Make kids schools’ priority
By: Bob Schaffer
It is hard not to be excited about education and youth when you talk to Gil Carbajal. His passion is infectious.
The number of people he has inspired is legionary. Spend an ordinary day about Fort Collins and you will encounter dozens of his former students. Ask them to name their best teachers and Dr. Carbajal will top nearly anyone’s list.
He is retired from teaching now and rightfully proud of his professional accomplishments. Other than my dad, Gil Carbajal is the public educator who influenced me most on the issue of better education. Both are absolutely persuaded the stability of our Republic depends upon the nation’s ability to provide the best system of education possible.
That entails putting children first which, despite the concept’s simplicity, too often evades the grasp of even the best-intentioned policymakers. “I enjoyed teaching because I was in it for the kids,” Carbajal told me last Monday over breakfast, “not for the union, the administration or the money.”
Throughout much of his career, Carbajal ran a business on the side. His experience as an entrepreneur helped him convey the powerful lessons of the marketplace to his pupils. His enterprising success outside the classroom also bolstered his independence amid the rigid public school bureaucracy.
His favorite duty was teaching junior high students. When I first met Dr. Carbajal, he was running a special program geared toward the youngsters his colleagues were loath to teach. I was asked to speak about leadership before his class of mostly Hispanic boys.
I can still remember the review of his “Lessons of Life.” His students were drilled in concepts of accountability, discipline, respect, obedience, punctuality, integrity, character, commitment and honesty. He genuinely loved these kids and they knew it.
“Many people in education thought I was a bleeding-heart liberal,” Carbajal said. They were wrong. He is quite the opposite.
Born two miles east of Timnath, Carbajal’s parents immigrated to the US from Mexico. “My dad was a conservative,” he said. “He raised me conservative.” Carbajal graduated from Greeley High School, joined the Army and became a special-forces paratrooper.
“I’m very pro-military,” he told me. “I had wanted to be a soldier since I was ten years old. I love America. I would die for America. If they (the Army) were taking 68-year-olds, I’d go right now.”
Carbajal’s passion for quality education and intellectual fairness is just as intense and in most ways just as courageous. He saw himself as somewhat of a counterbalance to the liberal indoctrination endemic of government-owned public schools.
He denounces the impact of what he calls the “R.E.C. approach” to teaching – rescue, enable and cripple. Instead, he said, “I taught, encouraged and inspired them.” He also insists society must acknowledge that children learn differently and they deserve a variety of academic options.
“I’m for school choice. I believe in alternatives,” he told me. “I’m for vouchers, charter schools, and private schools. They are making the biggest difference.”
Carbajal disagrees with the fastidious preoccupation of teachers’ unions to derail academic options. “The CEA (Colorado Education Association teachers’ union) wants to keep forcing round pegs in square holes,” he said. “Choice works. Monopolies don’t.”
His son and daughter-in-law home school their four kids. The little ones are thriving, according to their proud grandfather. They have every reason to be proud of him, too.
Carbajal’s influence on the character of Northern Colorado soars. His students have become our community’s most significant leaders. They have taken his lessons of life from the chalk board to the board room.
We need more teachers like Dr. Gil Carbajal. Class dismissed.