A commitment to compassion, not supporting meanness or madness, should be the standard for professional educators.

I’ve noticed that some of the not-so-well thought out actions and, in some cases, what I suspect is the flat-out hijacking and sabotage of a very legitimate Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement by right wing agent-provocateurs; is being used as a rational by some of our White brothers and sisters to support and vote for Donald Trump. And sadly, some of those people are present or former professional educators.

There are two reasons I am deeply concerned about the outcome of the November 3 POTUS election. One is that a 10% point lead for Biden is troubling given all that Trump has done (and not done) and said to all Americans. The recent being the terrible and dismissively hurtful words directed at the fallen and wounded military service persons and their families. And so, how on earth, I keep asking myself, is the election so close?
The second reason is connected to the first reason and my opening BLM demonstrations observation. I believe that many White Americans are in a never-ending search to find some ‘excuse’ to vote for Trump. Their moral-hesitancy is probably based on something their parents or their affiliated religious institution taught them as a child about decency, right and wrong. Or, perhaps they are haunted by their childhood history class readings and studying of Nazism (and how Trumpism shares many of the ideas and ideals of fascism).

When facing a decision for protecting the disentitled and disenfranchised as a professional educator, I would always ask myself a question like: “What would Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Howard Thurman do?
As Superintendent of the Albany City School District, I once received a letter from a student. Now, I received large mail bags every day with letters addressed to me, but I tried as best I could to personally read the letters sent from parents, staff persons, and students. This particular letter was sent from a Blind elementary student who wanted to participate in the district’s ‘Readers to Leaders’ program, but his school library did not have enough books written in Braille. I immediately allocated funding for the purchase of both books written in Braille and large print books for those students who were visually impaired. The next day I visited the school to thank the student and inform him that his ‘Readers to Leaders’ books were on the way. I know you are not supposed to say this, but that student became one of my ‘favorites,’ and whenever I visited his school (where he became a ‘celebrity’), I made a special effort to spend time with him. I’ve accumulated hundreds of plaques, citations, and awards, but a picture of that young man and me is one of my most cherished possessions. That student happened to be White. But it never occurred to me that his (and other White students) life did not matter because some White person(s) somewhere in America did something that angered, hurt or offended me.

If one is searching for a reason to be mean, unfair, unjust, or just not caring about another human being’s life, you will not be disappointed. Because every member of our imperfect species will, at some point, disappoint and ‘fall-short.’ If you want to hate and inflict harm on an atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, White, Latino, Black, Asian, LGBTQ person, etc., and the criteria is that someone from those groups named above does something ‘bad’ or unwise; then you’re good to go! And good to go for Trump!

Michael A. Johnson has served as a teacher, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He is the author of a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership (http://majmuse.net/report-to-the-principlas-office-tools-for-building-successful-administrative-leadership/ ).

For those seeking to re-elect Trump, any excuse will do.

Pauline Johnson: “Son, there is no right way to do wrong!”

As a NYC school principal and superintendent, I always lived in the same community where my students lived (literally next door and across the street). I love, love, love Brooklyn, but once I was appointed a Southeast Queens Superintendent, I moved to Southeast Queens. I also left my baptismal Brooklyn church to attend a church in Southeast Queens. Did students and parents come to my house, stop me everywhere, and at any time, to ask a question or seek assistance with a problem? Absolutely! But so what? I chose a servant-leader’s life, so you must suffer graciously with whatever comes with that title. It was important for me to not hide from the people I serve, and to experience the same living conditions my students and their families experienced. Those shared experiences were not always pleasant, like inadequate shopping options, particularly in the area of fresh food; or suffering daily indignities like being pulled over by the police because according to them: “We saw an expensive car in ‘this’ neighborhood, and we thought it might have been stolen!”

Once I was robbed at gunpoint by a young Black man, and I was actually more upset then scared. I tried to engage the young fellow in a dialogue (I know it sounds crazy). I explained to him that if he were willing to come to my school (without the gun, of course) tomorrow, I would do everything in my power to get him a job and some kind of job-training help to get him off the self-destructive path he was on. Once he got over the initial shock of my offer, he reminded me using words I won’t repeat that (my translation): (A) He had a gun, and (B) He stopped me for my wallet, not a principal mentoring session.
And so now back to those ‘undercover’ Trump voters, some masquerading as ‘independents’ and ‘undecideds'(really, undecided on decency, compassion kindness, and justice for all?).
I was, of course, personally upset and even angry by being robbed, but it never occurred to me to want to hurt young Black men; if anything, my unfortunate incident caused me to double-down in my efforts and commitment to save as many young people as possible. I don’t believe that any child is born a criminal. In fact, it is ‘us,’ a dismissive society, and ineffectual public school systems that drive children to lose their way and purpose in the world.

Love always responds correctly to the other’s suffering, even when it is expressed in ways that we don’t like. If your translation of: “We want to be treated like human beings by the police.” Is “You hate the police!“; then you don’t believe that Black and Latino people should be treated like human beings by the police. My mother always taught me that terrible life events don’t turn you into something that you are not; instead, they reveal who you truly are. So, there is never a good reason to mistreat another human being (“there is no right way to do wrong! she would say.”). Any Americans who will use the unfortunate events occurring in places like Wisconsin to vote for Donald Trump are at heart ‘Trump voters’ and are waiting for any chance to support him. Unfortunately, the Black Lives Matter Movement has been in some places hijacked by Black and White leftist-nihilist-adventurist (simply lacking in revolutionary discipline), who like their right-wing “opponents’ don’t care anything about Black lives. When the “Left” and “Right” go far enough in the opposite direction, they actually meet and find a convenient convergence of interest (see Grenada invasion, Cambodia Khmer Rouge). To be honest, there are a lot of US ‘left-progressives’ (who have a steady/decent income, good health insurance, and their children receive ‘white-entitlement level’ quality education), who actually want Trump to be reelected because they are working under a flawed ideological concept that if the suffering of ‘the people’ is dramatically increased, ‘the people’ will then become more ‘radicalized’; no, ‘the people’ will only suffer and die more.
If white America has taught us anything over the last four years, it’s that the old and tired Marxist hypothesis that suffering raises consciousness is a flawed experiment. Coal mines have not reopened; factories have not returned from places like Mexico; the white working class is hurting badly (as Trump also works hard to take away any hope of them having healthcare); and a substantial number of white Americans are dying and suffering in some way under Trump’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 health crisis. And so, why do they still support him? I’ve told anyone who will listen for the last four years, it’s not a matter of Trump’s poll numbers being ‘low’; the question is, based on his performance, why are his poll numbers so high? Trump is a bigot and racist. Anyone supporting and voting for him (including the Republican Convention black minstrel show performers)supports bigotry and racism. Me, on the other hand, I’m just out here working to end the conditions that cause young people to want to rob you’ll!