“To Seem, Rather Than to Be” – The Motto of the State Superintendent

For years the official state motto for North Carolina has been “Esse quam videri” which is Latin for “To be, rather than to seem.” 

This motto (along with “In God We Trust”) is part of a bill that would have all public schools in North Carolina display such words for all to see. The “In God We Trust” issue is for another argument, but if we were to have “Esse quam videri” prominently displayed in all schools, it would be nice if it really depicted what those in North Carolina’s political system actually abided by, especially the state superintendent who is more than eager to exert full control over the public school system.

Yesterday, teachers were sent an email by the state superintendent over school system emails that is a harsh contradiction to the actual state motto.

July 4th

The text is as follows:


Happy 4th of July.

We are fortunate to live in a country that has a dream named after it. Every student, no matter their background, should be able to work hard and reach their American Dream. Public education is the greatest tool we have to help every child succeed, and you are the most important part of public education.

However you celebrate our nation this Independence Day, please be safe, and know how much America owes to its educators.

Thank you for everything you do and for your service to our state. North Carolina is fortunate to have you.

That short missive is in total contradiction to the state motto of “To be, rather than to seem.” If those words are measured against the actions that Johnson and others in Raleigh have taken to hurt public education, then it seems that the more appropriate motto to attach to them would be “To seem, rather than to be.”

In other words, “Say the right things, but don’t back them up with appropriate actions.”

Johnson mentions the “American Dream” often. It was part of his campaign.  In fact, Johnson’s note to teachers sounds a lot like what he said in an op-ed for EdNC.org in September of 2016.

“We are blessed beyond measure to be citizens of the United States, the only nation ever to have a dream named after it. No matter who you are, your background, your neighborhood, or your race; you should be able to go to school, work hard, and reach your American Dream” ((https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

Yet, has there ever been a time when Johnson has come out and defended the “Dreamers” in our schools from recent actions on immigration? Has Johnson ever come out against policies that keep over 20% of public school students from escaping poverty? In calling public education the “greatest tool” for success, did Johnson back that up with lobbying hard for more funding and more personnel for public schools?

No. The words are there. The actions never have been.

Johnson also tells educators how “important” they are and that NC is “fortunate” to have them. Automatically, many think of May 16th’s march and rally in which almost a fifth of the state’s teaching force came directly to Raleigh. Were they so important that Johnson actually met with them?

No. Just words. No actions.

However, this type of communication is consistent with Johnson’s approach. Face-to-face interaction with teachers and public school officials is not a strong suit for the state superintendent. Actual dialogue with the very people he supposedly leads is his very kryptonite which is totally antithetical to how teachers should be.

And Johnson loves to talk about his teaching “career.”

The typical Johnson way of interacting with public schools has been indirect and hands-off with the hope of not having to accept any responsibility for reality but having enablers craft words and carry out actions on his behalf.

Just ask those 40+ DPI veterans who were forced to leave due to budget cuts that Johnson never fought against and were given notices by HR people and never came face to face with the very person whose experience in education is dwarfed by every individual affected many times over.

Oh, and many of those former DPI employees were helping low-income school systems to accomplish great growth, leading students out of poverty.

To seem, rather than to be.