Johnny Can't Write

Republicans love to croak about saving taxpayers money and getting rid of unnecessary laws, so Clockwork couldn't help but take some delight in Governor Gray Davis—a Democrat, in case you're keeping score at home—on Aug. 13 vetoing state Senator Ross Johnson's (R-Irvine) bill that would have required the state to hold an annual penmanship contest for all California pupils. Davis said the statewide competition would be too costly and distract our attention from ensuring students meet California's high academic standards. Da' Gov musta been looking into a crystal ball: fewer than one-third of California public school students achieved proficiency on a key test of their ability to meet challenging English standards, the state Education Department reported two days after the veto. It doesn't matter how swell a kid's penmanship is if he can't craft a grammatical sentence, Senator Johnson.

Illustration by Bob Aul

JOHNNY CAN'T READ, EITHER The California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) crowed over the state's Stanford 9 scores, which they say prove the failure of Proposition 227. The 1998 voter initiative mandated English-immersion programs to force kids learning the language to study the same lessons as kids born in English-speaking homes. According to CABE, the gap has widened between English learners and English-proficient students since Prop. 227 passed. "Stanford 9 results seem to indicate that English learners in English-immersion classes are falling behind," said David Ramirez, executive director of the Center for Language Minority Education and Research at Cal State Long Beach. Prop. 227 stated that students with limited English proficiency should catch up to their peers within about a year, but approximately 1 million children who have been in California schools for a year or more are still considered limited-English proficient, according to USC education professor Stephen Krashen. But their penmanship? Fabulous!

TALE OF TWO SHITTIES It was interesting to see how those lovable lugs at the daily newspapers played the findings from the Orange County Sanitation District's $5.1 million investigation into whether 243 million gallons of human waste pumped daily into the ocean drifts back to foul the Huntington Beach shoreline. Seema Mehta's piece in the Times Orange County edition essentially told everyone to relax: the shit that's pumped five miles out to sea hasn't come back any closer than one mile from Huntington's shores. Meanwhile, Jim Hinch's story in The Orange County Register essentially told everyone to panic: the shit has been detected a mere mile from Huntington's shores even though the sanitation district for years has claimed it stays five miles out (where, a district spokesperson once told the Weekly, "the fish love it!"). So is the glass with enough crap to fill Edison Field to the brim three times half empty or half full?

BURNING SENSATION Orange County Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA)—the right-wing group that has never met a personal-injury lawyer it likes—put out a press release recently that listed the most frivolous lawsuit of the month: a suit brought by a couple against the Kellogg Co. and Black & Decker because a cherry Kellogg Pop-Tart caught fire in their Black & Decker pop-up toaster, igniting a blaze that caused $100,000 damage to their home in Washington Township, Pennsylvania. It's an unworthy legal filing because no one was attending the toaster when the fire broke out, CALA said. But according to a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation reported on Aug. 16, flaming Pop-Tarts have been listed as the origin of more than a dozen fires over the past decade in kitchens from Canada to California, and some of those blazes caused injury and extensive damage. Of course, if a CALA member lost a home and a limb in such a fire, we are sure he or she would never think of suing.

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