- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Dec. 21

Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, South Carolina, on mentor stipends:

Few factors in a child’s education make as big a difference as the ability of the child’s teacher.

A good teacher can inspire a child to learn. A good teacher can provide continuous challenge to a high-achieving student and give a struggling student the confidence he needs to succeed.

Good teachers can’t always overcome a child’s poor home life or a lack of academic priorities when a student leaves school, but of all the factors schools can control, the ability of the teachers is most critical.

That’s why lawmakers have to carefully look over a report issued by a state Senate study panel last week. The report looked at attracting and retaining teachers. It had several worthwhile proposals.

Some of the report dealt with attracting teachers to rural schools, where salaries are lower and there is less in the community to attract teachers.

But the part of the discussion that could have the greatest impact on schools all over the state dealt with teacher mentors. Senators discussed giving particularly effective teachers stipends to mentor younger teachers.

That would be a worthwhile public investment. But it would have to be done right.

The mentors would have to come from the ranks of teachers who have proven themselves to be especially effective, those who have shown that they can motivate students and help them to succeed.

South Carolinians can talk all we want about the relationship between school budgets and student success, about whether new buildings really lead to better learning, about whether spending more leads to young people being better prepared for college and the workplace. But it seems clear that the greatest impact additional money can provide would come from improving the abilities of teachers.

That can best be done by sharing the practices and priorities that have worked for effective teachers. We should identify truly effective teachers, and most principals probably already know who they are, outside any workplace rule such as seniority or specific degree requirement.

Teaching can be a frustrating profession. Expanding success by using mentors to reproduce successful educational practices will help reduce this frustration, keep more teachers in the profession, and make them better equipped to teach our children.




Dec. 20

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on Google:

If we as humans reveal our true selves when we think that no one is watching, then few tools provide as honest a look into the zeitgeist as our collective Google search history.

The Internet giant collects anonymous data every time a user searches the web. With more than 1.2 trillion searches per year, Google has the virtually unprecedented ability to empirically analyze what interests, perplexes and inspires people.

Google localized its data and broke down the top searches for 2014 by country and state, which it released as a series of “top 10” lists earlier this month.

South Carolina, it seems, had some particularly unusual inquiries.

The state’s top three overall searches largely mirrored national trends and corresponded with some of the year’s biggest news stories. “Robin Williams,” who committed suicide in August, took the top spot, followed by “Ebola” and the “World Cup.”

The only other national hot topic to make South Carolina’s top ten was “ISIS.” Noticeably absent from the Palmetto State’s list were “Malaysia Airlines,” smartphone game “Flappy Bird” and the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which took the fourth, fifth and sixth spots nationwide.

But the results got even more interesting when Google looked at searches beginning with “how to” and “what is.”

More than anything else, South Carolinians wanted to know “how to take a screenshot,” which seems like a perfectly reasonable question. They also wanted to learn to knit, compost, budget, embroider and twerk.

Those all seem like legitimate pursuits - with the possible exception of improving one’s twerking ability. But it’s unlikely that anyone had success with the sixth most popular question: “How to levitate.”

While the ease of compiling mountains of information gives a glimpse into our biggest questions and greatest interests, it’s probably unwise to read too far into Google’s mostly context-free data.




Dec. 22

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on Jeb Bush’s speech:

The mere announcement last week by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that he intends to actively explore a run for president in 2016 set off a flurry of headlines, and the election is still a little less than two years away.

While diving too deep into the so-called horse race of presidential politics right now is definitely premature, it’s important to note Bush’s announcement coincided with his address to graduates at the University of South Carolina earlier this month.

Our state for years has been one of the absolutely must go-to places for presidential politics, and Bush’s commencement speech, and likely subsequent visits by other seekers of the White House, certainly reaffirms that notion, at least as far as 2016. Every presidential campaign cycle, South Carolina jockeys to be one of the earliest primary states, and even more so, the coveted first one among the southern states.

This isn’t purely based on politics. It also undoubtedly has the state seeing dollar signs as the national spotlight shines on the Palmetto State, bringing reporters, special interest organizations, campaign staffs and, of course, the candidates. These people walk main streets throughout the state, book nights at convention halls, eat at our restaurants and stay in our hotels. It’s a months-long injection of outside dollars and attention that few other events can match. Already, the Republican Party has announced South Carolina will hold the first primary in the South, likely in late June or early July 2016. The Democrats will decided their schedule at a later date. For both parties, the state has become a bellwether for how far a candidate can go leading up to the general election.

Perhaps the most indicative example of the state’s ability to catapult a candidate was the 2008 Democratic Party primary, in which a then-relatively unfamiliar Barack Obama soundly defeated the well-established campaign of Hillary Clinton. This helped set the pace for the rest of the campaign and the eventual nomination for Obama.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans held claim to the fact that since 1980, the party’s primary voters had voted for the candidate who eventual became the nominee. That streak was broken in 2012 when GOP voters picked Newt Gingrich rather than eventual nominee Mitt Romney, leaving some to question the state’s future strength and credibility as a trendsetter in presidential politics.

Bush’s visit, and similar visits from potential candidates such Chris Christie and Rand Paul, however, seems to show the state will still hold a bright spotlight nationally in 2016.



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