he had asked Gov. Stone to appoint a fellow townsman in the event of his death, and indeed the governor appointed Henry Myers of Holly Springs to fill the post made vacant by Falconer's death.
    Now that we have had our little history lesson, let's talk about how to get rid of yellow fever. It's as simple as three little letters: D-D-T.
    Forget all the horror stories of fragile condor eggs and such that you've heard from back in the days when farmers used massive amounts of the pesticide on their crops. Those stories may be true. But limited DDT use causes little harm and does a great deal of good. The pesticide works.
    Used in small quantities indoors DDT works as a repellent. There is no need to even use enough to actually kill the mosquitoes.
    When discussing DDT we need to remember that it was credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives and eradicating malaria in much of the developed world. By using economic pressure to force poor, mostly African countries not to use the pesticide today our nation is allowing millions to die needlessly.
    In fact, many liberals traditionally hated DDT precisely because it did save lives. Alexander King, founder of the Malthusian Club of Rome, wrote in a biographical essay in 1990: "My own doubts came when DDT was introduced. In Guyana, within two years, it had almost eliminated malaria. So my chief quarrel with DDT, in hindsight, is that it has greatly added to the population problem." Dr. Charles Wurster, one of the major opponents of DDT, is reported to have said, "People are the cause of all the problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them, and this (referring to malaria deaths) is as good a way as any."
    The position of the Sierra Club was stated by its director, Michael McCloskey: the "Sierra Club wants a ban on pesticides, even in countries where DDT has kept malaria under control...[because by] using DDT, we reduce mortality rates in underdeveloped countries without the consideration of how to support the increase in populations."
    In other words, these liberals hate DDT because it enables those pesky ol' poor people to keep on living!
    Roughly a million people die from malaria each year. Sometimes these deaths leave families destitute, resulting in further deaths. Most of these deaths could be prevented with the judicious use of DDT.
    Pol Pot killed around a million Cambodians directly and another million indirectly. Today liberals, through their absolute ban on DDT use do exactly the same thing to malaria victims around the undeveloped world -- each and every year!
    We have liberals we don't need. We have a DDT ban we don't need. We have the equivalent of a Pol Pot every year, which we certainly don't need.
    All we need is reasonable, limited use of DDT to eradicate and repel mosquitoes.
    You can side with me on this or side with the liberals and Pol Pot. It's your choice.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fifth Circuit overturns Cleveland School Freedom of Choice plan; resegregation likely

    The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a Freedom of Choice integration (click here for decision) plan for the Cleveland School District that was ordered by U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson last year. I wrote a long post about this last year. This is bad news for Cleveland and bad news for public education in general.
    (Click here for the Bolivar Commercial story).
    (Click here for the Wall Street Journal story).
    The appeals court didn't expressly reject Freedom of Choice as an option, but said that in order for it to be allowed Davidson needed to explain in his opinion how it would help integrate all-black Eastside High School and an all-black jr. high school. Click here to read Davidson's well-reasoned opinion from last year.
    Cleveland currently has two high school districts. One has an all-black high school; the other district has a roughly 50-50 balance between black and white students.
    Well, here's the deal. Davidson is not going to be able to explain how his plan will desegregate Eastside because it won't. His order was designed to allow black students the choice to attend an integrated school or an all-black school while keeping a racial balance that would prevent white flight. His opinion noted that Cleveland was one of only two school districts in the Delta to have a substantial number of white students.
    A consolidated Cleveland Attendance District will be more than 70 percent black right off the bat. The U.S. Justice Department has insisted that there will be no white flight, and that white families are less resistant to sending their children to a mostly black school than they were in the 1960s and '70s. What the Justice Department is leaving out is that many Delta schools successfully integrated all the way through the late 1980s, when the whites just drifted away entirely, often due to mistreatment.
    If the Cleveland schools are consolidated, in 20 years the resulting school will have the same demographics as its sister schools in Clarksdale, Greenville, Greenwood, Leland, Rolling Fork, Yazoo City, Belzoni, and elsewhere. It will have virtually no white students.
    For the past 40 years the courts have pushed the notion that the only form of acceptable integration is perfect integration. So vouchers, ability grouping, or anything else that might bring black and white children together as equals have been forbidden. The courts have even gone so far as to rule that in overwhelmingly black districts two white children can't be grouped together in the same homeroom, because splitting them up prevents the creation of an all-black homeroom.
    For Cleveland, even a slight amount of white flight will tip the balance enough that a few more whites will leave. And after that there is likely to be a mad dash for the door. Bayou Academy, North Sunflower Academy, Indianola Academy, and Deer Creek School are only a short drive away. Washington School, at 35 miles, is probably the best school academically, and one that some will choose.
    Ultimately the question is whether society works to achieve desegregation plans that work on the ground but which are less than perfect, or whether we have to have perfect numerical integration.
    In every other heavily black school district in which the federal government has insisted on perfect integration the result has been white flight and almost total segregation. Cleveland will be no different. And just as Cleveland High will soon look a lot like Greenville or Clarksdale, so will the town itself.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I've been cleaning, sorting and going through old scrapbooks this week

    I've been cleaning up for the past few days, and that means trying to sort through boxes of old photos and scrapbooks.
    I found a scrapbook of my mother's that I've never seen before. It had a section of photos from her time as a student at the University of North Carolina, where she got her master's in health education.
    She was on a Rockefeller Scholarship. She told me that by today's standards the scholarship wasn't lavish. But she grew up in the Depression, and she said it was the first time in her life she had plenty of spending money.
    Andy Griffith attended UNC at the same time she did. They weren't friends but knew each other in passing. He was said to have a keen interest in acting, but told everyone that he would never be able to get a job because of his accent.
    There are plenty of photos of Mother going to Mt. Mitchell, the beach, and Washington, D.C. with her friends. Unfortunately she didn't take any photos of Andy Griffith.
    Pictured above is one of Mother's seminar classes. If you take a second look at the photo you might notice something a little funny if you haven't already.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The biggest tip I ever saw my father leave was probably the least deserved

    My father, Sidney Hurdle, died just over a year ago. In the weeks after his death I shared a number of stories about him or the things he told me.
    Recently we went through Dad's desk and started the job of cleaning out his office. He had not been in it for several years before his death; the stairs were too much for him. And so the office has been just as he left it four or five years ago.
    I found some interesting things, some of which I will share over the next few weeks. But I saw something while cleaning that made me remember the biggest tip, by percentage, that I ever saw my dad leave at a restaurant.
    Dad wasn't much of a tipper. He felt 10 percent was something rewarded for good service. He grudgingly would leave 15 percent on occasion. Today we've been browbeaten into leaving 20 percent for lackadaisical service, but not my dad.
    I believe the year was 1994. My brother Mike and I were with Dad in Vincennes, Ind., where the Peabody Coal Company was auctioning off substantial blocks of reclaimed coal land.
    The sale was held in a conference room at the local Holiday Inn. The Holiday Inn chain has improved in recent years, but at the time most Holiday Inns had restaurants that set the standard for mediocrity. We chose to eat in said restaurant.
    We were seated at one of two occupied tables in the large restaurant, and the people at the other table seemed to be just drinking coffee. There was one waitress, a rather large woman who huffed and puffed around as if walking from the kitchen to the table was an unreasonable job demand. The food was poor and the service awful. Our waitress explained the poor service by complaining that her employer had just forced her to take a room service order to a guest. The horrors!
    After a long delay the waitress finally brought our soup out with no spoons. We had teaspoons at the table, but naturally we wanted soup spoons. She told us they didn't have any and shambled away. As soon as she was gone we all muttered to each other that we were certain they had soup spoons, but felt the waitress just didn't want to expend the effort to walk across the restaurant to get them.
    I can't remember our total bill; I'm sure it was less than $20. Dad laid down $25 in cash and we hit the exit. Mike and I immediately demanded to know why a man who hates to tip left more than a 25 percent tip for terrible service. We were both of the opinion that the woman didn't deserve a dime.
    Dad's response was as follows: "Based on the service we just had, that may be the only tip she gets today. She's probably got children at home. They need it."
    I'm not sure it makes much sense to tip extra for really poor service, but that was my dad's policy.
9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Mathew 20:9-15