In Defense of JC Bowman

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Yesterday we revealed Chattanooga Education Association’s Chris Brooks meandering diatribe on JC Bowman.  Today, Jennifer Martin mounts a moving defense of JC, an honorable defender of Right to Work and teacher freedom, appearing in Bluff City Education.

JC Bowman, Executive Director, Professional Educators of Tennessee

For a few months now, Chris Brooks, the Tennessee Education Association representative for District 6, has been closely following Professional Educators of Tennessee president J.C. Bowman. With seemingly no endgame or debate-worthy remarks, he has taken it upon himself to write scathing remarks about Bowman’s career and his impact on education, attacking everything from his tweets to his character. His writings on this man are riddled with wild accusations and inaccuracies, bringing me to simultaneous laughter and horror as I see what they have to say about this hardworking advocate for teachers: who also happens to be my own father.

I’ve been raised into it by my parents, two teachers who turned into policy makers as their passion for education expanded beyond the classroom. Their endless devotion to fighting for the rights of struggling students and teachers made me come to one conclusion: I never wanted to be a teacher. Seeing the struggles against them in their fight for educators made the profession seem way too hard. By some twist of irony, it is my husband who has fallen in love with teaching and has now become a teacher himself. It seems you can’t ever separate yourself from you parents entirely, hm?

So when I came across Brooks’ supposed expose against my father, I, as an opinionated writer, could not pass up the chance to respond, despite the fact that my dad specifically asked me not to. See, my defense of my dad doesn’t come from just a place of genetically-forced admiration. I genuinely disagree with Brooks and find him presumptuous and vain in his factually incorrect takedowns.

However instead of devoting his life to finding ways to better those issues—perhaps due to the drop in members from the TEA in his district—he has taken to attacking my dad on the regular. He points to my dad’s extensive work history as “proof” along with vaguely-associated organizations and funders of places he worked at, jobs he took in order to provide his family the best opportunities.

After graduating high school, he joined the Marines so that he could fund his own way through college and earned himself a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s degree in Business Administration. He found his way into teaching, and like any good teacher, joined the teacher’s union: where his ideas and opinions were consistently met with resistance and dues were raised to levels he often could not afford. And this is how he got into education policy.

While he was in Florida, I was in high school. I seem to remember a very different man than the one Brooks describes so venomously. He stayed out working 13-hour days and came home exhausted, missing our events. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and voluntarily quit to pursue nonprofit interests.

Since my dad began working for Professional Educators of Tennessee, I have seen him publically advocate for bills and causes that he doesn’t personally support because his members want it. When Brooks attacks views PET supports, he’s attacking views that the teachers themselves support. He can try to dig up news articles that are nearly two decades old, but the fact of the matter is that my dad takes his job at PET very seriously.

Of all the “connections” my dad supposedly has, he has only ever fought for teachers and the policies that he believes will make their lives, and the lives of their students, so much better. Lawmaking is an imperfect practice and sometimes there will be mistakes in trying to find the right solution to problems.

Whatever he’s spoken or written, I can tell you from firsthand experience that my dad works tirelessly to improve the lives of teachers. I’ve seen him walk away from a family meal to personally take a phone call from a teacher who found herself in need of legal representation. Do the leaders at the NEA give out their personal phone numbers to teachers?

At no point in any of Brooks’ writings does he seem to indicate any level of concern for students, parents, or teachers. His devotion is mindlessly only to “the union” with absolutely no interest in advocating for what’s actually important in education. He doesn’t seem to have any academic background in law or education. He’s never been a teacher. Apparently his job isn’t so much to be an activist as to be a troll: with a clever use of key words and elaborate SEO, probably the skew potential PET members from getting actual research on Professional Educators of Tennessee as their organization continues to grow. His posts are a clever marketing scheme from the TEA: wrapped in pure venom.

I’ve personally heard the distress from my mother as she is told she is “forbidden” from advertising for Professional Educators of Tennessee at schools. The TEA seems obsessed with obtaining control over each and every teacher so they can maintain a single goal, without taking the multiple needs of different teachers into mind.

The TEA, and people like Brooks, see teachers as some sort of asset to be won, and not as individuals. The reason they fight against PET, maybe, is because they see them as a real competition now. At one point, Brooks even says PET is “siphoning members” away like they’re some sort of inanimate object, which is obviously the real point of his rant: he needs more members so he can get more money. Instead of seeing PET as another avenue to fight for teachers’ rights (and PET is still 100% member-funded, despite Brooks’ falsifications to the contrary—can the TEA say the same thing?) they apparently don’t want Tennessee’s teachers to have their own opinions or goals outside of what the TEA says they should have.

Brooks can continue to nitpick and attempt to link something as simple as a picture into long essays personally attacking a man I know who will stop at nothing to make sure teachers have only the best representation and policies affecting them. He can blatantly lie and accuse PET of advancing corporate interests, having never actually interacted with my dad in person before or spoken to him on the phone before stating it as fact.

I suppose Brooks will continue to stalk and harass my father in order to prevent Tennessee teachers from having any choice in who they are represented by as the TEA continues to bleed members. I’m not sure what Brooks wants. If the TEA is a better representation for teachers, then I assume their efforts will speak for itself. But for my dad, it’s never been a matter of pro-corporation or anti-union. It’s always been, and always will be, doing what’s best for teachers.

 

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