Right or wrong a big issue?

Bird Droppings July 21, 2010
Right or Wrong a big issue?

After watching all the election news and primaries most of my selections won their races and only one I am still concerned about and big money as usual took that race unfortunately the State School Superintendent. So I will be happy with my selections that did win and hopefully education will not suffer. Yesterday I was communication with some of my advisement students over books to read and new books I just received and it took me back to a conversation during school. I was talking with one of my advisement students a few days back and she was saying how much she enjoyed her comparative religion class. I asked her what they were studying and she explained comparing Christianity to other leading world faiths. She went on to say how many times she has seen hypocrisy within her own faith. She was commenting on people who say one thing and do another. I was thinking about this discussion most of the day yesterday.

”You should roam in places that are your own, that arise in accordance with your own true nature, and what is the place that is your own? It’s the pasture of ardent clearness and mindfulness, where discontent and greed are put aside for the sake of the world. That is your own place, your natural range.” From the Samyutta Nikaya

There is nothing like a two thousand plus year old quote to start the day. As I look at this statement and think about how when school is in session and each morning I am watching nearly two thousand people walk by my door you really don’t see two thousand distinct individuals. So many are trying to be something they are not. Several years ago I heard the word poser for the first time. I still hear it today people who are posing, basically deliberately trying to be somebody else or something else. Not only is this attempt at being different but often we tend to be posers in morality as well in how we perceive the world.

“Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.” William Penn

For history buffs still learning William Penn founded the state of Pennsylvania. William Penn came to the Americas for several reasons. The main reason he came was for religious freedom as he was a Quaker, or otherwise called the Society of Friends. I am sure monetary reward was an issue as well. But many of our founding fathers had thoughts and ideas based in principal on some of Penn’s ideas and philosophies. William Penn proposes a universal morality right or wrong there are no gray areas. In the Samyutta Nikaya, Buddha is looking for being your self. Can these two ideas meet or perhaps even have commonality?

“The moral virtues, then, are produced in us neither by nature nor against nature. Nature, indeed, prepares in us the ground for their reception, but their complete formation is the product of habit.” Aristotle

The idea that practicing of right or wrong can become habit may have some credence. As I look at Aristotle’s thoughts we are born with a predisposition to do right but it is actually is in the doing of right that it becomes ingrained in us. It is truly sort of a practice makes perfect philosophy embedded through our environment influences.

“Moral power is probably best when it is not used. The less you use it the more you have.” Andrew Young

It was five or six years ago that on the news constantly was the issue of the Ten Commandments that were removed from the steps of an Alabama court house based on another higher courts ruling. Some people are incensed that the “true laws” are being removed and desecrated. However it is laws that are removing the laws of some. Whether totally perfect or totally imperfect the Ten Commandments are a religious statement and Federal law came into play with separation of church and state.
I remember all too well a name most young folks will only see in history books Madelyn Murray O’Hare. So many years ago she took on the nation over prayer in school and the use of the word God since she and her children were atheists. She won and school prayer was stopped in schools. However as I look at going back to Penn and his thought “right is right” and the passage from the Sammuatta Nikaya, two ideas over two thousand years apart yet still vivid and real. One is looking to be your self and the other stating that we can see right. Penn however was a man who believed in religious freedom and he believed you could believe as you wanted but still be held for a universal rightness but not necessarily constrained in religion.
In Pennsylvania it was not religion that mattered but the man. Andrew Young’s comment is so very true when we have to explain we are right maybe just maybe we are wrong. You should not have to explain morality and in imposing your explained rightness it can so often create strife. I was thinking about an article on the front page of a newspaper several years back that in Nigeria a woman was accused of adultery because she had a baby out of wedlock. This was a very controversial issue; however in Nigeria approximately two years after she was pregnant the laws were imposed. Incidentally the penalty for being guilty of adultery in Nigeria is death by stoning. For nearly two years this woman had been in the public eye and as of the story still did not know her fate, she was in appeals of the lower courts that had found her guilty.
In this case who is right? In her defense they were using religious law to protect her. They were saying she became pregnant before the strict religious law came into effect and in that country therefore she was at that moment not under the law and conversely interestingly enough that strict law also parallels the Ten Commandments and subsequently the 686 amendments that are also included in the ancient biblical law. Adultery is for the woman and is also a death penalty. Also another thought I find interesting is that talking back to parents after three verbal warnings the child can be stoned at the city gates that is Hebrew law as well. That would be a sure fire cure for most aliments or as in Nigeria another is that stealing is punishable by losing a hand. Interesting crime is down and shortly though secular law and religious law will buttheads as the next appeal for the adulterous woman goes to federal court which is secular not religious in Nigeria. What is also interesting is with these strict laws Nigeria is still one of the most ruthless and corrupt countries in Africa.

“Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” Jesus Christ in the sermon on a mount

Out of the same verbiage comes a paradox we are to be merciful, and then to turn the other cheek. So for Christians where do you stand, stone the woman for breaking a two thousand year old law or lessen your morality that has been imposed by that religious law and offer mercy as prescribe by you leader. Perhaps an answer is available. I recall nearly ten years ago pulling into Chi Fil A and the typical blonde blue eyed student in pressed uniform said good morning can I help you as I pulled to the window. On her wrist was a bracelet with WWJD. I asked her what was the bracelet and she told me it stood for, What would Jesus do? Having spent a large portion of my education in various asunndery studies of theology and such I paused and thought back through various Greek and Aramaic texts translations of several religions and denominations and thought what an interesting concept. What would Jesus Do?
Perhaps even a secular approach could be used what would a person do if that same event was situated upon you? What if you were on the receiving end? Morality seems to have a sense of who’s in charge as well. Not to be religious or even secular what would Jesus do in Nigeria? Like a good lawyer you go back and seek similar cases. It just so happens there is one. From the scripture, a woman was brought to Jesus caught in adultery, (the man got off totally t free another issue for another time) and he was asked what to we do with her and everyone gathered up stones to start stoning her to death the current trend in adulterous situations, it was the law in ancient Israel as well.
I should say that the law was at least applicable to women. Jesus as the story goes drew a little in the dirt and asked a question to the crowd of men who were holding stones in their hands ready to throw them at the woman. “He who is without sin can cast the first stone”. It seems as the story goes one guy dropped his stone then another and soon only the woman was left. She was asked by Jesus “where are your accusers” and she said they were gone he said to her “go and sin no more”. So what is my gibberish about today? Ten Commandments and protests, a universal morality and or simply doing what is right a lot to think about to ponder today and still please keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your mind.

I am right and you are wrong

Bird Droppings July 20, 2010
I am right and you are wrong

I went out on my back porch for a few moments early in the wee hours of the morning I have been fighting a head cold and have been having a hard time sleeping so I took the dog out into the cool. It had to be about sixty five degrees or so and felt like the coolest morning this season yet. There were mu usual chorus of crickets and tree frogs keeping me company for a few moments this morning. Over my head Orion’s belt clear and bold and a half moon glowing in the sky. My dad showed me that constellation so many years ago maybe when I was five or six over fifty five years ago. It was still a good start for a morning and a good memory.
Another teacher who I was discussing curriculum with brought a book down to see if I had read it telling me how good it was this was after a discussion on why non-Christians have a hard time in the US a few days ago. The book known to be extremely conservative I will not mention but written by a backwards thinking individual who ended up with a best seller. So much of our daily lives lately is dictated by individuals with only greed on their minds and a narrow view of what is in front of them. I have a hard time with a hammer and sickle on a bill board blasting our current president and knowing there are people voting for this fellow as a potential state legislator. Does this man even know what communism is? Today is primary election I am keeping my fingers crossed and the bill boards and rhetoric will be gone tomorrow.
I will start the morning with a two translated quotes from a passage of what was originally written in the beautiful and artistic calligraphy of China.

“To keep away from all evil, cultivate good, and purify one’s mind is the advice” Buddha

“If the action is likely to cause happiness and no harm can arise from such a deed, do it again and again.” Buddha

On several occasions I have been very thankful that my wife and I had only boys. That does not mean had we had a girl I would have given the baby away by any means. After working with students in high school and being in the middle of she said she said and he said he said is usually easier to deal with the guys. Several months back two visitors in my room were talking, one was wanting to see a photo from the previous nights basketball game the other girl dates the first girls brother and he is in jail for two more weeks and then ten years probation on a drug related incident and theft. What was interesting was morality came up and it wasn’t about the brother and all he had done or one girls obsession with this guy who has been nothing but trouble for four years or more. It was abut how a girl was stealing a boyfriend and the morals of it.
I have learned girls and boys see the world differently sort of the prescription on the glasses is totally different. “Mr. Bird what do you think?” A very scary question when you are closely tied to all parties and I really try and be neutral. But Mr. Bird’s theory of relative morality “To do no harm to another” shot right over one girls head and the other looked at me and smiled it hit a nerve but in a good way. Occasionally that happens.

“The moral virtues, then, are produced in us neither by nature nor against nature. Nature, indeed, prepares in us the ground for their reception, but their complete formation is the product of habit.” Aristotle

“Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what’s right.” Isaac Asimov

So often we tend to look at rightness and or wrongness of any given issue and try and make it concrete, solid, and clearly defined. I have found over the years there are gray areas that tend to crop up. That clearly defined line may not be quite the same as the book from an Ethics class in seminary I recall “Situation Ethics” by Joseph Fletcher. The book’s advertising comments read

“This is a new edition of Joseph Fletcher’s 1966 work that ignited a firestorm of controversy at the time of its publication. It was hailed by many as a much-needed reformation of morality–and as an invitation to anarchy by others.” Overstock.com

As I think back to my seminary days many contrived that Fletcher was pushing more towards anarchy. That he was pushing towards a goal as you do ethics and morality that all is relative although I did say that yesterday “morality is relative”. Sometimes I can get caught up in the heat of the moment and will stick my foot deeply down my throat. Sort of like licking your own knee as the country saying goes.

“I cannot believe that this country cannot come together around some values what these kids need is a moral life… the issue is not ideas, it is conduct. The real question is how we reach these young people morally, and what do we bring to them.” Robert Coles

“Moral codes adjust themselves to environmental conditions.” William J. Durant

OK, it is alright to deplete the ozone layer until we have to go to a sunscreen of 80 or so and summer temperature at the Jersey shore exceeds an average of 125 in the shade. Years ago I recall a comedian George Carlin talking about teenagers and sex and how we were taught premarital sex causes blindness, talk about old wives tales, and the comedian offered up well what about till you need glasses. Amazingly as he looked about the audience those with glasses were slowly slipping them off and he said and there a person over there and one over here.

“Every man, in his own opinion, forms an exception to the ordinary rules of morality.” William Hazlitt

“However great an evil immorality may be, we must not forget that it is not without its beneficial consequences. It is only through extremes that men can arrive at the middle path of wisdom and virtue.” Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt

I was discussing Moses coming off the mountain carrying the Ten Commandments and how he smashed them to the ground on his first go round a few years back. In Hebrew law ten rules eventually became about 685 exceptions.

“There are few things more disturbing than to find, in somebody we detest, a moral quality which seems to us demonstrably superior to anything we ourselves possess. It augurs not merely unfairness on the part of creation, but a lack of artistic judgment. Sainthood is acceptable only in saints.” Pamela Hansford Johnson

“Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that 99 % of them are wrong.” H. L. Mencken

As I was sitting here pondering as I do I was thinking back on some reading from a few years ago? Dr. Temple Grantin is a lecturer and authority on livestock handling considered even by SPCA and PETA as the expert in ethical and moral handling of livestock. Over seventy five percent of the world’s commercial livestock slaughter facilities use her ideas and designs and she is still considered by PETA as the authority on humane killing of animals. That is an interesting concept but when you take in to account Dr. Grantin is also autistic it even becomes more interesting. She has a condition called “Asperger’s Syndrome.

“Asperger’s Syndrome, also known as Asperger’s Disorder or Autistic Psychopathy, this is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) characterized by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. These characteristics result in clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” http://users.wpi.edu/~trek/aspergers.html

Dr. Grantin had to learn how to respond to other people. There was no inherent ability to understand emotions in her make up and then in literally her morality. Her efforts in dealing with livestock came from her efforts to deal wither own conditions and interactions. Animals move around a curve better than angles was a first design breakthrough. But what does this have to do with morality? We learn from those around us. We see examples of rightness and wrongness and we learn.

“Don’t be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of so much life..” Henry David Thoreau

“Moral power is probably best when it is not used. The less you use it the more you have.” Andrew Young

It is not through some genetic code we are moral it is through what we have learned from those around us teachers, parents, and friends. We are the ones who will set the pace for morality; this can be a heavy burden as I look back. Take a moment and look around you at how many sets of eyes are looking and watching and learning from you right now. As I thought back to recent graduate school readings and my conversation about non-Christians earlier, how is it we learn to be one religion or another? We are not born into religions yet each say theirs is right.

“Our founding fathers set this country up as a religious state” was a recent statement I read somewhere. However, if you look careful and read documents of the founding fathers there are interesting things that abound. The father of our country refused a priest as he was dying saying “I never attended church alive what do I need you now for”. I am not against religion by any means but all to often religion becomes as Marx once said “The opiate of the people” and far too many are sedated by others words and rationale and in turn that becomes the standard. A local pastor who is running for state legislator use of a hammer and sickle on a bill board as a scare tactic is a great example. Many foreign nations are looking at the USA as doing this now letting religion into national policy. It is no wonder when a national leader in a conservative religious group is found to not be doing what they preach on Sundays, Monday through Friday or say several times a month for three years according to a witness recently. Please also remember to keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

PS. For many years I have read and reread this passage from Albert Einstein and each time it still hits me harder how can we make our teaching so potent?

“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

Looking for answers

Bird Droppings July 19, 2010
Looking for answers

It has been a few Saturdays away to be specific I spent the day taking tests for added certifications. These were not ones I sought but were being required by our county for Special Education teachers. I found it so interesting I have a Masters degree in Emotional Behavior Disorders and several other degrees beyond that and need to take a test to show I know things about subjects I never took and literally if I pass I am certified to teach in those areas. Many teachers are doing this as a way of becoming certified take a test. Perhaps more ironic is the teacher and teachers who have taken tests and have no training what so ever in that field and are now certified. At least in being certified in all areas of Special education I have experience in and or taken classes along the way in all areas and have experience working nearly twenty years in special education.
My main point though is not teachers getting certified but as I took tests I could not help think about high school and elementary students taking GHSGT and CRCT’s, Georgia tests for various school programming’s and graduation. Georgia has raised the bar the state board says. More rigors in classes and curriculum and recently in a new math test nearly all students in Georgia failed. This past math test was so highly curved it was almost invalid. Raising the bar in high jumping to the world’s record means no one will attain it except for fellow who went over it once.

“Everything can be improved.” C. W. Barron

Years back I remember reading Philip Crosby’s ideas on quality in various courses and management training sessions. “Quality is exceeding the expectations of the customer.” A simple idea yet so often unattainable it would seem especially if customers have no expectations. Many of us as teachers hear those great words, I am passing I have a 70. Has that individual even attempted to surpass the expectations of anyone? All they did was answer and get done.

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” Wyatt Earp

There are many legends of the great lawman from Tombstone and Dodge City, Wyatt Earp over the years. Movie after movie has been made of the exploits, legends and even myths surrounding Wyatt Earp. As I was reading this statement while oriented around a gunfighter, what if applied to a school lesson or an essay?

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” William A. Foster

So often as I try and track down who said what as I use a quote or phrase I find something or someone new. William A. Foster is a world renowned photographer famous for use of intricate and detailed processing techniques and has had photos shown in galleries world wide. However Pvt. First Class William A. Foster died on Okinawa in 1945 and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and either perhaps could have said this great thought. Sometimes even quality in life exceeds our expectations.

“If you forget you have to struggle for improvement you go backward.” Geoffrey Hickson

“If you want work well done, select a busy man; the other kind has no time.” Elbert Hubbard

Trying to attain a level of quality does take work. When I am watching students work some will simply do what is needed not what is expected but enough to get by these are the seventy percenters. Others take pride in their effort and go beyond what is expected here is where you find quality. A good example is an essay written last year by one of my students that won our region writing contest. This student wrote and rewrote till he had the essay just as he wanted it.

“By the work one knows the workmen.” Jean De La Fontaine

“It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.” Martin Van Buren

Running side by side with quality issues is the book of excuses why a job or task is not done right it seems human kind actually prides itself in making excuses. Almost as if there is a flip side to humanity those who strive for the best and on the other the ones inventing excuses.

“We believe that more learning will occur if the student has a desire to learn, has positive feelings concerning his school environment, and succeeds in his work. A comfortable atmosphere of caring and acceptance established by the school is considered important, so that each student is encouraged to strive for excellence and to be creative.” Quality Schools International

Learning will occur in this setting but as a teacher how do we get to this point? How do we in a public school setting develop a place where students strive for excellence?

“…we believe in working with parents to encourage our students to adopt qualities of living which lead to success long after formal schooling has ended. These include universally accepted “success orientations” of trustworthiness, kindness/politeness, responsibility, independent endeavor, concern for others, group interaction…” Quality Schools International

As I am borrowing a line or two from the Mission Statement of Quality Schools International I do see working with parents is a key but within our class rooms there is a secret to success as well, and that is setting the example, building trust, kindness/politeness guiding towards responsibility and concern for others as a start. Most days as I walk through the cafeteria there are many projects ongoing one was a group of students sitting with a row of bottles collecting for a child who has leukemia. One week is red ribbon week and the student body is collecting for United Way as a focus, this is where concern for others starts where? By seeing it in action, witnessing concern and setting an example.
Back to the idea of setting a bar up somewhere to attain. Having a bar to reach is an expectation and it is an aspect we often over look.

“Students can show and explain where their learning matches up to their State’s standards” Dr. Bradley H. Greene

In researching and reading this morning I came upon an article entitled Eliminating defective Customers by Kevin Weiss, CEO of Phillip Crosby and Associates and the Capability Group. So often we blame the customer or in our case the student or child. We keep that child in detention for being late and in reality maybe there was an excuse. We give exorbitant amounts of homework sending work home where there is no teacher because we did not get finished in class. Basically what Mr. Weiss points out in his article is we can blame the customer/student but in the end if we want to succeed as a business or a school it is the business/teachers that need to change and or get out.
Take Ten Minutes is a newsletter of Phillip B. Crosby and Associates, Quality Gurus to industry, while oriented to industry it does have some good thoughts. As a teacher I see we need to open our eyes and see where we can provide avenues for students to succeed and it may be in how we teach. It may be something simple like the lighting in the room. But it is first looking since, as C. W. Barron states, “Everything can be improved.” I wish this was true world wide and today I am still in need of asking everyone to please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

High Stakes testing and /or inspection does it work?

Bird Droppings July 18, 2010
High Stakes Testing and/or Inspection does it work?

About two years back we spent several months getting ready for a peer review, actually it is called a GAPPS Review. About the same time you throw in the Georgia High School Graduation retests and PSAT, and End of Course tests coming up and literally daily there is or was an ongoing teaching to the test and or inspection of one sort or another in education. We gear ourselves so diligently to getting ready for the tests and even more then for the tests maybe we lose sight of what education is really about a quality education.

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

Reading this at first might cause you to wonder has Bill Gates lost his marbles. But look deeper in to what Gates is really saying. If a company has no unhappy customers they are doing everything right essentially. Another big gun Steve Jobs had an issue with the iphone 4 seems the phone when held had a hard time getting a signal I actually think they had a left hand designer who put antennae on side a right handed person would hold phone and thereby canceling signal. Solution a free case to all iphone 4 purchasers which at last count was about four million.

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

If we expand that customer base further to all people who we come in contact with then that idea of a source of learning is magnified many times over and if we now also have that group of everyone having expectations of us we quickly become either good or evil depending on how we are viewed by the world. That could be a stretch but in reality this is how we do see things. What if we could apply this to education?

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

Leading into my thoughts a fellow from years gone by, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Deming was one of the greatest industrial management consultants and thinkers of the 20th century. He provided the insight that Japanese industrialists built empires on after World War II. He summarized in fourteen points which I have included because there are some good thoughts regardless of whether you are in industry, teaching and or simply a parent. I can recall my father borrowing these from Deming as he discussed a good and quality Safety Program.

The 14 points for management in industry, education and government 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. 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.
1. 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. (Maybe we in education need to read this one several times and then again)
2. 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.
3. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
4. Institute training on the job.
5. Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8). 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. (Leadership what a powerful word yet in education you generally get management)
6. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (oh if we could eliminate fear among teachers what a workplace we could have and who knows maybe even empower teachers)
7. 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.
8. 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. (I wonder when we will ever see this in education as we constantly want to compare the US to Japan to China to each other to ethnic groups our educational system is built on comparison and the great quality expert is saying no way)
9. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
10. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership. (See my response on 8)
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: http://www.deming.org/ – The W. Edwards Deming’s Institute

Interesting as I looked through the list and see applications for myself in teaching. There are very near parallels to Foxfire Core Practices and several other teaching references. For example point one “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, but as Sen. Paul Wellstone states.

“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.” Sen. Paul Wellstone

This was being seen in industry as an issue by Deming. If an inspector has to check for errors and or faulty pieces of an item what was interesting in his research done on inspectors the number of pieces faulty was in direct correlation to total number of pieces actually produced. In effect inspectors knew they had to find x number of pieces and that is how many they found. Many faulty pieces went through regardless of inspection if total was met.
Deming is saying build a quality piece first so there will be no faulty pieces. 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 this morning waiting to head to school to feed critters and check tanks my cold and sinuses woke me up a bit earlier than I planned. Each year we seem to add y two or three more weeks of intensive testing in our high school officially called the End of course Tests, EOCT and Georgia High School Graduation Tests, GHSGT. There is not much pressure on High School Students at all to succeed in Georgia that is an understatement. In bold letters every student knows if you do not pass this test you will not pass this course and or graduate. I hear that there is actually a rumor, that this statement is being tattooed on students before tests, pass or leave, but I found out it is false. In industry, in politics, in homes and in schools we so often use that mentality to accomplish the ends 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 more? Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and do look over Deming’s fourteen points there are a few good ideas.

How can I teach myself or can I?

Bird Droppings July 17, 2010
How can I teach myself or can I?

“There is then, nothing final about a logical rendering of experience. Its value is not contained in itself; its significance is that of standpoint, outlook, and method. It intervenes between the more casual, tentative, and roundabout experiences of the past, and more controlled and orderly experiences of the future.” John Dewey, The Child and Curriculum

As I have been reading he past few days Gatto, Eisner and Dewey one thing seems to continually pop up and that is the experience a child brings with them. All of the days before coming to school, family stuff, community stuff, cultural stuff and kids stuff that accumulate as a child grow. Far too often we expert teachers forget that is even there just in front of us. There is an entire world of experiences that each student has been through and could build upon and expand.

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

A variation on the ancient Chinese proverb “you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or you can teach a man to fish and feed him for life” John W. Gardner was the founder of Common Cause and instrumental in founding of Medicare and many educational and social reforms including the Civil Rights act. Interesting how today the political rhetoric is almost the opposite.

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.” John W. Gardner

Working within the field of education that I do I have seen what trying to legislate education can do, often I find myself saying the term “No child left behind” should read “how many can we leave behind”. We do this as we systematically push students into certain categories and then out the door in order to meet and exceed standards artificially imposed across the board. We should continuously be striving to “teach them to grow there own plants” as Gardner states and not be measuring cut flowers. But testing of such issues as to how well can a student grow a flower, well it takes a growing season and is not done in a two hour session. One of the most effect methods of measuring a child educational growth is a portfolio in which bits and pieces are gather across a span of time showing where we started and where we are. Amazingly enough there are a few schools using portfolios of students work to assess their students, a whole growing season of work.

“Considerable research has demonstrated the importance of making sure students are actively involved in designing their own learning, invited to play a role in formulating questions, creating projects, and so on.” Alfie Kohn

I was thinking how interesting as we move into a new world of education or is it an old world. During the semester’s daily reflection time as my students did their journaling I asked them to write about what they would do different in educating themselves and no school was the number one answer. I asked for clarification since no school would put me out of a job. “How am I to learn how to work on Honda motors if I never see one” or “I want to work on my parents farm and raise cattle I do not need to know that 3X+3 = 9”. I was somewhat set back we design curriculum with what we as educators and as legislators decide students need to know. Seldom do we ever ask students.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice number one, 2009

I was discussing equations the other day back during school with a student who was having a hard time in math, 10X – 3X = 20 + 1. I easily offered 7X = 21 and or X = 3. I was wrong I was told X = 1.9 and I was shown rules for this process and why and how. I talked to this student’s teacher later in the day actually to verify my own meager math skills. It seems that this student learned some simple algebraic rules but can not always put them in the correct place. It was about cutting flowers versus growing flowers. (10X +3X) (-3x +3X) = (20-1) (+1 – 1) and or to the effect 13X = 19 and the confusion goes on. In effect the student had been taught to balance an equation and had rules but could not differentiate which equations needed balancing. It was sort of like growing flowers and continually pulling out the flowers and letting the weeds grow because you know flowers have leaves and weeds have stems. How do we reach students? How do we change from “no school” to truly getting input from students, faculty and parents about needs of the community, state and nation as to educating that student?

“Students need to be engaged in the process of learning in ways that connect with their experience. Students learn better when they know the teacher cares about them.” Robert Fried

Over the past couple years I have had the privilege to work with a young lady who graduated or nearly graduated six years ago two credits shy of actual graduation. She has been working since to take the two courses she had failed twice each in high school, Algebra I and Physical Science. I have been proctoring her tests and helping set up computer learning for her. She owns an Ice cream franchise and really doesn’t need to graduate from high school, but she will, she is one test from graduating.
Nearly 100 years ago John Dewey offered up students need to build from experience. Numerous scholars and researchers have shown the effectiveness of constructivism in education and the effectiveness of students knowing that their teachers care and or are passionate about what they do it is not just a job with a pay check.

“Schools were places where the students did what they were told to do. They answered questions–they did not ask them; their special (or their not so special) interests and curiosities were to be kept private; they were not to take time away from the predetermined curriculum. In short, the culture of the classroom lacked almost all of the hallmarks of productive learning. And each level of the educational hierarchy viewed the level below it as teachers viewed students.” Dr. Seymour Sarason

The possibility to teach growing flowers is there if we decide to do that. It is making the change from cutting flowers to growing flowers that has to occur within a community and within schools for it to succeed. Today let us all as parents and teachers try and begin to teach students how to grow flowers. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Do children deserve more

Bird Droppings July 16, 2010
Do children deserve more?

I drove up to North Georgia with two of my son’s yesterday afternoon. I needed to meet with Dr. Hilton Smith about some material relating to my dissertation and to pick up a large quantity of rats and mice for my oldest sons hobby and part time job, breeding and raising ball pythons and colubrids. So happens the largest mice and rat breeder in the Southeast is thirty minutes from Piedmont college. On the journey I sat in back and was working on reading research material which happened to be John Taylor Gatto’s latest book, Weapons of Mass Instruction.

“Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.” John Taylor Gatto

There are aspects of Gatto’s writing I totally agree with and many opinions that we would disagree substantially on. I do believe in public school. Gatto has come out in favor of un-schooling or homeschooling as alternatives to public school. However the stripping away of individuality and creativity we both seem to find a crucial element in today’s schools. Having been taught in my graduate program in a rather liberal setting perhaps has me jaded towards traditional educational philosophy and methodology. As I think back on my own training in teaching it was not far off of what I do today. Students learn best by doing versus being told I learned that in a Red Cross course in 1967 teaching swimming. I even remember the example of tying a square knot. Few could tie the knot after being told how several times even in detail. But being shown physically not only did everyone learn to tie a square knot but the next day they also remembered and at the end of the course still knew how.

“I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution “schools” very well, though it does not “educate”; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.” John Taylor Gatto

Gatto as he illustrates the historical demise of education in the process of schooling children to be consumers points to several issues that I have raised in recent writings. A corporate industrial influence on education dating back to early 1900’s which impacts the process of the education and its end result.

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” John Taylor Gatto

In my dissertation I address the loss of soul in education. That stripping away of individuality that has been going on for so many years in schools is only intensified by the teach to the test mentality that is driving education today across the US. Not all succumb to the numbing and as Gatto says “Dumbing Down of students”, there are teachers who provide opportunity for critical thinking and can keep some of the students from falling through the educational cracks. But with many systems relying on test scores to evaluate teachers and placing emphasis due to state and federal mandates teachers are in fear of their jobs and chose to teach what is on the test, period.

John Gatto was New York State teacher of the year in 1990 and in his speech at the award ceremony offered these eight points:
1. The children I teach are indifferent to the adult world. This defies the experience of thousands of years. A close study of what big people were up to was always the most exciting occupation of youth, but nobody wants to grow up these days and who can blame them? Toys are us.
2. The children I teach have almost no curiosity and what they do have is transitory; they cannot concentrate for very long, even on things they choose to do. Can you see a connection between the bells ringing again and again to change classes and this phenomenon of evanescent attention?
3. The children I teach have a poor sense of the future, of how tomorrow is inextricably linked to today. As I said before, they have a continuous present; the exact moment they are at is the boundary of their consciousness.
4. The children I teach are ahistorical, they have no sense of how past has predestined their own present, limiting their choices, shaping their values and lives.
5. The children I teach are cruel to each other, they lack compassion for misfortune, they laugh at weakness, and they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly.
6. The children I teach are uneasy with intimacy or candor. My guess is that they are like many adopted people I’ve known in this respect – they cannot deal with genuine intimacy because of a lifelong habit of preserving a secret inner self inside a larger outer personality made up of artificial bits and pieces of behavior borrowed from television or acquired to manipulate teachers. Because they are not who they represent themselves to be the disguise wears thin in the presence of intimacy so intimate relationships have to be avoided.
7. The children I teach are materialistic, following the lead of schoolteachers who materialistically “grade” everything – and television mentors who offer everything in the world for free.
8. The children I teach are dependent, passive, and timid in the presence of new challenges. This is frequently masked by surface bravado, or by anger or aggressiveness but underneath is a vacuum without fortitude.

Perhaps where I go with this is there are solutions and alternatives to what has been happening in education. It will take effort and it will take people who are concerned not politicians looking for votes and saying the right thing at the right time. But honest truthful people who have a passion for education and learning and a truth concern for children. I skip back to my early days of education and Dr. Laura Nolte who wrote a simple passage about children learn what they live. In our fast pace literally instantaneous society there is so little time for kids to be kids. I will go to John Dewey and his idea of reflection. There is no time to reflect during the day none what so ever.

“Out of the 168 hours in each week, my children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self. My children watch 55 hours of television a week according to recent reports. That leaves them 57 hours a week in which to grow up. My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about 6 hours getting ready, going and coming home, and spend an average of 7 hours a week in homework – a total of 45 hours. During that time, they are under constant surveillance, have no private time or private space, and are disciplined if they try to assert individuality in the use of time or space. That leaves 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course, my kids eat, and that takes some time – not much, because they’ve lost the tradition of family dining, but if we allot 3 hours a week to evening meals, we arrive at a net amount of private time for each child of 9 hours.” John Taylor Gatto, 1990 addressing the Awards ceremony

Over the years I would use the term the sixteen hour syndrome as I addressed our eight hour or six hours depending on the school of teaching time and that time away from school. One thing Gatto did not address in this book but has in other essays and writings, is the societal changes that have occurred. A reliance on drugs, both legal and illegal, amazing our nation drives the world narcotics market. If we could stop the dependence on drugs it could be significantly different. I have heard many times and seen many times in records where teachers and parents want their kids on medications. Generally these meds are not to be healthier but to calm them down. Recently in a discussion about ADHD I was being told about a child who was diagnosed as ADHD and was fine when on meds otherwise bouncing off the ceilings. I asked a question I borrow from a good friend Dr. James Sutton clinical child psychologist, does he play video games and for long periods. Yes was the answer and then how is this child ADHD if he can focus for extended time on something he likes. Maybe boredom was a better diagnosis in relationship to school.

“Highly centralized mass production economies can’t function well without colonizing individual minds and converting them to a mass mind. The conversion works best if started early, in the lower grades of elementary school, in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.” John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction

Other societal issues marriage has become disposable. It is simply a commodity to use and then move on from if needed. I watch kids who have been through numerous divorces and step parents and other than Christmas which can be fun with fifteen step brothers and sisters and four houses to visit instead of two. Although I recall a kid I had ten years ago was living with his third step mother since his mother and father both were in jail. It is not just school but a society created through the design and methodology of our mass school system. Early today I made a comment about opinion and elections. A word or thought in today’s media driven world can change opinion instantly. There is no thinking or effort to try and reflect, it is simply to go a differing direction on a word or thought. Let me go back to that nine hours a week of time to look inside of ourselves that Gatto illustrated. If we can expand that time and put forth a concerted effort to reflect to think to peer inside and search for our soul it is just maybe possible we could turn this mess around. I know personally the days I can meditate for me are more meaningful and creative days. I cherish those moments reflecting and pondering as I say and will grasp them when I can. So I have wandered today a bit maybe overkill on a book but still as I close keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

I wonder if it is possible to get moonburn?

Bird Droppings July 15, 2010
I wonder if you can get moon burn

Last night just before heading in we as a family sat on the back porch watching hummingbirds get in a few more sips of nectar from the feeders and listening to tree frogs begin their nightly chorus. As I stood outside I noticed high in the sky to the west a smiling moon and knew it was going down and would be gone later or in the morning when I got up. But it is nice to end the day with a smile. After a night of storms just a night or two ago the back yard was glowing from the smiling light. I know from my science classes that it is simply reflection from the sun, but it is hard to talk of the moon without attributing to it, its own glow. Sort of like a student and a good teacher relationship. We may never see the teacher only the reflection of the knowledge and wisdom passed on through that student. I find myself wandering lonely in a pedagogical desert at times walking through hallways that seem deserted with students out for the summer.

“Now nearly all learning space is occupied by an elaborate testing apparatus that measures the student’s progress in ingesting externally imposed curriculae and more insidiously provides a sorting device to reproduce the inequalities inherent in the capitalistic market system. …In turn the teacher becomes the instrument of approved intellectual and moral culture, charged with the task of expunging destructive impulses and fueling the empty mental tank. The student must be permitted no autonomy lest the evil spirits that lurk in everyday life regain lost ground.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom, Ethics, Democracy and civic courage

Many great thinkers and writers attest to democracy and education going hand in hand. John Dewey wrote extensively about this as does Paulo Freire, John F. Kennedy, I borrowed from him in recent days, Thomas Jefferson and so many more believed democracy and education are intertwined. But as I read Freire’s statement above I wonder if what we call democracy is truly that. How can a society manipulating its students into a market place albeit into consumers truly be a democracy? Watching the billboard ads of current primary candidates saddens me to even think we can call this a democracy. Yesterday a hammer and sickle of the Old Russian Communist party was on a billboard comparing or more so implying our current president was a communist and this particular candidate was conversely a true American albeit chances are a racist as well.
Many historical writers of education address the incorporation of higher education. I went to get a drink yesterday while I was at the school from a vending machine and only certain ones were on and able to be purchased. So I could only get specific drinks and specific brands. In our school it happens to be all coca-cola products. I thought it interesting as we have the Cola wars even in schools. It has struck education and yesterday as I walked through the gym I glanced at our score board and the huge coke logo. It was free I have heard. We have a regular coke man who many kids know by name and is in the building daily.
Each week we buy over ten thousand dollars in Coke product. Essentially everyday he provides sustenance for 2000 students and faculty. It is interesting as you add and subtract figures, two drinks and one snack per day per student and teacher equates to over one million dollars in sales per school year and three high schools in our county and over a hundred counties in Georgia. No wonder corporations want input in education.
I was noticing how what seemingly doesn’t happen and is not supposed to happen does, students tend to group by ability. Several times I have noticed lower functioning students and students who have failed a class particularly math and science will be grouped together and often with a younger less experienced teacher in the classroom. This happens all over not just in our school. Obviously honors and advanced placement classes are taught by better teachers with experience and in most cases they have very specific certification, “gifted” qualifications. A simple observation, the best teachers are often in the best classes with the best students and or in classes of special education special needs students sort of a paradox.
I have been watching again the promos for a film coming on cable again, The Ron Clark Story. Ron Clark was the 2000 Disney Teacher of the year has been featured on Oprah and interviewed by Katie Couric. In his style of teaching he was providing context to the content which is a major theme in his teaching and now with the advent of The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta he is taking his philosophy to a new standard.

“Before going to the bowling alley, Mr. Clark visited himself, measured the lanes and used the dimensions on worksheets. He also used the bowling pins to teach fractions, and took the prices from the snack shop and used them in math class. On every trip, whether it is up the street or across the globe, the Ron Clark Academy will make every moment a learning opportunity because as Mr. Clark has learned children must have a connection to something before they will appreciate it. After preparing our students so thoroughly for each trip, they will truly get the most out of the experience and internalize all they have learned.” The Ron Clark Academy, Curriculum, http://www.ronclarkacademy.com

Here is a teacher in our time stepping up and using ideas from 1915. John Dewey proposed such things many years ago.

“Only in education, never in the life of farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter, does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from doing.” John Dewey

However it requires a teacher to go to the bowling alley and go to a store and go to and do work and additionally out of the school stuff and more work in school and doing word walls and doing stuff and …..on and on. Much more than getting the teacher’s manual off the shelf and using the packaged transparencies and materials provided by McGraw Hill or whatever publisher is approved by state and federal guidelines and conveniently has aligned their text with your state curriculum and or had advisors on your state committee for curriculum. It is no coincidence textbooks are expensive and a big business, every school buys textbooks. College texts are notorious about price but what if priced at fifty dollars each and many especially in elementary reading classes are disposable it amounts to millions of dollars a year in each school district. Last year over $188,000,000.00 was spent in California to purchase books in order to keep up with curriculum standards. So if you multiply by fifty states and many more countries and we are talking billions of dollars at stake.

“We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos.” John Dewey

Friere and so many others are fearful of education being too incorporated and losing the freedom of thought which in reality is when we lose according to Dewey, our democracy. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Walking out among the cottonwoods

Bird Droppings July 14, 2010
Walking out among the Cotton Woods

I walked outside earlier as I do so many mornings just to ponder the day ahead and by chance looked over to where our famous dog moose is buried. A mockingbird was sitting on the Grancy Grey beard tree by Moose’s grave singing away. The sky was bright and wisps of clouds were visible remnants of the storms passing through yesterday. Many days ago I would spend my mornings alone sitting observing in the wee hours sometimes wrapped in a blanket for the cold listening and watching as time went by. There were mornings when falling stars by the hundreds would pass by and I would feel as if I was the focus of attention watching all in space aim towards me. I would sit and hours later write poetry and verses logging down emotions events and moments that came to me while I was entranced outside.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

One day recently I was told I had a great vocabulary. I came home and asked my wife, “Do I have a great vocabulary?” I was really wanting an answer to boost my ego and she said sort of sarcastically, “it really depends on who you are talking too.” At first I was hurt but then she said not that many people have seen or heard what you have in your life and sharing that expands there vocabulary as well and as I thought for example to my father who had traveled the world over many times, read constantly, discussed business with world industrial leaders, and was considered in his lifetime a great speaker perhaps she was right, and I felt better.

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

In days gone by and even today I will pick up encyclopedia and read volumes much like a book jokingly tonight’s light reading is H. I do intersperse these days with more current and upbeat reads. Although I still am an avid reader of Smithsonian and National Geographic although they do have a lot of pictures.

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We have all grown up with the statement about curiosity killed the cat but a lack there of also kept the world at a standstill and nothing will happen. It is that innate curiosity that drives us in our search and one of the things I am concerned with that is being stripped away in our current trends in education.

“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Peter F. Drucker

It has been some time since Drucker’s name came up at home. I recall many the conversations with my father when he would borrow quotes and references from Drucker in his thoughts and ideas. A great guru of business Drucker has written many books helping people manage business.

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have come to enjoy Emerson as I use his sayings often. He was a rather grizzly looking old goat of a man but as I read this I realized several times recently this is how I described what a school should be like. Literally a teacher should be a door man or door person simply opening the door at appropriate times allowing information to go in or out as needed. As that student becomes more and more adept the doorman is needed less and less till soon only a receptionist is needed to assist in organizing thoughts or offering advice.

“Knowledge, without common sense, says Lee, is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death. But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with clarity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace.” Austin Farrar

Last semester I sat and spoke at length over lunch and walking back to class with a good friend who had just returned from nearly a year in Afghanistan. We were talking of cultural differences that to us are ridiculous and yet to people there a part of life. In my reading I am currently going through an article about of the sans “Bushman” of the Kalahari in South Africa and several other indigenous peoples who have been stripped of homes and culture for the sake of mankind. That sounds so familiar her in the Americas. It seems diamonds have been found in the Kalahari and the sans who have lived there for thousands of years hunting and gathering must leave and go learn to farm and to be civilized. Perception was left out of many of the verses today for a hunter in the Kalahari may not know of Quantum physics but he or she does know where to find and how to find water and juicy grubs for dinner if the antelope have escaped during the hunt. Knowledge is of when and where you are now.

“Gugama, the creator, made us. That was a long time ago – so long ago that I can’t know when it happened. That is the past, but our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life. “Mogetse Kaboikanyo

Mogetse Kaboikanyop was a Kgalagadi man who lived alongside the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In February 2002, he was forcibly relocated to a camp outside the reserve. He died just four months later. He was probably in his fifties; his friends said his heart stopped beating. After years of struggling to remain on his land, Mogetse was buried in the desolate relocation camp, far from his ancestors’ graves. In about 1909 or so Geronimo was told finally he could not be allowed to return to the mountains of New Mexico to die. He must remain at Fort Sill Oklahoma where he died shortly thereafter. I have been to the grave site of Geronimo many times in my travels to Lawton Oklahoma driving out past military vehicles and such to a quiet spot along the river where no visible modern sights are around only rustling cotton wood trees and the flow of water over the stones. There is a rolling landscape and meadow of grass that go up from a small parking area since not many people come to this corner of Fort Sill.
Many times as I sat alone staring across the meadow listening to the stream and feeling a breeze brush lightly it seemed as if time rearranged and it was so easy to slip back to days when people buried here had names and not simply numbered markers. Knowledge is an elusive ethereal entity flitting about as a monarch travels many thousands of miles between hills in Mexico and Georgia. Knowledge is elusive in how it conveys power to some and solace to others. Knowledge is walking along the stream by a grave from a time long gone and knowing we can change mankind. We can make a difference it is the Geronimo’s and Mogetse Kaboikanyo’s who are the real teachers. It may be one step, one small tiny speck at a time but one day others will be able to stand among the cotton woods in Oklahoma or beneath a bush in the Kalahari and know tomorrow is a far better day that mankind has learned. One day maybe not today knowledge will truly be. But till then please keep all in harm’s way in your thoughts and on your mind and try to offer a hand to anyone slipping as they cross the stream.

Pondering a bit more than ususal today

Bird Droppings July 13, 2010
Pondering a bit more than usual today

Yesterday’s storm knocked out our internet and it is still down hopefully alive and well in the morning tomorrow. I have talked to an old friend today my former principal discussing many issues of life, politics and education. I sat down with a fellow teacher discussing doctorate topics and questions I have raised over the past few days in terms of how we educate children. I came by my room at school to check on animals feed and check email and all along keep wondering about the direction and frustration of teachers, students and parents in terms of education. I considered a good walk but humidity and air quality already are wreaking havoc with my head.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Friedrich Nietzsche

‎”The continuity of any experience, through renewing of the social group, is a literal fact. Education, in its broadest sense, is the means of this social continuity of life. Every one of the constituent elements of a social group, in a modern city as in a savage tribe, is born immature, helpless, without language, beliefs, ideas, or social standards. Each individual, each unit who is the carrier of the life-experience of his group, in time passes away. Yet the life of the group goes on.” John Dewey, Experience and Education

Dewey knew education was a crucial aspect of how we pass on understanding and culture and democracy as a way of life. In a discussion with another teacher earlier today we talked about how critical language is and reading to educating kids. I was looking at Atlanta Journal Constitution’s front page this morning and one of the articles was about how kids reading, during the summer months and holiday from school has significant impact on education. The studies were pointed to drops in levels of reading levels and academic levels. I am always upset by kids that do not want to read and see this daily on Facebook and other sites where students under favorite book put I do not read. It is a fact reading builds vocabulary and helps in retention of academics.

“How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life.” Friedrich Nietzsche

As I looked this morning for a starting place for my morning and was by a phone call from a friend I recalled a period in my life when I would get up every morning early and walk several miles discussing philosophy, theology and other relevant issues. It was an interesting time and actually many concepts that I hold now came to fruition during those walks. Over the years as I look back and truly most things considered “bad habits” which I had given up over the days past did provide tools for pondering ideas further pushing thoughts beyond where they were at that time. However many people simply get mired in that bad habit and it becomes part of their life not merely a stepping stone or tool but a crutch or support.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” C. Everett Koop

Probably most folks won’t even recognize the name of Dr. Koop formerly Surgeon General of the United States and former head of pediatric surgery at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. As I thought of Nietzsche’s quotes and while not taking a walk today I did go and move cars outside so everyone else could get under way. Usually I write and then get cars moved around see the moon or sunrise etc. But today I was lazy and the internet was on the fritz. Nietzsche as you read his work is often self focused and negative and perhaps in some ways I like looking to his thoughts for contrast for adding a back drop to a brighter thought. Koop was instrumental in the cigarette laws and anti-tobacco laws personally he was surgeon for my brother many years ago when we lived in Pennsylvania. My father tells a story of Dr. Koop his staff and my father all gathered together around John, my brother who was born with cerebral palsy and later developed encephalitis’s and was approaching surgery. My Dad would tell the story having been in medic corp. and around death in WWII so much the aura around Koop was different he exuded life he thrived on life and when he asked all to join hands and pray around John he made my father’s day.
But one thing that has stuck with me from dads conversation with Dr. Koop was a quote very seldom seen “Having worked with terminally ill children and seriously ill children for many years in all of those years I have never seen a parent of one of these children who did not have faith” As I think back and remember bits and pieces Dr. Koop’s comment and discussions with my father he wasn’t referring to religion as much as to the idea of faith. Faith also parallels trust and it could have been trust in Dr. Koop or trust in the hospital. Dr. Koop was a man of hope of future and of faith.

“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

That is an idea for another day or actually several ideas to ponder and mull over as we ascend the plateau to view the vista. As I sit here thinking pondering please all have a glorious day and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts

Two Standing Bears

Bird Droppings July 12, 2010
Two Standing Bears

I was going through my library of books over the weekend looking for additional references for my dissertation and found this copy from 1972 of The Ponca Chiefs. The following quote is from a court room dialogue of the first time legally Native American were found to be people. The full title of the book is, The Ponca Chiefs: an account of the trial of Standing Bear, by Thomas Henry Tibbles.

“On one side we have the representatives of this wasted race coming to this national tribunal asking for justice and liberty to enable them to adopt our boasted civilization and to pursue the arts of peace, which have made us great and happy as a nation. On the other side we have this magnificent, if not magnanimous, government, resisting this application with the determination of sending these people back to a country which is to them less desirable then perpetual imprisonment in their own native land.” Judge Dundy, 1879, Trial of Ponca Indians

Perhaps finding this book over the weekend came from a discussion I was having a few days earlier about why was the illegal immigration issue not such a political hot potato while the housing boom was under way. At that time at least in Georgia nearly fifty percent of the construction workers were Hispanic along with a large percentage of all landscaping crews. Most areas were impacted, rock and brick laying, roofing, framing anything with physical labor. Electrical and plumbing and Air conditioning were not quite as impacted. You could go by local banks on Friday afternoons and there would be busy crew supervisors cashing large company checks and paying out large sums of cash to their workers.
I find this so confusing perhaps as in mainland China today Chinese laborers begin to demand higher salaries and better conditions, American factories will start heading home. I still recall sitting in a meeting with a parent and the comment was made he could find no work cause Mexicans work too hard (back in the boom time of construction) and he was a house framer. I think back to discussion on the poultry industry in Hall County nearby and how the processing plants have changed demographically over the years. Originally the workers were White Mountain folk and as segregation set in and workers demanded more money black workers took the place of white workers. About ten years back again a change as Hispanic workers took over most jobs in the processing plants. Those of you who watch “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe may have seen how bad working in a poultry plant really is. Perhaps you have lived along side one and could barely breath from the stench. I just paid ninety nine cents a pound for chicken I wonder what price that would have been if for example a union took over poultry processing and got wages up to United Steel Workers which at one time were twenty six dollars an hour starting. Chicken would be eight or ten dollars a pound on sale.
I am by no means saying this process is just or right. But in effect we drive the process not much different than two hundred years ago when our ancestors started taking the west from the Natives American peoples. We claim it because we have the right I read in a blog earlier “The God given right”. Who benefits as we struggle with the processes of immigration? Who benefitted two hundred years ago. The same type people who are benefitting now making fortunes on lands taken from tribes. It is those people who are using the labor of illegal immigrants to profit from. It is those companies that are getting unsolicited bids on government work, making money through greed and corruption of human dignity and concern. Many the articles and stories of corruption on the early reservations and even today as mineral rights are sold out from under the tribes for a pittance.
In 1879 a trial was held because a tribe the Ponca’s, land in South Dakota was taken along with houses, horses, cattle, hogs, farm implements and literally all they had. They were forced to move to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma where many died and sadly this was a tale repeated over and over in early American history. Chief Standing Bear led his people back to their native lands and they were captured and forced again to the Indian Territories. It was in this trial in 1879 that Native Americans were first recognized as people. Sadly as I look at dates this was after the freeing of slaves. Americans at this time considered Native Americans less than slaves not even human beings. If you look hard enough today you will still find that in religions and societies in the US.
Over the years I have come to reflect often on the Native American view of life. All is sacred and to be held in awe. As I looked for information on Stranding Bear of the Ponca’s I also found Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Oglala Lakota’s. Standing Bear was one of the first to be schooled at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Children were taken from their homes in the plains and else where shipped to the school, their hair was shorn off, native attire was taken and western clothing provided, Indian names were not allowed and “Christian” names were given. Children could only speak in American English and were punished for speaking their own languages. (That sounds familiar today in the English only politics). Standing Bear returned home to own a store and do well by most standards. He also was disturbed by the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee and began to write. His numerous books and articles were well received and addressed the treatment of native peoples.

‎ “No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Lakota 1905-1939

”As a matter of truth, he was the most sympathetic of men, but his emotions of depth and sincerity were tempered with control. Silence meant to the Lakota what it meant to Disraeli, when he said “Silence is the mother of truth,” for the silent man was ever to be trusted, while the man ever ready with speech was never taken seriously.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Lakota 1905-1939

As I sit here thinking and reflecting on these two men one who was on trial for leaving his designated given spot after his own land was taken away and the other a speaker and writer of the Lakota way of life whose words reflect sentiments even today. Benjamin Disraeli said several years prior, “When little is done, little is said; silence is the mother of truth.” In my own reflection how true this is. For many promises and treaties were written and spoken and borrowing a line from the movie “Billy Jack” as Billy Jack addressed his own trial “of the seven hundred and twenty three treaties written all were broken and you expect me to believe you now.” I wonder what if we got more involved politically. What if we voted for people who would be ethical in their choices and not mired in the greed of our society? So many thoughts for one day as I sit pondering along. As I have for nearly twelve years ended my droppings for the day. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.