The last term paper I ever wrote was for a political science class many years ago at USC. We had to answer the question, “What was the most significant event of the 20th century and why?”

Our papers could not be opinions – we had to provide supporting evidence and connect the dots to make our cases. For my event, I chose the discovery of penicillin, made a powerful case, and got an A-.

At some point in the life of everyone reading this, we had to write a term paper or other substantial document for a class in high school or college. These were not opinion pieces, they were supposed to have citations, footnotes, sources, etc. to back up whatever we were claiming. No support, no passing grade.

I thought of these term papers as I pondered the upcoming rubber stamping of the district’s Calendar Committee recommendation to change to the so-called Collegiate Calendar and the four presentations that were made across the N-M community over the past couple of weeks.

The presentations would score high for grammar, syntax, and clarity. It was easy to understand each point that was presented.

But the presentation was devoid of the most important element – the one thing that would prevent it from receiving a passing grade: The entire presentation was merely an opinion. There was no evidence presented that the new calendar would do ANY of the things they want it to do, including:

  • Improve academic performance
  • Boost AP scores
  • Provide greater opportunities to participate in summer camps, obtain internships and summer jobs
  • Increase student participation, school spirit and fundraising opportunities for fall sports.
  • Offer  additional instructional time prior to taking some statewide assessments, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, which are date specific.
  • Or any of the other claims made

I wondered what grade a N-MUSD teacher would give this presentation if it were a term paper and did not have any support for any of the claims. I can see the note in the margin: “Great benefits, but where is the data to show that these things will actually happen?”

Without any documentation, I’d score it “F.” Without any evidence to back-up these lofty claims, there is no other way to score it. The lack of evidence is particularly alarming when we note that according to Trustee Vicki Snell, “They [Calendar Committee] have been exploring this new calendar for several years for the benefit of the students.”

I wrote my term paper over a period of about a month, without the advantage of the world at my fingertips through the Internet. If the committee has been working on this for years, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have them hold off on a recommendation for a few weeks until they provide some hard facts to back it up.

Without it, they’ll fail the assignment and have to go to summer school without air conditioning.

Steve Smith
N-MUSD Taxpayer