Five Ideas: What do you think about these events in the news this week?

Sunday, October 28, 2007 | 5:21 p.m. CDT; updated 2:17 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Six plus 4 equals 10, right? Well, sure, but the integrated math system taught in Columbia Public Schools teaches the problem a slightly different way, by breaking it down this way: 5 + 1, add the 1 to the 4 and then add the 5s to make 10.

The system has parents and teachers in a tizzy. Advocates say the method works better with children’s developing minds and helps them approach math from a problem-solving mind-set instead of simply using rote memorization.

Others, including some tutors, say the method is simply confusing. Parents complain they can’t help with their children’s homework, and one parent, Jen Rachow, said her son enjoys math more now that his class switched to traditional math.

It goes beyond a simple addition problem, though. Parents want the best education for their kids, and they want to know they’re learning basic skills such as math. Columbia Public Schools seems to have picked its preferred method: integrated math.

Is the school district onto something with integrated math, or is it needlessly reinventing the wheel?


Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, had a car accident last week that led to his arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and careless and imprudent driving. GOP leaders called for his resignation and politicians with similar experiences offered advice. Eventually, Graham apologized for the incident and a fundraiser went on Friday as scheduled.

A 17-page police report about the incident, though, raised questions about the proper protocol of police and hospital officials. After police said Graham refused a Breathalyzer test several times, he was taken to University Hospital. There, Columbia police officer Donald Weaver tried to collect a bag of Graham’s urine to use as evidence. According to the report, a visibly angry hospital staffer tried to prevent Weaver from taking the bag.

Both a hospital spokeswoman and Police Chief Randy Boehm said actions by their respective organizations were appropriate. Boehm said he has set up a meeting with hospital staff members to discuss similar incidents in the future.

Do you think police and hospital staffers acted differently because the suspect in this case was a high-profile public official?


An open forum Monday gave MU faculty a chance to voice their frustrations about the university’s financial picture. Provost Brian Foster said administrators expect a $7 million to $11 million budget deficit next year. To reduce that while keeping salaries competitive, Foster suggested leaving vacant positions unfilled.

Several faculty members complained of funding cuts from the state, and Foster said the university needs to reposition itself politically. The budget woes come after a summer during which three high-profile administrators left their positions within the UM System. Elson Floyd, who left the system’s top job in April, cited the state’s political climate as one reason for his departure.

The anger voiced by faculty members was largely aimed at state legislators who have cut higher-education appropriations. After years of severe budget cuts, the system received a 4 percent increase in funds last year, and legislators have promised to return to the level of funding the system received in 2002.

Do faculty members have a legitimate gripe about funding? Should the state ante up more, or should the UM System simply tighten its belt?


On the heels of Columbia’s visioning process, the City Council on Monday created its own list of 18 goals. At the top of the list? Roads.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said infrastructure financing could cover services such as electricity and the police department, but he said roads were the top priority, especially in Columbia’s outlying areas.

Hindmin said he’d like to see more contributions from developers and citizens to pay for the roadwork. The council also outlined several other aspirations, including long-term financial planning, economic development and civilian oversight of police.

This list will probably be pared down, and council members say there is no timetable for doing it. But the council said it was important to have a concrete list to work with.

You can find a list of these goals by going to

What are your priorities for improving Columbia? Is the City Council on the right track with these goals, or is another brainstorming session in order?


A janitorial services owner filed suit Thursday against Gov. Matt Blunt after the governor canceled the business’ contract at the state capitol.

The business owner, K. “Sam” Asamoah-Boadu says in the lawsuit that Blunt violated his constitutional rights by canceling the contract, which his lawyer said effectively put him out of business.

Blunt’s office said in a statement that he was simply doing his job and that the janitorial service was employing employees with fake Social Security cards. After a raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, eight of the business’ 25 employees were indicted for possessing false identification.

Asamoah-Boadu’s lawyer said his client did not knowingly employ illegal immigrants and that Blunt overstepped his boundaries with his enforcement of the immigration law.

Blunt has previously ordered surprise visits to construction sites to check citizenship paperwork and has also required immigration checks on all people arrested by state troopers.

Did the state violate the contractor’s rights by canceling his company’s contract with the capitol?

— compiled by Lee Logan

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Ellis Smith October 29, 2007 | 8:25 a.m.

For some years now we've had in this state what some of us call "The Great Disconnect." Everyone knows that funding for public higher education in Missouri is near the bottom for all 50 states, yet with all the complaints from the educational establishment there seems to be no genuine outcry on the part of Missouri taxpayers to do something. You can't judge "taxpayer sentiment" based on taxpayers who are also faculty members.

Complaints against specific legislators are voiced. The problem there is that if taxpayers were truly pushing for increased funding for public higher education there would be a rush of state politicians - both parties - to get on board.

So, "where's the beef?" Where is a genuine display of support from the taxpayers.

Grumbling may make some folks feel better, and is even justified, but it won't produce the funding that's needed.

[Note: You have my permission to publish this. My name is Ellis Smith, 1208 Park de Ville Place, Columbia. 445-6866]

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