Joe Windle grew up near Reeltown in Tallapoosa County, went to Auburn University and then into the Army. He says with a laugh, “I jumped out of the first airplane I ever flew in.” After 28 years in the military he returned home and became an educator He has been superintendent of the Tallapoosa County school system for four years.
He wrote the following in regards to the current search for a new state school superintendent..
“I am a retired U. S. Army Infantry officer who served on active duty for 28 years. I retired in December 1996. During this period I commanded combat infantry units from platoon thru brigade size. Army Ranger. Army Paratrooper. I have learned two things from this experience. Leadership is a combat multiplier. That is not new or revolutionary. It is well documented that good leaders add value whether preparing units for combat or leading them in combat.
Public education is also a combat multiplier.
Educational activists, reformers and just plain “bashers” for the last 60 years have gone to great lengths to tell us how bad public education is and how it is failing our nation and students. They primarily use national test data to support their argument. I want to take one element of national power and refute this argument—military power.
I served in the worst of times and the best of times in my 28 years. The worst of times? Returning from Viet Nam to a country that scorned our military; spit on us as we traveled across country to our homes and next duty stations; ridiculed us in airports and public places; would not allow us on many college campuses in uniform and little or no support from our elected officials. This was a “gutted” military with low morale and a beaten down mentality. It was the worst of times.
The best of times began in the early 80’s. An all Voluntary Army. High school graduates. New and better equipment. Soldiers serving for a higher purpose and sky high morale. It didn’t happen overnight, but it was the beginning of a culture change. It was lead by strong leaders who had experienced the worst of times. There was tremendous advancement in the warfighting capabilities of our Armed Forces. We developed and deployed the most technically advanced warfighting systems in the world. Target acquisition systems, fire control systems, intelligence gathering systems, tanks, artillery, airplanes, ships and individual soldier equipment is the most technologically advanced in the world. Who operates these complex systems and makes them work as intended—-soldiers, airmen, marines and navy persons who graduated from our public schools.
Private schools, prep schools and home schools do not supply our Armed Forces. The overwhelming majority of those serving in the best volunteer fighting force ever graduated from our public school systems across this nation.
We have for the last 100 years been the most dominant military power on earth. We are the most economically advanced country on earth and the most technologically advanced. How can this be if our public education system is so bad and failing those we serve?
So when some reformer from some “think tank” far away tells you how bad public education is today, remind them that the most powerful military the world has known with the most technologically advanced warfighting systems available stands ready to defend this nation filled with public school graduates.
Do you want “test takers” or tough, competitive, creative, committed, dedicated, public school graduates to keep America great? Give me the public school graduate every time. I have witnessed firsthand what they can do in the “worst of times and the best of times”.
Alabama is facing the critical decision of hiring our next State Superintendent of Education. A strong educational leader who has walked in the shoes of public educators and felt the sting of struggle is required to keep us from the worst of times. This is not the time for experimental leadership. This is not the time for on-the job training. This is not the time for a” think tank” educational activist from far away. We need a leader who has been in the trenches; walked in the shoes of Alabama teachers, principals, and superintendents; and, experienced the hard times. The Armed Forces got it right in leader selection in the 80’s. We need to get it right on August 4, 2016. We don’t have to experience the worst of times.”