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.
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.
Cooper and the General Assembly make a mockery of the state motto
By Michael M. Barrick
RALEIGH, N.C. – The bill passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper on March 30 to repeal the state’s controversial “bathroom bill” is nothing less than shameful. It is a fake compromise; it is certainly not a repeal, which was what is needed. In this case, a return to the status quo before the Charlotte City Council passed its local ordinance that precipitated the HB2 madness is the only option that will allow cooler heads to prevail and allow us to have an honest debate in this state about this issue.
That means no more rushing bills through with little or no transparency, as the first one was done during special session and this replacement was done last week.
Sadly, the only thing it accomplished is to demonstrate that both political parties are woefully lacking in leadership. That is because this new law changes nothing for now; the GOP-controlled General Assembly ensured that the bill includes a provision that still prevents local municipalities from passing ordinances “regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations” until Dec. 1, 2020.
Understandably, those seeking repeal of HB2 are beyond disappointed by Governor Roy Cooper; they feel betrayed. And well they should. This so-called compromise is an attack up the LGBTQ community, workers’ rights, and local control. That is not a legacy consistent with Democratic Party values.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party claims to be the party that believes in local control. They even believe in nullification of federal laws with which they disagree. For them to handcuff local municipalities is a cynical betrayal of their fundamental principles – simply for political gain, regardless of the harm it does to the people and state they are elected to represent.
So, once again, both of our major political parties have failed us on this issue that is an absolute embarrassment and betrayal of the legacy of bi-partisanship for which North Carolina was once known.
In short, they’ve betrayed our state motto – Esse Quam Videri, which is Latin for “To be rather than to seem.”
© The Lenoir Voice, 2017.
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If legislators will not honor their oath to uphold the U.S. and N.C. constitutions, we need a deterrence to prevent the total erosion of our rights to an emerging police state
By Michael M. Barrick
RALEIGH, N.C. – As I write this, the Republican leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly have had citizens and reporters thrown out of the gallery and arrested, in clear violation of the First Amendment and North Carolina’s Open Meetings law.
And, as Chris Fitzsimon of North Carolina Policy Watch writes today, GOP leadership promises of transparency when they gathered here earlier this week for a special session are, “ … simply put, a lie.”
Welcome to Donald Trump’s America, where the Republican Party is emboldened enough to disregard the Constitution and the Rule of Law, and use law enforcement as their own personal army. This kind of nonsense understandably led to a revolution a couple of centuries ago.
So, here is something I am sure the Republican leadership will understand since they are such guardians of the U.S. Constitution: with you folks in office, the Second Amendment has never been more important. You have undeniably demonstrated you pose a clear and present danger to our fundamental rights and institutions. In fact, you have done so repeatedly to suppress votes as numerous courts have ruled.
You violate our most basic liberties in broad daylight, under the glare of television lights, in our hallowed buildings to undermine the will of the people as expressed on Election Day. If you are brazen enough to do that, you are certainly not beyond bullying your opposition in ways once considered unimaginable in this country.
The founders of this nation understood that and, in due course, determined that they had to throw off their oppressors. They had learned that life without liberty is no life at all (Ironic, in light of slavery). Still, in 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
We hope, of course, that we can transition through these rough waters peacefully. Isn’t that what Christ taught? (I only ask because the GOP claims exclusive ownership of the faith). Also, I can’t imagine Jesus throwing out his followers. He was a little more hospitable than that and was pretty big on making sure his message was heard loud and clear, not hidden. Clearly, the GOP’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. The watchful eye of the people and the press does not presently deter the GOP. Maybe they just don’t get the First Amendment. But we all know they have the Second Amendment memorized.
So, here’s a suggestion to the North Carolina Republican Party: show us you can be trusted with the First Amendment. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
If you can’t be trusted to do that – to honor your oath of office – you can be sure that your constituents will take the Second Amendment quite seriously should your coup-d’etat extend into our homes. And do us a favor. Do not feign outrage at our disgust with you. You – the leaders of the North Carolina Republican Party and your puppeteers – have gone beyond the pale in violating our rights. That’s how revolutions begin – with arrogant leaders disregarding the law and basic human rights. You have done so. It is up to you to admit your error and back us from the brink. Failure to do so will make for a very harrowing 2017 in Raleigh and elsewhere.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2016
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