Our View: Parent-Teacher Conferences Need Fixing

By Staff

Once every fall, parents of Dexter students visit the high school for an hour or more of conversations with teachers they don’t know and about classes they probably aren’t familiar with at parent-teacher conferences. By the second semester, the information isn’t relevant anymore, due to the fact their students’ classes, teachers, and overall performance are likely all different.

Since many parents may forget what they learn at conferences and get no point of reference for the next semester, one conference isn’t enough to inform them of how their students are doing. Often, just looking at a student’s grades isn’t enough to understand the big picture of that student’s performance, since social factors and behavior also play a role in education. As such, parents need a far more reliable and consistent mode of communication than one conference a year.

The concept of parent-teacher conferences isn’t inherently flawed—it’s important for parents and school faculty to have a dialogue in order to help their students succeed in school, and conferences are a great way to accomplish that. The issue lies in the only official, scheduled form of communication that parents and teachers have during the school year being once-a-year conferences. Not only that, but also having the conference at the beginning of the year means that parents don’t see the change, or lack thereof, in their students’ performances. By second semester, classes have changed and students themselves have changed.

Even if parents could realistically get the full scope of school performance from one meeting, they might not go to conferences. Most parents have to work, run errands, and care for other children every weekday; therefore, they don’t have time to visit the school on a normal evening. The school does try to remedy this by making it half day and running conferences from 1-4 p.m. and 5:30-8 p.m., but this still doesn’t mean that every parent will be able to attend. Other parents may not attend simply out of laziness or lack of care, which is unfair to the student. Parents need more than one official opportunity to meet with teachers throughout the year.

“First semester needs more time, because freshmen are coming in, and if a student’s having trouble you want to catch it early in the year,” English teacher John Heuser said. “But I think having something second semester would be valuable.”

Teachers of semester-long classes are also put at a disadvantage by the lack of a second semester conference.

“I teach semester-long courses, so when I switch students I don’t get to meet their parents,” Heuser said. “I like what we do, but I don’t think touching base with parents second semester is a bad idea.”

Some may argue that curriculum night and open house are opportunities for teachers and parents to meet, but these aren’t useful for anything but meeting a teacher and the understanding general goals of a course. At the beginning of the year, teachers don’t know students’ personalities or abilities, and parents can’t gain any information about how a student is doing from these meetings.

“There’s not enough time to distinguish between teachers,” psychology and sociology teacher Tracy Stahl said. “Parents might feel good about knowing who’s going to be in front of their students every day, but beyond that I don’t think it has any greater significance.”

Hosting a conference once each semester would be a great step toward involving parents in education and helping students receive the support that they need. In addition, guardians could be allowed to sign up for classroom notifications to see what work their student needs to be doing. Teachers need to further establish a connection with their students’ parents in order to keep them up-to-date.

Parent-teacher conferences aren’t a lost cause or useless—far from it—but work needs to be done before they can truly be beneficial to everyone.

What Is Free Speech?

Despite being one of the most talked about topics in the news today, free speech is only being used as a buzzword

by Isabella Franklin

“You also had some very fine people on both sides,” said President Trump on August 15.

Though it may sound like he’s discussing the results of a close football game, he’s discussing Charlottesville protesters who chanted Neo-Nazi phrases such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” while carrying torches. Why wouldn’t joining a group of Neo-Nazis disqualify you as a very fine person, or even an acceptable American? How is Neo-Nazi speech okay in the United States?

Free speech is an incessantly discussed topic in the news, but the discussion never progresses. The phrase “free speech” has been thrown around so much that it’s become a useless buzzword to raise attention and alarm. In reality, the definition of free speech is fairly convoluted.

The first amendment was created to allow citizens to speak against the government with no punishment. This is called political speech, and it’s the only fully protected type of speech. The congressional definition of speech includes symbolic speech, such as physical actions and displaying symbols.

The amendment doesn’t protect all forms of speech, however. Speech is prohibited and can be regulated if it’s considered defamation, fighting words, threats, or similar. Anything that isn’t unprotected speech or political speech is a gray area. Generally, as long as it isn’t unprotected speech, anything goes.

Now, that doesn’t always apply. Students are legally subject to their school’s rules. If school policy bans a type of speech and it disrupts school, then the school can shut it down. The same goes for platforms such as radio stations or ads, and private organizations; the government or organization may shut down what it deems offensive.

DHS’s code of conduct says that students cannot disrespect the civil rights of others, cause a disruption, display things intended to be offensive, be discriminatory, and must obey the law at all times. For an example of how this applies, if you were here last year the day after Trump was elected president, you might remember kids chanting “repeal the 19th amendment” (women’s voting rights) in the halls, along with making otherwise stupid comments. While they may have been joking, it heavily violates DHS policy. Free speech doesn’t protect being an asshole.

So, what does the Constitution have to say about arguments involving free speech?

One dead horse that the media continues to beat is NFL players kneeling for the anthem. Kaepernick’s choice to kneel is the embodiment of symbolic political speech. He couldn’t be in a more respectful position, especially considering that army veteran Nate Boyer originally suggested that position to respect fallen soldiers. The flag code doesn’t say you have to stand, and it wouldn’t override freedom of speech even if it did. People need to either focus on the significance of kneeling or stop talking about it, because nothing is being accomplished.

Something that doesn’t fall so neatly into protected speech is Trump’s constant flow of insults. One of many cases of this defamation is him accusing women suing him for assault of lying. His attorney is defending him by saying that calling them liars is political speech. If “political speech” means “any comment on anything that involves the law,” then sure. Otherwise, this was just a characteristically ineloquent and non-political ad hominem attack.

This brings us back to the idea that Neo-Nazis have fine people among them. They went on a liberal campus, shouting inflammatory phrases to cause tension, anger, fear, and, ultimately, violence: the exact definition of fighting words. Their actions shouldn’t be supported by any American who believes in the Constitution’s establishment of our rights. Yet, people still choose to focus on some NFL players rather than real issues.

America is, at least in concept, founded on respect and liberty. Freedom of expression was established so that anyone could safely practice whichever religion they wanted, fight for whichever causes they believed in, and more; it wasn’t established so that people could denigrate others for their own gain. Americans have yet to live up to the potential for equality and unity that our government set up for us.

How can Americans call people exercising their right to free speech to peacefully protest un-American while arguing in favor for giving people as disgusting and un-American as Neo-Nazis a platform?

News Briefs

The biggest local, national, and international news stories from the past month

by Isabella Franklin

Hollywood Sexual Assault Allegations

#MeToo

Harvey Weinstein and other public figures, such as Bill O’Reilly, Louis C.K., George Takei, and Kevin Spacey, have come under fire due to many accusations of sexual assault recently. An equal, if not larger, number of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terry Crews, and Anthony Rapp, have publicly opened up about their personal experience with sexual harassment and abuse. A movement called “#MeToo” has sprung up across social media as a platform for assault victims to share their stories and show how common these horrible experiences may be.

Amazon Announces New Service

Amazon has announced a new service called “Amazon Key,” in which customers may sign up to allow Amazon mail couriers to come into their homes to drop off packages. The concept is intended to reduce the number of packages stolen outside homes, but Amazon buyers are concerned about the irony of the product; allowing a stranger into your home so you can avoid theft has raised many questions about this product. In addition, many customers have brought up safety concerns about Amazon Key.

Catalonia Separates from Spain

Catalonia, a region of Spain whose capital is Barcelona, has declared independence from the country of Spain by an illegal referendum from the Catalan people. The parliament in Catalonia passed a motion to officially declare independence on October 27. The Catalan government and people believe that they deserve to be their own country as they are financially independent from Spain, culturally separate from Spain, and speak Catalan, an entirely different language than the majority of Spain speaks. The Spanish government is not letting Catalonia go without a fight, bringing police forces to keep protests for Catalan independence at bay.

Shield Road Re-Opens

Shield Road, which has been closed since June 12 of this year, re-opened on October 31, 2017 for public use. Between Parker Road and Baker Road, the road had a very high amount of daily traffic by students coming to and from Dexter High School, along with Dexter residents who live nearby who use it to cut through town. The road’s closure resulted in an inconvenience for many people due to traffic backups and having to take detours through town, so the bridge’s upgrade and re-opening has been a source of relief for Dexter’s residents.

Vehicular Attack in Lower Manhattan

 

There was a violent attack in Manhattan by a 29-year-old man on October 31, 2017. The attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, drove his pickup truck on a Hudson River bike path, killing eight people and injuring 11 more. Of the victims who died, five were Argentine tourists celebrating a school reunion, and another victim was identified as Belgian. Saipov was shot by police when he left his car after crashing into a school bus. He is currently alive in custody.

Michigan Considers Bill for Concealed Carry in Schools

On November 8, Michigan’s Senate passed a bill that allows concealed carry of firearms in former gun-free zones, such as schools, churches, hospitals, and daycares. Gun owners who take 8 hours of extra training will be allowed to carry concealed pistols in these areas. The bill still needs to go through the House of Representatives to determine if it will be enacted, which will happen after Thanksgiving. Many people were shocked and upset by the Senate’s decision, as the bill’s approval came only three days after a mass shooting in a Texas church that left 26 dead.

News Briefs

The biggest local, national, and international news stories from the past month

by Isabella Franklin

Craig McCalla Named Outstanding Practicing Principal of 2017

Every year, Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, or MEMSPA, presents the Outstanding Practicing Principal award to only one principal in the state. The winner for 2017 is Craig McCalla, the principal of Cornerstone Elementary School. McCalla was chosen for his leadership capabilities and respect of all students, along with his awareness of issues among students. In his nomination for the award, DCS Executive Director of Instruction Mollie Sharrar wrote: “Mr. McCalla is an advocate for all students and is a leader in Michigan for transgender students and social justice awareness in schools.” Former MEMSPA president Tom DeGraaf described McCalla as someone who has not only contributed to Cornerstone, but to the education community at large.

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Meet the Debate and Forensics Clubs

Shining a light on two under-appreciated teams

by Isabella Franklin

When someone says the word forensics, it usually brings images of dead bodies, crimes, and investigations to mind. When someone says the word debate, people picture polished politicians calmly debating the state of American policy. But for kids in the speech activities club, they most likely picture their friends, a script, pages of research, and tired-looking, middle-aged judges staring at them from across a desk.

Speech activities is an entirely different world from many other activities, even other clubs, so it’s not surprising that it’s so widely misunderstood. After all, public speaking is consistently found to be the most common fear amongst Americans, so this begs the questions: why do these students choose to speak publicly, and what exactly is it that they do in these clubs?

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News Briefs

The biggest local, national, and international news stories from the past month

Excellence for Dexter Students

by Isabella Franklin

An individual group named “Excellence 4 Dexter Students,” or E4DS, is trying to raise $100,000 in donations this school year to improve Dexter Community Schools. Their current goals are to send all 6th graders to Eastern Michigan University’s Explorer Camp, expand the math and science departments, and, most prominently for high school students, hire a part-time internship coordinator. An internship coordinator at the high school would give students more opportunities to learn outside of school and gain valuable experience in the workforce.

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Gorillaz Concert Review

British Virtual Band Gorillaz Comes to Detroit

by Isabella Franklin

On September 18, Gorillaz, a virtual alternative rock band created by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, performed a show in Detroit as part of its current tour, Humanz. The performance featured songs from previous albums, along with songs from the band’s newest album, Humanz, accompanied by energetic special effects, an animated backdrop, and several musicians such Vince Staples, De La Soul, Danny Brown, and more.

Vince Staples opened the concert at 7:30 P.M. with loud, heavy bass that sounded throughout the entire theater. Many of the seats in the theater were still empty at this point, as most of the audience was buying food or merchandise at the building’s entrance. Staples’s performance was just less than an hour and was a good opener, but was not especially memorable. A little after 8:30 P.M., Damon Albarn stepped on the stage and began to perform. Continue reading “Gorillaz Concert Review”

News Briefs

The biggest local, national, and international news stories that happened over the summer

Temple Mount Attack

by Tess Alekseev

Temple Mount lies near the Western Wall of Jerusalem in Israel, and it is hailed as a holy place for Muslim and Jewish people alike. On July 14th, there was a terror attack by three Israeli citizens of Palestinian origins who saw the recent surge in Jewish visitors to Temple Mount as an attack on the holiness of the site. After an intense shootout, two Druze cops were fatally shot along with the three gunmen. The attack prompted Israel to close Temple Mount for a brief period of time and to install metal detectors which angered Palestinian visitors. Jordan pressured Israel to take the detectors down. Eventually, Israel complied. Luckily, violence has since died down, and the fears of a third intifada did not come to light.

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