How difficult is it finding ourselves within the fog of education?

Bird Droppings April 26, 2015
How difficult is it finding ourselves within the fog of education?

“The more sand that has escaped the hourglass of life, the clearer we should see through it.” Jean Paul Sartre

As I was looking for thoughts and ideas to start, I actually was going a different direction when by accident or should I say coincidence found this quote. As we get older we have experienced more and if we have learned from our experience the hour glass does clear however if those grains have been abrasive and scoured the glass as they went through the glass will be scratched and foggy. It is life’s lessons that determine this process and how we have responded that provide the fodder for our endeavor. I am sitting here in the morning hours after responding for nearly an hour to various posts on blogs and a copy of John Dewey’s Experience and Education to my left. Next week I will be heading to North Georgia a few miles from North Carolina line to sit in a class on Foxfire Teaching, a method based on experience and John Dewey.

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” W. Whitman

“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings” W. Blake

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” Albert Einstein

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” Henry David Thoreau

It is often about choosing to look, to see, to listen, and to hear those are all choices we make as we go through life. It is far easier to take ideas and thoughts from others to be subjugated by others to be what another wants us to be but only in hearing and seeing for ourselves can we as Thoreau says wake up to the dawn and we must be awake especially in today’s politically biased and charged atmosphere. As I was reading last night this thought came up and it intrigued me since I started in about using your own eyes and ears.

“An anthropologist asked a Hopi Indian why so many of his native songs seemed to be about the subject of rain… he replied: ‘because rain is scarce in our land… is that the reason so many of your songs are about love?’” Kent Nerburn

As I thought is that the problem in our society to be so easily recognized by a Hopi Indian in New Mexico who had never really been to a big city or “civilized” area of The United States, could it be a lack of love that is why our society stumbles. I was involved in a discussion of sorts on another’s Facebook page over holistic healing and herbals cures. This discussion was modern versus ancient methodology and granted many new age supposed “cures” are a bit of a stretch there is wisdom in the elders.

“Mankind often stumbles upon the truth….but usually picks itself up & goes along.” Winston Churchill
We so often know the answer and choose not to listen or simply disregard due to the current politics, popular opinion or majority rules sort of thing that media and mentality of the masses seem to operate on.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein

The more I read of Albert’s ideas and philosophy the more I like his thoughts. It is funny how what we remember him for his more science oriented views than his philosophy and that he loathed the fact that he was instrumental in developing weapons of mass destruction. At one point said he would give up all if he could take that back. So where am I going today perhaps the following thought will offer some aid.

“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position… It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education… The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our affords are to create.” Bertrand Russell

The sad thing is so often we fall victim to this 19th century thinking and all of this while applying to education is very much prevalent through all ideas among the “normal” folks in our world today borrowing loosely a term applied to current folks wanting to change education “reformers”. It seems these reformers are more bent on profit than working with the students.

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening…The average American should be content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.” William Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

It is so sad to think that we actually allowed this type of mentality to lead our nation and continue to use this approach while in a more appealing packaging NCLB legislation and many of the packages offered by publishers and reformers. Many times I wonder if anything has changed as you read headlines and newspaper clippings. We do not want to over educate children they might think for themselves then what do we do and who would they elect? The paradox is that in schools the kids who are allowed to think for themselves excel and often are the pride of the schools yet all through their education an effort has been made to suppress that thinking. One of my sons in eighth grade was told his methodology in a math problem was wrong and he had to do it “right”, the teachers way.
Yet in his second semester of calculus his methodology he found was absolutely right and more so interesting what was wrong in eighth grade is so correct in twelfth grade and in college calculus at Georgia Tech and now as an environmental engineer. Sadly that same teacher demanding him to do it right and gave him his only B in school is on our Board of Education. Sometimes we force children to our terms and we are the ones who are wrong. We need to listen to the children, we need to be learners as well as teachers, learn from the children and before I go too far a last quote to end this morning meanderings from ancient Israel.

“A child’s wisdom is also wisdom” Jewish Proverb

Well I got a bit carried away but several good ideas to mold over ponder on and reflect about as I get ready to recharge over the next couple of weeks in North Georgia. So for today be safe for the remainder if this glorious week ahead and keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind and to always give thanks namaste.
For all my relations

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Driving up a mountain takes effort

Bird Droppings April 24, 2015
Driving up a mountain takes effort

I am looking forward to the trip to Black Rock Mountain in North Georgia, the site of the Foxfire Museum property and the site of the Piedmont College’s teacher’s class in The Foxfire Approach to teaching. My oldest son took the course as a piece of his master’s degree program at Piedmont College. But interestingly enough several folks from Loganville Georgia were in attendance at his course. One of the teachers as we went around the room doing introductions made a comment about an interesting point for her was the first time she had ever held a snake was in my room at Loganville High School holding Stevie my ball python. Sadly Stevie has moved home with my room change a few years back and just laid eight eggs. Sitting here thinking actually there is a picture of her 2003 State Champion Softball team on the wall as well.

Sitting and listening to teachers and teachers to be in the discussions that go around the room with lead facilitators providing a frame work within which to expound or expand the conversation is a starting point of a weeklong session. Just prior to leaving our house to drive up last year I had hit on an idea for my dissertation topic which has been eluding me for some time. I had been sitting in a discussion with a former student and he offered the idea of that I had shown him or helped him find, the Art of Learning. As I pondered deeper into that morning this idea stuck with me and from it a topic. The Art of Learning using the Foxfire Core Practices as a palette and it was only a few days ago my idea evolved again and now is, Crossing the stream of education: Using the Foxfire Core Practices as stepping stones.

When I left Mountain City last year and drove back to the lower lands of Walton County I felt excited about the course going on and my own epiphany that morning with the idea of learning is an art form. John Dewey’s book, Experience and Education sits to my left as I write and the past few days I have borrowed from it several times as I jotted ideas down. But it is within the community of fellow learners and teachers we find answers and again more questions to ask. I thrive on the idea of learning even though I am sure many of my high school teachers and some college professors would argue. When students want to learn and desire to learn amazing things can be accomplished.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Core Practice One from The Foxfire Core Practices

John Dewey and his thoughts run through the Foxfire Approach to Teaching with an emphasis on a democratic classroom, experience as a means of learning and student input into the process of learning. I find that this is a rather simple statement this initial core practice which along with the other nine have evolved over the past nearly fifty years of teacher interactions and discussions from literally around the world. But so often a key attribute is missed and that is that students and teachers do this undertaking together. Last summer listening to sixteen nearly teachers and active teachers respond to why they were involved in this class provided me with a sense of maybe there are a few who get it in the world.

In education we talk about test scores which are also what is used to measure in most schools to federal and state guidelines. Standardized tests given to all students at the end or near end of a school term on specific subjects that are to measure what students have learned. Sadly many students could take the same test at the beginning of the term and score the same so is that really a valid measure of what is learned probably not. Far too many teachers avoid discussing the concept of learning; they are engrossed in standards, curriculum, forms and teacher manuals on the subject. So I sit here offering learning is a stream to cross and or an art form. Both of these ideas are fluid, moving and ever changing.

“Measuring tools lead to quantification; the tools in the arts lead to qualification.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

Do we ever truly measure learning? I have been wondering this since I started back into teaching although in various different words and meanings. A simple measure would be giving a pre-test and post-test which would show where a student started and where they ended. On a far more involved scenario would be that of using portfolios gathering the evidence as the student progresses through material. They are effectively used in some schools to measure learning and students growth. These would consist of gathering artifacts along the way from the student. Essays, reports, assignments, any piece of material that is involved in the student’s educational life could be considered an artifact.

“With respect to art and its meaning I share Dewey’s view that art is a mode of human experience that in principle can be secured whenever an individual interacts with any aspect of the world.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

So I am wandering as I sit here this summer morning pondering an article to write on critical pedagogy after a weekend trip to see one granddaughter and a day of playing with my other granddaughter. I sat down yesterday after Charlie left trying to write but my energy level has deteriorated even after two five hour energy shots and I did little more than ponder a moment. I am excited thinking about the group next week future teachers who will be experiencing some interesting and enlightening ideas and concepts across their course. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

Bird Droppings April 23, 2015
Reading a friend’s book a sixth time

I was so tired when I laid down last night after driving around doing errands, working in the yard, working in my gardens, and attempting to get into my reading and writing. My youngest son in now a nurse at St. Mary’s hospital in Athens, my son’s wife a nursing assistant and going into a nursing program in the fall, my niece a student nurse at Georgia Southern University and my wife is a nurse practitioner. There is a community among nurses. Yesterday morning five student nurses at Georgia Southern were killed in a severe car accident on their way to a final clinical. As a graduate student from Georgia Southern it impacted me. One of girls injured in the accident is from our high school. As the evening wound down my son called trying to find his wife she was late from work. About a year ago my son fell asleep on his way home from a long day at work and was involved in a serious accident. All of these made for an intense evening and troubled sleep.

My oldest and I have been working on some outdoor ponds summer homes for several turtles and to various water plants. Hopefully the rain will let us get some serious work done this weekend. Physical labor and getting old seem to not be compatible. Our dog did not wake me up a few times to see the moon and hear the whippoorwills which were nice even though I was so tired. I have one last IEP for the year a young man who has been in five schools in four years. So as I prepare to finish an IEP I got thinking about Dr. Sutton’s book today.

Dr. James Sutton sent me a copy of one of his books nearly eight years ago, What parents need to know about ODD. Dr. Sutton is one of the leading writers and authorities on Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the country. One of these days when, Bird Droppings a teacher journal, comes out the forward is by Dr. James Sutton. I have been reading academic books lately with numerous big words, long words, often times useless in normal setting words like post-structuralism, phenomenology; semiotics and hermeneutics are a few good ones. It seems many academics want to use words and pages to bolster their endeavors and then question why common folk don’t understand.

I responded to Dr. Sutton with the following sentence or two in response to his book. My first experience with Dr. James Sutton was going to a conference in 2003 in Macon Ga. and listening to his ideas on working with some of the hardest kids to deal with in education in Emotional Behavior Disorders. His ideas hit the nail on the head and this latest book, What Parents need to Know About ODD, is an easy to read, understand and to use tool for parents and teachers who daily have to deal with the trials and tribulations of kids who are ODD. I recommend this book to my student’s parents and educational associates almost daily. This was not a sales pitch but when combined with another issue our federally mandated NCLB, the law requires teachers to use evidence based practice, EBP when dealing with exceptional children. This becomes a problem in special education because there is not that much to work with and as I thought today a good teacher with a good idea could be hindered by a packaged program that is an EBP and not as effective and there have been many cases where teachers have been criticized for not using a recommended program.

Every year we lose good teachers who are hindered by administration and packaged programs of which many were researched by the company publishing the program. I had a situation myself a few years back and was told this program was what I was to teach to a specific group of teenagers and it was research based. I called the publisher to verify what research was done. It was never done with a population anywhere near what it was being recommended for and the one study that was done was with kids ten years younger and 20 IQ points higher but it did work with them.

A Harvard study posted June 14, 2006 states “…the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over academic competitiveness.” from the The New York Times referring to NCLB. Funny how we keep trying to make schools better or I should say politicians keep trying. I often wonder when teachers will be asked.

“I will stake my reputation and over thirty years of experience on this: Real change occurs when relationships improve.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

I have watched wheels spun testing kids at the end of semesters and courses and at the end of high school and all because laws say we have to that are established by politicians. Yet all you are truly testing is what someone knows at that moment and not what they learned in any given time frame or how well a teacher taught. My son who recently graduated as biology major could take an end of course biology test without the course and pass it does that measure how much he learned or simply what he knows. Sadly teachers and administrators are losing jobs and schools are being threatened by these tests.

Recently in a discussion in an online class I raised a question about NCLB and how kids were being left behind and a teacher an advanced degree teacher offered “well some children want to be left behind”

“The power paradox is a simple concept. It suggests that the more force we put into controlling an ODD child, the less effective those efforts become. Golf pros will tell you that, when you try to muscle that ball down the fairway, looking for distance alone, there’s no telling where it’s going to go. When you focus on form rather than force, however, the distance takes care of itself. It’s much the same idea in managing an ODD child.” Dr. James Sutton, What Parents need to know about ODD

So often when I read Dr. Sutton’s ideas they apply elsewhere in life. The power paradox is in education all the time it is in relationships between people, in government and definitely in the working of a school.

Far too often we go for power not form as I recall many years ago the TV show Kung Fu in which David Carridine was a Shaolin priest who had escaped to America for killing someone in self-defense with his martial arts. It was not about power but form the swan or deer almost ballet movements yet lethal as well. It is so easy to get caught up in just words. I read numerous writers words each day in blogs, books and articles and a thought I have been having keeps coming up the reader has to be able to understand the writer for communication to occur.

The experiences and perceptions have to be there so what is written is understood? One excellent writer I read daily uses riddles and word puzzles and play on words and many have not a clue what is being said and or why. That is part of her mystic and then all of a sudden it hits you.

“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.” Nelson Mandela, speech at the opening of the South African Congress

It has been nearly twenty years since South Africa truly became democratic and how long will it be till we here in the United States can say democracy is back and not rule of the dollar and lobbyist. Much of what I have been reading lately addresses the issue of education and how it is that today’s education is to make good consumers. Customer’s, one author calls college students and on many campuses that is the word used by the administration very much a corporate world. Historians have said over and over wars are always fought for money and if we look back at any war in history always money was a key factor. I questioned Viet Nam and Johnson wanted the war effort to continue as industry was getting a shot in the arm and the economy turned around. The power paradox in Iraq and most of the Middle East is a very interesting thought. I wonder have we ever focused on the form, for example the individual in Iraq. Maybe we need to ask for Nelson Mandela’s help in Iraq. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

Bird Droppings April 22, 2015
Wondering about the song lyrics of an old friend

I first started listening to Neil Young’s music in 1967 or so possibly even earlier if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short lived band and of course 1968 with Crosby Stills and Nash at Woodstock and Deja vu, their first album which I am sitting here listening too. While I did not make it to Woodstock I can say my old sleeping bag was there, a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.

I was reading on line last night, a friend on line lists the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her with a note that I did not think anyone under fifty had ever heard of Neil Young. Several years ago Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain, decided he needed to record so in a few days he turned out what he was afraid might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery and postponing the actual surgery for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital from successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open and he collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.

The words to this song caught my attention this morning, a questioning of who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have been discussing free choice and feel will in our blogs and on line discussions which perhaps led me to this today. The title of the song is, When God made me, by Neil Young.

“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind

I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. There was a lone bird I think had gotten mixed up on its timing (I wonder does anyone give the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or maybe migrating in from another time zone, but here nearby singing all alone deep in the woods. I like days when even with the overcast the moon cast light through the spring trees, a hint of green and the lace work of twigs and opening buds provide a background for thought, everything smells and sounds so new in spring.

Thinking ahead to coming back to school after a summer break it always amazes me. More than half the students will have T-shirts from Panama City Florida air brushed with a boyfriend’s name and or girlfriend’s name and various partying information and or connotations maybe parents should not know about, and of course tan. There will be a lot of shell jewelry and then there is the other half still asleep from staying in bed till one or two and having a hard time readjusting to school hours, with their puffy eyes and dozing off during the day. It is so difficult to get started the week or so day after summer break. I offered to an administrator why not start back on a Tuesday instead of Monday and we both agreed we could all use that one extra day.

“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil Young

Funny, how a line sticks with you in a song or poem or book. I keep thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, getting tough on North Korea and as always the breaking news today Benghazi is fizzling out, IRS was actually doing their job, and a leak from a Washington reporter in 2009 all seem insignificant. Some want to attack Iran after we try diplomacy again. I wonder if the word compassion ever made it into Washington. I was walking through a Wal-Mart sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of students came in he was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through a Wal-Mart employee near the pharmacy was explaining the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They actually had a booth set up with a fulltime staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people including myself haven’t a clue. Ironic and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet the line is too long at the explanation booth.

Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents work finding housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming from Washington, for example cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high cut out Medicaid.

Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him and he was limited to drawing disability. His wife due to illnesses all of her life had never worked enough combined quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately between them their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks and because their income exceeded federal standards they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise they took turns each month on which medicines to not get. They were getting help from one agency but doctors had to fill in paper work literally volumes each month for them to receive free medicines. Sadly eventually the doctor’s office stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.

What of a disabled man I worked with for several years who lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health and psychological related issues and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do worldwide as a nation I seriously wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Can we figure a way to filter it all?

Bird Droppings April 21, 2015
Can we figure a way to filter it all?

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.” T.S. Elliot

Sifting through the tons of information that bombard us daily is a task, be it emails, text messages, cell phone calls, advertising on the internet and the vast assortment of print media. I was involved a few semesters back in a graduate class looking at the impact of technology on education and on the human condition. I picked as a paper topic one that might have seemed somewhat religious yet really is not, “Can we find god at Radio Shack?” When I reviewed for the hundredth time the T.S. Elliot quote and think about the standardizing, categorizing and commercial packaging of education I see the down side of technology. I see the loss of wisdom, faith and in a sense for some people of god.
On computers there are filters and favorites what a paradox. We can assign topics we choose to see or not and quick ways to get to favorites. I n most schools this is left to the teacher, administrator and or Board office. In my readings the constant use of the term human capital is used in reference to our students and education. We can be manipulated through our media and media usage. Corporate entities that donate software and or hardware with their advertising imbedded.

“There’s a compelling reason to master information and news. Clearly there will be better job and financial opportunities. Other high stakes will be missed by people if they don’t master and connect information.” Everett Dennis

“With so much information now online, it is exceptionally easy to simply dive in and drown.” Alfred Glossbrenner

Picking and choosing should be a seemingly simple task, sorting through the deluge of information pouring out each day. For many no big deal, it is easy even child’s play, yet for some as Glossbrenner states, they drown in the vast pool of information. I remember many years ago in Red Cross water Safety courses always check the pool before you dive in.

“The original root of the word “information” is the Latin word informare, which means to fashion, shape, or create, to give form to. Information is an idea that has been given a form, such as the spoken or written word. It is a means of representing an image or thought so that it can be communicated from one mind to another rather than worrying about all the information afloat in the world, we must ask ourselves what matters to us, what do we want to know. It’s having ideas and learning to deal with issues that are important, not accumulating lots and lots of data.” Theodore Roszak

It is learning to filter to organize to pick through the mounds of information readily available and make sense of it this is the task at hand. The hardest task of educators is trying to teach that filtering process. Where to find a bit or piece that makes sense and helping students find context for information rather than simply over whelming them with the vast amounts of content.

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” Herbert Simon

“If you were designing the sort of information-processing system a brain is, it would be extremely impractical to store memories permanently in their original form. You need mechanisms for transforming and recording them; for “chunking” information into categories. Is your memory a phonograph record on which the information is stored in localized grooves to be replayed on demand? Is so, it’s a very bizarre record, for the songs are different every time they’re played. Human memory is more like the village storyteller; it doesn’t passively store facts but weaves them into a good (coherent, plausible) story, which is recreated with each telling.” Judith Hooper Teresi

For nearly fifteen years now I have written about teachers and teaching how to filter information, trying to fill a liter bottle with ten gallons of information. It is being able to deal with infinite information and store in a finite place, that is what teaching is about. Daily I see far too many teachers forget that the space is limited and as Sydney J. Harris comments “is more akin to stuffing a sausage”. As we learn to do better, as we learn to assist in the daily sorting and filtering how do we ourselves sort and filter. We teachers and parents can be caught up in that great over whelming barrage of information.
“Information is recorded in vast interconnecting networks. Each idea or image has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of associations and is connected to numerous other points in the mental network.” Peter Russell

“The idea that information can be stored in a changing world without an overwhelming depreciation of its value is false. It is scarcely less false than the more plausible claim that after a war we may take our existing weapons, fill their barrels with information.” Norbert Wiener

Teaching and parenting becomes showing short cuts strategies to hold information so that it becomes knowledge and eventually wisdom. It is about teaching ways to sort the information so that it does not over whelm us. Teaching ways of concentration, distilling or taking a great amount of data and extracting what is crucial. Then it is also about knowing where to find the rest of the information if and when we need it. We live in a world of information and so often wisdom is being left by the wayside. Borrowing from T.S. Elliot again, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” My friends as we get into another week let us not drown in information but rise above on wisdom. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

A man before his time

Bird Droppings April 20, 2015
A man before his time

“A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Many great thinkers have found their motivation and beginnings in Schopenhauer. Arthur Schopenhauer was one of the first westerners to read and understand Eastern thought. He was well read and written which was interesting as so many of the German philosophers were difficult to read and understand even a possibility of where they were coming from, writing in such difficult terms and verbiage.

“A man’s delight in looking forward to and hoping for some particular satisfaction is a part of the pleasure flowing out of it, enjoyed in advance. But this is afterward deducted, for the more we look forward to anything the less we enjoy it when it comes.” Arthur Schopenhauer

As a child I recall wanting Christmas so bad and the presents we knew would be there. Often we knew what was coming due to list to Santa and or parents asking us what we wanted. As I read this statement and thought about it how true as we plan and set goals and objectives that have significant meaning when we establish that goal. Then as we accomplish the goal while meaningful much of the significance has been spent along the way. This is not bad it is what often keeps us going giving us the energy to go another step.

“After your death you will be what you were before your birth.” Arthur Schopenhauer

So many ways to look at this statement probably somewhat contrary to European thought at the time. Over the years however I have found a simple explanation in “The circle of life” from the Disney movie Lion King, even though Schopenhauer was many years before the Lion King came out.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Having been in education I have watched great thinkers in their time be ridiculed and then years later their ideas fully implemented. John Dewey as one example in the early 1900’s developed ideas and understandings of education that today are still considered progressive a hundred years later.

“As the biggest library if it is in disorder is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer writes about books quite often, both in a negative and very positive sense. In his time he was very well read himself looking for and gathering from many sources. He was one of the first European philosophers to read and think about Eastern thought and religions. But he is so critical of vast libraries if they are unused. Much the time we humans collect and simply put the books on shelves to impress the rest of humanity. In today’s world we Google it.

“Compassion is the basis of morality” Arthur Schopenhauer

Compassion is an active part of life and through it finding our morality. Morality is in action not just in statement and it is an active ingredient in life.

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” Arthur Schopenhauer

This could be how politicians exist to begin with. I often do not watch the news for lack of anything worth watching. Here in Atlanta area everyday a shooting or two well three or four maybe, gets to be very disconcerting. I have been watching the events of the past few days. The State Senate and House are offering bills and closing doors, side swiping issues that go unanswered and yet allowing others to pass that cater to big business and special interest groups. Amazingly we sit and watch and wonder how the populous can allow this. A headline yesterday included more budget cuts so pet projects could be continued.

“Every possession and every happiness, is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour.” Arthur Schopenhauer

“Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost.” Arthur Schopenhauer

The more I read of this man’s thoughts the more I see “doing” as a key aspect of his philosophical thought. He is a philosopher who demanded action to be a part of reality and not just be limited to thought

“I’ve never know any trouble than an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.” Arthur Schopenhauer

As soon as this book came out I bought a copy of Kent Nerburn’s “Chief Joseph and The flight of the Nez Perce”, a history of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe. I immediately read the preface and skimmed the book and now have since read the entire book. I used to read a book cover to cover in one sitting now I sit and ponder as I read and spend an hour on a page gleaning ideas, bits and pieces of what the author is showing me.

“It is only a man’s own fundamental thoughts that have truth and life in them. For it is these that he really and completely understands. To read the thoughts of others is like taking the remains of someone else’s meal, like putting on the discarded clothes of a stranger.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Often during the day I get “what do you think Mr. Bird” and I try so hard not to offend and ask back first “what do you think” about this or that. Initially I was cautious as my own thinking tends to be a bit more liberal than most Georgians and perhaps humanity as a whole. But as I look at philosophy and great teachers it was in questioning that we illicit from students thinking rather than have them just mimic back to us our own thoughts.

“Just as the largest library, badly arranged, is not so useful as a very moderate one that is well arranged, so the greatest amount of knowledge, if not elaborated by our own thoughts, is worth much less than a far smaller volume that has been abundantly and repeatedly thought over.” Arthur Schopenhauer

We have to be actively involved in the processes of our own thinking. It is not simply to have that knowledge. I wonder as we embark in education with teaching content to the test on a daily basis. I think back to John Dewey and Progressivism and we need do context and not simply content or our own children will not be thinking and understanding.

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” Arthur Schopenhauer
We always seem to speak to the climb what about the descent sometimes we need breaks after pushing so hard in the climb

“Martyrdom is the only way a man can become famous without ability.” Arthur Schopenhauer

I found this statement interesting as I look back historically. I have found most men and women that I recall in history who were martyred I recall the event of death. How do we remember them it is for their death or for their life? Could it be that through their death we see their life? I wonder or is it because of their death only? I was wondering as we have nearly daily martyr’s in the Middle East blowing themselves up in search of heaven.

“The alchemists in their search for gold discovered many other things of greater value.” Arthur Schopenhauer

So often it is in our mistakes and errors we find the answers. One of my premises of learning is through our mistakes.

“The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.” Arthur Schopenhauer

I know for me I am still learning still defining who I am and why. Maybe one day I will get to the commentary and truly understand and see myself for what and who I really am.

“The man never feels the want of what it never occurs to him to ask for.” Arthur Schopenhauer

“The more unintelligent a man is the less mysterious existence seems to him.” Arthur Schopenhauer

I look at my students who often range in intellectual pursuit from college level to first grade. I wonder often how they perceive and view the world. I use a house, tree, person test occasionally to get glimpses of a child’s world and the pictures can range from elaborate to stick figures. So often with the elaborate come stories and mysteries versus the black and white starkness of others.

“The wise have always said the same things, and fools, who are the majority, have always done just the opposite.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Reading that simple line and wondering at happenings of today and now. “I told you so”, seems to be the catch phrase down the line with so many people and amazingly on both sides of the fence. I found myself saying this to and can be bad about it as well.

“Without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are the engines of change, windows on the world, “Lighthouses” as the poet said “erected in the sea of time.” They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind, Books are humanity in print.” Arthur Schopenhauer

It always saddens me when a student says they can read well enough to get by. I hear that every day. Reading can separate us from the masses. It can lift us up and show us new heights, new worlds. Reading, hopefully one day will alleviate the pain and suffering and harm of the world. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

A wind in the trees

Bird Droppings April 18, 2015
A wind in the trees

Over the past weeks we have had several severe storms come through the area. Just before I went to bed last night according to the weather we were to get another today. Several times during the night I awakened and no storm was blowing and our dog finally slept through the night. Of course no one else ever hears her but me and I get up and let her run about checking the back or front yard whichever way she feels like going. When it is just wind she will search diligently the yard when storms come through she just keeps me awake all night barking and going out to bark at the storm. Two nights back was one of those nights I was looking for duct tape to silence the dog and finally no storm just a steady wind blowing through the trees several times I went out and listened. While a bit chilly still an eerie sound is the wind in the tops of the pine trees.

As I walk outside at school during the day at school I often watch clouds pass by, lately the sky has been clear and blue and huge white clouds pass by in a never ending procession. The pines just past the school often are moving with a steady wind and almost hypnotic in their movement. I was looking over reports I have to do for our year end over the next few weeks and found a book mark on my desk my wife gave me several years ago. Several quotes from Chief Joseph and an artist rendition of the great Nez Perce leader on the book mark.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing it makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk.” Chief Joseph

I thought about our current leaders and past leaders who these words were addressing. Yesterday a Senator accused several major companies of making over a hundred billion in excess profit off of the American public over the past few years that is over a hundred dollars per person per year. Of course company’s attitude has been well they are willing to pay why not a profit for our stock holders. Their other point has been that several of these major companies paid little or no taxes. It seems the double talk is about to end at least hopefully. I got gas for my wife’s car this morning visiting my second favorite store Quick Trip. The price of gas is nearly the highest it has been. There are no lines, screaming and hollering but the CEO of Exxon is smiling. We have become used to high priced gas. We have become used to the fact it is high because China and other countries are willing to pay for it. We are producing more gas and oil than ever before in this country and still a shell game on the American people by big business and our government. Capitalism rocks if you are a multi billionaire oil gas baron.

For many years not only the Native Americans as I look back at Chief Josephs words, but we average Americans from Europe, Africa and Asia as well have been duped by our leaders and by businesses because we have been willing to settle for what is offered. I watch in education as federal laws designed supposedly to improve education are in effect stifling education but profiting corporations. A small example is in Georgia our new math curriculum that latest about three years and caused some major hassles in schools and with students. Book companies reaped a small fortune however. Georgia is still struggling with math and amazingly enough instead of remediating math they make math curriculum harder. The logic befuddles me. If we know our children are having a difficult tie with math why make it harder. If I were in industry and had a problem I search for the cause and use risk management. I treat, tolerate, transfer, or terminate the problem. In education we have a more simple solution we simply compound the problem.

“If you tie a horse to a stake do you expect him to grow fat…?” Chief Joseph

As federal and states mandate on schools that are failing to meet standards are imposed for various reasons. Some states are suing in federal court the law No Child Left Behind which is doing a paradoxical sort of thing actually leaving children behind has been making demands on schools without the resources to back up the programs and laws. We have issues with how children are being taught yet evaluate not actually what they have learned but what they know at the point they take a test. Sadly the scores being used are not a valid indicator of learning.

As Chief Joseph surrendered to a superior force outnumbered and outmanned he made his mark on history through his words.

“It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are starving to death. My people some of them have run away to the hills and have no blankets no food No one where they are perhaps freezing to death I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find some of them among the dead. Hear me oh chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more.” Chief Joseph

After his pleas for asylum in Canada went unattended he stopped fleeing the approaching army and the Nez – Perce had been defeated, they had out maneuvered and out run a superior force for months but their supplies were low, morale was low and winter was coming. A proud man laid down his rifle. I wonder as I think back and even look at today how we deal with people so seldom can we accept anyone as equal. So seldom can we try and live in peace without making demands. Why is it that those in power have to flex muscle and have what is not theirs to have. So often we interfere in other countries. We interfere in our own citizen’s rights and privacy. Power is such an addictive thing. Power a simple word and a simple thought I wonder why we so often abuse it. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird