Educators Get Slapped On One Side, Then The Other

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Now this may sound like a stretch, but last week’s Payson conference on education reform reminded us of that scene from “Chinatown” where Faye Dunaway gets slapped senseless by Jack Nicholson.

In that climactic Faye-slap scene, Nicholson’s detective tries to force Dunaway to tell the truth about her daughter — the product of parental incest.

“Who is she?” demands Jack. “My daughter,” says Dunaway.

He slaps her. “My sister,” she gasps. He slaps her.

“My daughter.” He slaps her.

“She’s my daughter and my sister,” sobs Dunaway, shattered.

We’re thinking the Payson school superintendent must have been feeling Faye Dunaway’s pain as he sat through the educational conference on the contradictory reforms confronting Arizona’s schools in the next few years.

On the one hand, Superintendent of Education John Huppenthal has bet the farm on standardized test scores by copying the successful reforms imposed in Florida public schools during the past decade. Those reforms rest on giving every school a letter grade based on student test scores, holding back third-graders who can’t read fluently and linking teacher and principal retention and salaries to standardized test scores.

A parade of experts at last week’s conference in Payson talked about the need to improve the critical thinking skills of students facing the complex demands of the modern workplace. As it happens, critical thinking skills don’t show up at all on the AIMS test, which has now become the be-all, judge-all for public schools.

We are not convinced that throwing money at education testing reforms is the answer. Allowing teachers to use their skills to help students learn will work. But you have to have a single focus.

Parents need to play an important role in the learning process along with teachers. Our youth need to know, under the guidance and pressure of their parents and teachers, that learning is important. The skills they learn today in school will last them a lifetime.

We spend a bunch of money and time on testing and those dollars could be spent in the classroom. Teachers need the resources to provide a great learning experience. Teachers know who is learning in their classroom and who needs help. Do we really need more tests to tell a teacher or principal who needs help?

The educators in the audience sat there listening to the pep talk from the latest band of reformers, all eager to impose one more layer of bureaucracy on struggling teachers, who remain the key to any real reform.

So the poor bruised superintendents sat dazed in their chairs.

“What will you do for the students?” screams the state.

“Critical thinking?” says the superintendent.

Slap. “Test scores?”

Slap. “Job training?”

Slap. “College prep?” Slap. Slap. Slap.

Judge’s common sense plea seeks balance in porn case

The average convicted murderer in the U.S. serves about 13 years, according to one recent national study. But Robert Flibotte faces a sentence of more than 90 years for viewing and storing child porn images on his computer.

That’s absurd on its face, so we are OK with Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill’s decision to allow Flibotte to petition the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency to effectively reduce his sentence to 10 years, by allowing him to impose concurrent rather than consecutive sentences.

Make no mistake, despite his great service to the community and upstanding reputation, the 26,000 child porn images and 500 videos Flibotte stashed on his computer represent a terrible crime against children.

This terrible case remains an almost incomprehensible tragedy. Our agony remains more centered on the thousands of children exploited to produce those 26,000 downloaded images than for the consumers of this filth.

Cahill recognized the terrible injury done to the children cajoled or coerced into posing for those images in allowing the appeal to the sentencing board.

Still, sentencing Flibotte to nearly a century behind bars while most murderers walk free after more like 13 years represents a bizarre, carnival mirror distortion of justice.

Cahill pointed out at trial that inflexible state laws left him with no choice but to impose the ridiculous, century-long sentence for the 10 counts on which Flibotte was convicted. He tried to set that right in his petition to the Board of Executive Clemency. State law mandated Cahill to require Flibotte to serve the 10 convictions one after the other, rather than at the same time.

That would turn an absurd 90-year sentence into a far more plausible 10-year sentence — which could still amount to life in prison for the 73-year-old Flibotte.

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