Legivangelists and Others who Praise the Lard

Having grown up in a small town in the deep South during the 1970’s and 80’s, it was not uncommon to view televangelists on weekends, especially when only four or five channels were available to watch. Claims made by these people were seemingly noble and altruistic, but they always asked for money to do God’s work. They wore sharp suits, had fantastic hair, and convinced many that if money was sent, then God’s glory could be delivered.

I will never claim that all televangelists were and are shady. Billy Graham has been an inspiration to many here in North Carolina. My mother read his books and watched his sermons. He never came across as greedy and truly seemed interested in helping people.

But there are some people who seemed to cross a line and used the Lord’s name as a resume builder, a salary raiser, and a policy shaper.

Think about Jim and Tammy Bakker and the PTL Empire. Think about Oral Roberts and his claim that if he didn’t raise enough money that God would take him from the earth. Think about Jimmy Swaggart and his famous admission of infidelity.

I especially remember seeing Ernest Angley (a native North Carolinian) asking for people to touch the television screen so that he could heal people through the air waves. It was fascinating and even I as a young boy would touch the static-laden screen. But one day I asked myself, “If he could do that through the TV, then why couldn’t  Rev. Angley just go down to the local hospital and heal those people for free?” Certainly that would be favorable to God.

From then on, I became understandably more skeptical of those who profess a strong faith but whose actions seemed to alienate the very people who needed the most help.

Claims of helping the poor and those in need seem to have been very profitable for many of these televangelists. It allowed them to raise massive amounts of money and garner enough power to control the emotional and moral compass of many. There is a strong correlation between those televangelists and many that we have in elected office in Raleigh who make the same claims of altruism and preach a common sermon that has raised massive amounts of money to do the great work that needs to be done.

These politicians need a name befitting their purpose in mixing personal politics with evangelical callings; therefore, I submit a new entry into the lexicon of our language: legivangelist.

Legivangelist  – (n.) one who preaches to constituents about how holy his cause is in hopes of obtaining votes in elections  to maintain power over those he claims to help

Ironically, like many of the televangelists of the 80’s and now, legivangelists are being somewhat dishonest about their true intent in helping the poor and trodden. They are singing what Ulysses Everett McGill calls in O Brother, Where Art Thou?  “songs of salvation to salve the souls” to voters. And it is not for the glory of the Lord. It is for the advancement of a political agenda.

Take for instance the Opportunity Grants. Many of these legivangelists told North Carolinians that we needed to help the poor to get a good education. Rather than fully funding public schools and competitively paying qualified teachers, what happened was a voucher system that allows taxpayer money to be diverted to private (ironically mostly religiously affiliated) schools for someone else’s profit.

What was presented as a solution for poor students was really a way to weaken public schools by siphoning money and resources away from where they were originally intended.

Another example is the idea for school choice and charter schools. Legivangelists saw an opportunity to use more tax payer money to finance privately-run charter schools so that all people could have a “God-given” right to choose the school for their students even when that charter school makes a profit and can be selective in its student body and totally bypass regulation and testing.

Again, it is a tactic to present oneself as holy and giving, but in reality it is hurting others (public school students) for a profit of money and/or political power. Charter schools have shown to be less diverse than traditional public schools; they have a highly selective process in building a student body.

The HB2 bill just passed into law was aimed at protecting women and children from certain but nonexistent attack from sexual predators. However, in reality it was nothing more than a scheme to allow for more discriminatory legislation and a power grab over local municipalities. It was using the ruse of protecting our women and children for the sake of politics. In fact, it was using women and children as pawns in an unholy scheme.

When a state has almost one in four children in poverty and facing hunger, homelessness, and uncertainty, real believers in the tenets of Christ do not adhere to exclusionary practices; they attack the source of the problems like income inequality and equitable resources.

When health care costs are rising at vast rates, real believers in the tenets of Christ do not neglect the sick and ill. They certainly would not decide to withhold Medicaid expansion from the very people, especially children, who need it most just to make a political statement.

When coal ash deposits are allowed to poison drinking water sources people, real believers in Christ would not still call for deregulation and not punish those companies involved. Simply changing the criteria for what is considered clean water does not make the water any cleaner for children to drink. That’s like changing the definition of water so that it can be called wine, and none of these legivangelical politicians could ever really change water into wine.

Tears for “repentance” have been shed many times by televangelists with or without gobs of mascara, and people like Jim Bakker were eventually found out and served time in jail or were disgraced in the court of public opinion. There was a judgment day, so to speak, for all of these people who misguided their followers for profit.

However, a judgement day for North Carolina’s legivangelists comes every election cycle when people have the opportunity to vote.

The book of James states (1:27), “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Jesus did not discriminate, God has no grandchildren, and those who profess a true adherence to Christ’s teachings let their actions speak louder than their spun words.

Just watch how they treat all children.

UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation – Teachers and Advanced Degrees

The GOP-led NC legislature’s 2013 decision to end graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers entering the teaching profession was not only misguided, but another wave in the assault on public education here in the Old North State.
I confess there exist numerous studies that have shown that advanced degrees do not correlate with higher test scores and/or higher graduation rates. Even John Hood’s October 2015 op-Ed “Not a matter of degrees” on EdNC.org makes note of these studies. He states:

“Since 1990, scholars have published more than 100 studies in academic journals that tested the relationship between teachers having graduate degrees and some measure of educational success, such as test-score gains or increases in graduation rates. In more than 80 percent of the studies, there was no statistically significant relationship. A few of the studies actually found a negative effect. Only 15 percent produced a positive association.”

Yet, those words do not convince this teacher that having advanced degrees is not beneficial for teachers, students, and schools.
Since 1990, we as a nation have transitioned from Clinton to Bush to Obama; we have survived No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. As a state, we have gone from the Standard Course of Study all the way to Common Core (and its amorphous successor). And we have used several versions of EOCT’s, EOG’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, ABC’s, and AYP’s.
The point is that we have employed so many different barometers of learning utilizing various units of measurements that to actually compare current data on student achievement to historical data becomes almost futile. Even the SAT has changed multiple times since I took it in high school.
However, there is one constant in our classrooms that has provided the glue and mortar for public schools since 1990 and well before that: experienced teachers.
If the North Carolina General Assembly thinks that abolishing the graduate degree pay increases for teachers is a good policy, then it needs to convince North Carolinians that our state does not need veteran teachers who are seasoned with experience. Teachers who seek graduate degrees in education (and/or National Certification) are themselves making a commitment to pursue careers in public education. When the state refuses to give pay bumps for graduate degrees, then the state just ensured that North Carolina will not have as many veteran, experienced teachers in our schools in the near future. Those teachers will not be able to afford to stay in the profession. Yet, we as a state cannot afford to lose them.
Some teachers do not wish to earn graduate degrees simply because of time constraints and financial barriers. Some do not need graduate degrees to feel validated as master teachers, but the choice to further one’s education to advance in a chosen occupation should always remain and be rewarded. And if a teacher believes that it is beneficial to earn an advanced degree, then it can only help the teacher’s performance. Besides, it is an investment made by teachers who wish to remain in the educational field, especially when teachers here in NC still make salaries that rate near the bottom of the national scale. Even Governor McCrory called the recent budget’s influence on teacher salaries “chicken feed” in an episode of NC Spin.
In a report published in Education Week in March, 2015 entitled “New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter”, Stephen Sawchuck recounted findings by Brown University scholars saying:

 

The notion that teachers improve over their first three or so years in the classroom and plateau thereafter is deeply ingrained in K-12 policy discussions, coming up in debate after debate about pay, professional development, and teacher seniority, among other topics.

 

But findings from a handful of recently released studies are raising questions about that proposition. In fact, they suggest the average teacher’s ability to boost student achievement increases for at least the first decade of his or her career—and likely longer.

 

Moreover, teachers’ deepening experience appears to translate into other student benefits as well. One of the new studies, for example, links years on the job to declining rates of student absenteeism.

 

Although the studies raise numerous questions for follow-up, the researchers say it may be time to retire the received—and somewhat counterintuitive—wisdom that teachers can’t or don’t improve much after their first few years on the job.

 

“For some reason, you hear this all the time, from all sorts of people, Bill Gates on down,” said John P. Papay, an assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University, in Providence, R.I. He is the co-author of one of two new studies on the topic. “But teacher quality is not something that’s fixed. It does develop, and if you’re making a decision about a teacher’s career, you should be looking at that dynamic.”

 

This reiterates that we need experienced, veteran teachers – many of whom believe that advanced degrees or even national certification are ways to improve their performance in the classrooms. That is not to say that all teachers who have advanced degrees are better than those who do not. I work with many teachers in my school who have earned just a bachelor’s degree and are master teachers who possess traits I wish to emulate.

 

What many who work on West Jones Street in Raleigh do not mention is that while beginning teachers have seen a big increase in pay, those with more experience have not. In fact, the salary schedule for public school teachers ensures that a teacher who enters the profession today will never make over fifty thousand dollars ever in a year throughout his/her career. That is one major reason we are seeing fewer and fewer teaching candidates in undergraduate education schools here in North Carolina.
Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession. Furthermore, the amount of money it would take to repay the cost of a master’s degree would still take a teacher many years to make on a teacher’s salary, and in most cases that tuition is being paid to public colleges and universities. In essence, many teachers are reinvesting in the very public education system that they serve.
Ironically, not many of those who agree with eliminating graduate degree pay increases argue against that veracity of National Board Certification, which also leads to a pay increase. North Carolina still leads the nation in NBCT’s (National Board Certified Teachers). National certification is defined by a portfolio process which many schools of education emulate in their graduate programs. Additionally, national certification is recognized across the country and its process of validating teacher credentials has rarely been questioned.
But what really seems to be the most incongruous aspect of the argument against graduate degree pay increases is that it totally contradicts the message we send to students in a college and career ready curriculum. If we want students to be life-long learners and contribute to our communities, then where else to better witness that than with our teachers who want to get better at what they do. When students witness a teacher actually going to school (or knowing he/she went back to school), then the impact can be incredible because it means that teachers still “walk the walk” when it comes to furthering an education.
Besides, most all students know that public school teachers do not get into the profession to get rich.
Stuart Egan

Experienced Teacher

West Forsyth High School

My Bruce Springsteen Mixtape for Pat McCrory

Remember the 1980’s when you used to make mix tapes for people? They were the soundtracks for different facets of life. You put them in your cassette player and immersed yourself down a path of memories and emotions where only certain songs could lead you.

When I found out that Bruce Springsteen was cancelling a show in Greensboro to protest HB2, I felt badly for the fans who had tickets, but I also commended The Boss’s stance on discrimination. Then I wondered how Gov. McCrory might have felt knowing that his signing of this bill into law was the reason that so many like Springsteen are looking at North Carolina with such bewilderment and making strong overtures for the repealing of discriminatory laws.

So I made the governor a mixtape of Bruce Springsteen songs that I thought best represented this fictional reality that North Carolina has been thrown into by a fearful few like Pat McCrory.

I even made liner notes for him.

  1. “Better Days” from Lucky Town. This song talks of maybe having “better days” ahead for North Carolina when McCrory became governor. He did win the election with that hope. Wow! How ironic it is to actually have regressed in the last three years.
  2. “Born in the U.S.A.” from Born in the U.S.A. I put this on the mixtape because the possible nominee for president from the political party that McCrory bows to actually was not born in the U.S.A.
  3. “Brilliant Disguise” from Tunnel of Love. As someone who touted his ability to moderate between political ideologies and reach across the aisle, the governor really has been a puppet for the GOP leaders in the General Assembly.
  4. “Down in the Hole” from High Hopes. This song could represent how in three years we have dug ourselves into a hole created by disastrous policies born on West Jones Street. It makes me think that the governor could have vetoed a lot more when he had a chance to.
  5. “Glory Days” from Born in the U.S.A. First of all, it is baseball season. Second of all, it makes people think of a past when conditions were better.
  6. “Hungry Heart” from The River. Not only are there hungry hearts, but hungry people here in North Carolina where over 20% of people live in poverty and almost 25% of children live in poverty.
  7. “My City of Ruins” from The Rising. This song talks of deterioration and desolation that is experienced by many in our state as the needs of the many have been neglected because of the greed of a few.
  8. “One Step Up” from Tunnel of Love. The chorus of the song says, “One step up, two steps back.” No further explanation needed.
  9. “Red-Headed Woman” from MTV’s Plugged: In Concert. I added this one because Springsteen is married to a red-headed lady as I am and both are beautiful women with great voices. Call this a bonus track.
  10. “Souls of the Departed” from Lucky Town. This is a political song that explores social injustice. Think of the Moral Monday movement and the Voter ID law.
  11. “Streets of Philadelphia” from the soundtrack for the movie Philadelphia. Remember this iconic movie? Tom Hanks plays a gay man who happens to have AIDS. He is ostracized because he represents to the establishment someone who is different and therefore should be treated as an inferior. Hanks’s character simply wants to live as he is without being dehumanized. He was also wrongly terminated from his job because of his sexuality. What law in North Carolina does this remind you of?
  12. “This Depression” from Wrecking Ball. This song is amply representative of the lackluster “Carolina Comeback” that the governor has been so eager to talk about.

Songs have such a way to reflect on real life and a poet/singer like Springsteen has done it for years for so many people. So while he may not have performed here in NC for reasons that are valid, his music can still speak to people like the governor.

That is if he only listens.

UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation – Dr. Terry Stoops and Charter Schools

This open letter is written to Dr. Terry Stoops, the Director of Research and Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation, particularly in reference to his March 3, 2016 perspective in EdNC.org entitled “Charter schools are here to stay, so deal with it.”

 

 

Dr, Stoops,
Again, public education is a focal issue in this election cycle, and like you, I am very vigilant in investigating the claims and plans that each candidate and influential body makes concerning the teaching profession.

 

 

I tend to read education op-eds produced by the John Locke Foundation (and its many associated entities) regarding education with great interest because those writings do spur discussion and thought. I also read those same op-eds with great concern, because I find the reasoning and rationale behind many of the arguments to be weak, politically motivated, and built on platitudes.

 

 

However, I read your March 3, 2016 perspective on EdNC.org (“Charter schools are here to stay, so deal with it”) not with just great interest or concern; I read it with great confusion.

 

 

Considering what happened in Haywood County and the closing of Central Elementary School and the reports of fiscal mismanagement coming out of the Charter School Advisory Board meetings, I would have expected more concrete evidence to buttress your claims about charter schools.

 

 

Throughout your perspective you claim that “there is greater knowledge and acceptance of charter schools among North Carolina families, most of whom welcome educational options.” With all of the numbers and statistics you sprinkle throughout your op-ed, you neglect to really show how that could be true. You simply state it and rest on that.

 

 

If you are speaking of options and choices, there are other possibilities that are utilized far more in NC than charter schools. There are private schools, many of which have received taxpayer funds from the Opportunity Grants (that’s a whole other issue), and homeschooling, which encompasses more students in our state than private and charter schools.

 

 

And then there are our traditional public schools, the very institutions our state constitution stipulates that our GOP-led General Assembly must maintain and protect.

 

 

You claim that charter schools create choice for those families who believe that public schools are not servicing their students well. Ironically, your chairman at the John Locke Foundation, John Hood, recently touted our public schools’ success in his February 15th op-ed on EdNC.org (“North Carolina schools ranked seventh”). If our schools are doing so well under these criteria, then why would so many charters need to be created? Just for choice’s sake?

 

 

This past February, I wrote an op-ed for the Winston-Salem Journal (“Defending Public Education”) concerning school choice and the uncontrolled rise of charter schools in North Carolina. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (who homeschools his children) had just attempted to stop a DPI report on charter schools that did not shed a favorable light on the very entities that you (and Lt. Gov. Forest) claim are doing wonderfully. That op-ed stated,

 

 

“The original idea for charter schools was a noble one. Diane Ravitch in Reign of Error states that these schools were designed to seek “out the lowest-performing students, the dropouts, and the disengaged, then ignite their interest in education” in order “to collaborate and share what they had learned with their colleagues and existing schools” (p.13).

 

 

But those noble intentions have been replaced with profit-minded schemes. Many charters abused the lack of oversight and financial cloudiness and did not benefit students. If you followed the debacle surrounding the DPI charter school report this past month and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s effort to squelch it, you might know that the charter schools in North Carolina overall have not performed as advertised. Furthermore, the withdrawal rates of students in privately-run virtual schools in NC is staggering according to the Department of Public Instruction.”

 

 

There are charter schools that do work well within the scope of providing alternate educational approaches not used in public schools. Perhaps a couple you highlighted in your op-ed fit that description. There is one in my hometown of Winston-Salem, the Arts-Based School, which does exactly what charter schools were originally intended to do. But those tend to be more of the exception than the norm.

 

 

The withdrawal of students from NC virtual schools has also been very much in the news of late. Look at the Pilot Virtual Charter Schools Student Information Update published this month. It seems that more and more families are not choosing that option. Yet, Dr. Stoops, in your op-ed, you praise having virtual schools here in NC because they offer options despite their results.

 

 

You define “charter school deserts” as areas that do not have many students serviced by charter schools. Ironically you use a term, “desert”, that many use to describe socio-economic conditions, the most common being “food desert”.

 

 

A desert itself connotes that something is lacking. You do make a great correlation between lack of choices and deserts because a desert may be indicative of a more pressing problem in the regions you talk about, like a symptom of a deeper problem. I would be more concerned with food deserts or economic deserts or cultural deserts than charter deserts. I would be more concerned with the physical, mental, and emotional health of the students and the economic health of those very regions rather than how many charter schools they have.

 

 

And the GOP-led General Assembly can do something about people’s quality of life because that has an impact on student achievement in any school. Just refer back to Mr. Hood’s aforementioned op-ed. He stated,

 

 

“Whenever test scores come out for schools, districts, or states, officials hasten to explain that there are many factors known to shape the results. They are right to do so. The characteristics of the families within which students grow up — household income, parental education, marital status, etc. — clearly affect student performance. Race and ethnicity exhibit statistical correlations with performance, as well, perhaps reflecting not only those family-background variables but also factors such as neighborhood effects, cultural norms, or discrimination.”

 

 

I actually agree with that. Ironically, Mr. Hood retracts a bit from that statement later in his op-ed.

 

 

If the means to obtain the basic needs for families in these “deserts” were provided, then the health of the local public school district may not even be an issue unless there is just a profit-minded motive behind charter school construction. And even if the construction of charter schools in these rural “deserts” were just to create choice, then why do many charter schools detrimentally affect traditional public schools? That’s not creating a choice; that’s removing choice by monopolizing resources.

 

 

Just refer back to the situation in Haywood County and Central Elementary School. When small school districts lose numbers of students to charter schools, they also lose the ability to petition for adequate funds; the financial impact can be overwhelming. That creates an even bigger desert. Talk about your man-made “climate” change.

 

 

And speaking of financial impact, the Summary of Charter School Financial Noncompliance issued on January 28, 2016 lists over 25 charter schools as not complying with laws and regulations concerning finances. Those finances are tax-payer funded and have been taken away from traditional public schools.

 

You conclude your argument with a glossy and baseless claim that the numbers of charter school proponents vastly outnumber those who defend public schools. You state,

 

 

“Without a doubt, school district officials and public school advocacy groups will continue to grouse about the number of students enrolled in charters and the funding that goes with them. But charter school parents, students, employees, and advocates vastly outnumber them and are beginning to find the voice to champion and defend their schools of choice.”

 

 

If that voice to champion their cause has to be enabled with shadowy deregulation, political intervention, and profit minded groups, then that does not represent the true voice of the people. In fact, the withdrawal rates from some of those charter schools listed in the Summary of Charter School Financial Noncompliance report are quite eye-opening. That itself speaks volumes.

 

 

If advocating for public schools (like our state constitution does) in light of this educational landscape is in your view “grousing,” then will I proudly continue to complain, grumble, quibble, bemoan, protest, and quarrel on behalf of our public schools because they are here to stay.
Deal with that.

Uncommon Nonsense and the Common Sense Fallacy

Now that North Carolina’s state government has officially named the red herring as its state fish, it is worth noting that other logical fallacies are at play in the explanation of recent legislation aimed at discriminating the LGBT community.

Allow me to introduce to you the “common sense fallacy”.

A double first cousin of the bandwagon effect (ad populum for you nerds), the common sense fallacy is when someone tries to convince you of some “fact” through the use of baseless logic. Think of it as persuading someone of something by saying that everyone else thinks the same way. It’s very much like the bandwagon effect but you build your own wagon and hire the band to play a bad song you wrote yourself.

Consider these common uses of the common sense fallacy:

“Everyone knows it.”

“It goes without saying.”

“It makes total sense.”

“Even my little sister could understand that.”

“It’s just common sense.”

This rampant use of the common sense fallacy is especially evident in the defense of the new HB2 bill by those who helped push it through a special session of the General Assembly on March 23rd, 2016.

Gov. Pat McCrory calls HB2 a “common sense law.” Lt. Gov. Dan Forest calls HB2 a “common sense” solution. Rep. Paul Stam calls HB2 a “common sense bill.”

However, if the last three years in North Carolina have proven anything it is that many of our elected officials have confused common sense with special interest and political ideologies. What is being marketed by these politicians as common sense really is nothing more than uncommon nonsense.

If HB2 is a “common sense law” as Governor McCrory says, then how common is the support for the law from businesses and industries? Common sense would lead me to ask what companies have gone on the record to support HB2. If there is support from job creating industries as the governor claims, then wouldn’t it be common sense to tell others who they are? Those entities who are against HB2 have been very forthcoming. Even celebrities are voicing opinions against HB2. Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffet are probably writing songs about it, and if they do, I will play them on my bandwagon.

If HB2 is a “common sense law,” then why has the governor had such a hard time coming up with decent answers to common sense questions about his role in its becoming law? Why has he avoided explaining himself when he has had so many opportunities to do so like a real leader would? That’s not common sense; that’s avoidance.

If HB2 was a “common sense solution” as was stated by Lt. Gov. Forest, then what is the problem it is solving? Over 200 cities with similar ordinances to the one Charlotte enacted in the country have reported exactly no violations of sexual predation based on people pretending to be a gender they were not in a public bathroom. Did anyone have the common sense to ask these other towns with similar ordinances if any “problem” had ever arisen that needed a solution of the type that HB2 supposedly offers?

If HB2 was a “common sense bill” as Rep. Stam claims, then then why did it need to be drawn, revised, ratified, and signed into law with an uncommon special session with an even more uncommon time table? If it made so much common sense, then why all of the secrecy? If HB2 is a “common sense bill,” then why does it include the withdrawal of citizens’ rights to file a discrimination suit for job termination in a state court?

H.L. Mencken has been quoted as saying, “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” How appropriate this quote is in this situation.

If you create a problem, you get to control its explanation and even craft a solution. There are enough logical fallacies to use to maybe convince a great many people. However, if the explanation and solution are so totally nonsensical then no logical fallacy can mask them.

HB2 is simply a mean piece of legislation. It goes without saying that even my 8-year old son understands that.

One solution to this ill example of lawmaking is to roll it up as toilet paper and flush it down a public restroom, preferably in Charlotte.

A better solution is to vote people like McCrory and Forest out of office.

And everyone knows that.

 

Gov. McCrory’s Orwellian Freudian Slip

When Pat McCrory began his second gubernatorial election campaign, Charlotte Magazine ran a feature article in its April, 2013 issue entitled “Pat McCrory is the Right’s Man for the Job”. In it, Michael Cooper quoted, “He’s a fan of George Orwell’s 1984.”

In a WRAL profile from January 14, 2008 (McCrory’s first campaign run for governor), 1984 was again listed as a favorite book.

Even a January 12, 2015 profile on the governor by Margaret Duke on EdNC.org, 1984 was listed as McCrory’s favorite book.

Maybe the governor simply enjoys reading dystopian literature, but the connection between his deeply held republican principles of less government intervention in the lives of citizens and the warning of Big Brother watching us at all times is very clear.

Running two gubernatorial campaigns that tout how he will strengthen state’s rights while keeping the federal government at bay resonates with many in North Carolina. The governor has worked in his term to not expand Medicaid. He has been an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act. He has even opposed Common Core, not necessarily because of what standards it offers, but that it has federally mandated features.

Sounds like he is protecting us from Big Brother. It would then make sense that he lists 1984 as a favorite book.

However, I wonder if the governor ever read Orwell’s other great book, Animal Farm. Granted it is a simpler text, but its message is still very strong. If the governor has read 1984 and declared it a favorite book, then one could assume that Animal Farm has been read and its meaning digested.

Animal Farm is an allegorical fable that Eric Blair (George Orwell was his pen name) uses to comment on the rise of Soviet communism, its assault on individual freedoms, and the absolute corruption of those who grab power. In it animals take over a farm from their human owner and immediately set up a utopian society in which all animals are equal. They even come up with a list of commandment for all to abide by. They read as follows.

THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

However, as a few consolidate control of the farm (in this case, pigs), abuses of power occur. Think of it as redistricting of sorts. What happens throughout the book is a rewriting of the commandments. Those who retain power get to write the rules. They also get to rewrite the rules. Think of the Voter ID Act and the HB2 bill that targets the LGBT community among other things.

In Animal Farm, the rules get rewritten so that those in power can get more power. Eventually toward the end of the book the seven commandments read as such:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
    2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
    3. No animal shall wear clothes.
    4. No animal shall sleep in a bed – WITH SHEETS.
    5. No animal shall drink alcohol – TO EXCESS.
    6. No animal shall kill any other animal – WITHOUT CAUSE.
    7. All animals are equal – BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.

These rules and “revisions” of four of those rules are made in secret and through an undemocratic process.

Concentrate on that last commandment – “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” It’s almost like it says, “All citizens of North Carolina are equal, but those who are not LGBT or have an acceptable form of identification to vote are more equal than other North Carolinians.”

Think of a special session that the North Carolina General Assembly recently convened. Now think how great literature truly mimics life. The HB2 Law was brought to the floor, further revised by those in power, and signed by Gov. McCrory within a matter of hours. In the book Animal Farm, newly revised “commandments” were constructed in secret sessions and then introduced under a farce of “protecting the public” and “common sense” without any explanation – in a matter of hours.

The governor’s defense of the HB2 law has been nothing more than smoke and mirrors, avoidance of questions, blaming the media, and red herrings. That just like it was in the book when the pigs in control refused to explain themselves. They were simply more equal.

If asked what your favorite book is, it should be assumed that the book had a profound impact on how you view life. That book may have taught you something that guides your actions and decisions to this very day.

It is not a far-fetched idea for a republican governor of a southern state to pick one of Orwell’s books as a personal favorite in light of his public political ideology and how government can affect lives of people so widely.

But is it not ironic that he and other GOP leaders maybe use another Orwell novel as a playbook on how to seize more power?

I Don’t Believe Bruce Springsteen Will Ever Proctor a Test in North Carolina

The Boss has spoken on HB2. This is for him.

 

Calling all proctors. Calling all proctors. Is there a proctor in the house?

It’s testing season here in North Carolina and the all-calls have been placed by all public schools to recruit enough proctors to watch over our students as they take tests which arbitrarily measure their achievement.

A proctor usually works with a test administrator to make sure that all goes smoothly in the testing process and that all protocols are followed according to instruction. But when the school year is over, testing is usually over. And that means no proctoring for those who may want to continue proctoring for whatever.

Help is on the way. It’s the Public Facilities Privacy and  Security Act, better known as HB2.

Since North Carolina now has a law that requires people to use the public restrooms aligned with their birth gender, there will be a need to check anatomy in public facilities to ensure that the right facilities are used by those with corresponding anatomy.

Therefore, a test must be administered. And if there is a test in North Carolina, there must be a proctor.

Since people must relieve themselves year-round in many public places, there will always be a need for proctors (and administrators) for the gender testing that must be performed in order to comply with the law, especially in Charlotte, which ironically already has the state’s largest public school system (and possibly the most trained proctors).

So why not use those who proctor for tests in schools to proctor for tests in gender monitoring. The training for proctoring a standardized test in schools is really the same training one would need to be a proctor for an ad-hoc gender test in the field. The similarities are striking if not identical. Just look at the requirements for performing the duties of a test proctor.

  • You must be a legal adult of tested gender to perform the duties of proctoring
  • Proctors are needed for every testing session, whether it is for a large group or even a separate setting.
  • You do not have to be a state employee to be a proctor. You could just volunteer. In fact, there are many proctors who just want to help out the neighborhood.
  • If someone gets sick while testing because of the stress, then the proctor can assist that person to a nearby facility (OK, that’s funny).

How serendipitous!

Just look at some of the descriptions used by school systems in recruiting proctors to get volunteers to help with test administration.

Here’s one for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system that ran in the Charlotte Observer on May 7, 2014 (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article9119564.html#storylink=cpy). It says (with quotes remaining anonymous),

The state requires that two adults be present in every classroom where exams occur, mainly to ensure nothing goes wrong, _______ said. Extra volunteer “runners” are also needed in the hallways to escort students to the bathroom.

The task isn’t difficult, mainly just dull. “The tests are extremely long, (proctors) are not supposed to bring anything to read, they can’t have their phone on, or a computer,” she said.

The number of proctors needed varies by school, and the length of most exams is two to four hours, depending on the subject matter, _______ said.
You could simply substitute the type of test administered and see that the training for a test proctor in schools is the same as it is for the HB2 gender check.

 

The state requires that two adults be present in every public bathroom where exams occur, mainly to ensure nothing goes wrong, _______ said. Extra volunteer “runners” are also needed in the areas to escort people to the proper bathroom.

The task isn’t difficult, mainly just dull. “The tests are extremely long, (proctors) are not supposed to bring anything to read, they can’t have their phone on, or a computer,” she said.

The number of proctors needed varies by public facility, and the length of most exams is two to four hours, depending on the subject matter (literally), _______ said.

Here’s a description of duties and training that the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County School System just released on April 6th of this year on the systems website entitled “Proctors, proctors, and more proctors.”

It states,

Before volunteering, proctors receive the training necessary to do the job properly. Often, the training is done in conjunction with the first session as a volunteer. As part the training, proctors learn that, as part of the state’s efforts to make sure that everything is done fairly, proctors have to be careful not to help students with questions or do anything that might suggest to a student that he might want to reconsider an answer.

Proctors need to be at least 18 years old. Because public school students cannot be proctors, high school students aren’t eligible even if they are 18. People don’t serve as proctors in classes where they have relatives.

While serving as a proctor, volunteers are required to turn off their cell phones and other electronic devices.

 

Simply substitute the word “student” with the words “one who is heeding nature’s call” and you see how we have already stockpiled a number of people to do the job.

Ironically, there may be difficulty in being able to staff enough proctors for all of this standardized testing whether it be for school tests or gender tests. That’s probably because many feel that testing so much, be it for student achievement or anatomy, is just a way for insecure people in power to validate their actions.

But I have faith we can overlook principles for personalities.

Because in a state of vast natural resources, we again can prove that our most valuable assets are our people who can rise to the occasion as need calls.

Or maybe squat down to the occasion.

 

Gov. Pat McCrory – My Guilt-Ridden Deadbeat Darth Vader Dad

First, I must say that Gov. Pat McCrory is not my father except maybe in a metaphorical way like in the best of the Star Wars movies, The Empire Strikes Back. Remember that scene? You know the one where Luke has his hand cut off by Darth Vader who then says, “I am your father.” And when the Dark Lord says that he is really trying to lure Luke to the dark side rather than offer an apology.

What I mean by comparing Gov. McCrory to a guilt-ridden deadbeat dad is that he is trying to do too little too late to ameliorate his relationship with teachers in North Carolina for all the wrong reasons.

Ironically, Gov. McCrory actually trained to be a teacher at Catawba College. He even student-taught, but launched a different career with Duke Energy before turning to politics. There are even teachers in his immediate family. He should know the value of public schools and the worth of teachers. He should know that under his administration average teacher pay has dipped to near the bottom in the nation.

It’s like he cut off a hand of the public schools with his legislative light saber and spent three years trying to lure teachers to the dark side with ideas of merit pay and other empty promises.

But something happened to make him want to reconcile with his teachers.

On April 5th at a press conference at Ragsdale High School the governor announced a new education proposal. Lynn Bonner reported in the Charlotte Observer that same evening,

Gov. Pat McCrory presented a package of education spending proposals Tuesday that included a 5 percent average teacher pay raise and bonuses that would average 3.5 percent.

McCrory said that veteran teachers, who got the smallest increases in a 2014 pay plan, would get the bigger bonuses. Teachers with 25 or more years experience would receive $5,000 bonuses; those with less experience would get $1,100 bonuses. Principals would be included in the plan for bonuses.

In the midst of what has happened in the last few years with teachers and teacher pay, this seems like a last ditch effort to please teachers. And there is motive there.

One, there is the incredibly bad press surrounding the governor and the HB2 bill. Not only did the governor sign an egregious bill only 12 hours after it was presented, it caused much backlash around the country. Literally minutes before the governor took to the stage, PayPal announced that it was no longer expanding in Charlotte. It was just another example of how badly HB2 has affected North Carolina.

He had to do something to stop the bleeding like a deadbeat dad who all of a sudden buys a bunch of gifts for the kids he never paid attention to in order to feel better about himself.

Secondly, it is an election year. McCrory knows that teachers vote, and they are large in numbers.

Let me remind you that North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in 66. That means teachers and administrators (and those who are related to them) represent a strong base for most communities.

Again, it’s like a deadbeat dad who all of a sudden shows up and tries to buy his kids’ love. It may ameliorate the situation for a short time for a small few, but it looks more like an election ploy.

I am sure that the governor harbors good intentions. There was also an inkling of good left in Darth Vader. When he took off the mask that the dark side constructed for him in the movie The Return of the Jedi, he did show that he loved his kids. But that also occurred after he had just thrown the emperor into an exploding chasm to end a threat to the rebel alliance.

Maybe when the governor throws the General Assembly off its imperial pedestal (or at least stand up to them), then he may earn some trust of teachers. Maybe it will not appear that he is trying to buy our approval.

But until then, he is another figure on a Death Star on West Jones Street powered by Duke Energy.

Oh, and about those bonuses the governor also mentioned in his press release – just send it to my PayPal account.

North Carolina’s State Fish – the Red Herring

North Carolina has the dogwood as the state flower, the cardinal as the state bird, the plott hound as the state dog, the Fraser Fir as the state Christmas tree, and the emerald as the state gem.

We also have the channel bass (red drum) as the state fish. But that needs to change. I think it should be the red herring because I have seen many more of those these past few years in the Old North State.

Red herring actually is a smoked herring fish, turned brown/red because of curing by salt and the smoking process. But it also refers to the logical fallacy of using something that really is not an important issue to stop people from noticing or thinking about something really important (merriam-webster.com).

This practice of drawing attention away from these really important issues is something that many current members of the North Carolina General Assembly and governor’s administration have done very well.

Example #1 – The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, otherwise known as HB2.

Rep. Tim Moore, LT. Gov. Dan Forest both spoke of the need to “protect our women and children” from the invasive Charlotte city ordinance that would allow transgender people access to the public bathrooms for the gender they identified with.

A special legislative session was called on March 25th in defense of our loved ones in order to pass sweeping discriminatory laws against the LGBT community. So strong they hoped was the scent of the red herring that they also passed two other vital really important pieces of legislation.

The first is the removal of rights for all citizens to bring to state court any discrimination suits against any employer for termination based on factors such as race, gender, sexual identity, etc.

The second is the restriction placed on cities to make private contractors to pay a wage in line with local economy standards. That allows private businesses to bypass local authorities and underpay labor for a higher profit.

So, the red herring allowed the General Assembly to make us think that there was a scourge from which we had to protect our women and children, but really what happened was a power grab for more control by the GOP in Raleigh over local municipalities and removal of rights for all citizens.

That’s a mighty powerful fish.

Example #2 – Voter ID law

When the voter ID law was passed those who sponsored the bill said that it was to protect the election process from voter fraud.

There’s your red herring – voter fraud. Except there was only one (maybe three) documented case of voter fraud in the state that could be used as evidence. That’s right; it’s practically nonexistent. But when a fish smells, it draws attention.

What really was important is that this voter ID law actually hurts voter turnout for many minority voters, many of whom are in rural areas and are from lower income levels. Those same people tend to vote democratic.

So if I wanted to maintain political power in Raleigh as the GOP does, maybe I could keep people who generally vote for the opposing party from actually being able to cast a vote.

Again, a powerful fish.

Example #3 – Removal of teacher tenure for all new teachers in the state of North Carolina

When the GOP grabbed power in the General Assembly along with the inauguration of Gov. McCrory, an onslaught was started against public education. Red herrings were thrown every which way exclaiming that our public schools were failing and that at the root of this problem were bad teachers. Furthermore, a crusade was waged that said that the only way to get rid of bad teachers was to take away their “tenure”.

Well, tenure is really not what many people think it is. It is not ultimate protection for each and every teacher against being terminated. It means that there are due-process rights that a teacher has to protect him or herself from whimsical dismissal. Remember that part of the HB2 legislation that removed rights to file a discrimination suit in state court? That’s a lot like due-process rights being taken away.

What “tenure” actually means is that teachers have the power to advocate for students and schools in the face of legislators who place personalities before principles. That “tenure” is what allows teachers to fight for the very schools they serve for more resources without fear of instant reprisal.

Ironically, all of these examples will and have been challenged in court for their unconstitutionality. HB2 continues to be a lightning-rod topic across the nation and is already starting to economically hurt NC. The voter ID law is in the middle of litigation and teachers who already had tenure were given those due-process rights back by the courts.

Why? Because the scent of the red herring was not strong enough to keep all people from noticing the really important issues?

Possibly.But it’s really because the most powerful scent from a red herring will never be stronger than the smell of bullshit.