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“Teaching to the test” has been a perennial shortcoming of the public school system. However, in recent years, it has mutated into a viral form of “teaching to the standardized test.” While standardized tests can be an indicator of general proficiency, the only thing they measure directly is the ability to take a particular test.

My son Nick’s initial Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) score jeopardized his chances to gain admission to Georgia Tech, even though he had straight A’s in high school. With a little study he was able to boost his score by over 200 points on his second SAT. That was good news, but it certainly cast doubt on the validity of a testing system that supposedly accurately measures a student’s readiness to attend college. The fact that knowing or learning “how to take a test” can significantly alter the results makes that test suspect. Of course, the testing companies that make hundreds of millions of dollars annually will tell you otherwise. Despite what his first SAT score indicated, Nick would go on to earn a masters degree in civil engineering at Tech, finishing near the top of his class.


More than 20 years ago, some fellow angry about something or other whacked a window of the North Carolina Legislative Building with a hammer.

When you ask old-timers about violence that's occurred at the Legislative Building, that's about the worst that they can come up with.

The building has seen some protests that got a bit out of hand.

About a decade ago, some conservative activists tossed tea bags from the House gallery as legislators considered a budget that included tax hikes.

About a decade ago, some conservative activists tossed tea bags from the House gallery as legislators considered a budget that included tax hikes.

This year, the liberals took their turn getting arrested and escorted from the building as protests erupted over budget cuts or other proposals from the Republican majority. Once again, the House chamber has been the place to be and be seen.


Last week was a busy one in the House of Representatives, with a schedule that included a bill to cut spending and balance the federal budget as part of ongoing negotiations on spending and the national debt, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, and a bill to make major changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Also last week, I introduced a bipartisan bill to improve infrastructure and save taxpayer money.

On Tuesday, I joined a bipartisan majority of the House to pass the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011. While this bill is far from perfect, it does take steps to cut current spending levels, put a cap on discretionary spending, and requires the federal government to balance the budget without cutting Social Security, Medicare, or veterans’ benefits. Therefore, I joined a bipartisan group in supporting it. The bill passed the House by a margin of 234- 190. The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act did not pass the Senate when it was considered on Friday.


When pondering global military confrontations, the Spratly Islands are probably not at the top of your list or even on the list for that matter. Yet, this archipelago in the South China Sea continues to fester as a potential flashpoint for war, or, as it is now called – “kinetic military action.”

The Spratlys are located about halfway between Vietnam and the Philippines. While the 750 or so islands and coral reefs encompass a nautical area around a 160,000 square miles, the actual combined land mass is less than 2 square miles. I bet my Chevy Aveo is bigger than some of those “islands.” Despite its diminutive size, no less than six countries lay partial or complete claim to this island chain. The lucky contestants are China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.


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