Arkansas-history teachers and buffs are once again skirmishing with the state Education Department over the teaching of Arkansas history in the public schools. In the just-completed legislative session, a group called the Arkansas History Coalition won approval of a bill creating a 23-member task force to study the teaching of Arkansas history in the schools and recommend improvements. The bill did not have the support of the state Education Department. Education Commissioner Kenneth James says he merely expressed concerns — about the size of the task force and setting a precedent for creation of task forces for all subjects.
Two years ago, historians bumped heads with the Education Department over guidelines for teaching social studies, including Arkansas history. Members of the coalition such as Lloyd Clark, who teaches Arkansas history at Walnut Ridge, say that a 1997 law mandating the teaching of Arkansas history is not being followed “to any real extent” at many schools, because the schools are so engrossed in teaching the state-required language and mathematics courses on which pupils and schools are graded. James or his designee will be a member of the task force, but the historians say they fear the Education Department will not be fully supportive of the task force's work.
Thanks to Rep. Steve Harrelson's Under the Dome blog for a report on Circuit Judge Jim Hudson of Texarkana, one of three people nominated by U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln to be considered to succeed the retiring federal Judge Harry Barnes of Camden (Barnes' law clerk, Susan Hickey, and a Texas judge, Caroline Craven, also were nominated for the Arkansas judgeship). Harrelson reports that Hudson had surgery for cancer March 27 at UAMS, then “coded” April 3 after a post-surgical infection set in. His difficult struggle is updated regularly by his family on a Caring Bridge website — caringbridge.org/visit/jimshealth.
District Judge Alice Lightle, who oversees the criminal division of Little Rock district court, is applying for a grant to create an arm of the court in Southwest Little Rock. The grant would pay for a clerk and probation officer, at least one able to speak Spanish, to provide court at least once a month for misdemeanor offenses in the area. The grant application said some petty crimes in the economically depressed neighborhood are “driven by the need for social services.” It also said it would be useful to reach out to Hispanics, sometimes reluctant to report crimes.