It Was a Good Day

by on December 2, 2010 · 16 comments

in Education, From the Soul, Organizing, Peace Movement

Student addressing San Diego School Board on issue of military recruiters on school campuses. (Photos by Ernie McCray.)

November 30th of 2010 was a good day. In many a way. First of all, from the beginning, the day was sunny and bright and it ran smoothly and ever so mellow save a few brief moments later that night.

The goodness got going for me about four that afternoon when I picked up some delightful young friends of mine, students at Mission Bay High, who needed a ride to a Board of Education meeting that was to start at about five. Across town, students were being picked up at Lincoln High.

We were all so alive, filled with hope that our work, a proposal that would regulate recruiting activities on school campuses, would become an official policy in San Diego City Schools before the day was over.

What we crafted was designed to ensure that district students have balanced access to information about the range of educational and career options available to them so they can make informed decisions. Our intent was also to establish recruiter conduct guidelines to protect student confidentiality and preserve the custodial rights of parents and legal guardians.

Our campaign was motivated by the reality that colleges and universities and trade schools and employers and the like very rarely visit our high schools but military recruiters, in far too many instances cruise our campuses, undisturbed, day after day.

And when the kids stood at the mike and delivered they were absolutely wonderful, so poised and unafraid, so passionate and eloquent, so righteous without being holier than thou in all they had to say.

They shared their frustrations at the military coming on their campuses soliciting personal information like their ethnicity and their social security numbers and addresses and telephone numbers – dazzling them at special assemblies with sky diving shows and hands on arms exhibits. They made it clear that they don’t appreciate the attempts to sign them up through gifts like military name tags. They spoke of friends who had been harassed by the military with phone calls to their homes. They particularly expressed their wish for more courses like the A-G classes that prepare them for college.

And when they were done, board member, Katherine Nakumura, rather than congratulate them on how exquisite they made their case as picture book role models of how Americans should conduct themselves in pursuits of justice, admonished them with trash talk about how she’s not concerned about military recruiters. No, Uncle Sam and his all out attempts to sign our children up to fight his illegal wars doesn’t bother her. The military’s homophobia doesn’t make her go “Hmmm, maybe I should do something.” She then introduced us, via a power point presentation, to what did worry her: the pimps and ne’er do well thugs who recruit prostitutes and gang bangers at our schools and drug killings in Mexico. Looking at charts of the arrests of bitches and ho’s had us wondering what episode of Twilight Zone we were in.

Then it was board member Shelia Jackson’s turn to scold which she did with something like:

“This is a navy town and if you’re thinking about getting rid of the military you’ve got another think coming” as though the next move was to go camp out in front of the USS Midway and shout:

“Who do we want out of here?”

“The navy!”

“And when do we want them gone?”


How insulting. I could not believe the contempt those young people were shown and just when I was about to pop my old butt up to say something and I have no clue what, board president, Richard Barrera, board vice-president, John Lee Evans, and outgoing longtime board member, John de Beck, stood up for the kids. They gave them their due, respecting their hard work and how they helped put together a recruiting policy for their school district that was fair and balanced and well thought out.

Then they voted for the “Policy on Recruiting Activities in San Diego School” to the tune of four yays along with Mrs. Nakumura’s nay. She just couldn’t bring herself to do the right thing that day which was her last one on the board, by the way.

But like I said it was a good day. A day highlighted by a handful of loving and caring sharp critically thinking young brown and black students who represent their generation ever so well, inspiring hope and giving fresh meaning to the concept of doing things the “American way.” Hey, make that a very good day.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

annagrace December 2, 2010 at 10:18 am

Yes, Ernie, it was a great day! You have been critical of military recruiting practices on school campuses for decades now and I applaud your unwavering commitment. The presence of so many young people who felt compelled to address the board on this issue makes me feel hopeful about the future. Even in your retirement Ernie you have never stopped being the Great Educator.


Ernie McCray December 2, 2010 at 10:47 am

“The Great Educator.” Sounds good. Hey, you wanna be my agent (smile)?


annagrace December 2, 2010 at 11:43 am

I’m in! :)


Peter Brown December 2, 2010 at 11:23 am

What a wonderful and heartwarming story about a few moments of sanity within this crazy world! Thanks so much for helping these kids tilt at their windmills – and even more for helping them WIN!


annagrace December 2, 2010 at 11:47 am

Peter- did you spend time in Chiapas building schools and promoting justice? If so, here’s to you, another amazing, committed educator.


Peter Brown December 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Yes, Anna. And I’m actually having a party at my house on Sunday, Dec. 12 to support those schools. Hoping that Ernie will read a poem or two; there will be music; pot luck food; and lots of good people. Join us! 1631 Dale St., San Diego, Ca 92102. 619-232-2841


Sherry Engberg December 2, 2010 at 11:54 am

I saw it on the news and thought, “Ernie did good!” Thanks for working on this for so long.


Ernie McCray December 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

It’s been worth it. I’ve never seen such consistent commitment to justice than what these kids have shown.


Dave Baldwin December 3, 2010 at 1:22 am

It’s great to hear when something goes right for a change. Thanks for encouraging these great kids, Ernie.


Ernie McCray December 3, 2010 at 10:04 am

These kids have been far more encouraging to me than I could ever be to them. They will be working on the world’s social problems far into this century – and for that the world is pretty lucky. They’ve got their bright heads on tight and straight. Not to mention they’re bilingual.


Maurice Martin December 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm

all true what a great day!!

I feel better knowing that the world we leave will be in safer hands with these kids.
Parents, teachers, Students from SD City College, SDSU, professors, a retired recruiter also spoke, and stood together with our kids,…….. thanks to everyone for all their support and help.


Irma Cantu Jones December 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I have been an Ernie McCray fan for many years, and this reminds me why. Thank you, Ernie!


wendyEllen December 4, 2010 at 8:10 am

good going Ernie….truly it’s still tough for me to be in SD with it’s conservative flava….I breathe deep every time I am in town…

onward and upward we move!


Carl Manaster December 5, 2010 at 8:12 am

Thanks, Ernie, from a long ago student at your Alternative School. You were standing tall for students then; I’m very pleased you’re still doing so. This seem like a very fitting swan song for Ms. Nakamura; I worked hard to help Kevin Beiser replace her. I’m disappointed in Sheila Jackson’s reaction to the students’ presentation, however.


Ernie McCray December 5, 2010 at 9:22 am

Kevin will be a great fit and Shelia, I’m afraid when it comes to matters of conscience and soul will continue to disappoint. Good to hear from you, Carl. Reminds me of some good moments in my life. Thanks for taking part in the world. It’s such a John Muir kind of thing to do.


Carolyn Morris December 6, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Kudos to these students (and to you for your tireless efforts) for working through the
process in such an eloquent way!! We (my departent) always had a cooperative working
relationship with the military.


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