Looking for data in a data-less enviroment

Bird Droppings April 30, 2010
Looking for data in a data-less environment

I read earlier this morning a dialogue of sorts from a young man who is currently serving in the military. He is trying to decide on his future as he pieces together in his dialogue options and possibilities not just in his immediate moments but days ahead and in the process asking for suggestions and thoughts on the various options he presents. It was interesting reading and moving through his process of elimination and multiple choice responses almost while in the first person from a differing view analytical and calculating. Essentially his process was taxonomy of job futures. If then this and if that then this. I began to think back to my own choice nearly ten years ago to return to teaching after a twenty plus year vacation away.

“I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than a success at something I hate.” George Burns

I could easily wager most of you have never seen George Burns on TV or in a movie but then he only recently in the past few years passed away at 100 years old. George Burns and Gracie Allen were a husband and wife comedy team staple dating back to vaudeville. Gracie passed away many years ago and George continued acting in films and on the stage for many years always with his trade mark cigar in hand.

“It’s simply a matter of doing what you do best and not worrying about what the other fellow is going to do.” John R. Amos

Several years back I designated my class room name as SUCCESS 101 in a joking sort of way. Yet for some students being a success is a unique proposition. Cheering on all students in school has become a passion for me, coaching, leading, guiding students to succeed on tests and papers and to eventually graduate from high school has become my mission in life.

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

Perhaps I am passing by Mr. Burns original point it is not simply success that is important. Mr. Amos adds “doing what you do best” and community is added by Ms. Buck noted anthropologist and student of humanity. It isn’t only about success it is being happy and finding joy within what you do.

“Success is important only to the extent that it puts one in a position to do more things one likes to do.” Sarah Caldwell

“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.” Pierre Coneille

Even on days when you could swear a full moon is out and students are on the verge of perhaps somewhat less than, approaching that point that would bring sweat to your brow it should still be fun. You know what, it is still fun in all of it even when nothing seems right and then is still right, and it still should be fun. When you can have joy and happiness in what you do then you are finding success, regardless of whatever assessment tool or what others think. When a student wants to come to class when a student will rather stay in class doing what they do not want to do or so they say they do not then maybe just maybe success is near.

“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It has been a while since sitting in a research class and listening to an instructor explain about evaluative measurement and how data is something you can see and touch. Also adding that touchy feely stuff while possibly existing can not be adequately measured. I was thinking to my self one of the greatest aspects of humanity is touch, it is that no measurable quality that we innately have within ourselves of feelings of the touchy feely. Can we truly measure happiness or joy or better yet that Jungian term synchronicity? Many years ago the two partners split over measurability of science versus “the touchy feely”. Jung knew something else existed that affected human nature something beyond Freud’s measurable data. He spent his life looking and defining that aspect of humanity and as Dr. King offers in his quote “the inaudible language of the heart” may be that aspect.

“Warm weather fosters growth: cold weather destroys it. Thus a man with an unsympathetic temperament has a scant joy: but a man with a warm and friendly heart overflowing blessings, and his beneficence will extend to posterity” Hung Tzu-Cheng

What is in a man’s heart is what leads and drives a person forward in life and it is that aspect that guides our next step across the stream and keeps us from slipping on the wet rocks.

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus

It wasn’t too long ago I offered up the experiment of smiling at people. Have you tried it? Simply decide to smile for a day and then look at responses from people around you. Not just smiling and grinning or staring at people, but a sincere smile. You will be amazed at how people respond. More often than not people smile back and personally I would rather be around people smiling than frowning. I have used so many times this thought from Albert Einstein in my wanderings.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?“ Albert Einstein

Freud and Jung have split many scientist and teachers, those who want to have a measurable commodity to focus on and as Einstein quotes there is human nature to contend with. So how do we make our lessons so potent as to withstand the pressure of the measurable how do we take the immeasurable and find substance in it? Can we measure heart? Can we find a way to understand why we respond beyond empirical data? Maybe one day we will and all of Jung’s searching will be not have been in vain. Until then the journey continues keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

PS – A few extra thoughts today:

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free; Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” Chuang Tsu

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” Goethe

Thinking about a Neil Young song

Bird Droppings April 28, 2010
(Got my dates mixed up yesterday)
Thinking about a Neil Young song

I often find myself listening to Neil Young; I even have a 1971 live CD on my blackberry. For nearly forty years I have been a fan and some time in May he is coming to Atlanta I might just have to try and get tickets. Yesterday I spent a large portion of the day talking with other teachers. Some about students and educational issues, but often about problems they were having themselves. I found the day flew by and I never had a moment to get done what I had intended to and ran my errands headed home and grilled several pork loins for advisement today. I feed my advisement generally donuts on Thursdays but I promised chili and ran out of time last night so in grilling for supper I tossed on some pork loins and well at least for me better than chili any day.
As I drove around yesterday I was thinking back to a day many months back I went from school to my mother’s house to talk and have a sloppy Joe. Nothing beats my mom’s sloppy Joes. She told me she found a video of my father’s last presentation. He had six months prior to filming had stomach cancer surgery and at the time of the video was still confined to a wheel chair. He was sitting behind his desk addressing the camera. One key topic of the presentation was the idea of a consequential accident. That is an accident that goes unnoticed, unreported and or unattended to. He used a recent mine incident where 3200 miners were trapped underground in South Africa, miners had reported the situation as far back as two years prior. The recent mine disaster in West Virginia had me thinking back.
When I am driving especially on long drives like driving down to Statesboro Georgia for graduate school I am always listening to Neil Young and R. Carlos Nakai. Maybe it is about the lyrics to one of Neil Young’s songs that so many ideas keep coming up. I was listening and trying to follow the songs hearing each word absorbing in the wee hours of the morning today as I read. But I kept having ideas about consequential accidents and that stop at my mothers house months back in terms of education. We tend to wait until it is too late to do anything. We see an elementary child having difficulty and for one reason or another that kid goes without help until in high school it is too late and the child is lost.

“In this world, in order to enable society to develop, all its members have to assume responsibilities and make their contribution. If we do not make collective contributions then there will be no development.” The Dalai Lama, speaking to the Tibetan National Assembly in Dharamsala, May 1989

In class yesterday our discussion focused on technologies impact on education and on us as human beings. But we periodically swayed away and other topics seeped in. Each of us lives in a society or a community and as much as we choose so often to be individuals we are members of and interact within that group. It is the vitality of that group, the development and growth that is so intertwined with contributions physically mentally and spiritually of the members. Society exists because of interactions positive or negative.

“Compare society to a boat. Her progress through the water will not depend upon the exertion of her crew, but upon the exertion devoted to propelling her. This will be lessened by any expenditure of force in fighting among themselves, or in pulling in different directions.” Henry George

We have to be working together moving forward and as humans do and so often much time is wasted fighting arguing among ourselves and the motion or growth is limited. I have been numerous times corrected when I say moving forward. Just simply movement is probably enough. Although as I have discussed this topic over the years some people see progress as not good.

“The greatest difficulty with the world is not its ability to produce, but the unwillingness to share.” Roy L. Smith

I keep thinking of observing in a high school with teenagers. Watching how high school student’s form clicks, and groups. Adults have their clubs, and social groups we tend to be selfish animals. We look so to ourselves and what benefits us, limiting friends and such to a degree we box ourselves in. Often we find ourselves not sharing a simple task but so often a distant one, not helping in the community versus a foreign mission trip. TV humor even plays on this subject. Several times back in the day on the Seinfeld and Will and Grace sit-coms the concept of giving is a chore and a burden and the characters are literally parasitic instead of symbiotic. As I looked diligently for quotes and thoughts this one popped up in my readings.

“Societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do.” Ronald Wright

Wright was speaking literally, yet interestingly enough we of modern society while we do not literally eat people we still do psychologically destroy them. I am starting a new book Genocide of the Mind about Native American destruction psychologically. As I look at how we respond to others so often it is how we see ourselves indirectly.

“The most difficult thing we do is not to deal in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.” Mark Twain

In a recent project assignment several students simply “completed it” they did not finish the task but answered what they thought was the question. They just wanted done, whether it was right or wrong good or bad was not the issue it was over. We adults do this often in terms of family and friends. We do this approach even with out children. Let’s just get it over with. Could be why we have so many dysfunctional families and kids.

“Until you value yourself you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck

I read this quote and saw an answer if you truly do not appreciate your self your time has little if any value even when you are self absorbed in using it frivolously you simply are taking up time not using it. Guessing at answers to a test to simply get done or rushing through just to be over, you still have to wait for the rest. So where is the benefit? A favorite catch word “I don’t care” should read “I really do not care about myself”. As we enter the weekend our world is troubled and sore so please keep all in harms way in your heart and on your mind.

Are you a Weginahsa?

Bird Droppings April 29, 2010
Are you a Weginahsa?

It is just barely four o’clock in the morning and my westie needed to take a run outside to do her morning thing. Lately she has slept most of the night but today after I had finished off my bagel and cream cheese she started barking and I went down stairs to take her out. A near full moon was beaming down and several whippoorwills were calling through the pines and a crazy mockingbird has been up literally round the clock lately calling away. It is unusual to hear a bird calling at this hour. But the sky was clear and stars and moon made for a wonderful morning awakening.

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done …. Men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

I have always been a fan of the great developmentalists and the process of each piece leading to the next and so forth. Piaget while well respected in educational fields did his research on his own children. I still find that a bit weird. However his ideas seem to be sound in many aspects even though his demographics are a bit shallow.

“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” Anatole France

In our age of standardized testing and how much we can force feed into our students so they can pass a test I had to think twice as I read France’s quote. We constantly test for content daily in our school systems and wonder why we still lag behind. “Education Weekly featured an article on science programs in other modern nations and how they were so far ahead of ours. Every program featured context over content. John Dewey one hundred years ago preached context.

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

Every day I drink a liter bottle of water after my energy drink. I have got to have my morning five hour energy shot first. I never started drinking coffee and Starbucks is the wrong direction in the morning for Chai Tea. Although I do brew my own now at school which is nice but it takes a few moments to heat up. For several years the liter bottle has reminded me of how we teach. For so many teachers it is simply trying to fill a liter bottle period. I visited a museum in the mountains of North Georgia and was looking at an old moonshine still when it hit me. We need to teach kids to distill information. Concentrate on the important and the pieces that can lead to other pieces. Stop trying to cram it all in to a confined space.

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

Many years ago there was a folk song entitled “If I were a carpenter”. As I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. I used a similar passage many months ago from another great thinker, of our time.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the folk song era which probably in some circles including my own, still exists, Pete Seeger was very famous. He would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl days, songs of the depression. He would borrow from various other current and past sources for his songs. He wrote music for and developed one song that was made famous outside folk circles by a group called “the Byrd’s”, entitled “Turn, turn, turn”. This song was based on words from a book in the Old testament Ecclesiastes to be exact, “To everything there is a season, a time to be born a time to die”.
As I sit here writing this morning I got thinking about Spike my bearded dragon, a resident of my class room who had spit out a grape yesterday. He must not like seeds in his grapes. I was thinking back to Independence Day and flags flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, emblazoned on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our independence. I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. By the constitution of the United States all people are equal all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness.
As we go about today remembering we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our ideals and beliefs on others. That is so easy to say but I was reminded many months back of the innocence of youth as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School moving back into my room from having new carpet put in.
The restaurant owner’s sons were sitting playing at the next booth. As they talked, some was in English some in Chinese as the chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do. The boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought about how there were so many possible meanings to that. I know his family, both his mother and father are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in schools and the community. So was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage. I would like to think innocence.
“There is a time to ever season”, we can not choose the road of our genetics but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions we exhibit. Recently as I wrote the word black indicating race I was reminded that it is politically correct to say Afro-American. I was intrigued, I am still called a white person not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish person. After a moment or two I came up with WEGINAHSA that would work. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa if they would be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other. I am a Weginahsa pronounced Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row.
We choose the roads and pathways we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitudes that formulates them. I was thinking back to Piaget and theories of development of children and at what age do we see color? At what age do we begin to find differences in humans? Pondering and looking again at Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, as he made the comment about a street sweeper. It is our choice as to how great or how little we are and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. That is not in the devlopmentalist guide book that is ours to decide. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are and that we are able to think act and be free, please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Hearing can be an active pursuit

Bird Droppings April 27, 2010
Hearing can be an active pursuit

Walking out into a moon lit morning listening to owls and whippoorwills calling through the stillness is something for me of a humbling nature. With a slight chill in the air the past few mornings crickets and tree frogs have been silent and as my dog sniffs actively around clumps of grass and the edges of our porch just a few yards away a stand of young pines so thick even during daytime you can only see a few feet in calls haunting and at times almost ear piercing from various night creatures break the silence. If I was a normal person perhaps I would be fearful of the dark and the calls literally echoing along the dirt road beside our house but each for me has meaning as the hunter’s stalk the night, owls hunting for mice and rats and whippoorwills trying to find a mate. It is in the listening and or not listening that we find fear and or wonder.

“Patience is also a form of action.” Auguste Rodin

I read this yesterday and was impressed. Many the days I am told I have patience and it hit me as I thought. Many people think of patience as simply being calm and collected, it takes work and effort. Rodin is correct and what a better person than a sculptor to offer these words. A piece of stone ever so slowly becomes a figure or work of art. It takes patience to chip away and sand, the artist polishes and re-polishes the surface till the final piece of art is revealed. As a teacher I have found my own niche and that is of listening.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich

It has been a few years since I first was exposed to this great theologian’s writings. Actually it was in a class comparing Paul Tillich to Karl Barth another great theologian. The key word looking back on Tillich’s quote is to listen. A day or two ago I made a set of paper cup phones with a string between, a common toy so many years ago. Nowadays with everyone carrying a cell phone the idea of a string phone is literally redundant. But to many students amazement they worked. It is a great physical science experiment and activity for any age including me. Such a simple way to show how sound travels. One catch is you have to listen and carefully. If only we would focus our listening in real life as we did when we played with the string phones.

“Listen. Don’t explain or justify.” William G. Dyer

“No one every listened themselves out of a job.” Calvin Coolidge

For many listening is a lost art form. So often when talking to high school students they tend to want to tell rather than listen. As I sit here so do we as parents and also as teachers. We as adults seem little better then kids, as we tell while we want them to listen often without ever hearing or attempting to hear what they said.

“Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

It is ironic or is it poetic we have the capability of hearing twice as much and then yell to overcome that. My father used to when speaking to Spanish speaking friends and clients, he would yell and speak very slowly both in class and on the phone. I never understood but often he would be told how good his Spanish was yet beyond adios and amigo he never spoke a word of Spanish.

“One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other’s stories.” Rebecca Falls

“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

It is difficult to measure the effect listening has on individuals but I have found many flock to someone who will listen and not simply talk back at them. Each day during my planning period teachers and students flock by. I used to think it was because I am cool guy. Now I know it is because I will listen. Occasionally I will offer a piece of advice but nine times out of ten the person talking will find their answer as they talk uninterrupted.

“Listening well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.” John Marshall

“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” Richard Moss

I never give out my home phone number and have kept an unlisted number for many reasons. For several years the only number I give out is my cell phone. I recall when just about every day an old acquaintance would call from Texas. Back in 1999 and 2000 I worked with a number of indigent families and individuals as part of a program I started The Shepherd Staff Ministries. We would assist families in finding temporary housing, utility bills, and food stuffs. In his case literally it was daily care as he is diabetic and lost a portion of his foot due too his illness and an accident. I was not required to listen and really often would choose to hang up. I had considered a new cell number. But as he says every time he called he had no one else to talk to, or who would listen.

“To be listened to is, generally speaking, a nearly unique experience for most people. It is enormously stimulating. It is small wonder that people who have been demanding all their lives to be heard so often fall speechless when confronted with one who gravely agrees to lend an ear. Man clamors for the freedom to express himself and for knowing that he counts. But once offered these conditions, he becomes frightened.” Robert C. Murphy

Yesterday as I ate lunch with several friends in my room at school, numerous people came by students, teachers, old friends, some new friends and all wanting someone to listen to them. I have students who just come by; former students who email diligently even about a sick gerbil needing help. It is an amazing thing this power of listening. Listening too is the basis for patience.

“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.” Kenneth Wells

“There is only one rule to become a good talker, learn how to listen.” Source Unknown

Daily I meet people who do not want to listen who and subsist on simply hearing and even there selectively. They only have select words and thoughts that they will even pay attention to and go from conversation to conversation in total deafness other than their closed little world. I read a passage from a friend yesterday that struck me. “How interesting that someone can be pro-life and vow to kill all the terrorists, perhaps it is only poetic justice” But in all serious matters at hand, please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

A founding father

Bird Droppings April 26, 2010
A founding father

“Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things.” Alexander Hamilton

As I looked through news this morning many of the situations go back to ideas and thoughts begun by Hamilton so many years ago. As the first Secretary of the Treasury he set about working with a huge national debt from the Revolutionary War and established many policies and laws that govern us now. But as he states he knew times would change and people change and what was needed was a general framework to guide the country.

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” Alexander Hamilton

While believing in a strong federal government Hamilton also believes in honesty and fairness.

“In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.” Alexander Hamilton

While written long before welfare and government subsidies I was reading this morning about cuts in many federal programs in order to try and cut deficits and bailout the economy. While an indirect lobbying method, imagine the effect of telling a group of people we are cutting your medical care or your bank is going to collapse. I wonder how they will vote in an election year and or do they even really have a voice.

“It is the advertiser who provides the paper for the subscriber. It is not to be disputed, that the publisher of a newspaper in this country, without a very exhaustive advertising support, would receive less reward for his labor than the humblest mechanic.” Alexander Hamilton

It is sad that we live in a time when news is bought and sold much like any other commodity as are politicians and popular opinion.

“Man is reasoning rather than a reasonable animal.” Alexander Hamilton

Cunning might even be a better word as I read Hamilton’s thoughts this morning. As I look at even Hamilton’s life ending in a duel with the then vice president Aaron Burr. As I am listening to news and current political pundits who shout differing opinions from day to day as they try and pull a vote here or there or for shock value pull a potential president out of the woodwork I wonder and am amazed at how Hamilton knew all along even three hundred years ago how the human mind worked.

“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.” Alexander Hamilton

I see this every day in education, in student life, in a high school, in families and worse in those who supposedly govern us in this country an attitude of self centeredness, they are almost like spoiled children. Why would a congressman from Texas want so adamantly to drill in Alaska and or Senators from non-coastal states so vehemently want to drill in coastal states who oppose drilling off of there shores. Of course it is made easier in the news as the Coast Guard is unsure of how to stop a leaking oil rig five thousand feet down. I recall walking over a pipeline on the St. Augustine beach and looking out on what once were pristine waters to see oil rigs only a few hundred yards from shore. I wonder about such things.

“Real firmness is good for anything; strut is good for nothing.” Alexander Hamilton

Over the years of watching humanity, you do see those little bantam like fools who strut around flashing and smiling and oh yeah “I am the man” sort of fellows. But is it real? Hamilton saw through the strut to what he calls real firmness, an interesting set of words.

“The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom to judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government… Can a democratic assembly who annually revolve in the mass of the people be supposed steadily to pursue the public good?” Alexander Hamilton

Perhaps this is where I disagree with Hamilton. Yet within our structure of government we do have a class system, wealthy attorneys and professionals who in effect run our government often becoming indirectly wealthier. It seems very few elected officials leave office in less shape than when they go in. A good example is the current Vice President Cheney. His former company from before his vice president days is reaping far greater profits than ever before and with contracts in the billions be it in Iraq or from Katrina or Ike and often at no-bid status. I wonder if soldiers will ever come home.

“Those who do not industrialize become hewers of wood and haulers of water.” Alexander Hamilton

A prophecy from 300 years ago and still true to this day although I wonder who the better person is? If you would listen to Gandhi or Dr. King years later it would be the water carrier who still is his own man and as Dr. King would say and be the best water carrier you can. Sadly due to population explosions because of modern medicine and technologies when you look at third world countries wood goes first then the economy unless that country industrializes. Yet in the losing of forest and jungles often so much more is lost. I used a quote from Thoreau yesterday as my status after reading an article on Newmont Gold’s mining in the Philippines. It was only a few years ago my ex-brother in law was one of the managers of that mine. An island paradise has been leveled for gold and peoples displaced and converted from seeing life one way stripping the skin from the earth to waiting for the next paycheck.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”Henry David Thoreau

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton

Perhaps it is in our indifference that we lose. Perhaps it is in our voting in such low turn outs that we lose. If we truly believed in this country and in what it stands for, would we not all vote and participate in having a voice. I found an old newsletter from a student organization four years ago entitled, “The Voice” silenced by an administration who did not want students having any say so. In 1804 Hamilton offended the Vice President and a duel was arranged. Aaron Burr and Hamilton met in a meadow in New Jersey one morning. Hamilton shot his pistol in the air. Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach and he died the next day. The Vice President had to escape, charges for murder were pressed. Over the years Hamilton’s ideas and thoughts have blossomed. The US Coast Guard, US Navy, many treasury processes and concepts go back directly to Hamilton. But as I finish up this morning this last quote is so significant for us today.

“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton

We have to take a stand otherwise we will simply fall by the wayside. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Bird Droppings
a teachers journal
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Frank Bird cell – 770 845-1210
email – fbird@walton.k12.ga.us

“It does not require many words to speak the truth”
Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Missing a day

Bird Droppings April 23, 2010
Missing a day

So often I speak of coincidence in life. Yesterday afternoon and evening while helping my wife with a power point presentation I was also working on a new Bird Droppings. Some ideas had hit me and I was putting to paper or hard drive so to say. When I got up and planning to finish and post it was not anywhere to be found. I was frustrated and bewildered I would have sworn I wrote a dropping a great one at that. So I started and entitled today as missing a day and was going to make excuses about my encroaching senility and old age memory losses and such, and poof the answer was in front on my nose. I did it again I had been writing and closed out from a page as I started getting ready to post with word closing instead of minimizing. My dropping for today disappeared I had not saved it as of yet.
I was discussing science and the measuring of data in various graduate school classes. Research can take various forms quantitative and qualitative being two of the most frequently used. Being of the nature that teaching is an art form and there are some rather difficult pieces of that aspect to measure. Areas such as intuition and coincidence it seems are difficult commodities to evaluate effectively. An effective teacher is an intuitive one and personally I think a good teacher is also surrounded with coincidence.
Carl Jung split with Freud over similar matters and coined the word synchronicity. Yesterday as I was talking seems I never stop I was drawn to my front door of my room at school and as I stepped out a student passed by exactly as I stepped to the door. It was not their going by my door, me coming to the door but that this student had a problem. If I had been a few seconds later even a moment later and that student would have passed by.
I was drawn to the door like a moth to a flame and was I meant to interfere, to get involved in a problem, or simply to offer advice or questions, coincidence, chance happening, or was it synchronicity perhaps.

“The images of the unconscious place a great responsibility upon a man. Failure to understand them, or a shirking of ethical responsibility, deprives him of his wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on his life.” Carl Jung

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Eric Fromm

Which direction do we go as we try and unravel the human condition the frail substance about which we have evolved from. Can we separate out and categorize, analyze and catalog that which makes us human versus a pack animal. Studies of herding and swarming animals are being used to study human behavior and being used to modify and actually move people and materials around the world. Several large cargo companies use models developed on observations of ant colonies.

“Man may be defined as the animal that can say “I,” that can be aware of himself as a separate entity. “ Eric Fromm

“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water. “ Sigmund Freud

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

When beset with an issue or a problem we so often fall victim to the easiest route the way of “least resistance least trouble” as John Dewey would say. Years ago in a book on the topic of Loss Control management my father used an illustration of an ice berg; we only see one seventh of the problem as Freud points out with the mind. We as we journey through life are only visible in part only one seventh using the iceberg illustration. That means that sixth sevenths of our existence stays hidden away, secreted somewhere from view.

“Thus we see that the all important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being unlucky or lucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die, finally, how we choose.” R. H. Blyth

It is how we choose that is important. Nearly every day for several years since I began this morning endeavor I have talked of the journey in life in one way or another to students, friends, and family and in my writing. I have used as a screen saver my son John’s image crossing a stream in north Georgia stepping stone by stone across a rippling rolling stream and it still is hanging on my wall. In the picture he is soaking wet and could of just as easily walked through the stream and avoid falling from the rocks, as he was wet already but he choose to step on the slippery rocks. The challenge for him was doing it, making the journey not simply surviving or the destination of the other side.

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” Mourning Dove, Salish

This becomes the difficult task trying to explain how a problem has purpose, how a human issue has reason, in a world of measurement where not measuring is constant and so often the point. I can never find the distance between the stones of the stream as my son’s foot steps fall crossing rock by rock.

“You can never cross a stream the same way twice” Zen saying

“Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there.” William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991

Going from a single individual’s problem to that of the North Slope of Alaska may seem a stretch. In today’s world of greed and global warming and ocean access opening in the Arctic I wonder. As global warming occurs or if you so choose to think does not occur daily news of countries that surround and even are no where near the arctic being able to cross ice free waterways holds interest. Daily there are new explorations of countries into the Arctic, with submarines planting flags, oil drilling rigs operating after twenty five years of trying and many more. For the profiteers of the world and the greedy who subsist on immediate profits and filling coffers already over flowing, a world disappearing is no big issue as long as it happens in their lifetime and brings a profit.
But as we journey in life we essentially do not get to replay our hand once we lay the cards upon the table. Yesterday by chance somewhere before 5:00 AM I was reading National Geographic and how the oil fields are so enticing in the Wilds of Alaska. Greedy people see only jobs money and energy. I have spoken and written about this so many times and others see loss of habitat for wildlife and wilderness that can never be replaced.
Amazing another coincidence this morning I could not pull up literally what I thought I had written yesterday had disappeared and this morning it hit me as to what had happened. I tried to recall what I wrote yesterday and concluded it was not to be and for what ever reason synchronicity perhaps versus senility I like better. Now for this a good follow up peace my friends and have a good and wonderful day. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

How do we filter it all?

Bird Droppings April 22, 2010
How do we 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 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. We can be manipulated through our media and media usage. Corporate entities that donate software 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 you should 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 filtering. 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 ten years now I have written about teachers teaching how to filter information, trying to fill a liter bottle. 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 our selves 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 harms way on your mind and in your heart.