Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

It’s bittersweet being part of a group or organization.  From college fraternities to street gangs to labor unions to political parties, group membership requires that you act collectively at times.  If you get a flat tire in the middle of the night, you can call a brother but sometimes you will be getting up at 3:00a.m.  It’s part of the deal. 

On his birthday, President Obama spoke with the AFL-CIO about sticking with Democrats during the mid-term elections.  Without Big Labor’s money and members, the Democrats have little juice.  But, labor rightfully expects loyalty and their money has supported some Democrats who have no problem picking and choosing when to be team players. 

In the 90s, I was proud to be part of a party that looked like America.  From sea to shining sea, the Democrat Caucus in Congress was a hodgepodge. Like any family or group, we had disagreements but understood that once the decisions were made membership for the most part should circle the wagons.  As a congressional staffer, I enjoyed visiting friends in the office of Rep. Charlie Hayes of Illinois. Mr. Hayes had hands like the gloves soccer goalies wear and he had a gravely voice that made him the unofficial uncle to young Black staffers.  “Whose office are you in…the Peanut guy from Georgia…good man…he’s alright.”  Mr. Hayes had labor union coursing in his veins; he loved what unions did for his community in Chicago.  

Rep. Charles Hayes

During this congress, most Democrats have made some tough votes while a few sidestepped the rough stuff.  Let’s not be naïve: these carefully crafted actions were planned deep inside the DNC.  While members and candidates from both parties will flex and bend on issues to win in swing districts, old school gentlemen like Mr. Hayes would never let members enjoy considerable union support and openly slam major Democrat policies.  That would be too much. 

When conservative to moderate Democrats stand with other Democrats, it confirms that the general body of the party is basically respectable.  I am glad Mr. Hayes isn’t around to see what is happening now to a president from Chicago. 

The AFL-CIO still has big shoulders and will only take so much; it’s not the AFL-CIO M-O-U-S-E.  After budget and appropriations votes, the congress only makes a dozen or so major votes each year.  The stats we hear about “this guys votes with his party 97% of the time” is window-dressing.  The National Journal and Congressional Quarterly list the major votes in an unbiased way.  A member who votes against his party on those issues could be on his or her own in November. 

Members of fraternities, college sports team, Masonic groups, elite military teams or even street gangs don’t ask questions when they see a brother in a fight; they come in swinging.  If you hit one Navy Seal, you hit them all.  Actually, the political party situation is more complex with some thinking that conservative Democrats are voting the will of their districts while functioning “deep cover.” 

In our community’s history, the original deep cover was house slaves and friendly Whites. Recently, I rewatched Roots on you tube and the White friend of Tom Harvey “masterfully” play his part in the exodus of the family.  At one point, skeptical freedmen didn’t want him in the meetings and plans; he rightfully questioned his position also.  I had forgotten O.J. Simpson acting in Roots. 

I was glued to the T.V. when Juice broke the rushing record and disappointed when he broke ties with our community.  Oh, but the second he gets in the ultimate drama, he comes home.  Right. Watching Roots as an adult poses great questions about loyalty and group membership that reflects into the current political situation.  Burl Ives played a former Senator who reassured his friends that a system could be created to protect their way of life. 

To me, political power and positions will always be secondary to economic power and money—Booker T. Washington was right after all.  We can have a million college degrees and thousands of political titles in our community but money determines power.  An old coworker once said that at the end of the day and after the speeches, the powerful are those few at the table when the money is counted. 

In Roots, the exodus plan was foiled when Lloyd Bridges’ character wisely had some guys with guns follow behind him.  Chicken George thwarted their plan by coming behind the new guys with his guns.  Old Chicken George one up them and stated that you must have a second plan or option if your first plan is not working.  Our community needs to do the same thing politically and economically because times are changing and we must change also. 

Union jobs, teaching positions, military service and government jobs moved many Black families into the middle class.  Unions fought for better wages, benefits and safer workplaces.  At some point, they pushed so hard that labor cost forced some industries out of business or overseas.  A union lobbyist once told me that a third of the cost of a new car was the benefit package for the autoworker; there’s too much.  A teamster can sometimes make more for driving crops to market than the farmer made for actually growing the produce for months. Teachers’ unions battle for better compensation but fight moves to tight salaries to student achievement.  In their defense, many families are half-raising kids and these students aren’t prepared to sit down, be quiet and focus on learning.  These teens need to watch Roots with their parents to better understand how lucky they are and on those shoulders they stand.

Yes, we can have a frank and honest discussion about improving our community and the role of government.  But, we must also remember Mr. Charlie Hayes and others who taught that membership in a political party involves commitment and loyalty.  President Obama said he was tough and he must have been to grow up as the only brother around during most of his childhood.  As we prepare for the middle term election, he should let us know who is with him and who is about the “okey dokey” —to use his term; start naming names or let big labor do it. 

http://baic.house.gov/member-profiles/profile.html?intID=69  Bio Rep. Charles Hayes

Warning: These videos include the N-Word and are better watched at home. 


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We have all seen the Geico commercial where Charlie Daniels takes the violin from a strolling player in a fancy restaurant, rips some righteous fiddle licks and gives it back to the guy before saying, “That’s how you do it, son.”  I enjoy everyone on the violin from Daniels to the brother in Dave Matthews Band to Israeli-born Miri Ben-Ari, who puts it down over hip hop beats, to Novi Novog, the lady who played stings for The Time and Prince in the 80s.    

To me, there are different ways of doing things and it’s good to study other methods and approaches.  New Jersey’ Governor Chris Christie is one to watch because the big fellow is one conservative who is going to tell it like he see it – right or wrong – and let the chips fall where they may.  Baller style, that’s how you do it son.  I think candidates Obama and McCain were planning the same thing.  We remember the talk from both about reforming the system and walking away from the game on top like NFL great Jim Brown.  Of course, elected officials often find that easier said than done.

Governor Christie is hell-bend on reigning in state spending and bumping heads with key groups in the process.  The recent video clip of his confrontation with a teacher over pay and benefits was an instant classic.  The teacher said she was not being paid for her education and experience and Christie basically told her to work somewhere else.  Ouch.

Christie says NJ teachers are well-paid and have excellent benefits but they need to understand that average citizens have cut back in these rough economic times and governmental employees must do the same.  My mouth dropped when the teacher made her point because we “assumed” in the 80s that we would at least make enough money to paid for our educations.  Hell, I simply wanted to make my age and grow old.  The price of everything has skyrocketed but salaries are stuck in 1990.

Can a person walk away from a job offer with a salary of the same amount as that person made 20 years ago?  No.  Our parents always said people with bills should take any income source they can until hard times pass.  Guys with children should drop fries, wash windows or collect cans because those kids did not ask to be born.  The guy Joseph in the Bible told pharaoh to store away in times of fat in preparation for times of lean.

The now defunct cable channel Fine Living produced a show called Radical Sabbatical about rich people who decided to cash out on Wall Street do things like starting kayak businesses on lovely western rivers.  While that might be extreme, I admire my homeboys who made good money in production, the military or teaching and could retire to enjoy family by their early 50s or work less stress, giving back jobs.  In actuality, people spend money like money will always come in and the result is sometimes similar to NBA veterans who are penniless by forty.  That’s not how you do it, son. 

If the budget hawks approach matters like Christie, the average America could see their point.  Dave Matthews Band, Miri Ben-Ari and Novi Novog fused hop hip and rock with strings and the results introduced everyone to something new; Novog on Time’s Chili Sauce was brilliant.  The same thing must happen in Washington with spending because something has to give. 

People on the outside think something has got to give with the education system because teachers are making good money but Johnny can’t read.  Of course, the teachers will tell you that we went to school reading back in the day and the family should do more to prepare little Johnny to sit his blank down in class and focus.  I still like the programs that bring military veterans into teaching because some kids need a little guidance.  That’s how you do it, son.

Christie and the Teacher video



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Loyalty is a word with many different dimensions.  On Capitol Hill, a former supervisor gave our staff the following poem during an uncertain period.

Pledge of Loyalty
By: Sir Elbert Kim Hubbard

If you work for a man,
in heaven’s name,
work for him,
speak well of him,
and stand by the institution
that he represents.

an ounce of loyalty
is worth a pound of cleverness.

If you must grawl,
condemn and eternally find fault,
resign your position!

And when you are in the outside,
damn to your heart’s contents!

But as long as you are a part of the institution,
do not condemn it.

For if you do,
the first high wind that comes along
will blow you away.

And probably,
you’ll never know why.

The essence of the poem hit home with me because I have always believed in being loyal to those who were beneficial to me—that includes staying basically “down with the team” long after working somewhere.  But, loyalty is a two-way street that requires commitment from bottom to top and top to bottom.  For example, Sarah Palin should remember that Senator John McCain “put her on” and Joe Lieberman should do the way with Al Gore.  

From the following list, how would you prioritize your loyalty?






Political Party

College Football Team


While the last one might seem humorous, some folks would have it very high up on their list.  I saw Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rev. Al Sharpton and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the Meet the Press discussing their efforts to reform education in America.  While I wasn’t invited, my comments would have centered on loyalty in education.  It’s no secret that I feel Black students owe a debt of gratuity to those who broke down barriers and that they debt is paid by working hard, being focus, and capitalizing on educational opportunities.


At the same time, teachers who are loyal to the field should remove themselves if they realize they aren’t reaching the students; getting money for not doing the job could be considered stealing on some level.  Of course, weak teachers have bills and other financial obligations that sometimes keep them in the classroom—skating by.


Some teachers will tell you that half-raised kids with poor attention spans burnt them out with a quickness and that parents aren’t doing their parts.  The finger of blame can point some of everywhere but we must fix this broken system before we have a generation of Americans ill-prepared to function in the global economy.


If you let me tell it, I think the bells and whistles of video games, computers, and T.V. creates kids who only want to focus when things are flashy and visually stimulating.   Loyalty to local school system makes citizens reluctant to admit that “needs improvement” is an understatement.  If Secretary Duncan asked me to create a charter school as a model, you can best believe it would be the old school three Rs with a high-tech twist and little Johnny would understand that his loyalties must compelled performance and achievement.  Who am I fooling; the young cats in my community are unbelievably selfish.  If you asked them what they believe, they would likely say, “I believe you better get out of my face.”



Meet The Press


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Be careful what you wish for because real problems and real solutions might cause a dramatic change in your professional and financial life.  But, good Americans want what is best for the nation—right.  President Obama is a great guy but you know he really is balancing hard solutions with the grim reality that some core supporter won’t like what needs to be done. 

Teachers give a sound effort but the public school system needs fundamental improvements.  Those improvements actually start with people having kids when they are prepared to raise properly developed, responsible children but politicians can’t say that or they will be accused of genocide or something.  So, teachers who were trained to teach subject matter find themselves as surrogate parents, social workers and role models (the same can be said about police officers.) 

What if we embrace that concept and train teachers for the roles need to be play in young lives.  I am thinking supplements similar to coaches for more men in lower graders and retired military in upper graders.  How many kids in certain areas grow up without a strong male in their lives and preacher are not doing it because people are half going to church.  One strong male in a boy’s or girl’s life could plant that positive seed and I included girls because too many are only exposed to the shady, weak guys their mothers dated—if you can call that dating.  We need male and female teachers who are firm yet fair and who can consistently get students to buy into the importance of developing their minds.  If teachers can’t do that, they should seek other employment.

Healthcare professionals (doctors, administrators, nurses) should stop defending their wallets and realize that big changes are need in their field.  The health care debate should include their input as much as the government and insurance companies but like teachers the first thing out of their mouth is don’t reduce their incomes.  It alls comes down to cost effective performance and results

We often forget about the avenue into the Black middle class provided by the military.  The armed services gave many a son and daughter of the South the opportunity to secure their financial futures and see the world.  We need to hear from them more about what works and doesn’t work with the Pentagon’s use of defense contractors and when nation-building and regime change crosses the line.  We care about people in Iraq and Afghanistan but should not forget about Idaho and Alabama public works projects.  With net base education and distance learning, down time in the war zone might be a good time to earn degrees and credentials for post-military careers in law enforcement and teaching.  Little Johnny won’t “bow-up” so fast on a no-nonsense teacher with combat experience and the girls in the community could learn a lot from a vet who is deliberate in her actions and fully-focus.  Luckily, these troops to teachers and troops to cops programs currently exist and should be expanded.

I am confident fair people will accept changes or “corrections” for the common good in the same matter that people in the auto-making and banking industries were forced to grasp rough realities.  As President Obama has repeatedly stated, now it is time for the hard part to being.

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While reading the Albany Herald today, I recognize the picture of Teacher of the Year candidate Jordan Cambron of Alice Coachman Elementary in Albany as a young man with in-laws in my neighborhood in Sylvester, Georgia.  It might be a stretch but we are claiming him just like the assorted PHDs, grad degrees, military honors and major college graduates from my street.  

To play Six Degrees of Separation, Cambron teaches at Alice Coachman; Coachman was the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal; Wiley Brown of the 1980 NCAA National Champion Louisville Cardinals (who grew up across the street from me and honed his basketball skills on my backyard dirt whole court) would have been an Olympian if President Carter did not boycott the Moscow Games.

 What shocked me about the article on Cambron is that he is the only male teacher at this urban school.  Readers of this blog know that I think diversity and exposure are good things.  So, I was trouble to hear of young boys and girls, many from single-parent households, who only encounter one male teacher in the whole school.  Chuck D of Public Enemy say, “when a man is in the house; the bull _______  stop.”  That statement is not always the case because I know some really successful people who grew up with no father at home and I know some families where the father ruin the household vibe.  It is always better for kids to see positive men and women at home, at church, at school and in the community. 

 Cambron came into teaching after being a policeman; he chose to address problems with young people in a positive and encouraging way early before negative behavior developed. 

In the down economy, people need to desperately cling to their sources of income that puts bread on the table.  However, many so-called teachers are going through the motions to “stay paid” and make retirement.  If you have a community filled with teachers who are the opposite of Cambron and the other teacher of the year candidates, you will have in time a community of unemployable young adults who wonder why the public school system failed to reach them. 

I like nice things which cost money (overseas trips, dinners with an engaging lady, E-Class Benzes) but I seldom considered teaching school when I was/am “between opportunities” because factories and plants are the important but teaching and training the next generation is essential and should not be taken nonchalantly.  When an industry considers a community, the dog and pony show from the Chamber of Commerce helps but industrial managers want to see the school records—do you have a developed labor force that can do these jobs?

Knuckleheads in the community will always run up to public officials and staffers to complain, “Why you all don’t bring no good high payin’ jobs down here?  I can’t fed no five kids with no minimum wage.”  Of course, the officials want to ask what this citizen has done in preparation for work and did the complainer consider the budgetary information covered in high school econ class when planning a large family.  I should stop now before I say something…….

Hats off to Cambron, my brother Andrew and the other men strong enough to deal with those “challenging” lower grade children.  I might get broke but I can’t get broke enough to face that Herculean task—what money I did make would likely go to legal defense for going off on those little monsters.  Okay, I am kidding because most kids want to learn but that worst 10% will frail your nerves.

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