Capital Journal, Pierre, Oct. 15, 2013
About those barbarians at the gate
It causes South Dakota universities no concern whatsoever that some undergraduate students want to enter the university at ages older than the usual 18 to 22.
So why is it causing such head-scratching that some home-schooled students are seeking admission to undergraduate programs at ages younger than the usual 18 to 22?
The Board of Regents is right that it needs a policy to confront this national phenomenon and clarify what South Dakota institutions expect from home-schooled students. We're told that could happen as early as the April 2014 meeting.
That's good timing, because a policy could then be in place by the time the fall 2014 term begins.
Our opinion? There are brilliant students, ordinary students and doubtless some poor students among home-schoolers. What they all have going for them is the flexibility to proceed at their own pace. For that reason alone, many will complete school earlier than public school peers.
But they won't all meet South Dakota's requirements of requirements of four years of English, three years of advanced mathematics, three years of laboratory science, three years of social studies and one year of fine arts for admission to a bachelor's degree program. (Neither would Mozart or Thomas Edison, who are among the many home-schooled figures in history, and probably, for that matter, neither would MIT scientist Erik Demaine, sort of a poster child for the modern home-schooling movement; he entered a Canadian university at age 12, finished his bachelor's degree at age 14 and earned his Ph.D. at age 20.)
So what do we do with these students? State universities could do what they have apparently done in several instances already and deny these younger-than-usual home-schooled students admission if they have not completed the requirements. The problem with that is that we could be sending Erik Demaine over to earn his degree across the border in Minnesota or Nebraska.
Another possibility, perhaps wiser, would be to simply accept some baseline ACT scores in different subject areas as the standard of admission for those who have not met all the usual requirements. That's one reason we have standardized ACT exams, is it not? Grading can vary widely from school to school, so those who have technically met requirements for admission to a bachelor's degree program and perhaps even earned good grades in those subjects are not necessarily equipped to do well in a university. At the very least, it's good that the Board of Regents is looking at the issue. The barbarians at the gate are our children. We need not be afraid to let them into our universities.
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Oct. 19, 2013
Let's grow pheasant numbers
Opening day of pheasant season is a fall tradition embraced by generations of South Dakotans.
We watched the colorful scene unfold once again this year. Nature's specter of fall beauty is showcased across our rural landscapes as colorful pheasants take flight against stark blue skies, swarms of orange in pursuit. Our fields, roads and small-town diners swell with hunting parties.
But this annual event is more than a slice of Americana for many of our rural communities. Pheasant season is to main street businesses in places such as Gregory, Chamberlain and Redfield what Christmas shopping season is to major retailers in Sioux Falls or Rapid City.
That's why recent reports from the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department and the South Dakota Tourism Department are so troubling.
The GF&P report details the decline in the number of pheasants in the state. The tourism numbers show the potential economic results of that decline.
For two straight years, pheasant numbers in our state have dropped. And the decrease is striking — a decline of more than 60 percent in that time.
There are many causes for the decline — weather extremes from summer drought to spring flooding certainly affect breeding success. At a time when numbers are lower, additional birds lost to predators become more pronounced. And, of course, the loss of thousands of acres of habitat through fewer farm acres enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program has an effect.
The state's tourism department estimates the retail economic impact of pheasant hunting annually at $223 million. There are 4,500 jobs linked directly to hunting-related tourism.
Those status reports together paint a discouraging scene for hunters and business people in this state.
That's why Gov. Dennis Daugaard's announcement of a pheasant habitat summit last week is an encouraging move.
He wants the stakeholders in this important industry to get together and brainstorm solutions. The summit is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Huron.
These are complicated problems, and certainly none of the answers will come easy. In fact, it might take bold action by state officials to effect noticeable change.
But all ideas should be welcomed and encouraged.
Obviously, no one can control the weather. But here are some starting points for discussion:
— Can the state focus some of the thousands of acres of land it holds specifically on the development of habitat for upland game birds?
— Is there a role for the state in making the set-aside of farm acres for habitat development more attractive? A monetary incentive from the state on top of the federal CRP rates?
— Is it wise to institute incentives to reduce the number of predators — bounty systems or changes to licensing fees for residents and nonresidents alike for hunting or trapping coyotes and other varmints?
Undoubtedly, other ideas will surface, and the GF&P's own biologists and other wildlife experts should be able to help focus the conversation.
The time is right to start thinking big about one of the most iconic — and important — South Dakota experiences.
Much is riding on our ability to stem the declines in pheasant habit and rebuild and strengthen hunting opportunities in our state.
Madison Daily Leader, Madison, Oct. 9, 2013
We commend S.D. 4-H for expanding robotics
South Dakota 4-H is expanding its robotics program, and we think it's a great idea for today's youth.
Four-H is a nationwide youth development program that has many facets, including volunteering on community projects, going on field trips, experimenting with science, taking care of animals, making art and much more.
In South Dakota, 4-H is aligned with South Dakota State University Extension, and has had a rural focus. But there are many programs that city kids get involved with, including robotics. Training sessions will be held this winter with parents and volunteers.
The program in South Dakota will use the National 4-H Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum and Lego Mindstorms platform, both highly regarded in the field.
We believe this program is a perfect example of fun, group learning. It gets kids away from the television and smartphone, and into a program where they can imagine, experiment, succeed, fail and try again. They'll learn problem-solving and work with other kids to get their projects to operate.
We hope many youth with sign up and plenty of parents will help. It's a great program and we hope it succeeds.