Who has your kids?

There was a disturbing article in today’s newspaper about two young children who were taken from an Anchorage public school by OCS (office of children’s services) workers. It was supposed to be for a parental visit. Just one problem: they picked up the wrong kids!

That’s right. The state agency removed the wrong kids from the school. The agency’s excuse was that the regular worker was out sick and this was someone else who apparently got the name wrong because these kids and the correct ones had similar names.

In the meantime, the mother calls the school and was told OCS had the kids. She called OCS and was told they didn’t have any kids with those names. The mix-up was eventually discovered and the kids returned in about 45 minutes.

So a big problem here. First, why did the school not require verification of who was to be picked up? When I worked at an elementary school, they required documentation stating the CORRECT names of the child to be picked up by anyone other than the parent or legal guardian. So why was this basic policy not followed by the school? If it had been they would have known these were the wrong kids right away and not have allowed them to go with OCS.

So what if the names were similar! If they aren’t the same, they aren’t the right kids. Just because it is a state agency taking them shouldn’t mean they don’t verify who they are taking is correct. The social worker and school should have both verified they were the correct kids before removing them from the school.  The kids are age 6 and 8. As it was, neither the school or social worker checked to be sure they had to right kids.

It’s all fine and good to say the kids should not have gone with them. Stranger danger and all that, but this is a public school, where kids are taught to go unquestioningly with adults they don’t know. The kids just assume it will be all right since the school said it was ok to go. At least they didn’t try to stop the social worker in front of the kids, so that implied consent to a child’s mind.

I’m glad nothing really bad happened to the kids. The school probably verified the social worker’s identity, so why not also the names kids to be taken? Can any social worker show up and take kids like this without verification of the child’s identity? How naive! How scary!

The school and OCS need to seriously review how they handle these kinds of transactions so incidents like this never happen again. The social worker should be fired, and probably the school worker who allowed the kids’ release too.

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They’re home at last!

For those of you who have been praying, both of my sisters in law’s horses are finally home. They wandered off from a remote camp in early summer and haven’t been seen since. Many people have flown over the area unsuccessfully looking for them. However, tonight a flyover showed they were just a few miles from home. One of my sisters in law went out and led them the last bit home.

Thank you for everyone who has helped look and prayed for their safe return. After almost 6 months of being gone, they are at last home safe again.

Dumbing down education

I am taking online college courses through a well respected university. They are pretty interesting. The format is more like guided study than distance education because while there is no lecture, there are still weekly assignments, periodic quizzes, research papers, and a final exam. You log-on to a system called Blackboard. Here you can view the assignments each week, turn in completed items, and take quizzes.

Part of the weekly assignments is a discussion board posting. You are supposed to post an original though about an assigned topic by Thursday midnight. Then you have  until midnight on Sunday to post responses to two other students’ posts. It is expected to use proper grammar and spelling in your posts. Some classes have additional requirements such as APA formatting if research is done for the post. The discussion board is graded depending upon how well you follow the requirements. They are usually worth a quarter to a third of the weekly grade, so while not hard, they are important. Keep in mind, these are college courses so this shouldn’t be very hard for students to follow these basic requirements.

However, I’m finding the opposite to be true. We are now halfway through the term. Students are still doing late postings. For the course with APA requirements (in text citations and a list of references), several students still aren’t doing that even though the instructor gave examples of how she expected them to be formatted for the first 3 weeks.  Some students aren’t even giving a list of references, much less trying to do it in APA format.

Improper grammar is also fairly common in discussion board postings. I’m not meaning picky things either like the correct use of “it’s” and “its”. I mean basic things like complete sentences. Believe it or not, some don’t even use complete sentences. They just use phrases to answer the assigned questions. Others use “texting” phrases and spelling such as just a “u” instead of spelling out “you”.

It’s not just the students either. One of my instructors recently wrote “gonna” instead of “going to” in responding to a student post. How can they grade students down for improper grammar when they don’t even use it themselves?

This is frustrating for students like myself who try to follow the requirements. Late posts are difficult to respond to because they don’t give other students time to ponder them, especially if they are posted days late. To me, texting spelling and grammar is difficult to understand. If I can’t understand your post, how can I respond? Your inability to follow basic requirements negatively impacts the quality of my education.

Not using proper formatting is lazy. It doesn’t take that much extra time to do it right so you get full credit. Do they not understand this or just not care? I would assume many regular universities have similar problems. Why waste your money on college courses if you aren’t willing to do the work for a good grade?

If they  are taking shortcuts in classes, how successful will they be in real life when we need to apply what we learn? I would not place much value on a professional letter of recommendation or an applicant’s letter of intent if it is loaded with texting jargon and incomplete sentences yet they have a college degree.

Our use of texting and IM is having an undesired effect on students. Work is lazy. I’m sure there were lazy students before, but this is making it worse. IM and texting is great for informal conversations, but has no place in college assignments.

Did she do it?

Well, it certainly was anything but ordinary around Alaska the last national political season. This year is no different.

It started off pretty dull. We had the usual primary where the democrats and republicans chose a candidate from all those who were seeking office. The winners were Scott McAdams for the democrats and Joe Miller for the republicans. Miller was anti-establishment and had some good ideas. He defeated current US Senator Lisa Murkowski.

However, Murkowski wouldn’t take no for an answer. This is where it gets interesting. She conceded the election to Miller a few days later. After nosing around unsuccessfully for an endorsement from other places, Murkowski decided to start a write-in campaign. Pay no matter that a write-in campaign has not been successful for national office anywhere in decades. I just looked it up, and the last successful write-in US Senate campaign was Strom Thurman in 1954!

Well, Miller was backed by not only Republican national committee, but also the Tea Party. Murkowski was now independent against both McAdams and Miller. At first no one really took her seriously. Then Miller started talking, or rather not talking, depending upon the question.

First, Miller said he wanted to repeal the 17th Amendment which allows direct election of the House of Representatives and return it to nomination by the Senate. He was against public assistance, yet he himself received public assistance when he was first came to Alaska out of law school. He’s never held a political office.

There were issues about his termination as a public attorney here in Fairbanks. He refused to release his employment file to the public. A lawsuit was filed by the media. The judge ruled that since he was asking to become a national politician, the public right to know his past was more important than his right to privacy so the records were made public, except pages about health information and stuff like that. After it was release, Miller said he should have made them public sooner and blamed a young campaign team. He also said his statement that his prior comment about repealing the 17th Amendment was “philosophical” and he wouldn’t actually try to do that. I’m sorry if you don’t follow your philosophy, why have one? He was starting to sound like a flip-flop. Would he do that on really important issues after he was elected?

All this time, Murkowski was gaining momentum. She had a proven record in public service, even if you didn’t always agree with it. She was a republican, so if you didn’t like Miller, you had a republican alternative. She did a big advertising campaign on tv, radio, and in newspapers telling people how to vote a write-in ballot: Fill it in, write it in. (we still have paper ballots so you have to fill in an oval next to the candidate’s name.) Her street signs showed a ballot line correctly filled out with her name written in.

Interesting yet? Add in a state Supreme court ruling about a write in candidate list and an attempt at confusion. The division of elections wanted to make it easier for people to vote write-in by having a list at the poll of write-in candidates to be given out.  As a response to this list, an outside group tried to create confusion by having about 100 people file last minute as write-in candidates with no intention to be elected. Personally, I think this should be a form of election fraud. It was on an Anchorage radio station. The station fired the commentator. Originally the list was allowed then not. I don’t know what will happen to the votes of early voting ballots that used the list.

Well, the election was yesterday. No list of write-in candidates was given. However, by now Murkowski has had her name all over the place in ads and signs. Plus, since her dad was governor not too long ago, the name is somewhat familiar still to Alaskan politics.

Early election results showed Miller and write-ins about even. Then write-ins pulled ahead. Since the write-ins have to be manually read and counted other than just them being a write-in, it isn’t certain Murkowski is the write-in, but presumably so. Today McAdams conceded the election.

This means a republican has won the US senate seat from Alaska. The only question that remains is which one?  As of now, McAdams received 24%, Miller 34%, and write-ins 41%. It’s pretty bad when you lose to not only one, but (presumably) two republicans at once. Including one whose name wasn’t even listed on the ballot.

No. Alaskan politics is anything but dull. Nor are we quitters who always go away after defeat. First, we had an vice-presidential nominee who remains popular in national politics. And now possibly a successful write-in campaign for US Senate who lost the primary.

Oh, and if you are wondering, voters who wrote-in Miller’s name won’t be counted, since he wasn’t a write-in candidate. You had to fill in next to his printed name to count for him.