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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

October 10, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman. Oct. 8, 2018.

Civics survey produces disappointing results

Anyone wishing to become a U.S. citizen must display a grasp of civics — history and government. Applicants are given 100 questions to study. They’re asked as many as 10 questions during their oral exam, and must score at least 60 percent to pass.

Those who do pass, sad to say, are miles ahead of the average American.

A survey released last week by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation revealed one distressing tidbit after another. The foundation’s president, Arthur Levine, said the study found the average American “woefully uninformed” about U.S. history and “incapable” of passing the citizenship test.

“It would be an error to view these findings as merely an embarrassment,” Levine said. “Knowledge of the history of our country is fundamental to maintaining a democratic society, which is imperiled today.”

And how. Yet the foundation learned that only 36 percent of Americans could pass a multiple-choice test taken from the citizenship test. That test includes such questions as “How many U.S. senators are there?”, “What are two Cabinet-level positions?” and “How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?”

Even on a multiple-choice test, only 13 percent of those surveyed knew when the Constitution was ratified. Most thought the date was 1776. Sixty percent of respondents didn’t know which countries the United States fought in World War II.

How many people sit on the U.S. Supreme Court? Only 43 percent of those surveyed by the Wilson foundation knew the answer, despite the fact the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh has dominated the news.

The poll, conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies, was a random sample of 1,000 Americans. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Some other findings:

— Fewer than one-fourth of respondents (24 percent) knew why the colonists fought the British.

— 72 percent of respondents were unsure of, or incorrectly identified, which states were part of the 13 original states.

— Six percent thought Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was a Vietnam War general; 12 percent thought he led troops in the Civil War!

— Only 24 percent could identify one thing for which Benjamin Franklin was famous.

And yet, 40 percent of respondents said U.S. History was their favorite subject in school, and most said it was an appealing subject.

Older Americans scored best on the survey, with 74 percent of those 65 and older answering at least six in 10 questions correctly. Only 19 percent of those younger than 45 managed to pass. “None of this augurs well for the future of self-government,” The Wall Street Journal lamented.

Americans, Levine said, “need to understand the past in order to make sense of a chaotic present and an inchoate future.” He’s right. Perhaps a foundation program, set to roll out next year and designed to change how history is taught and learned, will make a difference. Clearly, we can use the help.

___

Tulsa World. Oct. 5, 2018.

A mismanaged tragedy in Welch ... and a continuing mystery

A missed dead body. Uncollected evidence. Ignored tips. Bogus theories.

These are among the missteps detailed in a compelling, well-researched and strongly written special report by Tulsa World reporters Andrea Eger and Tim Stanley and photojournalist Mike Simons.

The reporters looked at the 1999 Welch killings of Danny and Kathy Freeman and the disappearance of their 16-year-old daughter, Ashley, and her best friend, Lauria Bible. Their report is a case study of how not to conduct major crime investigation.

After investigators walked away from the crime scene, the Bible family found Danny Freeman’s undiscovered body in the remains of the fire. A private investigator found key evidence nearby and says he was threatened with license revocation for interfering. When he found a car connected with the case, investigators showed no interest. No one followed up with a witness with crucial information.

Years passed, and the case went cold.

A new investigation with new detectives and a new prosecutor led to horrifying discoveries. They allege the girls were kidnapped, bound, kept in a Picher mobile home and raped repeatedly over several days. Photos of the girls were kept and shown around a ring of criminals for years.

In April, 67-year-old Ronnie Dean Busick was arrested. Two other suspects, the alleged mastermind, Warren Phillip Welch, and David A. Pennington, have died.

Investigators are now focused on finding the remains of the girls, but Picher’s toxic superfund site, where they suspect the bodies were buried, is a ghost town of chat piles and mine shafts. Anyone with information should come forward. The Welch girls deserve a proper burial and their families deserve a measure of closure.

Oklahoma needs to learn from what went wrong in Welch and take steps to make sure it never happens again.

___

Enid News & Eagle. Oct. 5, 2018.

State needs more counselors, training to make schools safer

When it comes to public education, we have many needs. But those necessities aren’t always prioritized or given sufficient funding.

A recent interim study probed the safety and security issue in Oklahoma’s public schools and what it could cost districts or the Legislature to make our classrooms safer.

To better protect against violent threats in public schools, officials told lawmakers we need more mental health counselors and officials should increase their use of student resource officers and add text tip lines.

Not every recommendation was about manpower. The suggestion of two doors to every classroom would be cost-prohibitive to retrofit existing construction, but that concept should be considered for future construction. Having police train at schools is another good idea to help them know the layout in case of crisis situations. Less entry points and visitor check-ins also are practical ideas to implement.

In our society, schools are on front lines. As first responders for kids with everyday problems, including mental health and family issues, schools should be safe, welcoming places where students can find caring individuals concerned with their education. With larger class sizes, it’s more difficult to project that kind of an atmosphere.

In a perfect world, counselors should be required not do so many administrative activities like coordinating excessive testing. They need to be given time to actually help kids, but some schools have high caseloads compared to American School Counselor Association recommendations of a 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio.

Cleveland County Commissioner Darry Stacy, a retired police officer who served on the Oklahoma Commission on School Security, suggested districts should find a way to increase the number of counselors and train them to identify indicators linked to violence. That’s a great idea, but finding funding is the next question that needs an answer.

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