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Some of my favorite politicians are educators. Sure, we can draw our leaders from television and movie personalities, wealthy oil barons, and sports figures.

But give me an educator-leader any day of the week. Somebody who has made it their life's work to nourish their own and other inquisitive minds.

That's why I was excited to see my local Democratic congressional candidate Fred Johnson get a write up in Huffington Post today from Howie Klein. Fred is a history professor at Hope college and a Marine office, and his most likely general election opponent is, as Howie Klein so eloquently puts it, a "lunatic fringe extremist" from the Family Research Council and an NFL football player.

Fred's commentary in the writeup is a fitting parallel to his very own campaign: Substance Vs. Superficiality. Giving priority and funding to education so that educators can educate.

I recall an incident at my local school.

The school's debate team consistently dominated and won state competitions year after year, winning junior and varsity debate competitions. Our school's debate team was notorious. And many of the kids who went through the debate team went on to become extremely successful in their educational and professional lives, one of them eventually graduating from Harvard Law School.

And then...the $50,000 budget was cut, while the football team's budget was raised.

Why?

Not in the name of education. But in the name of money. People just don't pay money for tickets to see debates. And football is a source of funding for the school...

I'm not criticizing athletics or football. I'm criticizing the priority to fund helping our kids achieve excellence only if it brings money.

It's tragically common: an eagerness to shovel money into entertainment for fun and profit, while society's generosity wanes when education when more than lip service is on the line.

Fred details his own perspective on the issue of priorities...

Modell's revenue intake dropped subsequent to the departure of the Indians from Cleveland Stadium. Those were losses he refused to endure so he asked the voters for $175 million to refurbish and modernize the decaying facility. On November 7, 1995, with one of the most challenged school systems in the nation, and even after Modell's announcement on November 6 that he had signed a deal to move the Browns to Baltimore the following year, the people of Cleveland, Ohio voted by a significant margin to provide public funds for Modell's stadium remodeling project. Following the success of Modell's tactics, cities like Detroit and Baltimore, both reputed to have some of the most dismal educational performance in the nation, agreed to construct new sports facilities with public funds in order to keep their teams from relocating. Other cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, each with their own respective fiscal woes relative to education, also surrendered to the extortion.

[snip]

Conversely, the crisis events that took place in Cleveland, Ohio relative to the Browns' 1996 move to Baltimore required little explanation. Normally tax-averse citizens responded with faithful urgency to keep their beloved Browns in Cleveland. As they cast their votes, much of the city's educational infrastructure was crumbling around its teachers and students. The message from Cleveland and other cities across the land was plain enough: Americans place more value on those who play games for a living than those entrusted with educating the nation's future.

Dr. Fred Johnson is, professionally, a teacher. An educator. He has written books on education, and has co-authored the book Tupac Shakur: The Life And Times Of An American Icon.

He gets it. He lives it. And he's up against Jay Riemersma, a regional director of the Family Research Council and a former NFL player for the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Fred can win this one against this extremist. But he needs help with campaign funding.

Originally posted to Muskegon Critic on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 10:46 PM PDT.

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