Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lawmakers have lofty goal for Texas schoolchildren: Adequate

The court ruled that funding is adequate despite Texas having the highest dropout in the nation. Also check out the Statesman's story that appeared on Sunday, Nov. 28. Only in Texas.... -Angela

by Cary Clack

11/28/2005 12:00 AM CST / San Antonio Express-News

A few years ago, the then pre-teen daughter of my colleague, Carlos Guerra, took apart the word extraordinary and asked, "Why would anyone want to be extra ordinary?"

An equally profound question for Texans, their legislature and governor is, why would anyone want just an adequate education?

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court declared the current funding system for education unconstitutional but denied claims that the legislature doesn't provide enough money to educate more than 4 million public school students.

The discussion and debate about the education of these students always centers on the word "adequate" and whether the state is meeting the requirements in Article 7, Section 1 of the state constitution to adequately provide the funds for adequate education for the students.

The actual language in the section talks about "the duty of the Legislature and State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools."

"Suitable" is a synonym for "adequate" and if you knew that, then you received at least an adequate education.

But who wants to be adequate in anything? "Adequate" is such a weak, vague, and wishy-washy word that it's less than adequate. It's one of the lamest and least-inspiring words in the English language.

Who aspires to adequateness?

Maybe one reason Texas schoolchildren aren't doing as well as they should is that we've set such a low bar for success for them and the state. How many parents tell their children, "Today, you're going to do adequate on that big test, continue to have an adequate thirst for education and do adequately well in school, get an adequate job and go out and make the world not a better place but an adequate place."

What politician on the campaign trail promises to work adequately hard to create an adequate education system? Were you hoping for an adequate Thanksgiving meal, and are you looking forward to an adequate Christmas?

The next time you run into a friend and his family are you going to say, "Jim, good to see you. Your wife and kids are looking adequate. Have an adequate day."

Does anyone want to hear, "Honey, you were, well, adequate."

When talking about the financing and quality of education we want for the state's children, we should upgrade from "adequate" to "superb," "excellent" or "outstanding."

The way language is used in education can be confusing and limiting.

Programs that challenge exceptionally successful students are indispensable but when labeled as "Gifted and Talented," what's being said to the students not in them is that they are only adequate.

Special ed programs are also indispensable but one of the special things they can do is stigmatize a child.

The legislature has until June 1 to devise a new school finance system. For the sake of the untapped gifts and talents of this state's schoolchildren, here's a special wish that the legislature is extraordinarily dutiful in producing something more than adequate.

Editor's Note: This column by Gary Clark was adequate, which is a considerable improvement for him.

To leave a message for Cary Clack call (210) 250-3546 or e-mail at His column appears on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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