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Librarian Blog

So, it's come to this

When the Austin American-Statesman announced last summer that it would no longer be printed in Austin, but in San Antonio, I braced for the inevitable.

The A-S promised no dimunition of quality, and the print quality is fine as it's ever been.

What's not fine is the effect this change has had on the quality of the newspaper as a news product, which it still purports to be.

I am scratching my head over the fact that you will not find scores or stories from Friday night football games in Saturday's paper, and you won't find scores or stories from evening games played by university teams in the Sunday paper. Instead, Friday night games are covered on Sunday, and university games are covered on Monday.


Wow. If you can't give same-day coverage to high-school and college football, what in the world were you thinking back when it sounded like a good idea to go to San Antonio for print services?

What might a Texas newspaper editor give up before giving up the weekend sports franchise?

To pour salt into the wound, the A-S wrapped the front section with a four-page ad section the other day touting how much more they were providing to Austin-area news consumers.

That is what you call ballsy.

It's all very sad.

A name for the book

Several people with an interest in the book we're working on to feature stories and photos from the Memorial Day flood in Wimberley met this week to come up with a name.

And we did.

The book will be called: "Wimberley: Epic Flood Tests a Small Town's Strength."

We had more than 70 suggestions from around the community and cobbled that title together from several of them. Thanks to those who submitted ideas.

Nancy Williams and I are continuing to interview folks for the book. If you have a story to tell, call me at 512-847-2188.



I don't know much about the "common core," some kind of educational movement that's been demonized by some on the right.

I know that there are those in Congress who waant to do away with the "common core," and there are a lot of others who don't.

I think maybe part of the issue has to do with local school districts being told what to do by the federal government, which is not anything new at all -- either the opposition or the federal control.

We seem to have this mythological image in our heads that proper schooling comes from the grassroots and swells upward, and that the grassroots know best.

The history of American education certainly does not prove that to be the case. Local school boards have been and can be the most stiff-necked, hide-bound, dumber-than-dirt people around. Many of them, especially in the South, were dragged kicking and screaming into desegregation back in the late '60s, years and years after Brown vs. Board was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I'm not saying that history makes opposition to the common core suspect. I am saying, though, that just because it comes from the federal level doesn't make it bad, either.


What I meant to say

So, I got carried away in the last blogging session and took aim at something unintended.

What I actually wanted to gripe about was a set of statistics appearing in a piece on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times of Aug. 28 by Natalie Wexler.

She writes:

"Consider this: In 1977, 25 years before No Child Left Behind ushere din the era of high-stakes testing, elementary school teachers spent only about 50 minutes a day on science and social studies combined. ... in 2012, they spent even less time on those subjects -- but only by about 10 minutes."

What? Oh my goodness.

Little wonder the country is adrift. Nobody has any context; it's something invented for the convenience of the moment.

And little wonder that the College Board reported this week that SAT average scores just keep right on dropping. Apparently the people who write the SAT don't know about how little time students spend on important matters like science and civics.

I have no clue what to do about this, but I'm pretty sure that reducing funds for public education is not the solution.

Yes, but is it free?

A report released last year was based on a survey of college students designed to find out how much they spent on average each year for textbooks.

A U.S. News story on the study said the average was about $1,200.

That corresponds with the cost of a text I decided not to require when I taught journalism at the University of Texas a couple of years ago. That book was north of $100.

I understand the forces driving textbook costs ever upward, but I fail to understand why more college deans and professors don't figure out an alternative, especially with the ubiquity of the Web and Web-based software.

Last week, Infodocket reported that the University of Texas system had launched its first all-digital no-paper textbook degree program. It's in biomedical sciences and is offered at UT-Rio Grande Valley.

The Teagle Foundation provided the UT system with a $300,000 grant to support the program.

I'd say the UT system is not exactly blazing trails with this initiative. In fact, they are probably way, way behind other colleges and are most certainly behind what would be expected of a major university. This is not cutting edge, and UT aspires to be a world-class place.

Students and their parents need a break on book costs. But the students also need to be able to live and work and study in the 21st century.

But, wait ... are these digital books free? Or half-price? Or ...

The story doesn't say.

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