Bird Droppings February 25, 2010
A chilly morning for so many reasons
I was huddled in my blanket as I went outside to sit and think a bit earlier granted I was barefooted. The air was still except for a slight rustling in the branches and pine needles with the breeze. All in all it was so very quiet this chilly morning even my dog was silent this morning sitting on the porch waiting for me to let her back in while I was there staring at the sky thinking. It might have been to cold for my dog to bark and yap as she does most mornings.
“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull
A good friend once emailed about a conference he is holding in Georgia. It is funny how ideas often co-mingle in the cosmos. At that same time I had a mother and co-teacher needing help with a son and she had been finding answers in my friend’s books. Along with that several students I was working with at the time needed assistance. But as I read this note from the great holy man and war leader of the Sioux nation so many years ago I was intrigued. Sitting Bull wasn’t looking at the now he was looking ahead, “What life we can make for our children”. His own was cut short as he held his grand child’s hand. Legend has it as the Native American marshals were arresting him for instigating a ghost dance ritual they thought he was going for a weapon and shot him. As the story goes his grand child dropped a toy and he was picking it up it was not a gun.
“I do not wish to be shut up in a corral. All agency Indians I have seen are worthless. They are neither red warriors nor white farmers. They are neither wolf nor dog.” Sitting Bull
It was many years later that Kent Nerburn wrote a book borrowing from this comment entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog. The book was the editing and recording of the words of an elderly Sioux man who felt the need to relate the Native American view of reality and life for others to read.
In recent days as End of Course tests and Graduation tests results have been published and passed out and as I deal with children who have issues we tend to look at test results based on norms. As it is I love bell shaped curves sarcastically, we want everyone to fit in this percentile or that. But the interesting thing about a bell shaped curve everyone does not fit in on both sides there are extremes and such endeavors as No Child Left behind does not allow for that 12.5% on each end who are on the extremes of the curves, that is twenty five per cent of the population. There is no magical cut off point. This child is in and this child is out yet we have imposed these boundaries through legislation.
We have stripped away individualism and seek to make all children equal and fit in the same mold, and the same parameters. Recently I saw an entrance requirement for a class in vocational studies requiring a certain level of math. Many students who could have benefited are now out. The funny thing I believe it was back in Germany when specific requirements for existence be it hair color and skin color became issues for international debate and war and history and yet we now are instituting educational cleansing by weeding out children who cannot pass tests.
I know a student now a mother and in the work force five times she took the end of course test in science and missed passing by a total of ten points and several of those times by only a point. By chance I read graduation tests for some special education students and for instance question seventy on the test used a few summers back was of a nature no answer was correct technically. The answer was essentially to be a logic oriented response yet hidden within was an answer that in actuality was correct but only if students watched a Disney movie on Desert Life made in 1963 they would know the real answer. Semantics played in and what is so sad the question was probably worded wrong. I questioned the testing board and the question is not out there anymore. But what if that was one of the questions the little girl missed who missed five times what if she failed to graduate because of a faulty question no one caught five times? We have normed out of parameters so many children.
In recent months I have watched students withdraw because of tests or because of standards. I have watched select students get credit and others not for the very same issues. Perhaps we are practicing educational genocide maybe somewhere there is a conspiracy to eliminate from the gene pool students who can not pass this test or that one. A school I have great faith in has recently dropped its undergraduate special education major. With current laws for highly qualified most special education teachers are being delegated to assisting regular education teachers. We are setting aside disabilities and or assuming they are not there and working on deficits only, the symptoms. It is funny how it may be the disability that caused the deficit, albeit educational genocide. Sitting here playing with NCLB, Norming, Children, Leaves the Best, what a society we have.
“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing” Chief Joseph
Watching critiques unfold of recent test results and listening to teachers criticized for low test results it is sad that we put so much emphasis on a paper and pencil operation. Teachers are facing many of the same situations Native Americans faced hundreds of years ago be it treaties, or laws and many are literally meaningless. We won’t use test results and yet teachers are being called to account and only test is taken into account the demographics of group of students is only looked at after publicly posted test results are out.
“It does not require many words to speak the truth” Chief Joseph
It did not take long for the great chief of the Nez Perce to understand and realize talk from Washington was often meaningless and only fulfilling for those that initiated the talk generally those in Washington and or their friends. In 1974 we passed laws to allow for mandatory education for all children and now we are saying all children should be educated exactly the same and all children should pass the same tests and all children will be the same by 2014.
“You might as well expect rivers to run backwards as for any man who is born free to be penned up” Chief Joseph
For most today may be meaningless gibberish as I wander about today. I recall my first visit to a residential treatment facility in 1969 or so. Of that I recall the smell first, then the hollow gaze of residents who had lived their lives in isolation and away from normal society. It was several years later I did another internship this time from a spiritual aspect as part of my seminary experience in 1974 and 1975 again at a residential facility and while in another state the smell and gaze were the same. It has been many years since big cats were at the Atlanta Zoo and back in the day, the Cat House, held numerous species of large cats from around the world and all had a gaze about them as they paced steel cages staring off into the distance. I wonder as we commit educational genocide are we pushing back to days gone by in the name of progress taking us back to 1974 and before when we only took children who would be able to pass tests got into schools and programs. I truly wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.