“California native Duffy becomes KC area’s most visible cheerleader.” That’s the sub-headline underneath a photo on the front page of the sports section of this morning’s Kansas City Star. I used to be an editor for that newspaper in that very sports department. Every American boy and girl ought to have the opportunity to work for a newspaper at some point during their formative years. In the employ of a gazette you learn the value of a deadline. You learn how to spell. You learn how to revise copy. And you learn that no matter how well you write or edit something of any significant length, it can be improved upon.
We love our Royals, and Our Boys of Summer won their first 2017 Cactus-League contest yesterday, 7-5, against the Texas Rangers. Salvy homered. Hoz had a double. My wife and I share season tickets to the Royals with our business partner Miguel, who served as our campaign treasurer for our last political race for a seat on the Kansas State Board of Education.
I know education and I know how to fix it. Unfortunately, the ENTRENCHED INTERESTS OF THE EDUCATION MACHINE keep yelling for more money with no interest in solving the longstanding problems that plague our schools in under-served (low socioeconomic) neighborhoods. In short, the system keeps on rolling with daughters and sons of our fellow citizens struggling with modern life having the less experienced teachers and the “hangers-on,” those teachers who burned out years ago but are hanging on for their retirement. These are real problems in our “modern” school system.
In the KC Star sports commentary this morning about Royals pitcher Danny Duffy, Star columnist Sam Mellinger suggests that the left-hander is “the Kansas City area’s most prolific and visible cheerleader — with the possible exception of mayor Sly James.”
Well, the mayor of Kansas City and I were beer vendors at the Truman Sports Complex years ago. It’s been more than 35 years since we worked together, each putting himself through college, selling suds in the seating areas of both Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium) and Arrowhead Stadium, across the parking lot, where the Chiefs play NFL games. Sly was a pre-law student at Rockhurst College (now Rockhurst University). I was an engineering student at the local campus for the University of Missouri, in Kansas City. Those were the days. We were young and in shape and had our lives ahead of us. Beer Man! Cold bottle o’ beer! And we could “party” with the best of ’em!
We are not going to fix education today with an essay written to accompany a website dedicated to better math standards. In fact, it has been all-too-long since I have written anything for this venture. Politics and the noise of Clinton-versus-Trump were drowning everything out. The last several weeks have been a cacophony of political backbiting. Now, however, we have an administration in Washington dedicated to ACTUALLY CHANGING THE SYSTEM, and we in Kansas have an opportunity like never before.
It really is different here.
In Kansas we are dedicated to building a system that serves everyone who wants an education. “Kansas Leads the World in the Success of Each Student” is the vision of the state board. Privileged to have been re-elected to that ten-person board to a second four-year term, I can now ACTUALLY FIX THIS THING WE LOVE CALLED EDUCATION. This means I have to take on the ENTRENCHED INTERESTS. This means taking on the collusion and complacency of the department of education, the colleges of education, and the teachers’ union. Hey, it ain’t no hill for a stepper. We can actually have great schools in every neighborhood if we’re willing to CHANGE THE SYSTEM. And it ain’t rocket science, either.
“Kansas City is an easy place to be, an easy place to fall in love with,” Duffy said, quoted in Mellinger’s commentary today. “You sit down at a restaurant, and anybody who is waiting on you is so polite, so in touch. Lot of mom and pop places out there, the people are great anywhere you (go). Everybody’s so helpful. They want to enrich each other’s lives. You don’t find that everywhere.”
Indeed, I worked on Kansas City mayor Sly James’s first campaign. I helped him raise money. Sly was elected mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, in March 2011, in a non-partisan election. Make no mistake, Sly is a Democrat. I am a Republican. Sly is a Missourian. I am a Kansan. Sly leans liberal. I lean conservative. Sly is a lawyer. I am an engineer (a Professional Engineer with registration as a P.E. in Missouri). Sly attended college on the east side of Troost Avenue; I attended college on the west side of Troost Avenue. Sly is a black man, I am a white (beige) guy. You get the idea: Sylvester James and I are either opposites or, at the least, complementary to one another. Sly James is handsome, articulate, personable, charismatic…
Yes, well, you get the idea…
But it really is different in Kansas. In Kansas we can change the school system that has been hurting poor families for decades. We really can. Missouri has to deal with the union city of Saint Louis, and TEACHING IS NOT UNION WORK.
Here is the linchpin that must be pulled away from the entrenched interests: the G.D. Tollbooth of the Colleges of Education. In short, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ATTEND A COLLEGE OF EDUCATION TO BE A GREAT TEACHER. When we acknowledge that in Kansas, and it is the law in certain academic areas already, we can then make great schools for everyone without breaking the bank; we can make America great again, and we can make Kansan schools great again, without President Trump or Education Secretary Betsy Devos telling us what to do.
Finally, the good mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, despite having liberal tendencies and a penchant for claiming his Democrats are superior to my G.O.P., has my full support in this: Turn the Page KC. Sly believes as I do that reading is the most fundamental thing we academically teach our children, and it needs to be done well. Children must learn to read well. Period. The mayor knows that a citizen does not have to attend a college of education to help children learn how to read well. James welcomes the public into his schools on the Missouri side of State Line Road. Amen.
The sooner we realize that our kids need our community support and our parents more than they need graduates from the G.D. tollbooths that are the colleges of education, the sooner we can go about the business of unifying the country and teaching our children to read well and to understand the language of numbers. Reading is not rocket science and we need to again welcome the public back into our public schools. Our children need this, and many need this reform now. We have a crisis in our poorer schools. Now.
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.