SILENCE ENDS: District releases Dan Johnson statement on speech controversy

Statement from Dan Johnson on his speech controversy. This was obtained by the Times-Standard today from the district.

“I want to address an issue that has been made of my comments at the Arcata High graduation last month.
“As a sentimental dad who did not go to college myself, I just wanted to use my speaking opportunity to do something special for my daughter, who has graduated with a 4.04 GPA and is headed off to Santa Clara University.
“Like so many others, I was inspired by the 2012 Wellesley High School commencement speech of David McCollough Jr. It was a blunt, but ultimately inspiring, message to the graduates. My speech prep skills are lacking, and when I had heard the speech on the radio and liked the message, it gave me ideas for the speech I delivered at graduation.
“What I prepared to deliver at the graduation ceremony was a personalized version of McCollough’s message directed to my daughter. I thought all in attendance might appreciate it.
“My mistake, as community members, HSU professors and Arcata High faculty, much smarter than I, have informed me, was not simply crediting McCollough for his words and I’m sorry for that. I appreciate the constructive criticism and education I’ve received.
“I’m not an educator, journalist or author. I’m a just local businessman. I enjoy giving back to my community through Rotary, Casa, HSU athletics, non-profit board involvement, youth activities and service on this board, etc…
“The message I wanted to deliver is that I am proud of my daughter and want her to remember as McCullough spoke, ‘You’re not special, because EVERYONE is.’ And in my words, that ‘achievement is based on results, and results are what is most valued.’
“I understand that for some in our community – the self-appointed referees of good and evil – no explanation or apology I can offer is good enough. But I’m comfortable in the knowledge that their intolerance, so readily on display, is a far more profound flaw than mine.”

24 thoughts on “SILENCE ENDS: District releases Dan Johnson statement on speech controversy

  1. This is an unfortunate way to go about apologizing. It comes off as petty when he insults the people who are bothered by his conduct.

    His conduct at the graduation is a legitimate issue. I’m not sure he truly understand that yet.

  2. Hm… Not totally feeling it. If this response had been more prompt it would have had some meaning, but at this late date, it’s just something that finally occurred to him and might work as an excuse. The type of person this fellow is to his community seems wonderful, but his speech was plagiarized. Maybe there should be oversight to speeches, or maybe he should suck it up and apologize without trying to turn the anger toward people who called him out for doing something our kids would have been expelled for if they did the same.

    • It is not only backhanded, but also remorseful, egocentric, narcissistic, and genuinely unapologetic. It seems the man is on the board to collect another merit “badge of belonging,” rather than to understand and advance the principles of education.

  3. I love the part where he blames the people who caught him in the act…maybe we should throw those people in the Brig with Bradley Manning?

  4. Dan Johnson does not recognize the significance of his plagiarism and belittles community members who do take this seriously. His pathetic non-apology includes an admission that he IS NOT QUALIFIED to be head of the board of education. Dan Johnson, if you are an honorable man, you step down. Apparently you have no sense of shame.

  5. Total Fail – Non Apology

    So in Dan’s world, we are either cool with plagiarism, or ‘intolerant’ and ‘self appointed referees of good and evil’
    How about referees of stupid! – Stupid to give that speech, stupid to write a failed non-apology insulting everyone who pointed out your grievous mistake.

  6. “We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who’s right and who’s wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us and we do it with political systems, with all kinds of things that we don’t like about our associates or our society.”
    ― Pema Chödrön

    *Dan, please note credit was given to the author of the above quote!

  7. I’m insulted. And disgusted he is representing our board of educators.
    What about the zero tolerance plagiarism rules that apply to each and every student. What kind of example is he setting? Even though I know very little of Dan outside this incident, I do not like his tone in this public statement. I immediately get a sense he represents all that is wrong with the education system.

  8. Really? I remain utterly dumbfounded that he doesn’t understand the ethical breach he took. This is not an apology, it is a defense. I refuse to believe that we are so “small town” as to tolerate someone as dense as him to have the authority to oversee our children’s education.

  9. “I understand that for some in our community – the self-appointed referees of good and evil – no explanation or apology I can offer is good enough.”

    Based on the comments here, I guess he is right about that.

  10. Why vilify a man who really had no clue?
    Why not take him at his word? As he stated, his lack of adequate formal education was probably to blame.
    “My mistake, as community members, HSU professors and Arcata High faculty, much smarter than I, have informed me, was not simply crediting McCollough for his words and I’m sorry for that. I appreciate the constructive criticism and education I’ve received.”
    In this day of “cut and paste”, do we trust that our teachers and students fully understand that uncredited quotations are unacceptable? I doubt it.
    Is it truly necessary to pile-on? If he was clueless, big deal.
    Eagerness to blame and to destroy is not attractive, nor is it wise.

  11. David, there’s an easy answer. He had how many weeks to say something? Only after the issue returned week after week in the newspapers (and the Journal was to write something this week, uh oh a county-wide publication) do we finally get a response, and what does that response do? It insults the people who took issue with his actions. I don’t see remorse. I see a man who shouldn’t be serving on the school board.

    • I hadn’t known that he took so long to respond, because I seldom keep up with these kinds of controversies. We can only speculate as to his reasons for the delay. Some choose to assume the worst. That’s OK, but I’d rather not do that. Often, people are very quick to judge the actions of others without really knowing the full truth.

  12. I accept Johnson’s statement that he made the mistake out of ignorance. Had he simply apologized after plagiarizing the speech, I probably wouldn’t make a big deal about it, although it certainly concerns me that the person who is a steward of our local high schools doesn’t understand the basic rules of academia. Our school board members should know something about schools. But, hey, we all make mistakes.

    What I don’t get is why it took him six weeks to release a statement. He was unresponsive to reporters and his constituents. He didn’t return emails or phone calls. What’s up with that? Shouldn’t board members communicate with the public? And why didn’t he show up at today’s meeting?

    Then, if you look at his apology, he basically insults the people who spoke out about his speech. You have to remember that there was a leadership void here. The NHUHSD board members didn’t say anything. Johnson didn’t say anything. The public had to speak out because the leadership wasn’t doing its job.

    Johnson then criticizes people for their intolerance. But what were people being intolerant about? Plagiarism.

    So Johnson sees intolerance of plagiarism as a profound character flaw? Does he understand that the NHUHSD is intolerant of plagiarism and cheating? Of course he does.

    The point of the final part of his apology is to attack his critics and make himself look like a victim. It’s pretty lame.

    I don’t see this as a single mistake. It’s a whole series of problems that go beyond the initial speech. The speech was a blunder based on ignorance, according to Johnson. But not responding to his constituents was a choice, not a mistake. And insulting those who were concerned about the speech was a choice, not a mistake. In fact, it was probably something he put a lot of thought into.

    There will be some interesting discussions amongst students next year when they talk about cheating and plagiarism, and the consequences.

    • Was this what everyone is referring to as an insult?
      “I understand that for some in our community – the self-appointed referees of good and evil – no explanation or apology I can offer is good enough. But I’m comfortable in the knowledge that their intolerance, so readily on display, is a far more profound flaw than mine.”
      Hmm… Could he possible be right about that? Nah, let’s just assume the worst and beat up on him, that’s more fun.

  13. The board obviously cares more about protecting the golden goose than being responsive and ethical. They are placing the goose on a pedestal while students, teachers, and community sits far down below in the dirt. Not one of them showed any fragment of concern, and definitely no thought of holding the goose accountable. Like one of the student speakers said, money talks. Great lesson you folks just taught those young folks, but then they are just part of the “intolerant referees” (credit to the goose).

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