Faces of Freedom Carol Applegate

Board member: National Right to Work Committee and Public Service Research Council

An English teacher, Carol was fired in 1969 from the Grand Blanc, MI school district when she refused to join the Grand Blanc Education Association, the Michigan Education Association, and the National Education Association, and was subsequently fired (in 1969). Her court case eventually went to the Michigan Supreme Court and she returned to teaching in 1972, later retired in 1984. The ruling on her case, in June, 1988, was declared a resounding defeat for organized labor by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Says Carol of her refusal to join the NEA: “I didn’t agree with its philosophy. They were not doing anything for me that I couldn’t do for myself. . . . There was a time when unions were necessary, but that time has long since passed.”

Former CEAFU Director Jo Seker said of Carol Applegate, “You have heard me say many times what your example has meant to me personally. Yours is the first name I ever heard when I was teaching in Ohio and yours was the example that set me down the road to try to “make a difference” in whatever small way would be possible.” “You have inspired so many, many teachers to stand up and be counted, you have educated so many more just by your story. . .”

Carol called for a National Right to Work bill in 1988, at age 71, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Beck ruling. “Unions get real paranoid on the Right to Work issue, which they feel will destroy unions, but I don’t have a lot of faith in the unions’ abilities.”

Also in 1988, Carol was instrumental in reforming the Teachers Advisory Council (all NEA-picked advisors) of the Republican Party.

The National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR)  instituted a scholarship honoring Carol Applegate, Kay Jackson and the late Dr. Anne Parks, for their dedication to the Right to Work principle in education. Until a few years ago, CEAFU was honored to have Carol as one of the judges of the essays that determined the winner of the scholarship.

Carol’s dedication and understanding rings loud and clear in her words to the first Applegate-Jackson-Parks Future Teacher Scholarship winner: “I understand that the issue of forced unionism was new to you when you gathered information and compiled your thoughts prior to the actual writing of the winning essay. I wish I could assure you that, having won this award, your concerns with forced unionism are at an end. Unfortunately, this is not so. The pervasive deadening influence on education of requiring teachers, by law, to join and/or contribute to the teacher unions, is still, after these many, many years, very much with us, and must continue to be balanced by the presence in education of teachers such as yourself, who understand the devastating effects on the thinking mind of requiring support of a philosophy and an organization with which one does not agree.

“I think it is vital for professional educators to establish a national identity, and a national awareness of their existence, so that such recognition of teachers does not go automatically through, and to, the teacher unions. How do we accomplish this?”

Mach 29, 2000