Rallying with teachers, students and friends exhilarating and humbling
By Art Sherwood
RALEIGH – I stood in awe with teachers, students and friends this past Wednesday when tens of thousands of us delivered a very clear message to the North Carolina General Assembly – Public Schools Matter!
That is why I am seeking to serve the citizens of Avery, Burke and Caldwell counties in the State Senate. The teachers are right! The legislature must properly fund our public schools.
Under Democratic governors such as Terry Sandford and Jim Hunt, North Carolina earned a reputation as a leader in public education. I want to help Governor Cooper restore us to that status. Participating in the rally Wednesday was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so. However, if given the chance to serve in the State Senate, I will have many opportunities to stand proudly in support of public schools for our region and all of North Carolina’s children – through votes that restore our schools to their once proud standing.
That is why I stood with:
Teachers, students and allies from Burke County.
Teachers, students and allies from Caldwell County.
A friend from church.
In short, a mass of humanity moving forward in support of public education.
I look forward to the opportunity to stand with them again, in the North Carolina State Senate.
Concern for students, not self, motivates teachers daily and will in Raleigh
By Art Sherwood
LENOIR, N.C. – I am standing in solidarity with the thousands of teachers expected to descend upon Raleigh on Wednesday. Here is why: When we need an expert medical opinion, we seek the best professional help we can. In short, we seek out a subject matter expert. Well, there is nobody more expert about the conditions faced by students in North Carolina’s public school classrooms than the teachers staffing those classrooms.
So, when they say it is time to march on the state capitol to be heard by the North Carolina General Assembly, they have my attention!
Do not let their detractors fool you. This isn’t about demanding money for themselves nearly as much as it is demanding appropriate funding for the students they teach.
The legislature has cut more than 7,000 instructional assistant positions. Imagine teaching a class of early grade students who need shoes tied, noses wiped, have bathroom accidents, crying episodes, come to school hungry, have varying learning styles and learn at different paces. Now imagine trying to keep these same children calm and on task to learn while tending to all those needs. That is just one example of what we expect of our teachers. They have the right to expect support in return.
The legislature lacks understanding about classroom management because few have set foot in a classroom since graduating from high school. People who attended school when the teacher stood in front of the class to teach while the students listened need to step into a classroom where every student’s needs are being met on an individual basis through centers and differentiation. In doing so, they will understand the need for proper class sizes and legislation that truly returns local control to the person most qualified to exercise it – the classroom teacher.
Those teachers need proper funding though. That isn’t the case, as North Carolina ranks 43rd in per-pupil spending nationally. Improving that ranking is a priority for teachers, as it should be. Underfunding our public education system is cheating our children.
Standardized testing is out of control. Teachers are beholden to legislators who have absolutely no experience in education and have hence created classroom environments where administrators, teachers and students are more concerned about teaching to a test than teaching critical thinking.
Meanwhile, Charter Schools divert funds intended for the public schools to entities not nearly as accountable as local school boards. They are often run by for-profit organizations that look at children as a commodity, not a student. So, money that should be reinvested in the public schools instead go into the pockets of the Charter School investors. In short, Charter Schools are essentially private schools funded with public dollars.
Finally, teachers are correct to ask for pay raises. As Kris Nordstrom with NC Policy Watch noted, “To truly determine the salary required to attract and retain talented candidates to the teaching field, the important measurement is how compensation compares in relation to alternative careers with similar educational requirements. That is, the salaries of North Carolina teachers are best compared against the salaries of other professionals in North Carolina with a bachelor’s degree or higher. This metric avoids the weaknesses of traditional state rankings and is more aligned with the data a talented university student considers when deciding which profession to pursue.”
It is no wonder teachers are marching in Raleigh. The people they care most about – the children they teach – are being short-changed. And they’ve had enough of it. That is why I will be in Raleigh standing with teachers this Wednesday. And, it is the single-most important reason I am seeking to represent Avery, Burke and Caldwell counties in the N.C. State Senate. I want to stand with them and the children they serve in Raleigh every day.
Art Sherwood is the Democratic candidate for State Senate District 46, which includes the Appalachian counties of Avery, Burke and Caldwell in Western North Carorlina. Learn more here.
Singer-songwriter Andrew Massey plants first yard sign for State Senate candidate
By Michael M. Barrick
LENOIR, N.C. – My favorite part of being the campaign director for Art Sherwood is getting to talk with people. (Those who know me won’t be surprised by that confession). One of my favorite people to hang with is Andrew Massey of Lenoir. Andrew is a singer-songwriter, a very close friend (as is his whole family), and the general age of our adult children.
And, he’s kind to me. I’m tone deaf. Couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. But I gravitate to musicians like I’m a groupie. I love music. Want to learn everything I can. So Andrew tolerates me as he writes and records music in his home studio while we drink tea, talk about things I don’t understand about music, and enjoy his toddler son keeping us both on our toes.
Indeed, we often don’t talk politics. In that way, our conversations and time together is a good distraction from my work. But other times we do. He is a barometer for me. He lets me know what people his age think. He lets me know what musicians think. He lets me know what free thinkers think. And he is simply fun to be around.
And he is talented as he can be. He writes his own music for adults and children. He performs alone and with other, in particular with Sycamore Bones (and more here), which also includes Cory Kinal and Abigail Taylor.
Two years ago, he was an avid supporter of Art when he ran for the North Carolina State Senate in the old district that included Caldwell County. He lent his artistic talent in support of Art.
He’s doing it again in 2018, as Art seeks to represent the residents of Avery, Burke and Caldwell counties in the redrawn State Senate District 46 as the Democratic nominee. He has no primary.
Andrew’s most visible sign of that support was his decision to plant the first Art Sherwood campaign yard sign of the season in his front yard in downtown Lenoir. There’s a good reason for that. Art has been a vigorous supporter of the arts community his whole life and has embraced artisans and musician in the region.
The arts community is indispensable to all three counties. Not only does art play a vital role in speaking truth to power, but it also provides many jobs in the region. So, Andrew supports Art because Art is committed to ensure that the state of North Carolina provides proper funding to the arts.
Andrew and Art both represent the best of North Carolina values – independence, integrity and excellence. I hope you’ll join us and help send Art to Raleigh. Not only would the arts benefit. So would civility and common decency. And, if you’d like, call me and I’ll be happy to bring a yard sign to your house.
Party of Lincoln forgets that the VA was inspired by the 16th president
By Art Sherwood
LENOIR, N.C. – David Shulkin, who was fired by President Trump last week as head of the Veterans Administration (VA), told several national news outlets that he was fired because he stood in the way of efforts by Trump and the GOP to privatize the VA (read more at NPR and CBS).
While the VA was not established until 1930, it seems that the GOP has forgotten that the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, provided the foundational spirit of the VA as noted in the Mission Statement on the VA’s website: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.”
While Trump’s removal of Shulkin is not surprising from the “You’re Fired!” president, privatization would be disastrous for the men and women served by the VA. Yet, it is consistent with the goals of the Republican Party. This is not a new agenda item. It’s been going on a long time. It is the “Starve the Beast” mentality. To ensure its failure, the GOP-led Congress intentionally underfunds the VA so performance is not where it should be. Then the agency and those running it – rather than Congress – are blamed for failures due to inadequate funding.
While the GOP may have forgotten Lincoln’s intentions, I have not. I worked with and for the VA for more than a decade. It was an honor to serve those who gave all for our country.
We have a sacred obligation to honor the mission of the VA and should not farm it out to profiteers who will put making money ahead of caring for our veterans. There are nearly one million veterans in North Carolina, making up over nine percent of our population. They deserve better than having their treatment transferred to a private provider looking to cut corners to increase profits.
The VA system is clearly better equipped and more knowledgeable about the needs and care of veterans than private providers scattered across the nation that have little or no experience dealing with the specialized care veterans need – and deserve. My experience in the largest VA hospital in the system in Houston showed me that the variety of comprehensive services that veterans get through the system could in no way be provided by private providers. The VA provides mental care and physical, comprehensive treatment of complex injuries such as those to the spinal cord. The VA’s knowledge and treatment of these injuries is among the best in the world.
To ensure its failure, the GOP-led Congress intentionally underfunds the VA so performance is not where it should be. Then the agency and those running it – rather than Congress – are blamed for failures due to inadequate funding.
Is the VA perfect? Of course not. But it does provide quality care. When the VA has appropriate stable leadership at the top that is committed to the mission of the VA, it succeeds. The employees are loyal civil servants who will follow leadership dedicated to the mission of the VA as articulated by President Lincoln following the Civil War. My personal experience is that when civil servants are given a fair chance to compete against the private sector, they win. They provide better, more efficient care. Still, we must remain vigilant. We should fix any problems that occur. It’s a large system, so of course it has potential for problems.
Additionally, let us not forget that the VA’s case load has increased dramatically in the last few decades because of the wars we are fighting around the world. It is now commonly agreed that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was precipitated on lies. We would have far less veterans to care for if we quit fighting unnecessary wars.
Also, the military deserves credit for improving its trauma care in battle zones. There are many more soldiers coming home alive than in previous wars. In addition, many veterans return home with the invisible wound of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This puts additional stress on already underfunded social and mental health services for our veterans. The VA is uniquely qualified to provide the required care – again, assuming it is properly funded.
Only the VA can provide the specialized, seamless care that these veterans deserve. In the rare cases where a veteran may live far away from the nearest VA hospital, a referral to a local provider might be necessary, but those are rare instances.
It is noteworthy, that as I talk to veterans in Caldwell County, that they’ve told me of the excellent care they have received at VA hospitals in the area, whether in Asheville, Salisbury or over the mountain in Tennessee. Their testimonies are encouraging. (There are also VA hospitals in Durham and Fayetteville, as well as Outpatient Clinics scattered across the state).
So, as a North Carolina State Senator, I will vigorously defend the VA and work closely with our congressional delegation to protect it and challenge them to properly fund the system. I will also challenge the GOP to quit the saber-rattling than can lead to only more young Americans dying and being maimed on foreign soil.
It is clear, that when it comes to waging wars and caring for those who do the actual fighting, the GOP’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.
We can do better. I will do better, given the opportunity. So, I would appreciate your vote in November. There are nearly a million veterans in North Carolina counting on the VA. Let’s not let them down.
Note: Art Sherwood is the Democratic candidate for North Carolina Senate District 46, which includes 3 Appalachian counties – Avery, Burke and Caldwell. I am serving as Campaign / Communications Director for him. Impartiality is no longer an option for me. While it’s not news, 2016 reminded us that elections matter. How we care for the poor and vulnerable, how we protect the sacred earth which sustains us, how we protect human rights, how we care for the alien among us, how we defend voting rights, and how we treat each other in the body politic and the “public square” of social media, requires that I choose a side. – MB
Takes stands on Public Education, Healthcare and Employment
LENOIR, N.C. – Art Sherwood, the Democratic candidate for the N.C. State Senate in Avery, Burke and Caldwell Counties today launched his website and issued position papers. “The people of Western North Carolina are industrious and caring. They want what is best for their families. That means we must address the challenges facing public education, we must provide universal, single-payer healthcare, and we must focus on 21st Century strategies for providing local and full employment.”
The website can be accessed here.
Position papers include:
Sherwood commented, “That we continue to have to deal with these issues demonstrates clearly that we lack leadership in Raleigh. That is why providing leadership that is principled and reasonable is my primary focus. By doing that, I can help be part of the solution. Indeed, these position papers provide detailed insight into exactly how I plan to deal with these issues. I hope folks will take a few minutes to read them. This is the year we must turn the tide of incivility, negativity and inaction.”
Art Sherwood says sacrificing school children to protect weapons of war is outrageous; also slams gun lobby and idea of arming teachers
LENOIR, N.C. – Art Sherwood, the Democratic candidate for North Carolina State Senate District 46, today expressed outrage that school children are being murdered at astounding rates while the gun lobby and their Republican allies continue to insist on allowing civilians access to weapons of war.
Sherwood said, “While I commend school systems, law enforcement, mental health experts and social workers for working together to protect our children, the truth is – as evidenced by the relentless, ongoing school shootings – that these efforts are not enough.”
Sherwood continued, “Students across the nation have been demanding more action to protect them from mass murder. To turn a deaf ear to them, to continue to ignore the abhorrent and uncivilized killings made all too easy by lax gun laws is to abdicate our moral responsibility to ensure that, first and foremost, our schools are safe.”
Sherwood noted, “One of the primary reasons I decided to run for the state senate was to protect North Carolina’s public schools. First, however, we must sadly start with this most distressing matter of protecting the lives of our students and public school personnel from mass murder!”
In response to the epidemic of school and other domestic terrorist assaults such as those in Florida and Nevada, Sherwood said, “I support a ban on assault rifles and placing strict limits on gun shows. I also encourage schools and school systems to establish Human Relations Councils that include students that are empowered to address bullying, bigotry and other root causes of violence. Educational, mental health, law enforcement and other professionals can also work closely together to mitigate threats. Relying upon Active Shooter exercises – while appropriate preparedness – still signals that we are not tackling the essential questions. For instance, are we really trying to figure out what is making our young people so violent?”
… we must ask of ourselves why are so many people willing to accept the growing body count of children and adults. When are we going to ask the fundamental question that the gun lobby doesn’t want to hear – How many children must die before military weapons are taken out of the hands of civilians? – Art Sherwood
He continued, “Even more importantly, we must ask of ourselves why are so many people willing to accept the growing body count of children and adults. When are we going to ask the fundamental question that the gun lobby doesn’t want to hear – How many children must die before military weapons are taken out of the hands of civilians?
Sherwood also addressed the suggestion that teachers be armed, an idea advocated recently by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. DeVos said “There is a sense of urgency needed.” Sherwood countered, “Urgency is needed; it has been since at least Columbine! However, what is urgent is what the Republicans and gun lobby opposes – reasonable restrictions on guns. Arming teachers is reactionary. Teachers are not trained how to use firearms. They should be provided with safe schools so that they can do what they are trained to do – teach our children.”
He concluded, “Every time I see, hear or read of another school shooting, I have to ask, ‘How could anyone think owning an assault rifle is more important than a single child’s life?’”
Senate District 46 includes Avery, Burke and Caldwell counties.
To contact the campaign, call or email:
Michael Barrick, Campaign / Communications Director*
Citizens for Art
DISCLOSURE: Barrick is also owner of this publication.
Researcher, educator says campaign will focus on working class issues such as education and healthcare
LENOIR, N.C. – Today, researcher and educator Dr. Art Sherwood announced his candidacy to represent District 46 of the North Carolina Senate. Sherwood is a Democrat.
“I am honored to announce that I am running to represent district 46 in the North Carolina Senate,” Dr. Sherwood said. “My wife Gwen and I have two children and seven grandchildren, and it is out of deep concern for the world we are leaving behind for the next generation that I have decided to run for office.”
“I am convinced that we can do a better job preparing our children for a changing future that demands lifelong learning.” Sherwood continued. “Restoring North Carolina’s reputation for excellence in education is vital to ensuring the success of future generations, our workforce, and our economy. We must support education in our state by paying our teachers the salaries they deserve and giving our schools the funding they need.
“Education is the key that unlocks the American dream.”
Quality, affordable healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege. We must transform our inefficient health care industry into a system rooted in compassion. No one should have to make the choice between life-changing treatments and buying food for their families.”
Having worked closely with those impacted by spinal cord injuries and disabilities, Sherwood also has a deep understanding of the importance of expanding affordable health care.
“We must expand Medicaid to our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” Dr. Sherwood insisted. He asserted, “Quality, affordable healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege. We must transform our inefficient health care industry into a system rooted in compassion. No one should have to make the choice between life-changing treatments and buying food for their families.”
He concluded, “It’s time to break the GOP stranglehold on the General Assembly and bring reason back to Raleigh.”
Senate District 46 is a newly constituted district and includes Avery, Burke and Caldwell counties. Previously, Caldwell County was in Senate District 45.
Dr. Art Sherwood is a man of faith and science. His family has deep roots in the mountains and foothills of Western North Carolina and in the church, as both his great-grandfather and grandfather served as preachers, along with his uncle, brother-in-law and cousin. Sherwood received the Bachelor’s and Master’s in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Following completion of his doctorate in biomedical engineering from Duke University in 1970, Sherwood joined the faculty at Texas A&M University, where he helped establish the Bioengineering Program. He moved to the Texas Medical Center in 1975 to develop the Clinical Neurophysiology Laboratory at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR). He became Director of Research for the Restorative Neurology Program at Baylor College of Medicine upon its founding in 1987. In 1997, he became Director of the Center of Excellence on Healthy Aging with Disabilities at the Michael E DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston where he developed a set of laboratories for quantitative studies of motor function, and carried out a series of studies in veterans after spinal cord injury, stroke and Parkinson’s disease. Prior to his retirement in 2011, Sherwood played a significant role in guiding the disability research agenda on a national level in his role as Science and Technology Advisor to the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research in Washington, DC. Sherwood and his wife Gwen live in Caldwell County in the valley where they put down roots almost a half-century ago.
Encountering a disturbing view of the Christian faith
By Art Sherwood
PATTERSON, N.C. – Last week was a wonderful week, celebrating the 241st birthday of the United States. It is always a good time to ponder enduring statements from our founders, such as “When in the course of human events … ” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
But as John Adams said, it is not just a time for reflection about freedom and liberty; it is also a time for celebration! So, like lots of folk, we celebrated our nation’s birthday with family, as our daughter visited with three of our grandchildren. Enjoying the beautiful mountains of North Carolina under clear, blue skies included an adventurous trip to Tweetsie Railroad.
That is when our celebration was momentarily interrupted and again left me pondering. This time, it was about something as precious to me as my family and our nation – my Christian faith. As I was standing in line so the children could get their pictures taken with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I struck up a conversation with another grandparent doing what I was doing. After a bit, she noticed the logo on the front of my shirt – “The Christian Left” – and asked me what it was about. I explained that it was a counterforce to the Christian right, who abdicated any claim to Christianity in the last election. I then showed her the back of the shirt, which says, “Love Thy Neighbor.” It goes on to list various groups of people, such as “LGBT Neighbor,” “Imprisoned Neighbor,” “Hindu Neighbor,” and so forth. She then responded, “Love is not enough,” and entered into a rant about how if we don’t do something we will become like them. She protested that she was just an old fashioned Bible-believing woman. About that time, the line opened up and we ended our conversation at that point.
I, too, am an old fashioned, Bible-believing person, which is why I found her response so disturbing.
Love is enough. It is more than enough, it is everything. At least, that’s what it sounds like Jesus said in an exchange recorded in the Gospel of Mark (12: 28-34 NIV). Jesus was asked “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But he didn’t stop there. He continued, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
That’s it, Jesus says. Love. It is all that is required, and it requires all from us. It is required of all of us who claim the name of Christ.
The account continues, “Well said teacher. … You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
It’s also noteworthy how Jesus responded and how this exchange concluded: “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”
I however, continue to ask questions – of those who adhere to a very disturbing view of the Christian faith. Indeed, the brief encounter served to validate the point made by my friend Michael Barrick to me last week, when he said that in North Carolina our political divide is a proxy war of theologies – the theology of fear which breeds hate or the theology of hope which is the path to the love of which Jesus speaks. The former is exemplified by the Rev. Franklin Graham; the latter by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II.
As a lifelong Sunday School attendee in Baptist churches large and small from Texas to Washington, D.C., I am blown away that someone can say they are Bible-believing Christians on the one hand and say love is not enough on the other. I don’t see how they can ignore the entire New Testament that is all about love. Sadly, the tactics of fear used by so-called Christian politicians and their powerful pastor allies is working. It makes me question: What happened to trust in God? What happened to turn your cares to Jesus?
What happened is a terrible failure of teaching by our spiritual leaders who have abdicated their job to lead us to the love of God. This too seems to be clearly addressed in scripture: “Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock” (Ezekiel 34: 2b-3).
Based on my short conversation in a line at Tweetsie Railroad – and decades of service to Baptist churches and 10 years (1979 – 1989) as a trustee at Southwestern Theological Seminary – I would have to agree with what we read in Ezekiel. The shepherds are attending to their gods of power, money and sex instead of their flocks.
So, the poor and vulnerable are hurt the most, even though Jesus demonstrated preferential concern for them. I can’t quite figure out what’s being taught in Sunday School these days, but Michael and I have concluded that we are, indeed, witnessing a religious proxy war being played out in the North Carolina General Assembly. At the moment, the “Love is not enough” faction is winning.
We can counter that. Take a moment to listen to “We Should Only Have Time For Love” by Claire Lynch. It’s worth a listen. Its message is timeless. And complete. We should only have time for love for one simple reason – love is enough. But we won’t know that until we try it. So it is up to us to keep proving it.
© Art Sherwood, 2017. Photo by Jacob Meyer.