LaFaid Johnson: The Man Who Escaped Statistics
By Marlene Caroselli
As reported by Suzanne Gamboa (“High School Graduation Rate for Black Males Trails White Students,” Huffington Post, March 1, 2013), a study conducted by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found only 52 percent of black males who entered ninth grade in 2006 graduated in four years. But LaFaid Johnson, Jr., Ph.D. is a man who escaped the statistics.
Johnson says his refusal to become a statistic is mainly because of his parents and teachers. “They had great expectations for me to be the best I could be. My mother frequently paraphrased Dr. Martin Luther King: ‘If a man were called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep it so well that the hosts of heaven and earth would pause and say it was well done.’”
Johnson adds, “Personal motives energized my drive to go beyond a journeyman level in the field of psychology. There was a stubborn streak in me that took on any challenge just to show others and myself that I could do it. I also based my decision to pursue a doctorate on a very practical matter of economics. Quite simply, I knew more educated people made more money.”
Johnson says his parents always wanted a doctor in the family, but he decided, “A Ph.D. alone was a cheaper and shorter program than a joint M.D. and Ph.D.”
While Johnson’s exemplary goal setting and goal-attainment may not be the norm for young black males, he points to several levels of failures that may explain the discouraging dropout statistics. Johnson believes parents “must reinforce the value of education,” and cites research that finds parents who attended college as having a higher probability of their children attending as well.
He refuses to pass judgment on choices others make but shares concerns about parental models that may set negative examples as far as the pursuit of higher education. Johnson also cites the failure of schools and communities — in particular their failure to focus on ways of achieving academic success. He notes, “Just as parents fail to demonstrate the value of education, our institutions fail to make the link between education and the process of achieving success.”
Johnson says, “Racism only becomes a reason and obstacle if I lack confidence in my abilities, and if I believe in the racist premise. Racism is based on the erroneous belief that the differences between me and someone else are due to racial variance.” But quickly adds, “This is not a one-way point of view. Minorities themselves are as guilty of perpetuating this fallacy as non-whites. We accept this view, because it is automatically assumed we have been given a bad hand in the game of life.”
While discussing the application of his education to his current vocational interests, Johnson says, “I spent the working years of my career trying to influence and educate organizational leadership from inside the organization. My 20 years as a police officer and psychologist gave me insight into our institutions’ failure to give people the skills to cope and survive in a complex world.”
“Currently,” he continues, “I am Adjunct Professor of the Business School for Argosy University, Orange [County, California] Campus, where I have taught for 13 years. Recent trends in the economy have led me to study medicine again with the intent of becoming a Physician’s Assistant (midlevel practitioner). My part-time, on-call work as an Emergency Medical Technician, along with my job as a father, keeps my intellectual juices going.”
Hippocrates noted, “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” Thousands of years later, Dr. LaFaid Johnson is living a life of dual loves.
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