Today I'm in Texas for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's annual education gathering. Actually, the event is put on by the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), a new Chamber initiative in education. I've learned a thing or two at the conference, including these tidbits about No Child Left Behind (NCLB):
- Leading members of Congress on both sides of the aisle want to see NCLB get renewed next year. Roberto Rodriguez, a staff member for Senator Kennedy, spoke eloquently about ideas that some leading Democrats have for changing the law, including fixing some of the problems I identified in my last post about the "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) provision of the law.
- Americans are sharply divided about NCLB. According to Allan Rivlin, a pollster from Hart Research, people's opinions about NCLB likely have as much to do with how much they like President Bush than what they think about the provisions of the law and their effect on schools.
Then, this evening, a bunch of us headed over to the Texas State Fair to take in the action. On the bus over, I met a friendly woman named Ann Kennamer, who runs the Impact Learning Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. We stumbled on the swine competition.
Soon after we walked in, the stands erupted with the announcement of the Grand Reserve Champion: Josh Vincent from Howe, Texas, about 60 miles north of Dallas. I knew I wanted to meet this young man. A senior at Howe High School, Josh beat out hundreds of other entrants, including many more experienced adults, to raise the Grand Reserve Champion (second place) pig in Texas. Ann took this photo of Josh with his pig (Josh is on the left.)
Chatting it up with his mother, Becky, I learned that Josh had been raising pigs since he was 9 years old. I asked for her thoughts about how her son had come to manage to raise the Grand Reserve Champion Pig in Texas? "Well, you'll want to meet his Ag teacher, Stevie Horton." From him, she said, Josh had learned responsibility, and how "It's not all about winning."
I found Mr. Horton and asked him about how Josh had come to do so well at the Texas State Fair. "He's a great kid," he replied. From Mr. Horton, I learned that Josh is a straight-A student, class president and linebacker on the football team. Mr. Horton is a leader of the school's chapter of Future Farmers of America, where Josh got guidance and support in his quest to raise a champion pig.
Finally, I talked to Josh himself. Josh is not a man of many words, but he is extremely appreciative of all that Mr. Horton has done for him. He did tell me that he intends to study animal nutrition at a four-year university in Texas, perhaps West Texas A&M. And, when I asked him about the number one thing he had learned from Mr. Horton, and from the long process of raising the Grand Reserve Champion Pig in Texas, he offered up one word: responsibility.