Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Beliefs About an American Educational System

         Education is essential to competitiveness both at home and abroad. It provides training for the work force of the future and it ensures the transmission of a set of values we hold in common. We all agree we need to teach the basics of reading and writing. We also are aware that we must improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We know, too, that we can't neglect the learning our children need, from acting in plays to playing on ball fields, that are part and parcel of our American culture. But we should not forget that, at the same time, we need to recognize the civic mission of schools.
         Civic education, both in the classroom and through service learning, should be a cornerstone of American public education and future school reform efforts should foster an environment of learning where civic responsibilities are learned and exercised. Our children should not be prevented from learning in this environment by judicial fiat. While teaching other languages is a proper role in education, the English First approach, rather than divisive alternate language programs that limit students' future potential, should be the mainstay of our school system.
         We must encourage the seeking out of private-public partnerships and mentoring. These arrangements can make classroom time more meaningful to students and extend learning beyond school walls. We must actively seek out the specific causes for school drop-outs and work with whatever community entities as necessary to lower that rate. We must ensure we have an active process for identifying at-risk students so that we may help them realize their potential.
        Partnerships between schools and businesses can be especially important in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering,  and math. We must improve secondary education in those fields. On graduation, our students should be prepared in these fields to succeed. Whether going directly into their chosen area of employment or through either purely academically oriented or career oriented colleges and other post-secondary institutions, they should be prepared to progress successfully without the need for remedial courses. Also, in areas where our country relies on foreign talent, we must ensure we give sufficient emphasis in those areas in the high school years so that America’s children can meet America’s challenges.
         We must foster teaching methods with a track record of success in the American cultural setting and avoid experimental schemes or methodology devised for a different cultural base than our American experience. While our children must be given the education to successfully compete with other cultures and systems around the world, they should not be forced to adopt the beliefs and norms of those foreign systems.
         Our school districts must have the authority to recruit, reward, and retain the best and brightest teachers, and our school board should ensure that authority is used. We must hold principals accountable for their schools, but we must protect their authority to select and assign teachers where they are needed and most effective. This includes vouchsafing this authority without regard to collective bargaining agreements. Where qualified teachers are not available through traditional routes, we must support local efforts to create an adjunct teacher corps of experts from higher education, business, and the military to fill in when needed.
        Likewise, we should not turn away from other common sense ideas. For example, parents should be able to decide the learning environment that is best for their child and should have a voice in what that learning environment looks like. Our school system must work with families, not against them. Administrators and teachers alike must see parents are partners with the school system and not opponents of it.  Indeed, we must ensure laws designed to protect family rights and privacy in education are vigorously enforced.  We all have a vested interest in the success of our educational system, and we must honestly consider the ideas of each stakeholder in this success, to include the student, the parents, the school system, and the people in the community in which we all live.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What Do We Need?

I hear daily about the economic recession we are in and the enormous debt we have in our country. I also know that something everyone can support is a reduction in taxes. There is substantial evidence, which I won't address here, that supports the reduction in tax rates as a method for actually increasing income to retire debt. But, for current governments to reduce taxes is as difficult as for people to lose weight.

The secret to losing weight is to cut back on what we eat. When we do that, we cut back on the portions of things we eat and give up entirely a lot of those things that are nice to have but contribute to our waist. Even so, we have to ensure we eat what the body needs to stay healthy.

The same is true of governments. Governments must cut back on those expenses. Much of what is spent by governments is like that extra piece of chocolate we eat, or just one more hamburger while we are telling ourselves that we are dieting. Sure, we're dieting alright, well, actually, we are mostly dieting. The "die" and the "ing" parts. We need to wake up to realities and reduce both our intake and our inaction on reducing.

In the area of reducing, chief among the targets for reduction are taxes. We need tax cuts for workers and for businesses. As a 23-year Air Force veteran and officer, I particularly like the "Returning Heroes" tax cut incentive for hiring returning Veterans and Wounded Warriors. I think those who went in harms way for us deserve no less.

But also important for me is education; and in particular, education for our workforce. We need to have safe, healthy, and technologically-advanced schools. I would much rather put money in better education than better ostentation. We need to remove the sweets from our menu while adding the protein and calcium.

Metaphoric protein and calcium for the growth of muscle and bone in our educational system are needed beginning in Kindergarten and passing through the senior year in high school. During my 15 years teaching in work force education it seemed as if we were always begging for the up to date technology so that we could give our students training on the actual equipment they would be expected to use and maintain on the job.

Any help in that area, especially if it can move the administrative and bureaucratic begrudgery out of the way so that schools can get the technology they need, and teachers can teach what the students need to learn, is worth everybody supporting. Our schools, from kindergarten to 12th grade, need to be fully equipped to teach 21st century skills in math, science, and other technical fields. Local Boards of Education can best decide what they need to teach in order to become, and continue to be, the educational, vocational and job skills development centers that will attract business.

This support must also extend to the other engines of workforce education in our state, the community and technical colleges. We need to support the infrastructure needs of these important institutions. They, too, need the latest in technology on which to train their students for the work force.

Now to the crux of my concern. Usually we talk of the K through 12 system and the community and technical college systems as different entities. For years the bureaucrats have talked about "seamless education." Rarely have they recognized that their self serving ideas have only served to create broader seams. They create these seams by defining what students can not do. I say, we must bridge those seams by saying what students can do. It is only by finding how our children can pave their way to a bright future that we can really succeed as a county, a state, and a nation. To ignore this fact is to play Russian Roulette with our nation's future.

Taking the Right Fork in the Road

I have decided to change the party I represent and stand for election to the Hall County Board of Education. I will now be a part of the Republican Party. This is not a unique position as many have gone before, such as the current and previous governors and one US Senator switching to the Republican Party in their careers. But it has been a difficult decision for me.
Repeating some of what I have said before, my decision to change started last year during my unsuccessful run for the Georgia House. At that time, when talking about the two debates held for the House District 25 race last Fall, I was told by opponents and news media alike, “Your answers were just as Conservative as the [six] Republicans?"
Well, before I entered the military, I was a Democrat of the Carl Sanders era. I was even a 1964 charter member of his Youth Council. During my 23 years of military service, I was apolitical. I didn’t particularly lean to one party or the other. After all, I was a commissioned officer. When I retired from the military I began a new career in education with no thought toward party affiliation.
When I returned to Georgia in 1994, Zell Miller was Governor. As a computer and mathematics educator, I had to love what he did, or tried to do, for education, especially the HOPE scholarship. Since he was a Democrat, I suppose I leaned toward the Democrat party at that time.
Now, I freely admit, I did vote for Sonny Perdue twice. He was a fellow 1965 graduate from high school in Warner Robins, Georgia and had once been a Democrat but now was a Republican, so I didn’t see the significance of that party support. Through his tenure, and even with two high school reunions being held at the Governor’s Mansion, I stayed out of active political involvement, even though my old High School buddy Larry Snellgrove, then a Democrat and former Houston County Commissioner, urged me to consider running.
Finally, in 2010, having become disenchanted with the intrigue reported by our local newspapers within our county government, I decided it was time I offered my services as a County Commissioner. That meant, since it was virtually impossible to get on the ballot as an Independent, I had to run as either a Democrat or Republican - decision time.
I could read the tea leaves as well as anyone else in 2010. So, I first explored the Republican Party in Hall County. However, I also discovered that, to be a member of the Hall County Republican party, I had to swear an oath to the party. I found that to be inconsistent with my oath as a commissioned officer (although retired, I retain my commission).
In addition, I was also a good bit irritated by the fact that they used, and at last check, still use, a mutilated American flag as the background of their Web site (Website_Background). Perhaps there is some historic significance to it, but on asking about a dozen commissioned officers if they recognized it as such none of them did.
Considering these facts, and the fact that the people in the Hall County Democratic Party freely accepted me without an oath and knowing my conservative beliefs, clinched the deal and I ran as a Democrat.
In my first campaign I received no help from the Democrat Party although I was the only Democrat running. A few individuals in the Hall County Democrat party did stand up and help me in my campaign, but the party, per se, did not.
At this time I was also a mathematics teacher in the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). Surprisingly, the legal counsel of the TCSG even threatened me with firing if I ran in a partisan election. It took the intervention of the US Special Counsel and the Attorney General of Georgia office to squelch that unfounded effort and allow me to run. Even so, in the November election in 2010 I don’t believe a single Democrat won against a Republican opponent in Georgia.
What that did for me was to paint a negative picture of the state system that was supposed to be apolitical and point out that to win as a Democrat meant you were on your own. In fact, during the campaign I received a letter from the commissioner implying that I had no future in that system. As a result, I decided to retire from the TCSG in July 2011 when my current contract ended. This would eliminate any unseemly pressure to prevent my running for public office with my full attention.  
Upon my return from my retirement vacation in late July 2011, I found that Representative James Mills was leaving his seat in the Georgia House. Also about this time, I discovered even my friend Larry Snellgrove had switched to the Republican Party. Even so, when the opportunity to serve as the representative of District 25 in the Georgia House came about, I once again stubbornly ran as a Democrat. In this second campaign, I had the option of declaring as a Republican, it being a special election. But, again, I felt an obligation to run as a Democrat because of the support some people in the county party had given me. In fact, I was the only Democrat running in a field of seven.
In this effort I did have the help and financial encouragement of several members of the Hall County Democrat Party as well as a few people at the state level. But overall, the State Party, while promising support and claiming they were helping me, actually appeared to do nothing. True, a couple of members of the state party actively campaigned for me, but the party as a whole did not. I lost the election because I could get no more than 10% of the 3,500 Democrat voters to even bother to vote. In the face of what I saw as party and voter apathy, coupled with my own personal beliefs, I was finally forced to reevaluate my party allegiance.
What I discovered was that the disappointment I experienced in the State Party extended to the National Party and the National Platform.  So many of the tenets of the 2008 Democrat platform on which I relied in determining I was a Democrat had been abrogated by the deeds of the Party, that the 4% edge it held in my mind was seriously corroded. In point of fact, it was drastically reversed and currently favors the Republican Party. I now find that I agree with a majority of the tenets of the national Republican Party while agreeing with less than half of the unabrogated tenets of the Democrat party. Thus, I am now in a position of supporting the Republican Party and its platform. Hence, I leave the Hall County Democratic Party. I would like to state that this decision does not reflect on the members of that party. They are all good, honorable folk whom I respect. It more equates to the reality of politics and my logical support of the Republican Party.
Even though I found myself in support of the national Republican Party versus the national Democrat Party, I still had difficulty actually joining the Republican Party as a candidate for the two reasons cited earlier: oath of allegiance and flag background. As to the latter, I attempted to bring it to the attention of the county party so that it might be corrected through emails and telephone calls to no avail. I have come to the conclusion that the only way to correct this slight to our nation’s flag is from within the county party, thus removing that impediment.
The matter of the oath was somewhat more difficult. In researching the matter I found that one potential candidate for governor in 2010 failed to run rather than taking the oath. As for the oath, it is Georgia law that says, should a party require a loyalty oath, it shall be (as it relates to the Republican Party) "I DO SWEAR OR AFFIRM MY ALLEGIANCE TO THE GEORGIA REPUBLICAN PARTY."  This allows no modification, exception, or rider to the oath.
Seeking the definitions of the key words Affirm and Allegiance in this oath I found that Affirm means “to state or assert positively” and allegiance means “loyalty or devotion to some person, group, cause, or the like.” Further, loyalty means “faithfulness to commitments or obligations.” Using these definitions to restate the oath more clearly it says "I do assert positively my faithfulness to my commitments to the Georgia Republican Party." I believe this is a most reasonable assertion and is the meaning of the words in the oath.
Even so, after discussing the oath with former military judge advocates, I was concerned about the conflict of this civil assertion to a non-government entity with my oath as a commissioned officer. After further discussions with currently serving JAG, I have somewhat assuaged that concern. In addition, after reading Richard Swain’s (2007) “Reflection on an Ethic of Officership” (Retrieved May 23, 2012 from, I discerned no conflict at all. Indeed, the Supreme Court clarified the precedence of loyalty oaths in MANDOLI v. ACHESON, 344 U.S. 133 (1952) (Retrieved May 23, 2012 from and the appropriateness and absence of conflict is further found in the Findlaw (2012) discussions of "Maintenance of National Security and the First Amendment" (Retrieved May 23, 2012 from 
At the state level, a Florida court case also gives it clarity. In "REPUBLICAN PARTY OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, et al., Appellants, v. Phil DAVIS, et al., Appellees. No. 3D08-3126. -- August 26, 2009, we find that "Political party members have a constitutional right 'not to associate' with those who do not share their party platforms or rules" (Retrieved May 23, 2012 from Thus, I can now, in good conscience, sign the affirming statement. Even more importantly, my wife tells me I can so do.
    Having made that decision, and having not only 15 years teaching experience and 23 years senior management experience, plus the credentials of a doctorate and a master in education, as well as a master in management and a master in mathematics and computer science, I shall join the Republican party and seek their nomination for Board of Education Post 3. I intend for Hall county to not only lead Georgia in educational excellence, but also to help Georgia move from the bottom to the top in national excellence in education. We can do it, and by Godfrey we will do it.