Thumbs up to holiday traditions, including the Holiday Lights Fair at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. Anyone who drives through Du Quoin at night has to be mesmerized by the lights display which appears to stretch on to infinity — there are three miles of Christmas decorations including an animated roller coaster and carousel, reindeer, swans and a moving train. This is the 20th anniversary of the display, which has grown markedly over the years. “It has grown maybe 10 to 20 times what it used to be,” said Judy Smith, past president of Du Quoin tourism. “We have added to it each year. “
Thumbs up to Shawnee High School for thinking outside of the box. When the tiny Union County school, 83 students (just 30 girls), didn’t have enough players to field a girls basketball team, the school opened up its boys team to the girls. Two Shawnee students are taking advantage of the opportunity to keep their basketball careers alive. This isn’t the first time Shawnee High School has gone outside the box in its basketball program. LaDonna Bachmann coaches the boys team, the only woman to coach a boys team in Southern Illinois. In Bachmann’s eyes, every player on the team is a member, regardless of gender. “They’re going to be held to the same standard as you,” she told the boys on the team. “There are no exceptions. When you box them out, you’re going to box them out as hard as you do a boy.”
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Thumbs down to the Illinois High School Association for the about face on football district play. To those who don’t follow high school sports closely, IHSA members voted last year to adopt a district approach to the playoffs, which would have eliminated conferences as we know them. That vote did not sit well with many football playing schools, resulting in another vote this year. The motion to rescind drew more total votes than the previous proposal, and, the motion to rescind carried by a higher percentage than last year’s vote to approve districts. The two votes indicate schools did not take their responsibility of self-governance seriously enough. For the record, we have reservations about the current playoff system, but we’re not sure districts were the answer either.
Thumbs up to SIU for abolishing SAT and ACT requirements for incoming students. That stance may seem counterintuitive, but there is little hard evidence that good test scores are predictive of success in higher education. In addition some students just struggle with standardized testing. “Research has consistently demonstrated that the most important predictor of college success is the high school grade point average,” said SIU Interim Chancellor John M. Dunn said. “Standardized tests can be a barrier to many students due to cost and demographic factors. We have a responsibility to level the playing field and ensure that every student with potential has the opportunity to study at SIU.”
Thumbs up to the Spirit of Love/Operation 400 Food and Gift Drive. The program is part of the Victory Dream Center in Carbondale. This is the 21st year for the program. This year the event made its present felt, giving away more than 1,000 toys and 40,000 pounds of food to more than 400 families. “We started giving away vouchers around Thanksgiving,” said pastor Nathan Cherry. “People signed up and told us the ages of their children so we could make preparations with toys.” Obviously, programs of this nature are common throughout the region. And, they are vital to make Christmas cheer an equal opportunity.