Saturday, October 25, 2014
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Straight from the op-ed pages

This week’s editorials: Same-sex marriage, texting while driving and standardized testing.

Posted on July 3, 2014 at 5:13 p.m.

Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers:

Whatever the state of Indiana tries to do to stop same-sex marriages, it is inevitable that gay marriages will ultimately become legal in Indiana, as they should.

This is an issue headed squarely for the U.S. Supreme Court, which we expected will eventually declare it the law of the land, and not just in Indiana. The court is expected to declare that it is unconstitutional to forbid same-sex couples to wed.

In Indiana on Wednesday, Evansville-based U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young struck down the state's prohibition of same-sex marriage. With Wednesday's court decision, Indiana became the 20th state to adopt same-sex marriage. Indeed, Indiana became the ninth state to allow same-sex marriage based on a court decision.

Although Young's decision sent numerous same-sex couples to courthouses for marriage license, the office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a notice of appeal with the federal appellate court in Chicago.

The AG's office says it is premature to require Indiana to change it definition of marriage — only between a man and a woman — until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue.

Depending on time, Indiana officials may attempt as well to try again for a state constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages in Indiana. What a waste of time and reputation for Indiana that would be.

Earlier this year, pro-same sex advocates succeeded in persuading the Indiana Legislature not to approve a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages. Lawmakers did approve a ban, but only after changing the language to take out a clause banning recognition of civil unions. That change in language pushed any vote on the proposed amendment back to 2016 or later. By then, we would expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will have ended this nonsense. Indeed, legal experts believe the issue would be moot by 2016.

Young held correctly that Indiana's ban on gay marriage violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution

"These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitutional demands that we treat them as such. ..."

Regardless, this is a decision that is, by all rights, should assure gay and lesbian citizens the right to be treated equally.

Indiana does not need a referendum on the rights of same-sex couples, only a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

— Evansville Courier & Press

July 1 each year marks the day in Indiana when new laws take effect. But rather than focus on new laws today, let’s observe the anniversary of a law that went on the books three years ago this month — the law that barred texting while driving.

Each year since the law was passed, there have been discussions about its impact and whether it’s served much of a purpose. Statistics always show that few violators have been cited, and law enforcement officials decry the difficulty police have proving that violations have actually occurred.

There is no question that the law Hoosier lawmakers adopted would be tough to enforce. And while most people agreed that texting while driving and other cellphone activities behind the wheel of motor vehicles are unsafe practices, it has been equally clear that potential legal remedies are fraught with flaws.

Despite all that, this law, and laws of this kind, are absolutely worth having on the books. If nothing else, the awareness level about the dangers of this type of behavior is raised by significant degrees. Does anyone doubt that at least some people modified their behavior behind the wheel knowing that the potential existed for them to be cited for violating the no-texting-while-driving law?

In a news report published last weekend, an Indiana State Police official estimated that fewer than 400 motorists were ticketed for illegal texting in the first two years of the law, even though state police in 2010 linked more than 1,000 car crashes to cellphone use. Four of those crashes involved fatalities.

Lawmakers will continue to debate the issue. Some now suggest changing the law to make it more effective. Others doubt that strategy would produce the desired results. Rather, they say more education and awareness would be the better approach.

It’s always good to keep an open mind about alternative ways to address serious public safety issues. The debate will, and should, go on. But we’re convinced the law has already had a positive impact on highway safety. Showing people the consequences of reckless behavior is a powerful deterrent, and emphasizing that it’s also illegal just underscores its importance.

Don’t let meaningless citation statistics cloud the issue. Indiana’s law is making a difference.

— The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute

Across the country, the backlash grows against standardized tests, with parents, educators, state officials and students proclaiming they’ve had enough.

• In May, Oklahoma legislators overturned the governor’s veto of a bill that allows exceptions for third-graders to be promoted if they fail the state’s punitive reading test.

• An estimated 30,000 students opted out of Common Core tests in New York this past spring, while Texas Parents Opt Out claimed that parents in more than 30 school districts across the state pulled their children from STAAR testing, the state’s equivalent of ISTEP+.

• The Rhode Island General Assembly last month approved a law to delay for three years any policy requiring students to pass a graduation exam to receive a diploma. The governor allowed it to become law without his signature.

• In April, comedian Louis C.K.’s tweet struck a nerve and went viral: “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!”

And in Indiana? Common Core critics created enough political unease to push lawmakers to dump the standards for a revised version, but the testing juggernaut continues. The Education Roundtable, at Gov. Mike Pence’s behest, is looking to expand testing. The Roundtable last month recommended extending ISTEP+ from grades 3-8 to include grades 9 and 10 for the 2015-16 academic year.

“A diploma from our high schools should signal that our graduates are ready for careers or college,” Pence said at the meeting.

The governor’s call for more testing runs counter to the growing national distress with high-stakes testing, but Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, said it’s not surprising.

“The stay-the-course-crowd continues to push for more testing,” he said in an interview. “The (U.S. Secretary of Education) Arne Duncans and others are gung-ho, raise-the-bar.

“What we are seeing nationally are lots of people are saying no to the toxic level of high-level testing – too many tests, too many consequences, results widely misused for ideological purposes,” Schaeffer said.

While Hoosiers haven’t embraced the opt-out movement growing elsewhere, they should at least recognize the effects of testing on the state’s education environment.

Schools of education across the state are seeing decreasing numbers of students interested in pursing teaching as a career. College faculty increasingly complain of students with no reasoning skills – unable and unwilling to explore subject matter beyond the rote memorization they learned in high school.

Little attention, meanwhile, goes to the students themselves. The ever-expanding number of assessments makes it more difficult for teachers to inspire creativity and a love for learning. The demands of test prep and administration squeeze out the unstructured moments that allowed generations of students to find the one subject they loved most.

Unless the grass-roots movement to counter the for-profit testing industry’s demands begins to build, Indiana students might one day excel at testing while failing at lifelong learning.

— The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne


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