A Response To Michael Walker-Jones

The following is a correspondence addressed to me by Dr. Michael Walker-Jones. I offer what he says because I am compelled to answer in a responsible manner. I will do this after you have read Dr. Walker-Jones communication. It is enlightening and reasonable.

“As a reader of most conservative blogs and e-letters it always surprises me when I see voluminous words with very little research or validation of an argument.  I’m Michael Walker-Jones, Executive Director of the Louisiana Association of Educators.  I’m a teacher (having taught in the public schools, at the university undergraduate and graduate school levels), a practicing catholic where I’ve taught CCD and served as a youth minister.  I’m a husband, father and grandfather.  All of my children attended public school except for one year when my son attended our catholic school in order to get ready for his first communion.  All of my other children attended CCD.

I grew up in Louisville, Ky during segregation and in third grade I was part of the desegregation of the Louisville public schools.  I grew up poor…will actually we were on welfare (aid for dependent children) as it was called in those days.  My great-grandmother who had an eight grade education raised me and two siblings, kept us clean, feed, and in school.  I’ve taught criminal justice and I’m a member of the Brotherhood of peace (see: http://www.gangwar.com).  You don’t know me, so I thought I’d provide you with a little bit of background.

My love for the public schools, parents, teachers, administrators and oh yes the students is without question part of the fuel with which I pursue my profession and my work.

I want to give you an opportunity to visit us at LAE.  I’m sure you’re very passionate about what you do as well and I’m also interested in exploring differing points of view from my own. If you would like to know more about me, LAE and our work as a professional organization/union, then please feel free to contact me at 225 343 9243 ext. 104.  I would appreciate an opportunity to exchange insights about improving the public schools in Louisiana.”

First: Dr. Walker-Jones I find myself well-challenged and must admit the vociferous nature of my writing was based on poorly crafted research and the validity of this statement is my responsibility to apologize for. I do this now and sincerely. I feel I was wrong in many of the matters you find objectionable. Again, I apologize for the verbiage and what can only be interpreted as a personal attack based on bad information. (I, for this matter and in this time, feel I am the schnook.)

Please accept my apology given in sincerity for an improper attack on you and what could be assumed about your character. It is my intention to offer this for publishing and allow myself the censure of my fellow citizens for this transgression.

But, I am absolutely intransigent in my belief many of the problems you address from the standpoint of union representation have come about from a failure to address the needs of the students. Your job, as explained to me by other major union representatives is to speak for the teachers. One such person said he’d address the needs of the students when the students paid union dues. He, and others like him, causes my dismal view of unions. Other major union leaders have used the power of unions to force changes that benefit union power and political stances moreso than the union membership. We see this daily in the media and the written press.

I stand against workers in any industry being placed in hallowed positions. Any person, (me included as you can now attest) can make monumental mistakes. The ability to claim tenure without the required research element and publication required of higher education’s (collegiate) aspirants for the privilege is not a good thing. It virtually removes the possibility of sanctioning improprieties committed and is wrong. “Last hired and first fired” is equally unjust because the person striving to make his/her mark may be lost because the disinterested or incompetent “educator” is “safe” from sanctions. I have personally witnessed this as a Law Enforcement Officer in a public school.

I yearn for the days when people didn’t need self-serving, inflated terminology to take an already respected profession. I loved my teachers. The term “educator” is such an example. I suggest you are more a teacher than an educator because you have taught me something by example and not hidden behind a title while you do it. Your Doctorate means nothing to me. Your humanity does.

Therefore I again must say I apologize to you as a person and a TEACHER. But there are still those objections fuel my cynicism and my refusal to remain silent when I see things I feel are wrong. We are seeing that the same old way of doing things is not working. Parents need to be held accountable for the actions of a truant and non-truant but disruptive student population. I’ve seen NO union attack this area of dissatisfaction.  My son was driven from public schools because the school system (run by people having more fear of the politics of race and status and alleged poverty and real beliefs in their personal entitlement) refused to address the safety and security of the good students seeking an education.

This doesn’t seem to be happening in systems where sports accomplishment supersedes scholastic achievement. This is a nationwide dilemma.

I wrote of this subject years ago. The piece was “The Child Pushed Away”. In many ways my experience is similar to yours. I am of mixed race. I endured integration in northern schools where the hypocrisy of the community wasn’t blatant Jim Crow as much as it was paternalistic head rubs and admonitions to my more darkly complected family members to “be a credit to your race”. I heard my mother referred to in vile terminology behind her back makes my blood boil today. But it also developed a combative sense where we in my family sought to shake off the hand on our heads and make sure we could be the equals of any standing before us. All of this was taught by teachers in the family teaching a need for personal responsibility to excel and to prove our character to be greater than first expected and perceived.

In closing, I will offer this communication, for publishing by the publications I work with at this time. It is subject to acceptance or rejection based on the needs and desires of editors I have no control over. It may be edited. It may be butchered. It could even be sent to the latrine for all I’m ever aware. But I do appreciate your having read my work and I sincerely hope you’ll accept my apology offered to you personally.

Respectfully and humbly,

Richard J. Garwood



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