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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

December 1, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

The Dallas Morning News. Nov 25, 2019.

Yes, African American history will improve Texas schools

Taught properly, history offers insight into a society as an archive of what we consider important enough to pass on to future generations. So we were elated to learn that the state Board of Education is ready to approve African American studies electives for high school students in Texas.

Over the years, we’ve criticized the State Board of Education for promoting ideology over facts in Texas history during their often contentious discussions of what students should learn in classrooms. And this resulted in major omissions, and even distortions, of the roles that Texans of color played in making this a great state.

Our hope is that this is about to change. Less than two years after the state board approved Mexican American studies, the board early next year is expected to approve its first African American studies course. “We will be passing this,” said Pat Hardy, a Fort Worth Republican member of the 15-member board responsible for setting curriculum standards and adopting textbooks for Texas public schools.

We applaud Hardy for her emphatic support, and a board that now understands the need to update curriculum to chronicle African American achievements. In 2014, many Republicans on the panel defeated a proposal to create a Mexican American studies course, arguing it would divide instead of unite students. Only after more board fights in subsequent years did the SBOE finally relent and approve the course in 2018.

It is important for high school students to learn that the history of Texas — and the United States — includes the experiences and contributions of Mexican Americans, African Americans and other people from diverse backgrounds. To tell the history of our diverse state with scant attention to trailblazers of color tells only part of a complex story. Plus it is vital that students, regardless of race, see themselves in the important parts of history.

This isn’t a squishy, feel-good wish. There’s research to support the academic benefits of ethnic studies. Between 2010 and 2014, Stanford University researchers studied the impact of an ethnic-studies curriculum on struggling ninth-grade students who had been identified as at high risk for dropping out. Attendance increased by 21 percentage points and grade-point average by 1.4 points. The largest gains occurred among boys and Hispanic students, and in the subjects of math and science.

No single study is definitive. Nonetheless, there is a growing body of evidence that minority students benefit from having a role model either in the classroom or in the course materials, and that students of other races also appreciate learning additional perspectives on history.

Such courses allow students of all backgrounds an opportunity to learn who they are and how they and their classmates connect to the broader society. Some education experts also contend the role model effect helps minority students debunk stereotypes that often impede academic performance.

The state board will create curriculum standards for the course based on the African American studies class in the Dallas Independent School District and is expected to take a final vote in April.

The African American experience is more complex than slavery and the civil rights movement. Now students all over the state will have an opportunity to gain insight into people, incidents and accomplishments that haven’t gotten their proper due in classrooms. As a state, we will be better for it.

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Houston Chronicle. Nov 27, 2019.

Houston Food Bank crisis shows the need to help

In times of need, Houstonians are ready to help. We’ve seen that time and again.

After Harvey, for instance, when torrential rains swamped thousands of homes and businesses and swallowed entire neighborhoods whole, robbing countless families of everything they own. Even as the storm still raged, volunteers turned out in boats and canoes to search for the stranded. They raced to shelters to donate clothes, blankets and food, and showed up at hotels where they served hot meals for the displaced.

They did it again after Imelda, when flood waters rose yet again, and hundreds of residents confronted the drenched ruins of their houses.

We saw it again this week, too. After an ammonia line broke in a chilled storage room at the Houston Food Bank, the nonprofit threw out 1.8 million pounds of refrigerated items — food that would ordinarily go to feed people in 18 southeast Texas counties.

On most days, the food bank’s trucks distribute about 400,000 pounds of food, allowing it to serve 800,000 people a year. But on Nov. 13, the day after the break, operations ground to a near standstill. Only deliveries headed to 130 Kids Cafe after-school meal sites made it.

Then word got out about the food bank’s crisis — and, as Houston does, the city responded.

There were bulk donations from H-E-B, Kroger, Brothers Produce and Texas Harvest Company. Walmart chipped in $125,000. United Airlines pledged to match up to $100,000 in individual donations and promised 1,000 award miles to MileagePlus members who donated at least $50.

On social media, alerts sounded from everyone from a local moms group to singer Kam Franklin of The Suffers, who used Twitter to urge Houstonians to step up. A Nov. 21 post from the Houston Contractors Association noted “Thanksgiving is a week away so let’s do all that we can to help out our fellow Houstonians!”

For Jeffrey Nielsen, executive vice president of the HCA, the gesture was a no-brainer. It’s Thanksgiving, after all. “People use this time to reflect and give thanks for what they have,” he said.

Many of us also use this time to give back, too. The food bank has received truckloads of fresh produce, turkeys, chicken, meat, potatoes and water. The lobby filled with donations as well, said food bank CEO Brian Greene.

By the end of last week, trucks were carrying about 600,000 pounds of food a day to about 1,500 organizations in the region. “We’re extremely grateful,” Greene said, adding a message for Houstonians. “Thank you very much for making this happen.”

The outpouring of generosity reminds us we are capable of coming together, despite whatever might divide us at other times. . But we must also remember that hunger and hardship are not seasonal. Every day, one in six Houstonians faces food insecurity. Across the city, there are working parents without enough food for the table. There are children who depend on weekend meals provided through programs like Backpack Buddy. There are homeless Houstonians in need of blankets, toiletries and other necessities.

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Amarillo Globe-News. Nov 26, 2019.

Tech welcomes another group of legends into Hall of Fame

A handful of former Texas Tech stars was recently recognized as the Double T Varsity Club inducted a half-dozen talented Red Raider athletic legends into the TTU athletics Hall of Fame over the weekend.

The athletes are from a variety of sports are among the all-time Red Raider greats. The class of 2019 comprises distance runner Sally Kipyego, football players Mike Sears and Dwayne Slay, soccer player Kristy Frantz, track and field hurdler Shawon Harris and basketball player Jarrius Jackson, each of whom left a memorable imprint on Red Raider athletics.

Kipyego, who wrapped up her Tech career in 2009 before turning professional, captured nine individual NCAA championships as a Red Raider and earned a nursing degree. She won a silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the London Olympics and is training for the 2020 games next summer. Kipyego grew up in Kenya and began her distance running career at nearby South Plains College in Levelland.

“Her history was rewriting every history book we have,” Tech track and field coach Wes Kittley said in our story.

Jackson was a four-year performer for the Red Raider men’s basketball team from 2004-07. He was recruited by then-assistant coach Chris Beard and went on to become one of the most dependable offensive threats in school history, finishing second on the all-time scoring list. He averaged just more than 20 points per game his junior year and almost 20 points per game his senior year.

Slay, a Red Raider football player in 2004-05, is best remembered for his jarring hit in the 2005 Kansas State game, but that is a small part of an impressive senior season in which he was named Big 12 Conference defensive player of the year with 112 tackles and eight caused fumbles. Rather than recall what he did on the field during the ceremony, Slay instead focused on what the program did for him. “It helped me be a better me,” he said.

Harris was a first-team All-American five times and was part of Tech’s 2005 Big 12 championship team. “With only 12 scholarships, he was unbelievably important to our team,” Kittley said. “Shawon was just such a complete runner in all aspects and an even better person because he was such a team leader.”

Frantz was a standout for the nascent Tech soccer program from 1996-99 and still holds single-season marks for goals, points and ranks second in program history for career goals and points. She becomes the first soccer player to enter the school’s hall of fame.

Sears was an offensive guard for the Raiders from 1973-76, playing on one of the most successful teams in school history. He is the sixth member of the memorable 1976 team that finished 10-2 to enter the hall. He was a three-year starter for the Raiders and twice was selected all-Southwest Conference.

“I feel like I’ve had a very, very blessed life,” he said in our story, “and then this comes along and it’s like, ‘Good Lord, can it get any better?’ Especially for a lineman because we don’t make a mark.”

We beg to differ. Each of these athletes made a significant mark in athletics — and in life. We congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition of their contributions to Red Raider athletics.

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