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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The System


At a news conference this morning, one of the Rutgers women's basketball players made a statement about "the journey" -- a subject I often communicate. I may not have the quote right so forgive me -- essentially she said that life "is not about where you came from, but where you are going". This philosophy sparked some thoughts that I have had recently.

In the small town of Port Huron, Michigan we learned from experience, our friends, and family that often to get a job it depended more on "who you know" rather than "who you are". Even my first job out of high school seemed tainted by the recommendation I received from a friend working for that employer. I didn't complain.

When I was hired by the local school district my qualifications were stellar. However, I know that the personnel director was very impressed with the fact that I had graduated from a private church affiliated university. There were at least 4 teachers already working for the school district who had attended our university. He also ruled in the factor that I was a product of Port Huron's school system. The fact that I was a man with early elementary training and a desire to teach Kindergarten was not over-looked.

I can't complain about the school district's choice to hire me. I served my community for 25 years. And, my desire to serve the needs of my students always outweighed the meager financial reward. I'm funny that way.

A few short years before my retirement, I was speaking with my principal about something or another and my working class background became a topic in that discussion. I was surprised and aggravated that she had thought or assumed that both of my parents were teachers. Mom finally earned her high school diploma at the age of 53. Dad went to work and war never finishing high school.

That principal's elitism bothers me to this day.

My parents prepared me for life; my church inspired me to love and serve others; my educational training equipped me to competently teach and serve my community; and some important God-given talents and creativity enabled me to have a satisfying successful career.

In my life it really was more of who knew me. My parents, Mrs. Collard, Mrs. Lake, Mr. Hager, Mr. Fox, Mrs. Beatty, Elder H. Thomas, Mr. Johnson, Sam, Tom Hamilton, and many other great people helped shape who I am today. I owe them my gratitude -- not someone serving the system.

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