By G. Michael Dobbs
As I write this on Nov. 15, the press and social media forums are abuzz with speculation about both Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Deval Patrick being named by the President for key cabinet positions and what that would do to the Massachusetts political scene.
My head is spinning with possibilities at a time I just wanted to concentrate on the holidays.
Instead there may be a very good chance we would be facing another special election to fill a Senate position.
Imagine a line of dominos and someone pulls a key tile out setting off a reaction. That could be the Bay State in a relatively short length of time. Less charitable pundits might see it as a Rube Goldberg contraption set in motion. (Yes, kids, look up "Rube Goldberg").
If Patrick goes, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray would become acting governor. Would Murray run at the conclusion of Patrick's term for his own two-year term? Will he be challenged within the party by Treasurer Steve Grossman?
And what about Sen. Scott Brown?
I spoke this week to John Walsh, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Committee, and he could offer no inside info on what was happening, but he said the Democrats actually have a number of potential candidates to face Brown, whom many assume would run to finish Kerry's term.
Of course, I doubt this race, if it comes to be, will be marked by the insane campaign budgets that made history in the Senate race that just concluded – at least I hope not.
For Brown, this would be an interesting choice: he could run to stay in the Senate, or wait a little bit and start a campaign for governor. He would be a viable candidate for either job and has a considerable base of support that would follow him in either direction.
What if Brown says he would rather go back to private life? Who would become the state's Republican standard-bearer?
If the balance of power in the Senate is an issue to Democrats in the state – as some of the last minute campaign commercials alleged – Brown might still face stiff competition again.
Like you, I wait to see which domino is tipped and what others fall in place.
I was covering the Chicopee School Committee meeting last week and listening to a presentation on a new way collect information on how students, schools and districts are doing.
The presentation was very detailed and Deborah Drugan, the district's assistant superintendent for Instruction and Accountability, said that principals in Chicopee were already using the statistics to determine which students need additional help to meet to the educational goals set by the state.
The educational stats are driven by results of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which, by the way, are pretty good for Chicopee.
School Committee member Michael Pise brought up an interesting point by expressing concern about how "imagination, creativity and insight" fits into the new educational models.
School Superintendent Richard Rege readily admitted, "That's the dilemma, especially in urban districts."
He added the challenge educators are confronting is how one balances the right and left-brains and that he agreed with Pise.
In a career environment that is increasingly calling for innovation as the path for increased job possibilities, one wonders if we are doing a disservice by not emphasizing a curriculum that would build problem solving abilities as well as thinking outside of the box.
One might question if there is an "innovation gap" here but we do know there is a skills gap in this nation – manufacturers are having problems finding people with the training they need.
Historian David McCullough has spoke about how young people today have a poor knowledge of history and don't understand the forces that have brought their country and community to its current state. Wouldn't that be a part of the critical thinking component we need?
The education of young people today has become a far more volatile process than it ever was when I was attending grade school and high school. Consider that educators are being pulled in several directions at once by state and federal mandates – too many of them unfunded – by theorists trying to predict what techniques work best with which students, by parents asking for specific programs and by governments seeking to fund the schools.
As international competition grows, the role of the nation's schools become far more vital and I think that questions need to be continually asked if we are going in the right direction.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.