The Blog for Oklahoma Forum
Oklahoma's weekly, statewide discussion program, Oklahoma Forum, provides civil, meaningful discussion of news and issues that impact citizens statewide. Hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Dick Pryor and produced by Emmy Award-winner Mickie Smith, Oklahoma Forum is more than sound bites and spin. It is purpose-driven television - seeking answers, providing insight – about life in Oklahoma and its people.
Written by Dick Pryor on Tuesday October 4, 2011
September 11, 2011
In some ways it is hard to believe that it has been ten years since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The images of planes striking the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon are burned into the memory of anyone watching television that day. The smoke, the flames, the falling towers, the senseless loss of life overwhelmed all of us and sent the United States, and the American people, into new territory.
Never before had terrorism reached into the nation and inflicted such a painful toll. Most Americans probably thought that terrorist acts were for different countries, not us. Of course, that all changed on 9/11 and has our world and nation have not been the same since.
The new era of American life has seen us enter two wars to fight real or perceived threats, increased airport security, and strengthened federal and state efforts to deter and detect possible terrorist threats. It prompted a new agency, the Department of Homeland Security, to harden our defenses and issue color-coded terror alerts. It also forced Americans into realizing that as citizens of a shrinking world, we are not immune to the problems faced by others around the globe.
As we remembered the 10th anniversary of 9/11 we convened a meeting of three experts to discuss terrorism and the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Our guests were: David Cid, Executive Director of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, located in Oklahoma City; Dr. Gregory Miller, Lecturer in Political Science at Oklahoma State University, whose research and teaching emphasis includes terrorism and political violence and international security; and Dr. Stephen Sloan, a counter-terrorism expert formerly at the University of Oklahoma, who is now a visiting professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.
While remembering the victims, we think it is important for each of us to better understand American counter-terrorism efforts and the factors that fuel political violence and the spread of fear as an instrument of terrorism.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, David Cid, and Gregory Miller. Stephen Sloan is not pictured.)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Tuesday October 4, 2011
September 2, 2011
Jobs, jobs, jobs. It's a familiar mantra and something we are sure to hear repeatedly during the 2012 election cycle. With national unemployment hovering just over 9%, Oklahoma is faring very well. Our state unemployment rate ticked up in July, to 5.5%, but overall the Oklahoma unemployment numbers have been dropping steadily since March, 2010.
Oklahoma is doing especially well in manufacturing and energy, but the rest of the job market is soft. And, some parts of the state are much better than others.
With jobs the big topic, we invited Dr. Phil Berkenbile, State Director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, Richard McPherson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, and Lynn Gray, OESC Director of Economic Research and Analysis and Chief Economist to discuss our state's job picture.
Dr. Berkenbile discussed some of the services Career Tech provides to train and re-train workers to better position themselves for good jobs in the Oklahoma economy. Likewise, McPherson pointed out that OESC has programs available to help job-seekers and assist in putting applicants and businesses together. Those resources can be found at the OESC website: http://www.ok.gov/oesc_web.
In celebration of Labor Day, we hope you enjoy this program about labor, jobs and the Oklahoma workforce.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Richard McPherson, Lynn Gray, Phil Berkenbile)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday August 26, 2011
August 28, 2011
Students are heading back to school across Oklahoma, so we decided this week was a good time to talk about education. We discussed changes and challenges facing Oklahoma students and educators with our guests Phyllis Hudecki, Oklahoma Secretary of Education; Bill Price, Chairman, Oklahoma School Choice Coalition; Dr. Kent Shellenberger, Superintendent, Bethany Public Schools; and Ed Allen, President, Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers.
A lot has happened in Oklahoma education this year. Several education "reform" laws have been passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Fallin, including changes to trial de novo for disciplined teachers, limitation on "social promotion," and school grading using an A-F system. State budget cuts of almost $100 million resulted in several state education programs being eliminated or reduced.
With so much going on, we focused on some of the recent developments in Oklahoma education that are making news, including new ACT scores, errors in state testing results, progress on a legislature-mandated teacher evaluation system, "blended learning," the "Race to the Top" grant competition for early childhood education and the elimination of the stipend for National Board Certified teachers and the funding that allows teachers to complete board certification.
As for ACT scores, Oklahoma stayed relatively flat in the 2011 report. The ACT remains the most popular such test in the state, with 76% of college high school graduates taking it. Oklahoma students scored 20.7 overall, while the national average composite score was 21.1. Oklahoma tied the national average of 21.3 in reading and scored 20.5 in English, which was just one-tenth of a point below the national average of 20.6. Oklahoma students finished .2 off the national average in math (19.9 to 21.1) and .3 below the national average in science (20.6 to 20.9).
Interestingly, Oklahoma students did better on the ACT than students in the state of Florida, where many of the education changes adopted in Oklahoma became popular, with support from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Oklahoma and Florid were tied in math at 19.9, but Oklahoma easily out-paced Florida in the other ACT categories. A complete rundown of the new ACT scores can be found on the website for the ACT organization: http://www.act.org/news/data/11/states.html
The challenge of increasing test scores and student achievement has been complicated by the severe budget cuts faced by schools throughout the United States. According to estimates by the National Association of State Budget Officers, cuts to K-12 for the new fiscal year may reach $2.5 billion. Last year, the cuts were $1.8 billion nationwide.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities claims that of the 47 states with new budgets, at least 38 have made deep, identifiable cuts in K-12 education, higher education, health care and other key areas. In a report released on July 28, 2011, the Center said the cuts will undermine efforts to create jobs over the next year. The report cane be found at: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3550
This is especially troubling for states such as Oklahoma which are hoping to attract jobs from other states and encourage business development in-state. The CNBC "America's Top States for Business 2010" report showed that Oklahoma ranked 25th overall. Oklahoma was tied for first in "Cost of Living," but ranked 41st in "Quality of Life" and "Transportation" and 40th in "Education." State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi says 43% of freshmen who entered an Oklahoma college or university in 2009 were not ready for college work and needed remedial education.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Phyllis Hudecki, Bill Price, Kent Shellenberger, Ed Allen.)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Tuesday August 23, 2011
Get ready for many more years of wild weather in Oklahoma. That was the warning from our guests this week after wrapping up our discussion of extreme weather.
Consider that this year Oklahoma has had a record low temperature (-31 in Nowata), has set the U.S. record for highest average temperature in a month (the average temperature in July was 89.1, obliterating the old record that had stood since 1954 by a full degree), record snowfalls (more than 24 inches in northeastern Oklahoma), exceptional drought (actually worse that the droughts in the 1930's and 1950's) and a record number of tornadoes for the month of April. Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus also reminds us that Oklahoma has had nine (9) significant ice events in the last eleven years, where normally we have one (1) every ten years.
McManus was one of three weather and climate experts on this week's Oklahoma Forum program. The others were Stephen Stadler, State Geographer for Oklahoma and Physical Geography Coordinator at Oklahoma State University and Simon Brewer, who is a meteorologist, Stormchaser and Co-host of "Storm Riders" on the Weather Channel.
The drought and high temperatures (Oklahoma City is closing in on the record for number of 100 degree days in year) is obviously causing hardships for farmers and ranchers, but it affects everyone in one way or another. The drought has caused the soil to lose a considerable amount of moisture. In addition, with use of water spiking for lawn and garden watering (something that was not prevalent in the 1930's), there is a risk of long-term damage to the soil and vegetation, including old growth trees.
McManus said although some of our extreme weather is cyclical, the climate is indeed changing. He told us there is really no dispute about that in the scientific community; the overwhelming majority of scientists sees our climate as evolving long-term, with the heating of our environment causing weather patterns to change. Brewer said our practice of steadily pumping carbon dioxide into the air is fueling the changes. And, he said, when various factors align just right (as they did in February in Nowata), record-breaking extreme weather can be the result.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Gary McManus, Stephen Stadler, Simon Brewer)Add a comment
Written by Dick Pryor on Friday July 22, 2011
July 24, 2011
The journalism world is reacting to one of the biggest scandals in many years. It's complicated, but basically the story surrounds illegal cell phone hacking performed by employees of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid newspaper.
The story gained international attention after former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare alleged that hacking into the cell phones of politician, celebrities and others was a common practice at the Murdoch-owned newspaper. That led to an investigation by London's metropolitan police and apology from the News of the World for hacking into voice mails from 2004 to 2006. The story escalated in July of this year, when it was revealed that News of the World reporters hacked into the cell phone of a missing teenager who was later found murdered. The hackers removed some of her voice mail messages, which led her parents to believe the teen was still alive.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch called the allegations against News of the World "deplorable and unacceptable" and on July 10 he shut down the newspaper after 168 years of operation. The next day, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused other papers of illegally obtaining personal information about him. News Corp. then withdrew its offer to take over a British satellite broadcaster and current Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to begin an investigation of the British press. That resulted in Murdoch and his son, James, testifying before a committee of Parliament.
The growing scandal reached the United States when Les Hinton, the publisher of the highly-regarded Wall Street Journal announced his resignation. Murdoch's top assistant, News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks also resigned.
The latest revelation concerns the possible hacking of cell phones of 9/11 victims and their families. This has prompted calls for the U.S. Justice Department, Congress and FBI to launch investigations of News Corp. This is especially significant due to the massive holdings in the Murdoch media empire. He owns hundreds of newspapers, including 70% of the newspapers in his native Australia. Murdoch's holdings include Fox News, the Fox network, numerous other broadcast and satellite outlets, book publishing, magazines, film production, sports, radio, technology, music and outdoor advertising. A list of Murdoch's holdings can be found here.
To discuss the reach of this evolving scandal and its possible impact on American journalism, we brought together a panel of Oklahoma's leading journalists - Joe Worley, Executive Editor of The Tulsa World; Kelly Dyer Fry, Editor of The Oklahoman and Vice President for the OPUBCO Communications Group; Charles Self, PhD, Director of the Institute for Research and Training at the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication; and Terry Clark, PhD, Director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and Professor of Journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.
We discussed the size of the scandal and what it is likely to mean to the media world. They expressed concern that the public will see the News Corp. scandal as standard operating procedure for journalists, without seeing the distinction from most media scandals: this one involves illegal activity, not just a breach of journalism ethics. That goes to the bigger problem that all journalists face, and that's that despite increased media consumption, most members of the public don't understand what we do, why we do it, and how we operate. There is also a big concern that this growing scandal could lead to more investigations of news organizations and ultimately to press regulation.
It's an enlightening discussion. Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Joe Worley, Charles Self, Kelly Dyer Fry, and Terry Clark.)Add a comment