Open Letter to the Registered Voter Who Believes in Public Schools

Note: I have combed through all of my op-eds, posts, rants, and lists and compiled from them what follows as a last posting to help get people to vote next Tuesday for pro-public education candidates.

The current General Assembly and governor are very scared of public school teachers and those who support them. Without their support in this next election cycle, many candidates for office simply cannot win. That’s why the governor and NCGA have touted so many “band-aid” style electioneering schemes to make them appear pro-public education.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896. Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression. From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded.

And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.

Make no mistake. The GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at New York State and the Opt-Out Movement against standardized testing.  Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”

North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth noting. The list below is not by any means complete, but it paints a clear picture.

  • Removal of due-process rights – This keeps teachers from being able to advocate for schools.
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed – Removed a means for teachers to invest in their profession.
  • Standard 6 – Teacher evaluation protocols are arbitrary at best
  • Push for Merit Pay – Never has worked in education. Besides, all teachers assume duties outside of teaching.
  • “Average” Raises – Average and Actual do not mean the same thing.
  • Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups – specifically NCAE.
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – And many of the tests are made and graded by for-profit entities.
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil – NC still has not approached pre-recession levels.
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes – Teachers are teaching more students and sometimes more class sections.
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System – This actually only shows how poverty affects public education.
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants – Hurts elementary kids the most.
  • Opportunity Grants – A Voucher scheme that profits private and religious schools.
  • Unregulated growth of charter schools – No empirical data shows any improvement in student achievement with charter schools.
  • Virtual Schools – These are hemorrhaging in enrollment.
  • Achievement School Districts – Again, an idea that “profits” only those who take taxpayer money and has no successful track record no matter what state they have been established (lookout Georgia!).
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – We are lacking in numbers to help supply the next generation of teachers for a growing state.
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Another way to discourage bright students from becoming teachers.

So what can be done? Actually lots. And it all starts in the ballot boxes.

Remember, 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 over 65. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system.  And they are strong in numbers. Add to that their supporters. The numbers get bigger.

If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly and governor have done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: “North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight.” If our communities are to recover and thrive, then this trend must stop.

Do your homework and see which candidates truly support our public schools.

Educate yourself, then please vote.


The Greatest Compliment Ever Paid To A Teacher

When a former student sends you a kind email years after he has left your classroom and graduated,

When you receive wedding invitations from former students,

When you are sent a Christmas Card from the family of a former student,

When a former student walks into your classroom just to watch how you still teach,

When you have mementos strewn across the classroom from students of long ago,

When former students send Facebook posts and friend requests after they have grown up,

When a current student who is a younger sibling of a former student says that the family still talks about your class,

When a family asks you to say a few words at a funeral for a former student,

When a former student emails you to ask about what books are on your reading lists,

When a former student ask your advice on a life matter,

When a former student sees you in a grocery store and still addresses you as Mr. XXXX,

When a current student sits in your room to do work because it is a safe place,

When a current student asks you to write a recommendation on their behalf because your words mean something,

When a current student takes another one of your classes,

When your current students have t-shirts made with your face on them to wear on the day of their AP Test,

When a former student sends you a gorilla mask because she still remembers and laughs at the story you told about a gorilla from college,

When current students tell you about plays or concerts they are performing in,

When students want to have their picture taken with you,

When a student and her family see you in a public place they approach and introduce themselves,

When nearly 200 students volunteer for a service project because you asked for help,

When former students send copies of their papers they wrote in college complete with the stellar grade from the professor,

When former students send bound copies of their theses from graduate school,

When you get a Thank You note from a former student years after they graduate,

When former students introduce you to their own children,

Then you have been paid the greatest compliment that a teacher can get.






Chicken Bones, Stickers, and Super Heroes – Musings With Malcolm

When a child is born with Down Syndrome, he is almost certain to have hypotonia, or low muscle tone.

Remember that your muscles control your vocal chords, your ability to digest, and your capacity to cough out foreign objects from your lungs. For Malcolm, it led to rather severe aspiration. Anything he drank, some would get into his lungs and create problems.

The winter after his first birthday we had to take him to the ER several times because of possible pneumonia setting in. And every time he would fight it off. His pediatrician, whom we love, simply told us that he is one tough kid.

There seems to be a pain tolerance he has that I don’t. Ear infections don’t seem to bother him until they are full-blown. Pain doesn’t stop him. He gets that toughness from his mother.

So , I guess that makes him a superhero.

He even has a superhero outfit. It comes complete with a battle golf club.

Heck, he even lets me dress like him as well. I am the side kick. Even you can be one. All you need is a headband, a tie (preferably one made for Father’s Day) and a used dust towel for a cape. Don’t worry, it’s not for flying. It’s for playing the Wii.

So, this morning, my superhero of a boy bites into a buffalo wing thinking it’s a chicken nugget and literally bites through and eats bone. That may not be good.

And since he is still trying to get muscle tone around his vocal chords, we can not really explicitly tell us what happened. All he does is go to Mom and “spit” out what he had in his mouth.

We don’t know what he actually had in his throat or stomach.

So off to the ER.

Brenner’s new ER for pediatric trauma was amazing with him. We got X-rays, got good news about Malcolm’s iron gut, and more importantly got dinosaur stickers. I got one because I am the superhero’s sidekick.

Not much can take a superhero out of action. Sometimes pita chips can slow him down or coffee that is really sweet or an Ice Age movie or a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Everyone has some sort of kryptonite. But no chicken bone was stopping Malcolm.

Plus we had to get home. Important things to do.

The 160 Mile Radius of HB2

160 miles.

Two and ½ hours in a car on the highway if you are barely breaking the speed limit on an interstate.

160 miles is also the radius for the strongest aftershocks for the GOP earthquake called HB2 whose epicenter lies beneath West Jones Street in Raleigh.

This past Friday the newspaper in Roanoke, VA, The Roanoke Times, wrote on their editorial page under the title “Our view: Ballot selfies and other election thoughts” the following:

“Which candidate would do the most to help our local economy? That’s easy. It’s Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, who’s seeking his second four-year term in the November election. We can point to specific and multiple ways he has helped the economy — our economy. North Carolina panicked and made a spectacle of itself by passing HB2, its so-called “bathroom bill.” In response, various companies and even sports leagues pulled events from the state. Three of those have wound up in Salem — the NCAA Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships, as well as the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association football championship. That’s money in the bank for us.

McCrory has given Virginia a competitive advantage in economic development, as well. When the University Economic Development Association recently held its national conference in Roanoke, the keynote speaker highlighted a North Carolina program to encourage partnerships between colleges and companies, as a way help recruit technology companies interested in research and development. The speaker hailed it as a model for other states to follow as they try to build a “knowledge economy.” Then the speaker noted that McCrory had cancelled it. The pro-business audience groaned.

On Monday, a data company picked Richmond as the site for a new office, with 730 jobs. Industry officials said it beat out Charlotte specifically because of HB2.

Feel free to argue all you want which presidential candidate would be best, but it’s clear that Virginia would be best served if North Carolina re-elected McCrory” (

It was not really that satirical. It seems very sincere in some ways.

But, “Wow!”

To be endorsed because of how bad your policies are in your home state and that you are driving jobs and economic development into another state might be one of the strongest remarks ever delivered concerning HB2.

Roanoke is about 160 miles from Raleigh.

Then there was that time this past month when Gov. McCrory’s hometown newspaper The Charlotte Observer openly explained why it was not endorsing the governor for the first time in over 25 years ( It begins,

“The Charlotte Observer’s editorial board has endorsed Republican Pat McCrory in every one of his bids for office since 1991. That includes twice for City Council, seven times for mayor and twice for governor. That streak comes to an end today.

McCrory’s term as North Carolina governor is the ultimate illustration of the Peter Principle: that people are promoted based on their past performance and not the abilities needed for the new role and thus rise to the level of their incompetence. McCrory has certainly done that.”

It is a stinging piece of truth from the town that was first targeted by the “bathroom bill.”

Charlotte is about 160 miles from Raleigh.

Then there was the News & Observer on October 17th which ran full page news ad for a group called the Writers for a Progressive North Carolina who proved the McCrory that on your 60th birthday, you could have your cake and eat it too.

Facebook Cover Photo and Profile Picture Template

The News & Observer is about a 160 second drive from West Jones Street in Raleigh.

The 160 mile radius that surrounds the governor’s mansion engulfs a wide swath of the state. To feel strong aftershocks in places like Roanoke and Charlotte, there’s no telling what the people within 160 miles of Raleigh are feeling. Places like:

  • Greensboro and the rest of the Triad area.
  • Chapel Hill and Durham and the rest of the Triangle area.
  • A Large part of the Charlotte area.
  • Places affected by Hurricane Matthew.
  • Places affected by Duke Energy coal spills.
  • Places affected by bad education policies.
  • A Large part of the border with Virginia.

And to think that this area within the 160 mile radius has the largest amount of voters in the state.

Imagine the aftershock on November 8th.

“If You Grew Up Southern Baptist” – Part of a Somewhat True Story of My Childhood in Greensboro, GA

“Organ Pipes”

Sometimes people do things shunning any consequences just to have a story to tell later in life. This is one of those stories.


A certain church in my hometown regaled in its reputation as having the finest organ in the county. The majestic brass pipes that climbed the eastern sanctuary walls perfectly offset the stained glass windows on the other side. The choir entered through the back of the sanctuary behind the pulpit next to the small partitioned pool used for baptisms on designated Sundays throughout the year. As the organ pumped out melodious hymns, the choir would chime in with the lyrics and the entire sanctuary was filled with a heavenly rhythm. Until….

One day Ralph and I were sneaking around the inner fixtures of the church during a break from youth activities on a spring Sunday evening. Innocently enough, we found a way into the mysterious “Pipe Room” and ultimately a world of mischief.

Each pipe’s bottleneck had a specifically weighted governor that controlled the amount of air that passed to create a specific tune much like the tautness of a piano string for a specific string. We thought, “Hey! What if we…?” Yep, we began to switch the governors between the organ pipes, a Middle C for a Treble Clef, a big one for a small one. Innocent enough, right?

Before the youth group reconvened for the Youth Supper we slipped back out of the Pipe Room and innocently meandered back to the Fellowship Hall. No harm, no foul.

That evening’s service was not normal to begin with, and it was odd that the prologue of the service was conducted with the piano only added to the foreboding atmosphere. The small choir moved to its place and the opening invocation given. And then God revealed himself in a mysterious way.

The pastor offered another prayer and the music director instructed the congregation. “Please turn to Hymn 47, How Great Thou Art. 1st, 2nd, and 4th verses.” No one stands for the singing until summoned by the music director. The chorus of the song is musically introduced by the piano while everyone turns to the appropriate page. The organ chimed in as the people began to rise and sing.

What emanated from the pipes was not heavenly at all. I can still see the older members of the church cringing their faces like babies who had just tasted lemon concentrate. It sounded like a statically charged AM radio station broadcasting a group of penguins that had been gargling with rusty razor blades.

And no one knew what to do. People were singing half-mumbled words. One eye would be on the text, the other surveying the congregation for direction on how to proceed. The piano continued faithfully, but it still sounded like a cacophony of hoarse sirens or a group of second-tier chorus angels who didn’t make the touring cherub choir. It was like a musical version of the marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Now the organ player was actually my current math teacher and any experienced teacher knows her students, in and out of the classroom. Also, most Baptist organ players utilize a rear view mirror to ascertain when to play the Doxology after the deacons gather; she was looking for demons. She positioned the mirror to locate the youth section where the younger people like me sat for the service. But the eyes the reflected in the mirror were not human; they were otherworldly. And they were looking directly at me. A sort of Judgment Day, but at the wrong “gate.”

The confusion at this tower of Babel continued and I quickly feigned a prayer of absolution hoping that the look on my face mimicked someone sincerely taken aback by the confusion. The preacher walked to the podium and sang loudly to continue the hymn. The music director motioned to the mathematical organ player to stop playing, leaving the piano player to offer the final two verses some sort of salvation.

No one ever confronted me about those events, and I do fell as if I have been forgiven. But I do remember a great amount of math homework for many days.

A Thank You Letter For My Wife – Happy Anniversary

As I write this, my wife is still sleeping, getting much needed rest because when Malcolm gets up in the middle of the night (which is frequent) she usually settles him down. So I wanted to jot a few words that could never really approach an accurate measure of the gratitude I have that I am married to her.

There was a teacher where I first taught who gave me possibly the greatest advice about marriage. This beautifully cynic man told me that make sure that if I ever got married that my wife and I are very good friends.

Sounds a bit cliche possibly to someone who might be caught up in the romance of being in love, but he was so right. And I feel fortunate that the woman I married is my best friend.

Tomorrow my wife and I celebrate our 19th anniversary. And while I can wax poetic about love, commitment, romance, and other things that people associate with married couples, I want to thank my wife for the things that keep me glued to her, the small things that define why the man I see in the mirror today – despite the graying hair, the winkles developing, and the cheeks a little heavier – is a better man than he was 19 years ago.


“Thank you for your selfless honesty and having the guts to tell me things that are uncomfortable because I needed to hear them.

Thank you for smiling at me from across the room in a crowd of people to let me know that you still know I am there.

Thank you for being the first person I want to call to talk about a personal victory that might be small in the eyes of others, but monumental to me.

Thank you for being the first person I want to be my partner in a Trivial Pursuit game because you’re wickedly smart and so easy on my eyes and ears.

Thank you for being the last person I want to play Scrabble against because you’re wickedly smart and your vocabulary is tremendous.

Thank you for asking tough questions that force me to look for real answers.

Thank you for telling me the truth.

Thank you for telling me that every man that our daughter may think about dating, she will compare to me first and how that constantly reminds me of my role as a father.

Thank you for being a voracious reader and helping me litter our house with books because now both our children love books.

Thank you for always having the best gift ideas because it teaches me that thinking of others is not a temporary action.

Thank you for telling me to eat better and not eat in the middle of the night.

Thank you for telling me to go to the doctor when I don’t want to go.

Thank you for not reading my mind, but knowing me so well that you can read my face.

Thank you for challenging me in being a better father for our kids through actions and paying closer attention.

Thank you for finding so much in life to laugh at and with.

Thank you for your relentless pursuit in making life better for our family and especially our kids.

Thank you for always giving honest answers to our children’s questions.

Thank you for your sense of humor. You are funnier than you think.

Thank you for always calling at the right time.

Thank you for being the most selfless person I know.

And thank you for making me want to be a better man, not because of some expectation that you may have of me, but because I want to become a better man.

And you still are a stunning looking woman with a vicious smile, a wicked intellect, a contagious laugh who shows me more patience than I deserve.

And I love you for so much more than that.

So, I am going to go and make some fresh coffee for when you wake up. You always do the same for me.

Happy anniversary.”





The Graveyard Vote Has Already Cast Their Ballots

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.”

  • Opening lines of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

“Bob Marley was dead. There is no doubt that his music lives on.”

  • I just quoted that from my head.


Donald Trump’s assertion that the election is rigged (if he loses) has unleashed a plethora of conspiracy theories, some of which have given rise to extremists actually touting that they will be doing their own patrolling of voting precincts to report any suspicious activity.

One of the ways that the election is supposed to be hijacked is through the use of the Graveyard Vote, having people registered to vote who are deceased and having a political operative cast a vote in their place for the offending candidate.

Interesting to think of dead people voting or even speaking up about the current election, but in a way the dead do talk and the words they have said before still vibrate our ear drums.

I can hear my PaPa from the grave talking about how the republican nominee in the current presidential election doesn’t even resemble the Republican Party that he so adamantly supported in his life. The man had more autographed pictures of “The Gipper” than he had pictures of his own grandchildren and that man loved his grandchildren. I know he would not in any way shape or fashion have supported Trump.

Talking of Reagan, he was the one who said what is now called “The Eleventh Commandment” with the following in his 1990 autobiography,

“The personal attacks against me during the primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It’s a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.”

Personally, I think Reagan would slap the shit out of Trump. Yet, that is another matter. But to think that his Vice-President said that he would vote for Hillary speaks volumes as well.

The Pew Center has said that there are as many as 1.8 million active voters in the United States. There was even a political cartoon concerning the matter this past week that suggests the Graveyard Vote will be very active on behalf of the Democrats.


Pretty good, huh? Raven and all for a little Poe allusion. The chicken adds a little, but the raven!

Well, it would be rather inconceivable to think that the election would be close enough to actually think that 1.8 million dead voters could sway the election, but think about it – the dead still have much to say.

I think of a passage in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, not because we only have 60-something shopping days left, but because it seems pertinent to the current political landscape.

It comes after Jacob Marley comes back to talk with the miserly and self absorbent Donald, excuse me, Ebenezer Scrooge. He warns him that he will be haunted that night: the Ghost(s) of Christmas Past in the form of a dozen ladies who have come forward with accusations of sexual assault; the Ghost of Christmas Present in the form of a large apparition with a wicked comb over; and the Ghost of Christmas Future in the form of a Fox News commentator conceding the presidential election to Hillary Clinton.


Sorry got out of hand there.

But Dickens does relate in the first chapter of the holiday classic,

“The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever.”

It’s the suggestion that all of these haunted spirits were so clearly wanting to “to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever.” But if they could vote, it seems that they would then want to cast their vote for the greater good in society, and not just in America.

If the dead could truly vote, they would do so with the knowledge beyond our mortal scopes. Perhaps, like Marley, they could foresee events to come if certain actions do not change. And maybe their votes would reflect their wanting to interfere for the greater good. In that case, I know where the Graveyard Vote will go.

And finally on to another Marley, maybe Jacob Marley’s very distant cousin, Bob Marley. He said,

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”

Truly words that live beyond the grave.

“Give Me My Damn Bowl Back!” And Other Things Said By Jilted People

“Give us the bowl back.”
These five sternly crafted words seem to be the best that our N.C. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla can muster in dealing with PayPal’s decision not to expand in North Carolina in response to HB2.

The Charlotte Observer’s Katherine Peralta reported on Oct. 24th in a story entitled “Jilted NC to PayPal: Give us our stuff back” Skvarla stating,

We reached out to them and said, ‘Give us the bowl back.’ That is a North Carolina artifact from the North Carolina state capitol made by North Carolina artisans for companies that are coming into North Carolina.

“We got it back, gave it to a charity auction, and they raised money that is for the benefit of the state capitol.”

“Jilted.” Great word.

Sounds as if a “jilted” groom-to-be was left at the altar because he openly bashed the family of the bride at the rehearsal dinner in a discriminatory manner, and then asked for a gift that’s not the ring back from the bride-to-have-been. Maybe it’s a necklace or a pendant.

But the ironic thing here is that the bowl was then given to a charity auction that raised money for the benefit of the state capitol. Maybe that money can be used to help create more gifts to give to companies that may not be expanding in NC because of HB2.

I am also sure that the amount of money raised from the auctioning of the bowl is equal to the amount of revenue lost by the state because of the HB2 bill in the first place. Even the state capitol would have benefitted greatly from the 450 jobs that PayPal would have brought through taxes alone on the salaries of the workers.

Besides, that money should have gone to Charlotte for the loss of the revenue in their local economy.

In the same edition of the Charlotte Observer, Peralta had another report entitled “HB2 ‘hasn’t moved the needle’ on NC’s economy, Commerce Secretary says” that states,

Major sporting events like the NBA All-Star Game have pulled out of North Carolina over House Bill 2, and prominent business leaders have criticized the bill for damaging the state’s economy. But state Commerce Secretary John Skvarla says the bill’s business impact isn’t anything to worry about.

“It hasn’t moved the needle one iota,” Skvarla told the Observer Monday during a visit to Charter Communications’ training center in Matthews.

North Carolina is in the “best position” it’s ever been in, financially and operationally, Skvarla added, citing the state’s taxes, regulation, quality of life, workforce and environment that make it an attractive place for companies to relocate.

“PayPal wasn’t even a grain of sand on the beach,” he said. “It was 400 call center jobs over five years. Much too much is being made of PayPal.” 

It sounds convenient for an appointee for the governor to say that HB2 has not had an effect on NC’s economy. However, if would be believable if it was being said by other business leaders, especially in Greensboro and Charlotte.

Maybe Skvarla should demand that the NCAA and the NBA send something back to auction to help offset the monetary loss of their removal of games. I can see an auction of basketballs, footballs, and other athletic gear garnering enough money to cover the hundreds of millions of dollars that has been lost just from pulling championship games from NC.

But there is the matter with the bowl. What should have been done with the returned bowl is not to auction it off, but put it to good use. If over 340 bowls were made and many remain in the hands of the governor’s office, then they all should be put to good use.

Last week it was revealed that there was more coal ash spilled into NC rivers after the flloding from Hurricane Matthew.

WUNC reported on Oct. 21st ( in “Did coal ash spill during Matthew flooding?” that,

Environmental activists say they have proof of a coal ash leak into North Carolina’s Neuse River during the flooding after Hurricane Matthew, but Duke Energy says the substance visible on the water is not coal ash and is not toxic.

Pete Harrison of the Waterkeeper Alliance has been collecting evidence along the river near three inactive coal ash pits at the HF Lee Steam Plant in Goldsboro, where a white, powdery substance coats trees and still waters near the river’s banks.

“I think what this shows us is it’s inherently dangerous to store coal ash in unlined pits in the flood zones of major rivers,” Harrison says.

The toxicity of such coal ash has not been determined. But why is it there in the first place?

Maybe the returned bowl and its siblings that still reside here in North Carolina can be used by the governor and other Duke execs who have skirted punishment for harming the environment.

They should go and scoop up every bit of the contaminated water and properly dispose of it.

Seems only fair, right?

And then, if you need more bowls to give away, make them from the trees that died on the edge of the contaminated rivers affected by the coal ash spills over the last few years.

Those gifts might be more indicative of what has happened in North Carolina.






When a Teacher Plagiarizes

I have made the assertion that there are people that I have plagiarized in my life. There’s my uncle Mike, who was a teacher like I am now. There was Ed who we lost this past year whose life will always be a living example of what I try and do. Both men have/had something I wanted and wore life the way I want to wear it. So, I copied them. And they let me.

But that is not the type of plagiarism that I am talking of in this post.

To “plagiarize” someone’s actions and traits is simply emulating those people – doing what they do in life situations, acting as they would act, prioritizing as they would, and proactively acting on situations as they would.

There are artists and athletes who idolize and emulate practices that their heroes have done in the past. It’s a form of respect and admiration.

But I want to talk about plagiarism in its denotative sense.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary gives the simple definition of plagiarism as:

“: the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person : the act of plagiarizing something.”

“Words” or “Ideas.” Passing them off as your own.

Vanilla Ice will forever be associated with a “hit song” that literally lifted a bass line from a collaborative effort from Queen and David Bowie, both legends in musical arts. “Ice, Ice, Baby” still plays every so often on the radio and when I hear it, I think of what an interesting tool it is to teach students about plagiarism. That, and it’s stupid to infringe on the work of icons who literally span generations with their art.

What Vanilla Ice did and what Robin Thicke was found guilty of recently is called copyright infringement. It is nothing more than plagiarism – taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own.

Plagiarism might one of the worst offenses a professional can commit in many fields, especially if it deals with writing, research, or education.

Imagine if a journalist, novelist, speechwriter, speaker (Melania Trump), or any other professional who uses words for a living were caught intentionally plagiarizing. It could be the death knell for a career.

But for the case of a high school teacher, conscious plagiarizing can be even more egregious.

And there are reasons why and it has to do with the role of a high school teacher and the state of respect that is afforded to high school teachers in general in today’s society.

If a student commits an act of academic infringement on a paper or simply “copy and pastes” an assignment from a website or another source without giving credit, the punishment can be quick and severe.

  • A “0” for the assignment.
  • Suspension
  • Revocation of a recommendation to the student’s top college selection.
  • A reputation.
  • A spot on a record that can be checked.
  • Loss of trust.
  • Class rank loss.

There are even instances when the student has committed academic infringement and another student, jealous of the offending student’s recent acceptance to a college, calls the college and gives the admissions board a tip to check.

Get caught plagiarizing in college and you are expelled. No refunds.

Yes, it’s happened. There exists that kind of competition in high schools, the same competition that may tempt a student to get “help” from someplace else.

But if a teacher does this type of action then much worse can result because it is not an infringement that occurred; it’s a besmirching of a profession that not only takes extreme pride in the pursuit of intellectual honesty, but promotes that very same honesty and integrity in students and their work. In fact, the profession calls for teachers to expect that intellectual honesty from students.

We as teachers must practice that intellectual honesty because we are setting a standard for students to emulate (or “plagiarize” in a way) in the future.

To commit conscious plagiarism is giving students the very permission to do the same because an example has been set. And it undermines the integrity of the profession and the very teachers who spend enormous amounts of time making sure they are grading and helping students create better ORIGINAL works.

When a teacher plagiarizes someone else’s work and words it also works against the respect that today’s teachers are fighting so hard to gain and maintain. There is an election in less than three weeks that literally can change the terrain for public education and create a change in momentum for how the public respects teachers.

An instance of plagiarism by a teacher does not help this one bit, especially if it was done intentionally with deliberate tactics for a large audience who may be deciding on whom to vote.

Simply put, it weakens a profession.

And angers me to no end.