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Bill Maxwell, Opinion Columnist

Bill Maxwell

Bill Maxwell first joined the Times in 1994 as an editorial writer. He also wrote a twice-weekly column. In 2004, he left to teach journalism and establish a program at Stillman College in Alabama, but he returned to the board in August 2006.

A native of Fort Lauderdale, Maxwell was reared in a migrant farming family. After a short time in college and the U.S. Marine Corps, he returned to school. During his college years, he worked as an urban organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and wrote for several civil rights publications. He first began teaching college English in 1973 at Kennedy-King College in Chicago and continued to teach for 18 years. Before joining the Times, Maxwell spent six years writing a weekly column for the Gainesville Sun and the New York Times syndicate. Before that, Maxwell was an investigative reporter for the Fort Pierce Tribune in Fort Pierce, where he focused on labor and migrant farm worker affairs.

E-mail: bmaxwell@tampabay.com

  1. Bill Maxwell: Relief in Mexico



    I was fortunate to have spent eight days of the Christmas season here with one of my former students and his spouse. The visit gave me needed respite from the caustic politics and social conflicts back home in the United States.

    I met dozens of natives and other people from around the world, including U.S. tourists and expats, and none would discuss U.S. politics. It was a relief. And being without cable news and National Public Radio, I quickly found myself immersed in the cultural and social fabric of San Miguel and its environs....

    To say that San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, is magical is no exaggeration.
  2. When high achievers shortchanged, we all suffer


    For nearly two decades, public school educators have been trying to close, or at least narrow, the race- and income-based achievement gaps in graduation rates and test scores. The movement, which became a mandate with passage of the No Child Left Behind Act during President George W. Bush's first term, has become an obsession.

    For several years, supporters of the act, along with some early detractors, did not question the perceived benefits of NCLB. But that easy acceptance is changing. ...

  3. Rubio's name alone won't get it done


    Either it's ignorance or plain old stupidity. I don't know what else to call Republicans' simplistic view of people of Spanish and Latin American origins in the United States. But it will spell trouble for Republicans as they try to win over the country's fastest-growing minority.

    A few days ago, Rush Limbaugh got into the act, suggesting on his radio show that Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, son of Cuban exiles, is the man to retake the White House in 2012. ...

  4. Education mandate for online class puts pressure on Florida's rural districts


    Florida legislators have strapped school districts with yet another expensive unfunded mandate. Gov. Rick Scott signed into law this year legislation that requires high school students to take at least one online class to graduate. The law went into effect this term and affects incoming freshmen.

    The measure seems benign at first blush, but it will unduly stress districts that do not have deep pockets and other resources. ...

  5. St. Petersburg needs to get serious about its reputation


    When many people travel to new destinations, they consult guidebooks and websites for reliable information about personal safety. They want to know about crime and areas, even people, to avoid.

    Personal safety is about location.

    After the most recent violence near Choice Food Store at 3401 Fifth Ave. S in St. Petersburg, I wondered what Lonely Planet, an internationally respected travel guide, tells tourists about personal safety in the Sunshine City. ...

  6. I'm just not the retiring type


    Every few days or so, someone asks me something like, "How does it feel being retired?" Or, "What are you doing in retirement?" Or, "Is retirement all you thought it would be?"

    I always bristle before giving either my standard "busier than ever" quip or delivering my "retired, hell!" lecture.

    "Busier than ever" is a cliche that many other people at this stage of their lives use. It means that you have replaced the time clock or salaried job with other activities and stuff. I know retirees (their own designation) whose lives have become a mess. They're volunteering for this or that nonprofit; caring for grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and helping out this or that political or humanitarian or religious cause. And most of these folks aren't earning one brown penny for their efforts. ...

  7. Parents are key in educating children


    Like many other school districts nationwide, the Pinellas County district is urgently trying to figure out how to help black students succeed academically. The countywide academic gap between blacks and their counterparts of other ethnic groups is dismal.

    Officials want to identify teachers whose black students are succeeding — meaning students who are earning higher scores on standardized tests — and use these teachers' techniques to train other teachers whose students are not doing as well. ...

  8. Give heroes of Air America their due


    Air America's story is one of courage, honor and loyalty under circumstances most people cannot imagine. It also is a story of disappointment and betrayal by the government Air America's employees risked their lives to serve.

    From 1950 to 1976, the year the United States officially left Vietnam, Air America was a federal corporation owned and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. It supported U.S. missions during the Cold War. Often under enemy fire and using outdated equipment without artillery, the organization flew cargo to countries such as Cambodia, Korea, Laos and Vietnam. While operating bases in these countries, it carried out covert and humanitarian missions in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Burma and China. ...

  9. Scholarly life lost in rush for job skills


    As a former university professor, Pope Benedict XVI spoke from experience Aug. 19 when he addressed young university professors in Madrid. He encouraged the professors to resist pressures on the academy to focus on job skills rather than a broader education, which I translate to mean the old ideal of the scholarly life.

    Given the utilitarian approach to education most American universities are embarked on, the pope's speech interested me. The United States needs a Benedict who speaks passionately and often about the true role of professors. ...

  10. American teachers start fighting back


    The nation's public schools are opening, and teachers and their profession are being attacked like never before.

    Teachers are being fired and laid off in greater numbers than ever because of severe budget cuts. Although their unions are facing decertification and collective bargaining is ending in several states, many teachers say the deepest cut is being scapegoated for just about every failing aspect of the nation's schools. ...

  11. We should all serve


    For the second time during his presidency, Barack Obama traveled to Dover Air Force Base to salute the remains of U.S. troops. This time, the remains were those of the 30 troops killed when their helicopter was shot down recently in Afghanistan. The president's words, as they always are at such times, were solemn and full of praise, underscoring the sacrifices and selflessness of the dead warriors and the pain their loved ones suffer. ...

  12. Making an effort to bust up stereotypes


    When I first heard of the recent mass murders in Norway, I assumed, like millions of other people worldwide, that the killer was an outsider of some kind. Upon learning that the suspect is Anders Behring Breivik, I was surprised.

    I had assumed that the killer, who detonated a car bomb and opened fire on a youth camp, was an outsider because, like most people everywhere, I am a prisoner of stereotypes. How could anyone except an outsider commit such a terrible act in peaceful Norway? But the suspect is not an outsider. Instead, he is a good-looking, blond Norwegian who apparently believes that Christian Europe would be better off without Muslims. ...

  13. Closing the book on an old friend


    I love bookstores. I always have loved them. Whenever I visit a town for a day or more, I find the bookstore if there is one. I love bookstores more than I love libraries. The reason is simple: I can walk into a bookstore and walk out the owner of a book or an armful of books. With libraries, you have to return, at an agreed-upon time, whatever you borrow.

    I hate returning books; I want to keep all of them. Many people spend much of their money on their homes, others on their beloved vehicles or pets. I spend a lot of my income on books. For me, to own a book is to own a piece of the world. A book, name your pick, is a glimpse into humankind's place in the universe. ...

  14. No short cuts in long-distance learning


    Distance learning is one of the national rallying cries of Republican politicians and state education officials seeking cheap ways to graduate more students attending public colleges. Community colleges, the old doormats of postsecondary learning that were founded on the sensible notion that anybody who wants an education should be able to get one, are major players in this Web-based instruction movement. ...

  15. The honor of serving on a jury


    I watched no more than five minutes of the Casey Anthony trial. As a father of two and a grandfather of five, I do not have the stomach, or courage, to witness public spectacles involving the death of innocent young children.

    However, one aspect of the trial, which was out of public view, interests me: the jury process. The Anthony trial, like the media-hyped O.J. Simpson trial that also produced a widely unpopular not-guilty verdict, underscores the major virtues of America's jury system and what the system means for justice in the United States. ...