Thinking about copperhead eggs

July 24, 2010
Thinking about copperhead eggs

I am sitting waiting here in my writing area finishing up a daily journal entry. Shortly I will run by the school to clean and feed animals in my room. In a few weeks I will be waiting on the bell to ring to start back a new semester, a few new students but many that I have seen and known some for four years. As always I am sitting listening to Native American cedar flute music as I do so often. Late in the week I will rearrange my room at school a bit but not enough to upset my normal routine and those kids who have been with me before. I am excited about heading back to school and teaching it does not take long and a few former students will pop in to say hello and a few will be missed, who will not be back due to some poor choices in their lives. As I sat thinking a quote I found many years ago came up.

“To admit you were wrong is to declare you are wiser now than before.” Unknown author

When I saw this I had many flashbacks to arguments over the years. One of my favorite was copperhead eggs. That was many years ago, (copperheads do not lay eggs they give live birth) when a UGA vet student who also at the time was my brother in law could not be persuaded otherwise. I knew that herpetological fact from about second grade. Admitting in life you were wrong is probably one of the hardest and most difficult tasks we could ever have. Even when it is only a silly argument or discussion on copperhead eggs or who was best baseball or basketball player. It is that letting go of ego is difficult. This man never has gotten over that one argument and in being stubborn and ego filled he seemed to be the champion at least in his own mind.

“An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead.” Karl G. Jung

I do think Jung may have over did it a bit in his idea but ego is such a hard task master and so often in life we all sooner or later fall victim to ego.

“If someone is blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?” H. Ross Perot

Looking back on my own life and I was never really a Perot fan but I happen to like the thought of a third party and candidate. In life who but ourselves is there to clean out the barn so to say. I found a sign with the word EGOS in bold lettering on it and then the red circle for NO across it. I placed several up around the school a few years ago and the only one that survived a few hours and it was on my door, others were down very quickly. People in general do not want to be wrong or questioned.

“If you think about yourself then you’ve lost sight of the ball.” Mike Willesee

Ever wonder how a pro basketball team either succeeds or collapses? It would seem all in all most pro teams are very close in ability. It is dealing with egos that makes or breaks a team being able to de-egoize a team is a true sign of a great coach.

“A particular shot or way of moving the ball can be a player’s personal signature, but efficiency of performance is what wins the game for the team. “ Pat Riley “

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” “Nothing will work unless you do. “John Wooden

Many of you may never have heard of John Wooden, who passed away recently at 98 years of age and he was perhaps the greatest College basketball coach of all time. I believe he won more NCAA championships, ten than any other coach and more in a row something like eighty eight. He lived a simple philosophy of life.

“You cannot attain and maintain physical condition unless you are morally and mentally conditioned. And it is impossible to be in moral condition unless you are spiritually conditioned. I always told my players that our team condition depended on two factors — how hard they worked on the floor during practice and how well they behaved between practices.” John Wooden

Recently a few months ago I found an article on the sports page by a former Wooden player who did not get to play much. He was interviewing Bill Walton a now sports broadcaster and former great of UCLA’s glory days under John Wooden and now in the NBA hall of fame. The player who did not play much had the same respect and love for Wooden as did Walton, both carried “Woodenisms” in their wallets still twenty plus years after college. Setting the example was the key to Coach Wooden’s philosophy of life.

“Live the life as well as play hard” John Wooden

EGO had no place on a Wooden team and if an ego cropped up you probably will be sitting on the bench or playing at another university. Wooden was successful because he did not skirt the edges so many in the newspaper schools have done. He won through practice (players were glad to get off his team as his practices were so hard) and behavior between practices. Imagine a world where the aura was gone from Pro sports and players played because they wanted too not for millions of dollars. Imagine where newspapers would have to print about the team getting all A’s instead of how many team members were arrested for shop lifting and sexual harassment. EGOS can destroy not only an individual but a team and a society.

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” John Wooden

I will close with that last statement from John Wooden in life not just sports but character will keep you there, a good thought to remember. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

LIstening to a cricket

July 23, 2010
Listening to a cricket

Perhaps it is a sign of good luck to hear the first cricket of the evening. I heard this lone cricket earlier as I went out taking my West Highland Terrier for a minute or two of exterior roaming about. A lone cricket was chirping, within a few minutes a tree frog and owl joined in. It was only a matter of seconds and choruses of crickets and tree frogs were all chirping and whistling away. Might have been that first one just needed to get everyone going. It was an interesting musical trio for an evening in July. The air temperature was in the mid seventies after a blistering hot day and it was warm this evening for this time of year.

“In early days we were close to nature. We judged time, weather conditions, and many things by the elements–the good earth, the blue sky, the flying of geese, and the changing winds. We looked to these for guidance and answers. Our prayers and thanksgiving were said to the four winds–to the East, from whence the new day was born; to the South, which sent the warm breeze which gave a feeling of comfort; to the West, which ended the day and brought rest; and to the North, the Mother of winter whose sharp air awakened a time of preparation for the long days ahead. We lived by God’s hand through nature and evaluated the changing winds to tell us or warn us of what was ahead. Today we are again evaluating the changing winds. May we be strong in spirit and equal to our Fathers of another day in reading the signs accurately and interpreting them wisely. May Wah-Kon-Tah, the Great Spirit, look down upon us, guide us, inspire us, and give us courage and wisdom. Above all, may He look down upon us and be pleased.” Unknown Speaker addressing the National Congress of American Indians in the mid 1960’s

When I was outside there was a feeling of peace. The sky was starting to darken and the glow from the nearly full moon sliding across the sky was evident. A breeze was blowing just enough to rustle the leaves and needles of the pines and oak trees. When I came in I checked my emails and such, generally a few thoughts of the day and other bits of wisdom stashed about on the internet. Nothing struck me as a good start for the next morning. Then I recalled after much reading a passage I had seen a few years back. I have a Farmers almanac on my desk at school; rural folks have used this book for many years as the guide for planting and farming.
When I first moved to Georgia in the early seventies I remember a fellow who worked for us for a quite a few years. He was born and raised within ten miles of his house. Nature was an integral part of his learning and awareness. He had farmed on this piece of property all his life. Growing up working mules across terraces and poisoning boll weevils in cotton fields with arsenic. He had watched for the cycles of the moon and listened for the first cricket chirp or call of a dove or owl. Corn should not be planted he once told me till after the last frost after the full moon.
As I scanned my emails and various blog sites one caught my attention and as I do I sorted the data. It was a list of questions, many were teenager sort of questions. First question was do you ever give the peace sign? For me an easy answer, everyday, many times. Then as I looked through the questions over half were materialistic. Most of the rest were can you do this or that? Do you have a MP3 player etc?
I noticed not one question about hearing a tree frog or listening to a cricket. Have you ever heard a loon on a lake n Minnesota or seen the leaves in New Hampshire in the fall? Or have you walked along the trails of North Carolina when the rhododendrons are blooming? It has been a few years since I heard gators bellow. A sound you will never forget. All of my life I have been drawn to nature, listening seeing and trying to understand.
We have become so caught up in what and who we are we lose sight of where we are. When talking with teenagers at school it is more of do you have how many of this popular stores shirts or pants? Who am I to speak, I was wearing looking at alpaca socks yesterday at the feed store of all places. Actually they are really practical in that in winter they are warmer than wool and softer as well so very comfortable. The last pair I had was free however which is a whole other story. I only drink Smart water, perhaps an advertising glitch on my part, but I like its taste however I do get it on sale at Kroger which should count for something. I read on a website of a person who was asking for friends. I read today of another seeking companionship.
I sat longer in the warmth of the morning today listening to the silence and the owl, frog and cricket. It was hard to leave almost relaxing hypnotic as I sat in my chair in the back yard. I thought back to days in my youth where being outside was paramount to a good day. A bad day was one where weather kept us in. Today youth tend to huddle around TV’s and video games, computers and such. I walked through the house yesterday turning off TV’s where no one was sitting. What if is a big lead in to a sentence?
Then the answer to question one on the list hit me. The person answering said no, they never use the peace sign, and that made me think. It was not so much about that person but us as a society in general. We live in a society who accepts the violence we live with. We accept the harm being done to people world wide. Could we do more? Could we stop harm from being done to others? In many cultures the first cricket is a good sign, I would like to hope so. After watching the news this morning however I will still end with please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Soul is the engine

Bird Droppings July 22, 2010
The soul is the engine

It has been nearly fifty years since diesel and electric engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (Jenson, 1975). I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past, perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946. I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me. Pinar (2004) states, “’One returns to the past, to capture it as it was, and as it hovers over the present’ (1976, 55)” (p.36). The past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories. “Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” (Hillman, , 1996, p. 4).
My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree. It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years. When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children. Memory is an aspect of who we are Morris (2001) quotes Legroff, 1992, “Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” (p. 90). I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me. When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot. Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my father’s shelf at his home is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.
A few years back a movie was made about the late Robert Johnson, one of the great blues guitarists, staring Ralph Macchio and Joe Seneca, entitled Crossroads. The film was about a classically trained guitar player who wanted to find Robert Johnson’s lost song. Willie Brown, Joe Seneca’s character said “you cannot really play the blues till you can play the train song”, that thought stuck with me. Blues players would use sounds from the trains in their music. There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being. Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B, or maybe for bluesman it was the life and blood of their travels around the country, a freedom of sorts linked to the railroad.
My implecation of the engine as the soul and as a driving force in who we are has credo in perhaps even our dreams. Our soul or who we are is often uncovered in dreams. Hall (1983) in looking at a dream interpretation states “Trains in contrast to automobiles and buses are set on a fixed track, without the option of moving somewhat at will; they therefore tend to be associated with compulsive or habitual activities” (p. 83). This interpretation of a dream about trains was based on the analyzing and deciphering by the therapist as a part of Carl Jung’s therapy process. Jung classically saw “the dream as a ‘message’ to the ego and as a self representation of the psyche” (Hall, , 1983, p. 24) . Dream interpretation is ongoing, “for dream interpretation involves a constant dialogue between the ego and the unconscious” (Hall, , 1983, p. 25) and the interpretation allows some conscious attention to be paid in the direction of where individuation is going . There is a connection to who we are and our dreams. Zukav (1979) addresses Quantum Physics and Jung’s ideas in acausal events using a statement from the Noble prize winning physicist and friend of Jung, Wolfgang Pauli, “From the inner center the psyche seems to move outward, in the sense of extraversion in to the physical realm” (p. 56). Essentially our unconscious inner self is trying to make itself known. This inner unconscious part of us is who we really are.
My own journey of searching for who I am did not involve a dream of trains as I began this paper, but it did reflect back to pieces of my childhood and how the train for me was significant. The idea of an analogy to a train developed as readings and lecture ideas seemed coincidentally related, to borrow a term from Jung, synchronicity. Jung, (1960) provides an insight with: “Links to the unconscious can also be attributed to these acausal coincidences and events” (p.95). R. Hull translator of Carl Jung’s work, Jung (1960) states, “Jung first used the term ‘Synchronicity’ only in 1930 in his memorial address for Richard Wilhelm (p. vii)”. The word was in response to observations of patients where chance, meaningful, and timely coincidences occurred. As my idea developed pieces seemed to fall in place. Jung defined synchronicity “as any apparent coincidence that inspires a sense of wonder and personal meaning or particular significance to the observer” (Joseph, , 1999, p. xi). Was it coincidence that I took a copy of James Hillman’s book The Soul’s Code: In search of character and calling, with me for extra reading on a recent trip to Statesboro for graduate studies? The concept of synchronicity indicates a meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved (Jung, 1960). The ideas fell in place and began to make sense. As I thought of what direction to go with curriculum theory, coming from my psychological and theological background and life long fascination with trains, the idea of using the analogy of a train and approaching three areas of man’s endeavor, to understand and rationalize the existence of each of us, our soul, our character and our curriculum became clear.
Smith(1999) writes that, “Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” (p. 4). Smith(1999) points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why . The illusions “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction” (p. 5). In order to dig deeper into curriculum we have to understand who we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend curriculum and ourselves and how people see us. Pinar (1994) explains that “Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” (p. 17). Smith (1999) implores us to look in side ourselves:

Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the more noble one of laying down the outward things that enslave us (p. 5).

In order to deal with what is before us, that which enslaves us (Smith, 1999), we need to over come our inner self.
This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are. Jung (1995) continues the idea with “We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” (p. 2). Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are. The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search. A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Fowler, (1981):

Faith is not always religious in its content or context. To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief. Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life. (p.5)

The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are. It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world.
What is the soul and its effect on our life? Frattaroli, (2001) defines soul as, I think of the soul as the experiencing self, the ‘I,’ an ineffable whole that integrates processes happening at four levels of experience – body, brain, mind, and spirit” (p.6). Macdonald, (1995) offers, “The process of human development is considered here to be a process of becoming.” (p.16) Morris (2001) addresses the idea of spirit using an idea from Hegel “The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life. But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” (p. 104). Spirit is then who we are subjectively? Britzman (2003) offers, “Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” (p. 57). We end in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore, student of James Hillman, a former priest and now psychologist and counselor defines soul, Moore, (1992) states:

Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality. When we say someone has soul we know what we mean. (p.5)

“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul”(Moore, 1992, p.9). Mary Aswell Doll in the introduction to her book Like letters in running Water, includes in her thoughts her interdisciplinary studies with religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul. It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns. It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning (Doll, 2000). Kesson (2000), reflects with Jack Miller who states: “To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children. My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” (p.99). It is that inner being of who are that is our soul.
Looking over various authors and thinkers and gathering pieces from them. It is Hegel’s thought of the subjective side of spirit (Morris, 2001), soul is where nature and life intertwine. Soul is a process of becoming (Macdonald, 1995). Soul is the material a subject spins into a life (Britzman, 2003). Soul is the experiencing self (Frattaroli, 2001). Soul is digging and searching and uncovering the roots (William F. Pinar, 1994). Soul is that which makes us human (Moore, 1992). Soul is also only through coming to terms with inner understandings (Doll, 2000). There is much that makes soul, soul is who we are, it is not a perception or necessarily an understanding it is us. If we can access that piece and utilize it is the engine of ourselves. In postulating this idea of soul as Hillman calls this piece of us, it is the driving force of who we are (Hillman, 1996). Soul is the engine of the train in our lives it is often unknowingly what pulls the train of our lives around the track. Sorry for a change of pace in my writing starting to get APA in gear and get serious about my dissertation writing. As we each search for who we are and why may we still keep all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts.
Britzman, D. P. (2003). After-Education Albany State University of New York.
Doll, M. A. (2000). Like Letters in Running Water. Mahweh: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Fowler, J. W. (1981). Stages of Faith: The psychology of Human Development and the quest for who we are. New York: Harper Collins.
Frattaroli, E. (2001). Healing the Soul in the age of the brain. New York: Penquin Putnam Inc.
Hall, J. A. (1983). Jungian Dream Interpretation Toronto: Inner City Books.
Hillman, J. (1996). The Soul’s Code. New York: Warner Books Inc.
Jenson, O. O. (1975). The American heritage history of railroads in America; Avenel N.J. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co.: distribution by McGraw Hill.
Joseph, F. (1999). Synchronicity and you. Boston: Element Books.
Jung, C. G. (1960). Synchronicity: An Acausal connecting principle (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1995). Jung on Evil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Kesson, K. (2000). Spirituality and the curiculum: A hermeneutic Discussion. JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 16(Spring 2000), 93-104.
Macdonald, J. B. (1995). Theory as a prayful act: the collected essays of James B. Macdonald (Vol. 22). New York: Peter Lang.
Moore, T. (1992). The Care of the Soul. New York: Harper Collins.
Morris, M. (2001). Curriculum and the Holocaust. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Pinar, W. F. (1994). Autobiography, politics and sexuality: essays in curriculum theory 1972-1992. New York: Peter Lang.
Pinar, W. F. (2004). What is Curriculum Theory. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
Pinar, W. F. a. G., Madeleine R. (1976). Towards a poor curriculum. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt.
Smith, D. G. (1999). Pedagon: Interdisciplinary essays in the Human Sciences, Pedagogy and Culture (Vol. 15). New York: Peter Lang.
Zuchav, G. (1979). The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An overview of the new physics. New York: William Morrow and Company

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.”

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.”

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: – 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.