trying to uncover peace

Bird Droppings December 3, 2009
Trying to uncover peace

“In this week of great destruction, we must each choose what road we are to walk and live. The road of destruction is war, it has always been so. The road of creation is deeper and more complicated; it has always involved forgiveness, love, light, prayer, and spirit. In this new millennia we have a chance to change the way we see other beings to one of connectedness and unity. We have a chance to let go of the ancient ways of war and conflict, of who is right, of being better, of senseless killing. This week has thrown us back on the old model of the last millennia.” Michael Samuels, M.D., and Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD, Path of the Feather

I remember a weekend drive to North Georgia heading to a graduate class in Mountain City home of Foxfire where I watched seven people marching for peace in small town in North Georgia. This paragraph is a few lines from a Navaho prophecy edited by Dr.’s Samuels and Rockwood. In my own searching reading and writing so often the contrast of peace versus war seems to always come up.

“The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, ‘I was wrong’.” Sydney J. Harris

For many Sydney J. Harris is simply an old forgotten columnist from by gone days. But his words are powerful. Often as I find articles he wrote from the sixties and seventies I wonder why I missed them then. I am reminded as I think it was not time for me to see them; the pieces were not in place at that time for me to understand and to recognize what it was he is saying. A dear friend writes from his heart and others only can criticize or turn away often not even reading the words.

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” “An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.” Sydney J. Harris

Sitting here each morning it is so easy to formulate solutions and fantasize a world free from strife and turmoil. I have a good friend who will argue that with me when I bring it up. Looking at the human condition and the human attributes that drive so many of the problems in the wordl such as greed, hate, and distrust. But then I drive away from my house and see that nothing has changed we are still at war and still have all of those conditions running rampant it seems at times. Still at the department store with the early bird sales on Black Friday masses of humanity will line up to get the best deal and gasoline will still be artificially high so our wonderful gas companies profits can continue to supposedly bolstering the economy.
I often wonder who came up with thinking like that in any other business sooner or later someone would see the ridiculous, Exxon had some of its highest profits ever on one headline and on another gas at highest ever only a few months a year back. What an interesting parallel we seem to miss. A good point however at least someone is thinking as our Supreme Court judges slowly age a poll was taken on what type of judge should replace any who should step down, 41% want a moderate, 35% a conservative and only 21% a liberal. I wonder what the remaining 3% want that are left, someone who is younger than seventy five maybe.

“Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.” Sydney J. Harris

A new morning and into the end of the week Later today I will be tutoring and working with a student after school. As I sit and ponder this morning not quite as wet as yesterday we each need to look at our pathway and see which direction we are going. Is it the path of destruction or of creation as the Navaho say that we choose. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

Trying to tie a knot with one hand

Bird Droppings December 2, 2009
Trying to tie a knot with only one end

“Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.” Charles Swindoll

It is the responses that the world sees this is how we are judged and how we are thought of. Each day I see hundreds of people coming through my room at the high school and their attitude about their life is perhaps the one thing that can make or break them in any given day. How we respond to what people see is what drives all things around us. If we bring an attitude for example a poor attitude to a given place and respond to seemingly inconsequential stimulus in an overt way because of that inherent bad attitude we will be perceived as being that which we possible really are not nor do we choose to be. Unfortunately our attitude at the moment drives the reality of others in their perceiving of us.

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

I think intelligence provides color and shades of gray to a black and white world. However it can be manipulated both positively and negatively. Look at a color blind test for example, a swirl of colors and yet some can see and others not. Intelligence has nothing to do with it other than creating the test that is being seen. Conversely, perception, how we see that image is then how we interpret that image and or do not interpret it.

“Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim.” Percy Bysshe Shelley

Several issues at hand, first it is how we respond to a given event. Secondly how we perceive a given event and then determine that in fact that the event is happening. I have always enjoyed reading Shelly’s work and yet very seldom have I used a piece in my daily wanderings. Today was a day that had minor delays and changes in routine offering an imbalance to a morning. I am a creature of habit and change is difficult for me taking a week off from teaching due to a fall break. As we read Shelly’s line we know change is inevitable. If we plan and think and strategize change can be less significant and in effect can become more evolution that really a change. Is it a development of sorts, a gradually shifting from point A to point B and on to point C.?
I was observing several students a few days back and change is what affects them more so than any other aspect of school. Offering choice can totally bewilder them. I work with several autistic teenagers and often choice is a difficult venue. Should I go to the rest room and or the bus since the bell rang. An either or situation and it is seemingly a difficult one for this one fellow as he stood in my door asking me what he should do. While afterwards it was humorous at the time it was a life altering event until he remembered he was on third load and had plenty of time. Still for each of us we live in a society of choice. Years ago I had a student who could not choose. He literally needed to be told what to wear by his mother and what to do during the day by his teachers. On his own he would always get into trouble by responding inappropriately to stimuli. Eventually he ended in jail serving three life sentences when all external restrictions were gone after his mother passed away.
I watch students who have similar tendencies and wonder what happens when we take away answering questions and offering help. What happens when a world designed by people who enjoy control and power chose to make you the scape goat. I once read a headline about enormous profits of oil companies and I look at price of gas. Any fool can see if you charge twice as much for an item profits will go up. Costs go up as fuel prices rise and I recall in a speech our nation’s leader stated it is ok for oil companies to reap record profits on high gas costs, because it is market driven. Interesting as I sit and think about the president’s comments and whose side was he on. I now understand why we are having such difficult times with educational policies and other issues on a national level. If you can make a profit it is ok, it is market driven. Much of our educational policy is profit driven and market oriented in items like standardized tests and textbooks. Literally there are hundreds of billions of dollars in sales of educational materials.
Certain industries are at record levels while former main stays of our economy have been driven over seas. I seriously wonder how we did it, pushing jobs to China or where ever. I wonder, if I was an oilman or drug company president or oil construction company owner I think would be a happy camper right now. I got into a discussion with two former military now teachers earlier in the week. We were discussing World War II and current warfare. Literally thousands died in battles in World War II and today with our highly mechanized military handfuls die. But what was interesting was that in days gone by industry boomed during war time. We are in wars where for the first time during a major war we are hurting in jobs and in financial areas. We have no industry left it is all in other countries. We have to buy hardware and military equipment from heavy industries in other countries. Even in a one of last years campaign speechs a politician bragged about saving billions on a fuel tanker airplane in a contract bid. The part left out was that instead of manufacturing in the US it would be built in France and 6000 jobs would be in another country. How much was that worth?

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

All is focused on a bell shaped curve. Approximately 12.5 percent know something is fishy, 12.5 percent are being left behind and 75 percent do not care because the response they see is feasible at the time and that is all that matters. Looking back on the Iraq war sort of ok there are no weapons of mass destruction, but when we made the choice we were sure there were. It is ok to pay twice what we should for gas because others are and there fore it is market driven. What if we as consumers could determine the price of gas and profitability of those companies? What if medications were with in reach of people instead of pricing to a point where life saving and threatening medications were unattainable for some? The new drug plans are so cumbersome most can not use or holes in plans leave some stranded. What if we could have a utopia and everything was perfect and a bell shaped curve was now a flat line? Funny thing is you would be called a socialist. Most of the recent political jargon would say that is socialism. Ever wonder why when you are dead monitors show a flat line, it seems there are some who want people to flat line and eliminate the curve. Some who want to get everyone on the same wave length equal and no complaints at all? In education it is a big one is the legislation of No Child Left Behind, NCLB, where all children are the same by law at least they will be in 2014. When I see that I nearly laugh having worked always in special education.

“If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.” Arthur Schopenhauer

As I sat and thought about all of this it is sort of like trying to tie a knot with only one end. Does it really do any good to have a knot if the other end is some where else? Well as I keep wondering I could use that knot in the end of a rope to knock some of the politicians in the head. It has been a chilly, windy, and very rainy fall morning and I am still trying to gather up plants needing to come in for the warmth. It will be a good day and one filled with conversation and communication. I look forward to more. Please my dear friends keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Testing and or Inpsection does it really work?

Bird Droppings December 1, 2009
Testing and or Inspection does it really work?

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates

Reading this note from Bill Gates founder of Microsoft you may at first glance consider or maybe even just wonder has Bill Gates lost his marbles. However if you look deeper into what he is saying, if a company has no unhappy customers they are doing everything right.

“Quality is meeting or exceeding the expectations of your customers” Phillip Crosby

If we expand that concept of a customer base further to all people who we come in contact with daily, then that idea of a source of learning is magnified many times over. If we now also have that group of everyone having even very limited expectations of us we very quickly become either good or evil depending on how we are viewed by the world.

“Learning is not compulsory …. Neither is survival.” W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming was one of the greatest industry management consultants and thinkers of the Twentieth century he provided insight that Japanese industrialists built empires on after World War II. He revolutionized industry in Japan and almost single handedly changed the image of made in Japan from a joke to now even in our advertising the highest quality products. Deming summarized in fourteen points which I have included this morning because there are some good thoughts whether you are in industry, teaching and or simply a parent.

The 14 points for management in industry, education and government
1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
6. Institute training on the job.
7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
• Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
• Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.
Reference: – The W. Edwards Deming’s Institute
It was most interesting as I looked through the list at possible applications for myself in teaching. For example point three, “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Not only did Deming see this as a problem, looking at education Senator Paul Wellstone stated the following.
“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying they will not tolerate failure. But it is a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.”
This was being seen in industry as an issue by Deming many years ago. If an inspector has to check for errors and or faulty pieces of an item, what was found in research done on inspectors was the number of pieces faulty was in direct correlation to total number of pieces so in effect inspectors knew they had to find x number of pieces that is how many they found. By assumption then this means some faulty pieces went through the line even with inspection. Deming is saying build a quality piece first so there will be no faulty pieces. Applying that principle to education, teach appropriately and you will not have to test.
”A plague has been sweeping through American schools, wiping out the most innovative instruction and beating down some of the best teachers and administrators. Ironically, that plague has been unleashed in the name of improving schools. Invoking such terms as “tougher standards,” “accountability,” and “raising the bar,” people with little understanding of how children learn have imposed a heavy-handed, top-down, test-driven version of school reform that is lowering the quality of education in this country.” Alfie Kohn –
Sitting here on my first day back after a great holiday break we will be going into intensive testing in our high school next week. Georgia now has mandated End of Course tests in specific subject areas. When you add to that Georgia Graduation Tests you could say there is not much pressure on eleventh graders taking End of Course Tests and graduation tests all in one year. Effectively in Georgia if you don’t pass these tests you do not walk across the stage at graduation and or receive a diploma. I have found that the rumor this is being tattooed on students in lower grades is false. In industry, in politics, and even at home we so often use this mentality to accomplish things with our children, employees and even friends. As I look at Bill Gates quote again and think of students taking standardized tests you would think someone would have caught on somewhere. Maybe we need to get tested and maybe politicians should take a competency test before taking office. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and look over Deming’s fourteen points there are some good ideas.