Tag Archives: parents

To Our Grandchildren – The Secret of Before Time Started

When I grew up (my oldest granddaughter says, “before time started”) communities were less diverse than today.  Before time started, you could walk house to house, farm to farm, and not find an ounce of difference in the values people held dear to their hearts.  The values held in the home were reinforced down the street at Uncle Elmer’s house, Mrs. Cotton’s house, Lott’s Grocery, or in the public library.  The only diversity was some ate salt on their watermelon and some did not.  Values were taught in the home and reinforced up and down the street, church to school, and from the courthouse to the local bank.  Unfortunately, that is seldom true anymore.

Today, more often than not, we do not know our neighbors down the street; therefore, we can no longer be sure the person three doors down has the same values as we do, or has values at all.  It is a sad commentary on our society, but we can no longer trust our children to the neighbourhood for safe keeping – physically or morally.  We have grown too isolated and distant for such trust.  On top of that, time has become an issue.   Regardless of the makeup of the neighbourhood, it is ultimately the responsibility of parents and grandparents to make time to instill and reinforce family values.  However, we live in a society where the best intentions are often hogtied by a rush rush world.  Everyone is in such a hurry – work, ball games, dance, school activities, etc. – that there is little room for quality family time.  It becomes increasingly difficult to consistently reinforce the family values we hold so dear.  Values become the little things we push aside or overlook “just this time” for the sake of speeding to the next event in our busy lives.  Time gets away from us, and before we know it our children are grown and out on their own.  All that is left is our prayers that the values we taught them were enough, and nothing important was overlooked.  You never know, and it can drive you crazy wondering, especially if you are a grandparent where time has begun to speed by faster and faster.

Chasing time is fruitless; you can never win, but you can slow it down.  I slow it down by imagining a time warp in which my grandchildren are sitting around my table.  Except in this time warp, there is not a video game, cell phone, or television to cut into our time.  In my time warp, we conduct ourselves like families did before time started; we talk, laugh, and share one another.  I know that sounds crazy, and I realize this is not cool in the eyes of my grandchildren, but their definition of “cool” came along after time started, so it does not apply to grandfathers, like me, who think of water bubbling from a spring when the word is used.

Oh, yes, here they come!  Come in Nate, Kalyn, Mya, Kayden, Collier, and Pace, and sit with Mawmaw and me.  We are going on a journey.  No, not Disney World, but a journey much more important.  We are going back to a place before time started – a place where values and wisdom were handed down from parents and grandparents and reinforced daily in the community.  We are going back to a time when children ran and played, and parents prayed they did not grow up too fast.  No, Kalyn, we did not ride in horse drawn buggies, but I have on a special occasion or two.  Yes, we had electricity and running water, but most of all we had time for each other.

Yes, Nate, I understand it is stuff nobody wants to hear, yet, it is more relevant than Facebook, Snapchat, or video games.  Yes, Kalyn, “before time started” people actually talked to each other about such things as right and wrong, good manners, and proper etiquette.  No, Mya, they did not text; they used their fingers and hands to hold up one another.  Did they dance?  Oh my, yes, Kayden, they danced, and they sang, and you won’t believe this, but they did so in their homes – as a family.  Were there trees back then?  Yes, Collier, there were trees – great, strong trees.  Trees that gave their limbs to cradles, and one tree that carried a lamb on its shoulders at a place called Galilee.  Why?  Pace, I am so glad you asked.  The answer is so simple – love.  You see, the one thing we have in common with God is love, and before time started, people loved one another, and they didn’t care if someone thought that was cool or not.

Before time started, family was the coolest thing in the world; it was the world.  There was no escaping it; you were inundated with it at the dinner and supper table, reminded of it when working on rooftops or in the fields, and bathed in it every minute and hour of the day.  The wisdom and values conveyed through family was the only road map people needed to find happiness if they were wise enough to follow it.  Like today, life did not come with an instruction book, but way back before time started, it began with a family, and for those who listened and worked at it, that was all they needed.

So, boys and girls, listen close!  Mawmaw and Pawpaw are going to take you on a trip.  We are going to whisper to you the secrets of the place called Before Time Started.  A place where all cool parents and grandparents made time to teach boys and girls how to be good people.  A place where boys and girls were taught values that turned boys into gentlemen and girls into ladies.  So, everyone close your eyes and grab a hand, and we will travel to Before Time Started to learn the secret so many have forgotten.

The Secret of Before Time Started

The greatest influence on the world is what we teach our children at home:

  1. Hold the door open for others to enter a building – especially for ladies and the elderly;
  2. Say “Thank you” when given a compliment, gift, or an act of kindness;
  3. Say “Yes, mam” or “No, mam,” and “Yes, sir” or “No, sir – especially to your parents and elders, or as a sign of respect for anyone deserving. No, you do not have to do this, but it is the right thing to do;
  4. Granddaughters, be confident in yourself. You are as good, smart, and capable as any man.  Never sell yourself short because you are a woman or to please a man;
  5. Grandsons, stand and offer a lady or the elderly your seat on a crowded bus or in a crowded room;
  6. Learn to see, listen, and respect people through the eyes and ears of a blind man;
  7. Never talk down to people. It is rude and makes you appear arrogant and a fool;
  8. Granddaughters, always act like a lady. A woman is God’s symbol of beauty and pose in the world.  It is a daunting task at best, but in his eyes and the eyes of the world be deserving and carry yourself above the reproach of others;
  9. Grandsons, treating women, children, or animals with cruelty is never okay;
  10. If invited to dinner or supper, always compliment the food; if you don’t like the food, keep it to yourself;
  11. Never talk over someone during a conversation. The rule is simple:  I listen when you talk – you listen when I talk;
  12. Surround yourself with people of character with greater skills than your own;
  13. Be a leader, but remember sometimes it takes more courage to follow;
  14. Always leave the trail behind you better than you found it;
  15. Granddaughters, smile often. God made a woman’s smile to heal the world.  Her smile is intended to melt the hearts of men, reassure her children, and light the darkest day;
  16. Grandsons, to become a man, know your heart, put the needs of others before yours, trust in family, and have faith in God – everything else you need will fall into place;
  17. Don’t procrastinate, but take your time when making important decisions;
  18. Not everybody will like you. That is their problem; don’t make it yours;
  19. Embrace those less fortunate. Not everyone is dealt the same cards in life;
  20. Find a hobby! Find something you enjoy in life and do it – don’t worry about being good or bad – just do it!
  21. Being there for others is important, but do not forget yourself. Take time to do the things that are important to you;
  22. Public profanity or profanity as a part of your everyday language is never acceptable. It hurts the ears of ladies and children.  It instills a sense of false bravado.  It demeans your value;
  23. Your word is your honor. Guard your words closely.  Once your integrity is compromised, there is no going back;
  24. If you agree to work for a man for a dollar, give him your best. Work for him as though he was paying you double;
  25. There is nothing wrong with wanting more, but first, always be thankful for what you have;
  26. Granddaughters, walk beside your husband, but never compete with him;
  27. Grandsons, love and be proud of your wife. She is your backbone;
  28. Eat, drink, and have a blast in life, but take care not to lose your soul, waste your mind, or wreck your body in the process. Moderation is the key;
  29. Admit it when you are wrong. Everybody knows it, so own up and move on.  Sometimes saying “I am sorry” is your best play;
  30. Do not take yourself too seriously. Start and end your day by looking in the mirror and having a good laugh;
  31. Read at least thirty minutes every day;
  32. Look for the good in all men, but choose carefully to whom you expose your back;
  33. Good manners, kindness, and treating others the way you want to be treated as well as the way God intended people to treat each other is the greatest of God’s commandments – never take it lightly or for granted! Practice it daily!

Finally, the best advice I can offer is this:  bathe daily, use deodorant after you shower, brush your teeth after you eat, wear fresh clothes daily, respect your mama and daddy, treat everyone with kindness, talk gibberish to babies and animals, pray daily for strength and courage, leave judgement to God, be your own person, and be humble.  To be a man or a woman, you must stand for what you believe, fight for what you love, and treat with kindness all that falls under the spread of your wings.

Children, these are the secrets people knew and lived by before time started – secrets that enable us to live together and respect one another.  Before time started, these truths and values were passed from generation to generation until somehow, they became lost along the way.  In each of you is the light to bring these simple truths and values back to the world.  It is our prayer you will not keep these secrets to yourself, but will live by them and pass them to your children and grandchildren who in their time will pass them to theirs until a day comes when how to live together in peace and respect for one another is no longer a secret, and the world is turned upright once again.

Our love and prayers always, Mawmaw and Pawpaw.

Jl

©Jack Linton, June 12, 2017

Advertisements

Lessons We Learned from Our Kids

Parents teach their children valuable lessons to take with them through life.  Lessons about family and building relationships usually top the list, and countless hours are spent teaching, modelling, and reinforcing those lessons until they become embedded in the child.  Many parents turn to articles and books to guide them through the parenting maze, but even then, raising children is trial and error at best.  Teaching lessons that will carry children to success throughout their lives is not an easy task, but with perseverance, most parents succeed in giving their children the foundation and confidence they need to be successful in life.

However, life lessons are not just for kids.  Kids are quite adept at teaching their parents a few lessons of their own.  The first lesson, which parents are often oblivious to until too late, is kids are always in control.  Parents may think otherwise, but they are only deceiving themselves.  They are under the thumb of their children, and they remain there for a lifetime.  From an early age, kids sell the idea that “kids come first,” and “the world revolves around them.”  Since parents are more eager to please their children than their children are to please them, they buy into the “kids first” mentality hook, line, and sinker.  As a result, they are defenseless against being brainwashed.  They are at the mercy of master manipulators – their children.

My wife and I are no different; we were thoroughly brainwashed, manipulated, and trained by our three children.  They made us unwavering disciples of “our kids come first” and “our world revolves around our kids.”  In our home, there has never been any doubt who “ruled the roost” – the kids!   Our two sons and daughter taught us how to run errands for them at the drop of a hat and cater to their every need.  Their dear old mom slaved over a stove and oven eight hours a day to cook their favorite meals, and what did she get?  Turned up noses and squeals of “Ewww, there’s an onion in my potato salad;” “Gross there’s tomato pieces in the spaghetti sauce;” and “I’m not eating anything green.”  How that poor woman made it through the child bearing years only to be bushwhacked by kids with the palate of a McDonald’s junky, I will never know!  Nevertheless, like most parents, we were and are bound within a system of labor (service to our kids) for a fixed period of time (from birth to forever) in which our lives are exclusively the property of our children.  In fact, we have been named “Indentured Servants” of the year more than once since the births of our children.  However, if you ask my wife, she will tell you we would not have it any other way, especially now that our children are parents.

We are having the time of our lives watching our grandkids wrap our daughter and sons around their sticky little fingers.  Like us, our kids have become “Indentured Servants” to their children – baseball, softball, football, golf, cheerleading, band, show choir, church youth events, sleepovers, cooking their meals with special attention to personal diets and preferences, washing their clothes, money for movies, keys to the car, and waiting to 11:00 a.m. to cut the grass on Saturday morning so as not to interrupt the little darlings’ sleep are just a few of the concessions they along with countless other parents make for their children!  It’s all fun though, and when their children are thirty, our kids will most likely agree as well.  Our kids keep us smiling and young, and my wife and I would not change any of it for any treasure in this world. The good news is we are confident the lessons are not over.  With six grandchildren, we still have a lot to learn, but the grandkids will have to work hard if they expect to top the following list of lessons their parents taught us.

 Lessons We Learned from Our Three Kids

  • It is not wise to jump out of a swing backwards;
  • Dancing can break bones;
  • You really don’t want to know what the odor in your sons’ bedroom is;
  • Towel capes cannot make you fly, but they are good for cleaning up the blood before mom gets home;
  • One daughter is more than a match for two sons;
  • Sharpies will write on anything including floors, walls, and ceilings as well as act as the perfect touch-up paint for everything that does not need painting;
  • A clothes dryer does not make a good hamster’s wheel – RIP Herman;
  • Lost underpants during potty training means ransacking the house to find those underpants;
  • Boiled Easter eggs will spoil if kept under the bed until the following Easter;
  • Parents should be extra suspicious when their children are quite;
  • Do not drink after your kids;
  • “Uh oh” after the toilet flushes means “watch out,” but it is probably too late.

JL

©Jack Linton, April 20, 2017

Twenty Tips for New Teachers (or Veteran Teachers)

Over the years, I have been asked numerous times for advice or tips I would offer new teachers or veteran teachers.  I always respond by saying the little I know is the result of professional reading (at least thirty minutes daily) and mistakes I made as a teacher and a school administrator.  I think the biggest mistake most teachers make is looking for perfection.  This mistake can cost them their joy as a teacher.  It causes them to lose sight of what teaching is about and why they signed on to teach in the first place.  Sometimes teachers become so blinded by the pursuit of perfection, they lose sight of the good they do, and as a consequence they drum themselves out of the profession.  No matter how badly they want it, there is no such thing as the perfect student, the perfect parent, or the perfect teacher, so my advice to teachers is to STOP looking for perfection, and replace it with an expectation of always “putting forth the best you can do.”  That is the highest expectation, teachers can ever hope to achieve from their students; it is the highest expectation they can ever expect of themselves.  Next, I would advise teachers to MAKE TEACHING A COMMITMENT:  commitment to the teaching journey, commitment to learning from mistakes, commitment to professional learning, and commitment to NEVER giving up on students or themselves.  After that, I would offer the following advice and tips:

  1. You WILL make mistakes – learn not to repeat them – learn to apologize and move on! Making a mistake is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign you are not sitting still;
  2. It’s okay to have fun! Good teachers figure out how to make learning fun!
  3. Use handouts as a teaching tool, not a “keep them busy” tool. Remember, teachers teach and subs give handouts!   Which are you?
  4. Use pre-test to assess your student’s existing knowledge. Pre-assessments will help you make your teaching more relevant and their learning more meaningful;
  5. Communicate with parents often! Nothing can be more unsettling to a teacher’s day than a surprised or angry parent who has been kept in the dark about their child’s progress;
  6. Greet students at the door like you are happy to see them – not like they are the plague;
  7. Be on time for duty! The safety of students and your career is on the line.  Monitoring duty in the cafeteria, in the hall between classes, before school, or after school is a necessity!  It is not a useless punishment your uncaring principal has placed on you;
  8. Make note of teachers who always complain and are unhappy – be nice to them, but stay away, unless you want to be like them;
  9. Be proud to be a teacher! You have the most important job in the world.  You influence young lives every day, so decide every morning if it will be a positive influence or a negative influence;
  10. Assign seats! Especially until you get to know your students.  Assigning seats also makes it easier and faster to take roll;
  11. If you do not plan to discuss and review homework in class the next day, DO NOT assign homework! Homework is only effective if it is used as a formative tool with timely feedback to students;
  12. DO NOT assign work in class that will not be discussed, reviewed, or graded. Like the teacher, students DO NOT need busy work;
  13. Never make an online assignment without first checking the websites, including links to other websites. Ask these questions – Is it active?  Like most everything, websites do not last forever.  Is it blocked by the school filter?  If blocked, seek help from the school technology person to unblock it.  Is it appropriate?  Make sure the content is appropriate for the student age level you teach as well as for the community the school serves;
  14. Always, always, always preview movies to be shown in class. Movies should be used sparingly in class and then only in small clips to support discussion of the lesson.  Showing a movie that takes up one to three days of class time is poor practice and a waste of instructional time.  Showing a movie in its entirety is lazy teaching;
  15. If you assign a book or website that may be controversial to students, their families, or the community do the following: (1) meet with the principal and seek his/her support by explaining why you have chosen the material and its value to the learning process; (2) Send home a notice to parents/guardians that some content may be offensive and explain why you believe it is necessary to use the material in class; (3) offer an alternative assignment for students and/or parents who object to the content (use of offensive language, use of graphic sex, etc.);
  16. Never argue with a student in class! You are the authority in the classroom!  If a student wants to challenge authority let him/her challenge the authority of the assistant principal or the principal;
  17. Teaching for student success:
    1. Pre-assess (pre-test) knowledge;
    2. Provide students learning targets based on pre-assessment needs;
    3. Teach what you want them to know;
    4. Use on-going assessment (formative) throughout the lesson. Check frequently for understanding;
    5. STOP and re-teach if and when necessary;
    6. Assess what you want them to know (summative);
    7. Use summative assessment as a formative tool (feedback) for student learning; and
    8. Re-teach if and when necessary.
  18. Being a TEACHER is NOT about teaching; it is about LEARNING! You may be the greatest presenter of content of all time, but if your students don’t learn, you have failed as a teacher;
  19. Remember, it’s okay to breathe! Teaching is a monstrous responsibility, but if you teach with the same passion and compassion you expect from your children’s teachers, you will be okay; and
  20. Enjoy the teaching journey! You are a part of an awesome group of people.  You are a teacher because you care.

These tips are basic, but if followed, they can serve the new teacher or the veteran teacher well.  Teachers must always maintain high expectations, accept nothing but the best from their students, and never give up on the least of them or themselves.  A tall order, no doubt, but kids will tell you – GOOD TEACHERS CAN DO ANYTHING!

JL

©Jack Linton, August 24, 2016

It’s The First Day of School, Teachers Don’t Worry

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About low pay – they can’t afford what you are worth;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About long hours – artists never see the clock;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About politicians – they’ve never had your back;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About public opinion – they haven’t a clue what you do;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About evaluations – they need you more than you need them;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About teaching – make compassion your passion;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About state tests – teach their content with your heart;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About personal breaks – teachers have big hearts and bladders;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            About not being good enough – your best is all anyone can ask;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            That America’s kids are behind the world – you know that’s B.S.;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry

            That parents don’t like you – sometimes they don’t like themselves;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            Smile – Feed a young soul with your light;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            Pray – Stay humbled by the lives you help shape;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            Play – Laugh, dance, and celebrate the day;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            Stand tall – Not many have the courage to do what you do;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            Seize the moment – Be ready to make a difference;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            Give – Your best gift is that you care;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            Love – You teach because you love kids;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            You have the most important job in the world;

It’s the first day of school, teachers don’t worry –

            Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride!

 

Remember the three most important influences in a child’s life are  . . .

  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Teachers

Everyone else is gravy or sour milk.

 

JL

©Jack Linton,  August 3, 2016

Rosie: A Real Diamond

All of us have diamonds in our lives.  Maybe we don’t have diamonds on our fingers or around our neck, but when we slow down our never ending rush to get through life and shove the noise and clutter aside, the real diamonds, the ones that really matter, come to light.  Diamonds that are more precious and valuable than any gem mined from the ground.  Diamonds that can never be taken from you; they are the rocks on which your life is built.  They are mined from your life experiences, your heart, and your soul.  They are the people who stand above all others; people who make and made you the unique person you are; people who believed in you and still do; people who supported you when they would have been wiser to run; people who protected you from the storm; people you depended on when the world and even some friends turned away; and people who stood beside you when you were alone.  Most often these people are family and close friends who know your heart better than anyone, but sometimes that special person, that diamond, is someone you work or worked with such as Rosie.

Rosie and I are now retired, and rarely see each other anymore, but I recently saw her in a local store, and as always she greeted me with a hug and a smile that radiated she was truly glad to see me.  That was the same smile she greeted me with every morning of my fifteen years as an assistant principal and principal, but not just me, she greeted everyone with that smile, which didn’t cheapen it in the least since everyone knew it was genuine.  She was secretary for close to thirty years to the first three principals at Petal High School ending with me.  She knew every student by name, over a thousand of them at the time, served the teachers with passion, and kept the administration in line.  She had her hand on the pulse of everything from curriculum, don’t think for a moment that she didn’t  know what kids were supposed to know and be able to do, to discipline (If you ever get her alone, get her to tell you the “two socks” story).  For thirty years, Miss Rosie, as the kids called her, was Petal High School, or like I think of it – Rosie Kinard High School.  No one ever gave their heart and soul to a school more than Rosie.  Working at Petal High School was not a job for her; it was her school, her kids, her teachers, her principal and assistant principals – it was her life!

When I was named principal of Petal High School, Rosie became my life support.  She was my secretary, actually she was everybody’s secretary, but she was so much more than that.  To the kids she was a mama, a counselor, and a friend; to the teachers she was their biggest fan and supporter; for me, she was my partner.  Together we ran the school.  This tiny woman was a fireball of energy, still is, who knew more about the school in her little finger than I would ever know.  She was the glue that in many ways held the high school together; she certainly held me together.  I learned early, as I am confident the principals before me learned also, to bounce ideas off her.  As principal, I could often gauge how teachers would react to my ideas by her reactions.  If I ran an idea by her, and she said, “Oh, that is wonderful, why haven’t we thought about that before,” I knew the chances were good the teachers would be excited about the idea as well, or if she said adamantly, “That’s what is best for these kids,” I knew there might be a fuss, but it would be worth the fight.  However, if she responded with something like “You’re the principal, so I don’t see that there should be a problem,” I knew the odds were good the “ice cream” was about to hit the fan.  I learned to value her opinion and look for her insightful cues, and by doing so, she helped me become a better person and especially a better principal.

Rosie is what my grandfather called “good people,” to which I would only add “REALLY good people!”  She cared about people not because of their position, who they were in the community, economic standing, the color of their skin, or the persuasion of their heart; she cared about them because she truly loves and cares about people.  As school secretary, she was compassionate to all people – children, teachers, parents and school administrators.  She was not perfect; she could get feisty at times, but if she did, she would apologize for days afterwards.  In the history of Petal High School, there have been many diamonds that should not be overlooked, but I was there for 25 of the school’s first 40 years, and I can say no one was more important to the success and reputation of Petal High School than a little lady who made “peanuts” for a salary.  She gave her all to the school she loved, and when she retired, she took a piece of all us with her, but she left behind an integral part of the foundation Petal High School is built upon – her heart.

I am blessed to have many diamonds in my life, but Rosie will always be one of my very special diamonds.  She didn’t have to be there for me; she could have chosen to be a part of the storms, but rather she chose to take a young principal under her wing and protect him from the storms.  As a result, our time at Petal High School became a triumphant journey of adventure and fulfillment.  I always sincerely thank the students and teachers for that, but without Rosie Kinard, Petal High School would have been and would be today just another good high school.  Through her energy, courage, encouragement, passion, and compassion she helped mold the high school into the great school it is today.  Rosie is the real deal.  She is a diamond that I cannot thank enough for being there for me when I needed her.

So, if you see her about town, take notice of her infectious smile, and don’t be surprised if you get a hug.  Thank her for what she has meant to the Petal Community and the thousands of lives she has touched.  Tell her “Thank you;” she deserves it, and she has most definitely earned it.

Rosie, thank you for being a diamond in my life!

JL

©Jack Linton, April 30, 2016

“The Not So Secret, Secret” Revisited: ALEC’s Dismantling of Public Education

In March 2014, I published an article, “The Not So Secret, Secret,” concerning the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) shadowy presence in Mississippi politics.  A few people took notice, but for the most part, the article was ignored.  Two years ago, such an article brought about visions of conspiracies and backroom cloak and dagger meetings that most people felt were more likely to happen in the movies or in some non-democratic third world country, but surely not in Mississippi.  In March 2014, most educators could not imagine in their wildest dreams the extent they would be betrayed by their elected officials in the following months.  After all, this was Mississippi, the state of hospitality, integrity, and a sense of fairness unparalleled anywhere in the nation.  Most Mississippians believed their legislators stood firm against outside interference; they believed there was no way Mississippi state representatives and senators could fall under the spell of an outside organization such as ALEC.  However, by now, Mississippians should know better!

In the past few months, Mississippi educators have witnessed an escalated assault on public education in the state.  This assault has been directly influenced by the ALEC agenda and carried out by ALEC members such as Mississippi Speaker of the House, Phillip Gun.  These assaults will most likely continue until all that is left of Mississippi public schools are holding pens for children discarded by the newly privatized system.  ALEC is not about the good of Mississippi!  It is about power and the men and women who embrace that power.  It is about keeping people in their place, especially if those people do not conform to the same beliefs and attributes as those in power.

Therefore, I am republishing the 2014 article in hopes the message may, this time, be clearer to educators and the Mississippi public.   I hope readers will pause to look at what has happened since March 2014.  I hope they recall the underhanded way the Initiative 42 issue was handled by the state leadership in Jackson!  I hope they will look at the quantity of frivolous and frightening education bills that have been proposed over the past two years.  When they read about the model bills ALEC provides to its members as legislative templates, I hope they will associate those templates with bills that are more interested in silencing public school educators and getting them under the absolute control of the state legislature than improving education.   Finally, this time, before the reader says this is not happening or can’t happen in Mississippi, I hope readers will take a long hard look at what has happened in just the past twenty-four months.

This article is no longer a warning!  ALEC is here, and if left unchallenged, its agenda will eventually destroy public education in Mississippi.  We cannot afford to continue to ignore that possibility or ignore ALEC’s presence and influence in our state.

JL

©Jack Linton   March 25, 2016

The Not So Secret, Secret

[First published March 2014]

Have you ever wondered what is truly behind the anti-teacher and anti-education rhetoric continually flowing out of Jackson?  Have you ever wondered why it seems the state leadership in Jackson has declared war against teachers and education in general across the state?  Have you ever wondered what is truly behind the push to privatize public education?  The answer to these questions is probably one of the best kept non-secrets in Mississippi, but every Mississippian needs to know about this not so secret, secret.  They need to understand that the crusade to link parent choice to privatizing Mississippi public education has not happened by chance nor did it happen overnight.  It is actually a part of an agenda that was put into place a little over forty years ago aimed at privatizing education across the United States; an agenda that has been called radical, dangerous, and a threat to American democracy.  Some people may not believe what I am saying, but if you are an educator, you need to heed what I am about to disclose and understand whether you like it or not, you are at war.  The war I am talking about is a long burning ember that has erupted into a full-scale blaze that threatens the very existence of public school education not only in Mississippi but across the nation.

First, I must admit I was in the dark as much as anyone else until about three years ago.  I was talking to a friend who was a high school principal in Louisiana at the time, and as usual we were discussing the good and bad about education in our states.  We were rocking along nicely exchanging stories when my friend asked me what I thought about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.  My response was an unknowing, “Who?”  He laughed and said, “Get ready.  They already have a strong foothold in your legislature, so you need to pay attention.  This group is probably the greatest threat to public education in history.”  Despite my friend’s on-the-money warning, I did not pay much attention even when he told me a central theme to ALEC’s education agenda was privatizing public schools.  I just did not believe at the time that privatizing public education in Mississippi held any merit or even if it did, that such a notion had a “snowball’s chance in hades” of taking root here.  I still believe I was right about the lack of merit, but boy, was I ever more wrong about that snowball.

That snowball’s chance has exploded in the face of Mississippi’s public school educators.  ALEC and its Mississippi legislator members are running roughshod over the public schools by ramrodding charter schools, vouchers, tax deductions for private school tuition and home schooling expenses, and special education vouchers down the throats of local school districts by declaring public schools in Mississippi are “educationally bankrupt.”  Claiming their actions are in the best interest of Mississippi children, they are in effect funneling public tax dollars into private schools (vouchers) and into private for profit ventures (charter schools).  To bring this about, ALEC has brought state legislators and corporations together to form an education task force that drafts model bills that are intended to be introduced at the state level.  At the state level, ALEC members or those affiliated with the organization in the house and senate insert applicable state language into the model bill that in effect makes the bill look like original legislation introduced by local politicians.  This is not only happening in Mississippi, but it is happening in state after state across the nation.  A common strategy is to introduce education bills in mass to prevent opponents of the bills from blocking all of them at one time.  If you look back at the number of education bills that have been introduced in Jackson over the past two or three years, it is easy to see that this strategy has been in play in Mississippi for quite some time.  The bottom line is that this organization is undermining public education by draining public education dollars from the public school system to subsidize private schools and private tutoring as well as lining the pockets of for-profit corporate-run charter schools.

What I am about to say may offend some, and cause others to scream party partisanship on my part.  However, I can assure you that I have little regard for the failed political platforms of either the Republican or Democrat parties.  However, be that as it may, simply stated, ALEC is a marriage between large corporations and conservative Republicans in the house and the senate (ALEC membership is overwhelmingly Republican).  These large corporations buy seats on the education task force where they receive tax breaks for donations, privately vote on model legislation, and influence the task force with their corporate agendas.  On the other hand, the conservative Republicans get to flaunt their brilliance for policy innovation without disclosing their bills were first crafted by the corporate world for the purpose of expanding their profit margins at the expense of Mississippi taxpayers (I have listed resources at the conclusion of this blog that provide lists of Mississippi legislators who are or have been affiliated with ALEC).  Renowned education historian, Diane Ravitch, clearly sums up the role ALEC has in the current crusade against public education when she says,

“This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the  work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.  Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators.  Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education.”

But why would anyone or any organization want to destroy public education?  What is their motivation?  In February 2012, Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead wrote about the dismantling of the public school system in Phi Delta Kappan.  In that article, they said,

“The motivation for dismantling the public education system—creating a system where schools do not provide for everyone—is ideological, and it is motivated by profit. The corporate members on ALEC’s education task force include representatives from the Friedman Foundation, Goldwater Institute, Evergreen Education Group, Washington Policy Center, and corporations providing education services such as Sylvan Learning and K- 12, Inc.  All stand to benefit from public funding sent in their direction.”

If this is indeed true, and current legislation in the Mississippi legislature certainly seems to support that it is, then we can only assume that if corporations stand to profit from privatizing public education, maybe some of their membership stands to profit as well.

When it comes to politics very little ever happens by chance, and the current state of affairs with education politics in Jackson is no different.  The only “chance” in play in Mississippi is the chance that Mississippians are taking by not paying attention to what is happening in the Mississippi senate and house chambers.  I have always been a believer in capitalism, but I never thought I would live to see the day that some in our state legislature would be transformed from serving children to serving private for profit greed.  It is time Mississippians started paying attention and responding with their votes before it is too late.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 2014

 

Resources you may be interested in reviewing:

 

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Mississippi_ALEC_Politicians

 

This is a partial list of Mississippi politicians that are known to be involved in, or             previously involved in, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It is a             partial list.  You may wish to call your state legislator and ask about ALEC.

 

http://www.alec.org/

 

American Legislative Exchange Council – website.  You may want to look at some of their model education bills.  You might be surprised  see some of the same bills that have been introduced in Mississippi recently.

http://www.alternet.org/story/155257/what_you_need_to_know_about_alec

What You Need To Know About ALEC.  The now embattled organization has been working to destroy public ed for the past forty    years. Here’s   what you need to know about how they’re doing it.

By Diane Ravitch

 

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/03/01/kappan_underwood.html

 

A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education:  Coordinated efforts to introduce model             legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of         this conservative organization.

 

By Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, Phi Delta Kappan

 

http://alecexposed.org/w/images/7/7b/ALEC_on_Education_2.pdf

Mississippi’s Next Best Chance to Adequately Fund Public Schools

The defeat of Initiative 42, Mississippi’s best hope to adequately fund K-12 public school education, was devastating to Mississippi public school educators and their many supporters. Since the defeat, the question has been, “What do we do next?” Like so many others, I questioned if there was any need to even try to fight the system any longer. However, after a lot of thought and soul searching, I am convinced that it is now more important than ever before to continue the fight. In fact, I have a plan of action that may sound far-fetched on the surface, but it just might work. The plan is at least a step to rekindle the flame that educators and parents must keep burning on this issue.

This week, the Powerball lottery is estimated to be at least 1.3 billion dollars! Since Governor Bryant seems adamant in his quest to reduce or completely eliminate state taxes, why not swap state taxes for a two dollar lottery tax? Such a tax would assess every family in the state an additional two dollars per family member to buy lottery tickets. (Okay, so the lottery plan is not exactly new, but I believe buying lottery tickets with state money rather than implementing a state lottery may be new, so please continue reading.) By buying over 2.94 million tickets and mathematically picking 2.94 million different number combinations, the chances of winning a Powerball lottery would increase dramatically.

Of course, there are people who might take issue with this plan as gambling, but isn’t any state funding a gamble lately? Governor Phil Bryant and House Speaker Phillip Gunn advocate reducing or eliminating state income taxes because apparently the state does not need the money, so it’s not like the money collected for lottery tickets would be needed elsewhere. The lottery ticket money would be an investment in K-12 public school education, and any money won through the lottery would be earmarked for education. Of course, earmarking anything in Mississippi might be considered a gamble, but heck, it’s only money, and if we listen to Bryant and Gunn, Mississippi has plenty of that, so why sweat spending a couple of dollars for each state citizen to play the lottery?  When it comes to funding education, it’s all fun and games in Mississippi anyway.

Everyone knows funding K-12 education is a game the state leadership in Jackson has played for years, so why not play the lottery game as well? Year after year they gamble with the future of our children, so why not play the lottery and give public schools at least a mathematical chance for adequate funding? The odds of winning the lottery if a lottery ticket is bought on behalf of every Mississippi citizen would be equal to or better than the odds to adequately fund K-12 education through the state legislature. When it comes to adequately funding education, Mississippi Republican leaders have shown where they stand on the issue. They not only stand on the issue; they stomp on it with both feet. Their campaign of misinformation and outright deceit during the Initiative 42 debate and vote showed their lack of concern for education and integrity, as well as their willingness to dupe the people. Initiative 42 should have made it clear that a Republican led state legislature is not about to support anything short of privatization of K-12 education. So, since money spent on a lottery would essentially be filling the pockets of someone in the private sector, state legislators should readily accept the lottery plan.

The only practical solution to the education funding issue in Mississippi is to participate in some way in a lottery. It is the only education funding game that state public school educators and their students have a chance of winning. The plan to assess a two dollar education investment tax on every man, woman, and child in the state to be used by the state to buy lottery tickets, may at first appear to be frivolous and pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but is it really? Mississippi educators have put their dreams and trust for a better tomorrow for the state’s children in the hands of the Mississippi Legislature for years with little to show for it. With a lottery ticket, although the odds would still be stacked against adequate funding, at least there would be a “snowball’s chance in hell” for adequate education funding in the future. Putting our trust and dreams in the state legislature has failed us miserably, so why not buy a ticket for the lottery where there is actually a mathematical chance for Mississippi’s teachers and children to win?

It is still early in the 2016 legislative session, so there is always hope for improved education funding, but past experiences tell us not to get our hopes up. With hair brain schemes to eliminate state taxes and make more public school dollars available to private schools, anything close to adequate funding is not looking good for public schools. The only hope and prayer for K-12 education is for an outlier Republican legislator (not sure if such a creature exists) or a Democrat legislator who has yet to give up the ghost (such a creature is definitely mythical in Mississippi) embraces the wisdom behind the state purchasing massive blocks of Powerball tickets from Louisiana to bolster education funding. However, even if enough support could be garnered for such a plan, and the legislature designated lottery winnings go to K-12 public school education, everybody knows there is no guarantee the state Legislature would stand by such a commitment.

Commitments to education funding are arbitrary in Mississippi. As long as state legislators are not bound by the commitments of preceding legislatures or by their own laws, it will remain so. Presently, any device or action orchestrated by legislative action to boost education funding can be argued in subsequent years as nonbinding. Legislators can and have successfully argued that the current legislature cannot be fiscally bound to the fiscal commitment of a previous legislature (i.e. MAEP funding). In the case of a lottery, that would mean if a Mississippi ticket won the lottery, state legislators would most likely rescind all or part of their commitment to education and place 50% of the winnings in the state rainy day fund, give 35% of the winnings to the corporate world, keep 10% of the winnings for legislative expenses to organize and implement the lottery plan, and send the remaining 5% of the winnings to the public school districts. Afterwards legislators would brag about the financial windfall they had engineered for the good of Mississippi’s children and teachers. Sadly, the public would buy it. Educators would meekly take their windfall and continue to do the best they could with what they have. However, on the positive, Mississippi might jump from 50th in per student education expenditure to 48th in the nation, so bring on the lottery! After the defeat of Initiative 42, at least a lottery might once again give Mississippi educators and their supporters some hope for a better future for Mississippi’s children. Under our present leadership, a lottery is by far our greatest mathematical chance for adequately funding education in Mississippi.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD  January 12, 2016