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EXCERPTS FROM EVENING FORUM EDITORIALS

This Week

Saturday, November 23, 2013 - 12:01 am

In education, a bold experiment

Several years ago, teachers and administrators at Huntington’s Riverview Middle School saw a discrepancy between boys’ and girls’ language arts scores on standardized tests. So, as an experiment, they created one all-boys language arts class in sixth grade and one all-girls class. Based on research and experiments in other states, they thought this approach might help close the gender gap?

Did it? No, the gap remained. But something else happened. Both boys and girls in the single-gender classes showed significant improvement. The improvements were still there after several years, so now the experiment has become standard practice. Today, all sixth-grade language arts classes at Riverview are single-gender.

What they have discovered in the process is that boys and girls are wired differently.

Monday

More than order is needed here

Robert’s Rules of Order is the greatest tool for getting things accomplished at meetings ever invented. The guide to parliamentary procedures was created in 1876 by Army office Henry Martyn Robert. Because it lays out strict, clear guidelines for conducting a fair and orderly session, it has become the most frequently used set of rules for public meetings.

So why not, some are now suggesting, adopt Robert’s Rules for the Indiana State Board of Education meetings that have become so chaotic and calamitous of late? “I think the entire point of these parliamentary procedures is to prevent entropy and chaos,” said Ashlyn Nelson, a professor of housing and education policy at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Well, maybe Robert’s Rules would help, and maybe they wouldn’t.

Tuesday

Showing up to see the damage

Lafayette attorney and blogger Doug Masson tweets an interesting observation about public officials who take tours of disaster-ravaged areas: “Does it do any practical good for lawmakers to ‘survey the damage’? Seems like a good engineer’s report would be more effective.”

On a purely practical level, he is right. Gov. Mike Pence’s tour of cities damaged by Sunday’s storms was more about show than substance. The governor undoubtedly got a good overview of what havoc the weather wreaked, but no disaster relief the state gives will be based on his overall impressions. That will depend on expert calculations of what is needed and a financial assessment of what the state can afford.

But there are times when elected officials must demonstrate solidarity with the people who elected them.

Wednesday

An amendment is more permanent

The proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution banning gay marriage is a lot broader than even some supporters would like. It doesn’t stop at recognizing as valid only a marriage between one man and woman. There is a second clause demanding that a “legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage” not be recognized. That would have dramatic effects not just on same-sex couples but on heterosexual ones as well.

And if some of those effects turn out to be in the unintended-consequence category, too bad. A constitutional amendment is, in essence, a prohibition against future legislative action. A change – an amendment to the amendment – would be as laborious to achieve as this one.

Some legislators just now seem to be waking up to that reality.

Thursday

Let's tighten up the safety rules

A movement is growing in the General Assembly to strengthen health and safety standards for all day cares in Indiana that receive federal tax dollars. The changes would affect even church day cares and unlicensed day cares that have been exempt from many safety requirements, even though they can all receive federal dollars.

Some fear that regulations might interfere with church autonomy. “Our concern has been that there would be undue interference in church-provided day care,” said Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute.

That’s a valid concern. Freedom of religion is one of the most important principles in our national psyche. Telling a church what it can and cannot do is something that should be done rarely and only for good reason.

But the state has a good reason in this case.

Friday