Short Stuff 19.3

As Seen on TV

Sylvan Learning Center, the nation’s largest tutoring company, is adding a new component to its widespread advertising campaign. Sylvan’s parent company, Educate Inc., gained another popular TV-education name in its recent purchase of Gateway Learning Corp., the company that owned “Hooked on Phonics.” Educate Inc. also joined with LeapFrog Enter-prises Inc. recently. The company says it hopes to open a chain of small learning centers in large stores. Sylvan already owns more than 970 North American locations.

Perry’s Choice

Texas Governor Rick Perry made his views on public schools clear in his 2005 State of the State speech. Perry addressed issues such as high school graduation rates, but he also came out in favor of using some funds from public schools to send students to private schools and creating a system of vouchers for Texas schools. He said public schools are “slow to change” and continued, “Every child is entitled to a public education, but a public education is not entitled to every child.”

Our Rights, Right?

A $1 million study sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation determined that the majority of today’s teenagers feel First Amendment rights go “too far.” The foundation, which surveyed more than 100,000 high school students, says it aims to “encourage students to use news media, including student journalism, and to better understand and appreciate the First Amend-ment.” The study found most students not only take the First Amendment for granted, they do not fully understand it. For example, three in four students incorrectly believe flag burning is illegal. And, about one half of these students think the government can restrict material on the Internet when it cannot.

Today’s typical high schooler puts First Amendment freedoms on the back burner, according to the study. It found many students have few or no problems with government censorship of student newspapers, and many have more conservative attitudes than those of their adult counterparts. While 97 percent of the more than 8,000 teachers surveyed agree that people should be able to express unpopular opinions, only 83 percent of students feel the same way. A full set of the study’s findings is available at

Spokesmodel for Hire

What happens to the celebrity-endorsement marketing strategy when the government becomes an advertiser and the product is a legislative plan? The Bush administration’s contract with prominent black commentator Armstrong Williams required him to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and interview the Secretary of Education Rod Paige for TV and radio pieces on a regular basis, discuss the legislation with his colleagues, and use his contacts with other black journalists in exchange for a $240,000 payment from the government. This contract was a method of gaining black families’ support for NCLB and was at best “a very questionable use of taxpayers’ money,” according to Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).

Standardize This!

Students in Texas who are fed up with standardized testing are committed to boycotting assessments they feel are wasteful and unnecessary. Texas high school students like Mia Kang, 14, and Kimberly Marciniak, 17, say the state puts too much emphasis on standardized tests. Both girls have exceptional academic records and refused to take the tests. These students are acting to change the way they are evaluated, even if it means risking their high school diplomas. Texas schools risk losing students and funding if they don’t show improvement on test scores. Individual students also face heavy consequences for poor performance. But at least some students in Texas say the tests are unfair. And, in order to get their point across to school officials, some of them are willing to risk it all and put down their No. 2 pencils . . . forever.

Compiled by Amalia Oulahan