Edward Johnson is an education activist in Atlanta and one of the sharpest critics of a school board and superintendent determined to privatize the public schools of that city.

He recently wrote an open letter to former President Obama, asking him to apologize for the failed Race to the Top competition, which built on the failed strategy of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind.

Via Email (info@ofa.us)


Open Letter to Barack Obama seeking apology for RttT Competition


22 May 2018 (revised 23 May 2018)


The Honorable Barack Obama

c/o Organizing for Action

1130 West Monroe Street, Suite 100

Chicago, Illinois 60607


Dear Mr. Obama:


“We are being ruined by competition; what we need is cooperation.”

—W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)


Thank you for your interest in my voting.  Voting, of course, is a cornerstone of democratic practice.  However, education—public education—underlies democratic practice that aims to serve and sustain the common good and to continually advance on closing gaps with democratic ideals, as in “We the People ….”  Unfortunately, your Race to the Top Competition strongly suggests a very different paradigm, a competitive, anti-democracy sustaining paradigm.


Frankly, Barack—may I address you as Barack since you addressed me as Ed?  Frankly, it’s hard to figure why especially prominent Civil Rights leaders would forgo inviting you to a private conversation out behind the woodshed at the very moment you spoke the words “Race to the Top Competition.”  Did they not understand competition made the Civil Rights Movement necessary more so than did so-called racism?  That so-called racism is, in reality, but an insidiously malicious and hostile form of competition?


The point being, the aim of every form of competition has always been, and always will be, to produce as few winners as possible and as many losers as possible.  Fine for sport competitions, but why would one facilitate attacking and harming the nation’s democracy-sustaining public educational systems by any manner of competition?  Was cooperation between and among the states not an option?


All too often, the thinking is that winning means excellence, and losing means failure or “not good enough.”  And that “competition builds character.”


But here’s the rub, Barack.  In social systems, such as our public educational systems, people made losers by competition for no good reason invariably figure out how to win, if only in their own eyes.  The massively systemic cheating on standardized tests that Atlanta experienced exemplifies the matter: A great many teachers and schoolhouse leaders the superintendent incited to compete for their job and bonuses for high standardized test scores figured they could win by changing students’ wrong answers to right answers.


We also have plenty other examples, including, notoriously: Dimitrios Pagourtzis, at Santa Fe High School, Texas; Nikolas Cruz, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida; Adam Lanza, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut; and, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, at Columbine High School, Colorado.


And consider, too, some people made losers by competition for no good reason very likely figured they could win by becoming police officers, or wannabe police officers—in the case of George Zimmerman, for example.  Then to that extent, these winners turned policing into hostile competitions with the public that could not avoid producing notorious shootings of especially young “Black” males and other citizens for no good reason.


It really is quite easy to understand, in a word, why the U.S. pretty much leads the world in incarcerating its citizens and children.  And that word is competition, meaning deeply inculcated drives to win at the expense of others, by whatever means necessary, so as to rationalize one is superior or excellent and others are not.


  1. Edwards Deming also teaches the wisdom that “when a system is broken into competitive segments, the system is destroyed.”


Specifically, Dr. Deming teaches the wisdom that:


“We have grown up in a climate of competition between people, teams, departments, divisions, pupils, schools, universities.  We have been taught by economists that competition will solve our problems.  Actually, competition, we see now, is destructive.  It would be better if everyone would work together as a system, with the aim for everybody to win.  What we need is cooperation[.]”


Barack, can you see the very name “Race to the Top Competition” necessarily meant breaking our otherwise 50 United States into 50 competitive segments?  Can you see the Race to the Top Competition aim to expand the number of charter schools hence spread malicious school choice meant breaking local public educational systems into competitive segments?  And, therefore, can you see “Chief Facilitator of Destroy Public Education” just might be a fitting aspect of your legacy as a former President of the United States?  And that that would be an astonishing juxtaposition of paradigms?


Barack, if you can see these things, and because, as you say, “[t]here are no do-overs,” can you then at least apologize for having created the Race to the Top Competition and then for having foisted it upon the nation?


Kindly know until such apology comes, it will be hard to hear and appreciate any interest you express about my voting, or any matters.  Sustaining and improving public education as a common good in service to democracy is just that important.  And please, let’s have none of the nonsensical contention that charter schools are public schools.


Sincerely, I am


Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com


Bcc: List 1