About That Guest Column Today in the Winston-Salem Journal – Concerning “Intellectual Dishonesty”

Nothing is ours but our language, our phrasing. If a man takes that from me (knowingly, purposely) he is a thief. If he takes it unconsciously–snaking it out of some old secluded corner of his memory, and mistaking it for a new birth instead of a mummy — he is no thief, and no man has a case against him.

Mark Twain,  Letter to Robert Burdette, circa April 19, 1890

I read with great interest the guest column in the October 22nd Winston-Salem Journal entitled “What McCrory has done for North Carolina.” You may read it here – http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/maurice-atwood-what-mccrory-has-done-for-north-carolina/article_78cb1927-7292-5b7d-b24d-af306a621fb5.html.

(NOTE: The article has been taken down from the WSJ site. A Copy can be found here – maurice-atwood_-what-mccrory-has-done-for-north-carolina-winston-salem-journal_-columnists).

And while it begins with a famous quote from Winston Churchill concerning “incontrovertible truth,” there were points argued by the guest columnist that could be flushed out more cleanly and would very much validate Mark Twain’s quote above. That will be left for another time.

Here is Winston Churchill’s full quote that the guest columnist starts his op-ed with and supposedly frames his argument around – truth.

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
But the purpose of this particular response is not to combat the article’s arguments in the guest column. It is to examine the meaning of truth and how it is supposedly delivered. If you read the article, I invite you to focus on the last paragraph because how the guest columnist ended the column really struck a nerve with me. It starts with “Let’s choose facts.”

Ironically, Winston Churchill was a journalist at one time. He even won the Nobel Prize for Literature later in his life. He was very keen on his choice and use of words.

It’s interesting how the guest columnist ends this concluding paragraph with “Suggesting anything other than these truths is being intellectually dishonest.” That’s a strong suggestion and supposes that anyone who would counteract the supposed truths in his op-ed would be “intellectually dishonest.” If that is the case, then I am an intellectually dishonest person because I can refute each of these points that are considered truth by the guest columnist.

Actually, I believe that makes me intellectually honest in my opinion. The person who is being “intellectually dishonest” is not me or anyone else who has challenged the governor or the GOP’s educational agenda, but the guest columnist himself.

Why? Because the guest column is largely plagiarized from another source. Actually more than half is lifted word for word from Rep. Craig Horn’s “Stop the Spin” posting from September 4th on his website, www.craighorn.com/?cat=3.

Here is a screen shot.

Craig Horn.png

And below is the text of the posting. You may compare it to the guest column in question and find a high rate of plagiarism, a sin that Winston Churchill would have abhorred and that is probably one of the greatest offenses in “intellectual dishonesty.”
Election season, or the Silly Season as it is known by many, is again upon us. It may be useless to bring some common sense into the picture, but let’s try.


In 2011, this state was nearly $3 billion overspent. Personal Income Taxes, Corporate Income Taxes and gasoline taxes were the highest in the Southeast and among the highest in the nation. North Carolina could not borrow money, our credit card was over the limit and we owed the Feds billions of dollars for money borrowed to sustain an under-performing system.


Over the last four years, Governor McCrory and the General Assembly have paid off those debts to the Feds, reduced personal and corporate income taxes to be among the lowest in the region, reduced and capped the gas tax AND added over a billion dollars to education funding in this state.
Before committing millions of dollars to teacher raises, Governor McCrory met with teachers and superintendents across this state who were clear that we must raise teacher salaries dramatically. And, they told us all that we must start with our newest teachers first or we will never be able to rebuild our base.


Over the last two years, North Carolina has implemented the largest teacher pay increase in the nation. We have also firmed up teachers’ benefit package which is now worth about $16,000 per year for every teacher in this state. Furthermore, contrary to what some teacher’s groups purport, NO benefits have been removed for new teachers, longevity pay was NOT taken away from veteran teachers, textbook funding has tripled during this administration and $97 million has been leveraged in federal and state funding to connect all schools to a robust Wi-Fi system by 2018.


In addition, graduation rates are at an all-time high and drop-out rates are at an all-time low. “Education Next” magazine now ranks North Carolina among the top K-12 schools in the nation for rigor and “Wallethub,” the online personal finance blog, has moved North Carolina into the top twenty in the nation for education quality and security.


There is more. We have stabilized the tuition costs for a 4- or 5-year degree by fixing tuition at all public universities so that students and parents can reliably plan ahead for these costs. And capping fee increases at no more than 3% a year. Our 58 Community Colleges are moving to an outcome-based education model and our Independent Colleges and Universities are helping to fill the void for the many needs-based scholarship students.


So what about the naysayers that just cannot stand for North Carolina to prosper and are desperate for bad news? Those folks keep saying, “It’s Not Enough!” Well, how much is enough? Consider that a teacher entering his 10th year of teaching has realized a 21% salary increase since Governor McCrory entered office; a teacher in his or her 19th year of teaching has seen a 15.5% increase.


Actually, we agree that we need to “Keep Pounding” and ensure that every teacher is prepared, supported and rewarded for their efforts and for improved student outcomes. And we need to complete the transition to the digital education environment. That prepares every student in our state for the demands of the twenty-first century job market. But, to ignore what has been accomplished thus far is dishonest and prevents real conversations about necessary school reform from taking place.


As our state continues to grow, we will need to attract more teachers to the classroom as well as retain and support our experienced teachers and principals. Their guidance and experience is critical to our future success. They too deserve more pay and they need to extend their hand of welcome and support to our newest educators.


Winston Churchill once said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” These words of Churchill stand in stark contrast to the words that are preached on the other side of the political divide regarding education in North Carolina. If people simply looked a bit deeper at what the naysayers espouse, it would be ver obvious that much has been accomplished in a short amount of time.


We can choose ignorance and thus succumb to believing lies, but we know where that leads us. The truth is incontrovertible. When we can work together in a spirit of respect and understanding, we can climb to amazing heights and make life better for everyone.
The choice, as well as the responsibility, lies within each one of us.


By:
D. Craig Horn
Representative, District 68
North Carolina General Assembly

Merriam-Webster’s online simple definition of plagiarism is “the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person : the act of plagiarizing something.

Sounds like “intellectual dishonesty” to me.

The Winston-Salem Journal probably has a circulation of print and electronic media nearing maybe 200,000 readers. To present another person’s work (and half-truths in my opinion) is the very definition of intellectual dishonesty. To do it openly and deliberately for that many readers is egregious.

In truth, Rep. Horn’s “Stop the Spin” posting is not intellectually sound. It’s simply just a piece of political propaganda.

And I will post an intellectually honest answer to it soon after this posting.

Open Letter to Mark Johnson, Candidate for State Supertintendent, Concerning Remarks on Poverty and Student Preparedness

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I read with great interest your essay posted on EdNC.org entitled “Our American Dream” on September 7th. Because you are a member of the school board from my own district and the republican nominee for State Superintendent, I was eager to read/see/hear what might distinguish you from Dr. Atkinson.

I agree that there is a lot to be done to help cure what ails our public education system, and I agree that we should not be reliant on so many tests in order that teachers can do what they are trained to do – teach. I also positively reacted to your stance on allowing local school boards to have more say in how assessment portfolios are conducted and focusing more resources on reading instruction in elementary grades.

However, I did not read much else that gives me as a voter the immediate impetus to rely on you to lead our public schools, specifically your words on student preparedness, the role of poverty, and school funding. In fact, many of the things you say about the current state of education in this op-ed make you seem more like a politician trying to win a race rather than becoming a statewide instructional leader.

You opening paragraph seems to set a tone of blame. You stated,

“Politicians, bureaucrats, and activists are quick to proffer that public education is under assault in North Carolina. They angrily allege attacks on the teaching profession; furiously fight against school choice; and petulantly push back against real reform for our education system. But why is there no comparable outrage that last June, thousands of high school seniors received diplomas despite being woefully unprepared for college or the workforce?”

In truth, many politicians and bureaucrats have engaged in attacks on the public school system and its teachers. Just look at the unregulated growth of charter schools, the rise of Opportunity Grants, and the creation of an ASD district. Look at the removal of due-process rights and graduate pay for new teachers.

Not only am I a teacher, but I am a parent of two children in public schools, a voter in local school board elections, and an activist. I have fought against school choice as it has been defined on West Jones Street with Opportunity Grants and charter schools because it has come at the expense of traditional public schools that still teach a vast majority of our kids.

And I would like to hear what you think real reforms are. Your op-ed would have been a great place to outline (not just mention) some of those reforms.

But your last sentence in that opening paragraph (“But why…), I believe, shows a disconnect between what you believe to be happening and what the truth is.

This past June I wrote an op-ed for EdNC.org entitled “Zero to Fifty” (https://www.ednc.org/2016/06/15/zero-to-fifty/  ) about the policy of some school systems like the one you serve to mandate that students not receive a mark below “50” for a quarter grade no matter their performance in class. A student may never turn in work or refuse to participate, but he/she is guaranteed a “50” as a final grade for a quarter as stipulated by the local school board. That means that you are partly responsible for the very condition you bemoan, especially when you say, “This upsetting list goes on and on while North Carolina education leaders brag that 86 percent of students receive a diploma.”

When the “0 to 50” rule went into effect, it was coupled with the state’s own statute that all schools have a ten-point grading scale. That means that of all of the possible grades a student could receive as a final grade (50 scores points), only 10 of them were failing grades. In essence, the system that you represented on a local level pretty much told teachers that they had to pass students who may have been “woefully unprepared”.

And believe me, we teachers were screaming about it. You could even call it “comparable outrage.”

You also stated, “The education establishment and its political allies have one answer that they have pushed for the past 40 years – more money for more of the same.” First, I need for you to define “same.” In the years I have been in NC, I have been through many curriculum standards, evaluation systems, pay scales, NCLB, Race to the Top, etc. Secondly, who is the educational establishment? The people I see dictate policy in schools on West Jones Street certainly are not the same people who were crafting policy ten years ago. And less than fifteen years ago, North Carolina was considered the best, most progressive public school system in the Southeast. Is that part of the “same” you are referring to?

You also state that “nearly half of all those graduates fail to meet a single readiness benchmark on the ACT, almost half of all graduates who go to community college need to take remedial courses, and many employers say they can’t find good candidates due to a “lack of education credentials.”

Using the ACT might not be the best benchmark for student achievement. North Carolina is one of only thirteen states that requires all students (EC, LEP, etc.) to take that exam which has no impact on their transcripts, provides no feedback in its scores on how to improve student achievement, and is administered on a school day in which other activities and classes take place. Most states only have paying students take the ACT on a Saturday; those students have an investment in the results, hence higher scores.

I agree that “most teachers and school leaders work tirelessly for their students despite the challenges.” But as a teacher I cannot really give credit to lawmakers in Raleigh for seeking much-needed, overdue raises for them. Those “historic” raises are not what they really appear to be, especially in light of countless rebuttals to the contrary such as this from your hometown paper – http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/stuart-egan-about-those-teacher-salaries-and-raises/article_556420c9-9f7e-5a7b-a7d6-35b8a91e484d.html .

You go on to say,

“But no matter what we pay our educators, the system in which they teach is broken. Until we confront this fact, we limit the potential of our teachers and, sadly, of our students. Ask any educator about how much time they are forced to stop teaching and focus on testing at the command of the NC Department of Public Instruction.”

Placing the entirety of blame in this instance on DPI seems a little narrow-minded. What I hear a lot of teachers talk about are actions done by the legislature such as:

  • Elimination of due process rights for new teachers
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil now than before 2008
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Incorporated the Jeb Bush School Grading System that really just shows the effects of poverty
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Expanding Opportunity Grants
  • Uncontrolled Charter School Growth
  • Virtual Schools Run By For-Profit Companies
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

Are you willing to confront those people on West Jones Street?

And speaking of that Jeb Bush School grading system that NC incorporated to designate school performance grades, they really highlight the issue of poverty you allude to in your op-ed. Specifically, you said, “The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty.” I would argue that addressing poverty outside of class would help students inside of class as much if not more.

What the state proved with this grading system is that it is ignoring the very students who need the most help—not just in the classroom, but with basic needs such as early childhood programs and health care accessibility. These performance grades also show that schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction are more successful, a fact lawmakers willfully ignore when it comes to funding our schools to avoid overcrowding.

Take a look at the following data maps available on EdNC.org’s Data Dashboard. The first shows a distribution of the school performance grades from 2014-2015. The second shows the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches.

map1

map2

If you superimpose them upon each other you will see the strong correlation between poverty and school performance.

Education can help pull people out of poverty. I will not argue that, but attacking poverty at its root sources will do so much to help education because it is a “moral obligation.”

I do not think that what you describe is the fault of the education system alone, and your experience at West Charlotte High School is not unique. Teachers who have taught much longer than your two year tenure, who have taught longer than you have been alive, who trained to be a teacher longer than you were a teacher, who have experienced procedure changes, changes in leadership, changes in curriculum, changes in salaries, and other seismic shifts in policy will probably affirm the idea that schools are a mirror of the society it serves. Other problems exist that education alone cannot remedy, especially when you suggest that we not spend more money.

So, I do agree that “many different challenges face us,” but I cannot “acknowledge the truth that our public education system needs to be transformed” totally when I believe as a veteran teacher that we need to transform our commitment to public education and prioritize that commitment first.

 

 

What is a Turd’oeuvre? Well It Has Something to do With A Plagiarized Letter To The Editor

Caution: I cuss in this one. Not too bad, but it might offend your olfactory nerves.

I was fortunate to have an op-ed printed in the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “About those teacher slaries and raises…” – http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/stuart-egan-about-those-teacher-salaries-and-raises/article_556420c9-9f7e-5a7b-a7d6-35b8a91e484d.html.

Ironically, in the same edition of the paper (August 26th) there was a Letter to the Editor from a lady named Kristian Krawford entitled “Credit where credit I due”. It is below –

“Gov. Pat McCrory deserves credit where credit is due, and his latest ad hits the issue that is most important in the future. When it comes to average teacher pay, North Carolina has raised teacher pay faster than any other state and the average teacher pay plus benefits will be above $50,000 for the first time in state history.

A recent study by the 1889 Institute, which analyzed teacher pay and benefits against a state’s cost of living, North Carolina actually ranks 29th, and that’s before the raises from this year’s budget go into effect. Education funding has increased substantially. North Carolina’s school system was ranked as 19th in the nation and our high-school graduation rate is at an all-time high. Under McCrory’s leadership, the state is 10th in the country for investment in education.

That being said, there is still work to be done. There is no reason we can’t be top 10 in the country for all. This is where the difference lies: Attorney General Roy Cooper, if elected governor, would take more money out of everyone’s pockets, grow state government and drag the state backward to accomplish what Gov. McCrory has done to move us forward with responsible fiscal policies. I am happy to cast my vote for Gov. McCrory this November (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/the-readers-forum-friday-letters/article_d79e0104-d993-5628-abc7-ac188d04b6a9.html).”

She bought McCrory’s ad – hook, line, and sinker. She has that right. In fact, she has the right to write about it because she has the right to be wrong.

In some ways I am grateful that on the opposite page of her LTE (Letter to Editor) was my explanation as a teacher in a public school in North Carolina that McCrory’s ad is misleading.

She’s right – we have raised average teacher pay more than any state. She fell for the “average bear” fallacy. Most of the raises were for the bottom rungs of the pay scale. Raising the teacher pay for newer teachers by a few thousand dollars raises their average pay by over 10%. Negating raises for veterans or offering little while taking away longevity pay (which is still given to all other government workers) really doesn’t increase the average.

In fact, when longevity pay was taken away and rolled into those raises, what the governor helped to do was take money out of veteran teachers’ pockets and then offer it back as a gift in the form of a raise so that he could help make misleading ads that Ms. Krawford falls for.

Cost of living? Actually that varies from county to county. There are many more studies pout there, but if Ms. Krawford asked some teachers about benefits, most of those teachers might not be verifying her claims.

More spent on education? Then ask her to explain how we can be spending more on education now when per-pupil expenditure has gone down since before the great recession. What she neglects to see is that NC’s population has grown, but the rate at which we finance public education has not kept up. Overall, dollars spent have increased, but not at the rate that our student populations have increased.

I hope she glanced at my op-ed. I would be glad to hear her insights in its contents.

Then, in a stroke of political luck, another gem of an LTE was printed the next day in the Journal from a Joan A. Fleming entitled “Education in North Carolina”. It reads,

“Let’s be proud of our Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislators in their education accomplishments. They increased the average teacher salary by 4.7 percent, which averages over $50,000 for the first time in our state history. If that’s not enough, over the next three years, that teacher salary average increases to $55,000. When considering robust health and retirement benefits offered to every full-time teacher in our state, the budget will boost average total compensation to more than $67,000. Teacher pay in North Carolina is growing faster than in any other state in the country under Gov. McCrory’s leadership.

Since 2013, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. This, my friends, is an increase of over 20 percent since the governor and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest took office in January 2013. North Carolina now leads the nation for increased teacher pay and our education budget increases by over $512 million during the 2016-17-budget year.

The current spending on education is $2 billion more on K-12 than was spent in the last year of the Perdue administration, which froze teacher pay.

Included are: funding for 450 more first-grade teachers to shrink classroom size and full funding of teacher-assistant positions.

Think about this again: Since 2013, North Carolina has more than a $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. What a difference.

And the teachers all said: Thanks, Gov. McCrory.”

Honestly, this is like being presented a turd wrapped in bacon.

I like bacon, but I would rather not eat a turd.

It’s like a crappy hors d’oeuvre . It’s a turd’oeuvre.

And it reads like it was given to her from the governor himself.

Actually, it was. Look at the website, https://www.patmccrory.com/2016/07/14/budget-gosey/. I reference it in my op-ed mentioned earlier. Here’s the first full paragraph. Here, I will even give you the picture.

turdnado1.png

Now take Ms. Fleming’s first paragraph from her LTE and you can see the striking similarities. Words in bold are from the website.

“They increased the average teacher salary by 4.7 percent, which averages over $50,000 for the first time in our state history. If that’s not enough, over the next three years, that teacher salary average increases to $55,000 (actually that comes from another source – see below) .When considering robust health and retirement benefits offered to every full-time teacher in our state, the budget will boost average total compensation to more than $67,000. Teacher pay in North Carolina is growing faster than in any other state in the country under Gov. McCrory’s leadership.”

Holy shit! I mean, holy turds! She plagiarized the governor. Or she happens to be his website copy writer. Maybe she wrote Melania Trump’s RNC speech.

But I am guessing that she plagiarized it, literally word for word.

Actually, there’s really nothing original in Ms. Fleming’s LTE. The rest of the wonderful information she presents comes from a blog that she probably frequents because it follows her political ideology.

LadyLiberty1885.com is a relatively well-known blogger. She is conservative, really conservative. You can read about her and her writing here – https://ladyliberty1885.com/about/. She and I do not have the same views. I do not associate myself with Brietbart, Glenn Beck, the Civitas Institute, and others she lists.

She does have many people who read her blog like Ms. Fleming. Maybe Lady Liberty 1885 doesn’t mind being plagiarized, yet that’s what Ms. Fleming did in her Letter to the Editor. Take a look at a July 20, 2016 post from ladyliberty1885.com  about Lt. Gov. Dan Fleming’s education video – https://ladyliberty1885.com/2016/07/20/lt-governor-dan-forest-lays-out-nc-education-budget-increases-teacher-pay-video/. It states,

  • “Average teacher salary increase of 4.7% and will average over $50,000.  (More details on the increases here)
  • Over the next three years, that teacher salary average will increase to $55,000, which is an increase of over 20% since the Governor and Lt. Governor took office.
  • NC leads the nation for increased teacher pay.
  • Education budget will increase by over $512 million during the 2016-17 budget year.
  • The current spending on education is $2 billion more on k-12 than was spent in the last year of the Perdue administration, which froze teacher pay.
  • Funding for 450 more first grade teachers to shrink classroom size with the goal of 1 teacher for every 17 kids in K-3.
  • Full funding of teacher assistant positions.”

 

Now go back to Ms. Fleming’s LTE and I will bold the very words that are plagiarized.

“Since 2013, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. This, my friends, is an increase of over 20 percent since the governor and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest took office in January 2013. North Carolina now leads the nation for increased teacher pay and our education budget increases by over $512 million during the 2016-17-budget year. The current spending on education is $2 billion more on K-12 than was spent in the last year of the Perdue administration, which froze teacher pay. Included are: funding for 450 more first-grade teachers to shrink classroom size and full funding of teacher-assistant positions. Think about this again: Since 2013, North Carolina has more than a $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. What a difference.”

No doubt. What a difference. If I take out all of the plagiarized wording in the entire LTE, I would get this.

“Let’s be proud of our Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislators in their education accomplishments. They increased the average teacher salary by which averages over Since 2013, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. This, my friends, is an in January 2013. now and our Included are: Think about this again: Since 2013, North Carolina has more than a $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises. What a difference. And the teachers all said: Thanks, Gov. McCrory.”

Yep. Pretty apparent. Need to write that D-1.

But it’s Ms. Fleming’s last line that really gets me. Maybe it is supposed to fall off the tongue like a confirmation from the congregation. Ironically, it sounds more like bullshit. No, take that back. It’s a turd’oeuvre.

What it should say is “And the teachers all said: You plagiarized – you get a zero and I will write you up for academic infringement.”