A founding father

Bird Droppings August 19, 2010
A founding father

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

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

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

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

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

While the Constitution was written long before welfare and government subsidies Hamilton knew what he was talking about as I was reading this morning responses to possible cuts in many federal programs in order to try and cut deficits and bailout the economy. While an indirect lobbying method imagine the effect of telling a group of people we are cutting your medical care or your bank is going to collapse. I wonder how they will vote in an election year and or do they even have a voice. Yesterday I found out when my son gets married in October he has to come off my health insurance but when the New Healthcare legislation goes into effect in January he can go back on. Interesting thought I won’t want the Health Care bill repealed by any means looking at that one issue.
“It is the advertiser who provides the paper for the subscriber. It is not to be disputed, that the publisher of a newspaper in this country, without a very exhaustive advertising support, would receive less reward for his labor than the humblest mechanic.” Alexander Hamilton

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

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

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

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

I see this every day in education, in student life, in a high school, in families and worse in those who supposedly govern us in this country an attitude of self centeredness, they are almost like spoiled children. Why would a congressman from Texas want so adamantly to drill in Alaska and or Senators from non-coastal states so vehemently want to drill in coastal states when those states oppose drilling off of their shores? I recall walking over a pipeline on the St. Augustine beach and looking out on what once were pristine waters to see oil rigs only a few yards from shore. I wonder about such things.

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

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

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

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

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

A prophecy from 300 years ago and still true to this day although I wonder who is the better person? When you look at third world countries wood goes first then the economy unless that country industrializes. Yet in the losing of forest and jungles often so much more is lost. Within a few years after deforestation hunger sets in and then revolutions and slaughter.

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

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

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

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

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

A continuing saga

Bird Droppings August 18, 2010
A continuing saga

It is so often that I write of coincidence it may seem boring to some. To me it is a never ending saga of special moments one after the other. During a college graduate class we discussed science and measuring of data, intuition and coincidence it seems are difficult commodities to evaluate. Carl Jung split with Sigmund Freud over similar matters and coined the word synchronicity. Yesterday as I was talking as always it seems I never stop I was drawn to the door of my room here on C-hall and as I stepped out a friend passed by exactly as I stepped to the door. This was a friend with a problem. If I had been a few seconds later a moment later and that friend would have already passed by. I was drawn to the door like a moth to a flame. I wonder was I meant to interfere to get involved in a problem or simply to offer advice or questions, was it coincidence, perhaps simply a chance happening, or was it synchronicity as Jung would proclaim.

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

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

Which direction do we go as we try and unravel the human condition the frail substance about which we have evolved from. Can we separate out and categorize, analyze and measure that which makes us human versus a pack animal.

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

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

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

When beset with an issue or a problem we so often fall victim to the easiest route the way of “least resistance least trouble” as John Dewey would say. Years ago in a book on Loss Control management my father used the illustration of an ice berg we only see one seventh of the problem. We too as we journey through life are only one seventh visible. There is sixth sevenths that stay hidden away secreted somewhere from view.

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

It is how we choose that is important. Each day for several years since I began this morning endeavor I have talked of the journey in life. I had used as a screen saver my son’s image crossing a stream in north Georgia stepping stone by stone across a rippling rolling stream. My son is soaking wet and could of just as easily walked the stream and avoid falling from the rocks he was wet already but he choose to step on the slippery rocks. The challenge for him was doing it, making the journey not simply surviving.

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

This becomes the difficult task trying to explain how a problem has purpose how a human issue has reason in a world of measurement where non-measuring is constant and so often the point. I can never find the distance between the stones of the stream as my son’s foot steps fall crossing rock by rock.

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

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

Going from a single person’s problem to that of the North Slope of Alaska may seem a stretch. But as we journey in life we essentially do not get to replay our hand once we lay the cards upon the table. Yesterday by chance somewhere before 4:00 AM I was reading an old National Geographic and how the oil fields are so enticing in the Wilds of Alaska. Greedy people see only money. Others see loss of habitat wildlife and wilderness that can never be replaced. Another amazing coincidence this morning I could not pull this up it literally disappeared and I wrote another piece which I emailed instead yesterday as I look at each it was time for this one today and now for this a good follow up, peace my friends and have a good evening and please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts

Working on a wedding

Bird Droppings August 17, 2010
Working on a wedding

Nearly two years ago I performed a wedding service for one of my sons close friends. As I was pulling together material for a short sermon and discussion I found several pieces from many years ago. As I thought this morning and walked out just before heading to school perhaps today was a good day to share with others some of those thoughts as I am preparing for another wedding my youngest sons.
I first met my son’s friend when he was in elementary school as he and my son became friends. All through the school years and various projects, field trips, movies and band there was a group of fellows who came to know each other very well. I am impressed as they have graduated from high school and now college and still all are dear and close friends. I by chance had some old videos on my laptop I told my sons friend fiancée I would save for her and I am assuming she was not embarrassed by his antics since they did go through with the wedding.
I had the privilege of meeting his fiancée a few months after being called and asked if I could perform their service. I was impressed by the commitment and care these two had for each other. One thing she mentioned that drew her to him was his humor. She said that whenever he is around people those people seem happier. I sensed a growing a powerful love as I talked with the two of them over several meetings. Friendship and love are critical elements for a marriage to succeed. She offered how they were best friends before they fell in love. As I listened to her express how she feels about him I came to know her in our brief meetings. Never once was she not smiling or offering bits and pieces of how their love has grown over the years.
As I looked for thoughts to share at this very special occasion one that has been important to me for some time to me from a newspaper columnist back in the day as my youngest son would say. Funny how recently my wife made comments similar watching my youngest son and his fiancée as the talked and laughed.

“Love, for example, is difficult to sustain not because it is a positive emotion, but because it is a complex one. Love might be compared to the building of a tall and elaborate sandcastle, taking many hours of painstaking effort, cooperation, balance, and persistence” Strictly Personal Columns of Sydney J. Harris

As I listened to them I could see their sandcastle being built each minute detail and built with a strength that can withstand any circumstance to come their way. I would like to share with them a poem from a poet I am always moved by and recommend nearly every day.

To love and not to possess
by James Kavanaugh

To love is not to possess
To know or imprison
Nor to lose ones self in another
It is to join and separate
To walk alone and together
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence
It is perfectly one’s self
And perfectly joined in termagant commitment
To another – and to one’s self
Love dies when private lives are smothered
When solitude and privacy
Are not allowed
In a sacred union that links two together
For life and perhaps forever
Without binding wings or cleaving lips

Love only endures when it moves like waves
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moons own predictable harmony
Because finally despite a child’s scars
Or an adults deepest wounds
They are openly free to be
Who they really are – and always secretly were
In the core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide

As I thought about the place where the service will be held, an ancient oak tree near the beach in the pan handle of Florida I was inspired. I was intrigued by its history. Within this special location I would say and considerate a sacred place. So many families and traditions, love, faith, prayers, hopes and lives have drifted through all collected there. That is how I interpret sacred. Marriage is a sacred trust a promise and commitment of two people before their friends and families. What has been special to these two people is now being expressed openly for all to see. A marriage is a time to share with family and friends their love a chance to reveal their care and concern that they have for each other.
Thinking back to my son friends they had asked me to view a video that meant a lot to them. “When Harry met Sally” I think I was supposed to have a hoagie and ice cream when I watched it as they recalled their first time seeing the movie. There is a line or two of significance to them that is how they found each other and fell in love.

I love that you get cold when it is 71 degrees outside
I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich
I love that little crinkle above your nose when you are looking at me like I am nuts
I love after I spend the day with you I can smell your perfume on my clothes
And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night
And it is not because I am lonely and its is not because it is New Years Eve
I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible

As I thought about a statement of purpose, I realized that there is a moving beyond a promise greater than just friendship to a sacred trust a vow of marriage, a life long bond between two people before their families and friends. For me the circle holds a special place it that it is finite yet infinite. All through mans history the circle has been revered and considered an integral aspect of life. We are born and live our lives and die and return to the ground in what many call the circle of life. Theologians and holy men and women allude to a continuation around the circle a never ending cycle. Does a circle have a beginning and or an end? Many of the philosophies of life use comparisons to circles as a visual tool to simplify what is being said. Native American truth is often found centered and focused on a circle. Black Elk an Oglala Sioux Holy Man nearly seventy years ago said this

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”

It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey thorough it. We get to participate along the way interconnecting with and meeting other people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some, most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new understanding and illumination to their journeys. Soon my son and his fiancée will continue their journey and with the exchange of their rings seal their promises to each other.
As I thought about world issues and all the drama existing in our time I kept being drawn back to two human beings who are deeply in love and ready to commit to each other and their families and I can see how we are in a circle of life. There is trauma and horrendous happenings around the world but there are also places where there is peace. There are places and corners where love and community abound. I mentioned in a post for a graduate class that I wish this were contagious and could spread. It takes effort as Sydney J. Harris states so eloquently and is worth repeating.

“Love, for example, is difficult to sustain not because it is a positive emotion, but because it is a complex one. Love might be compared to the building of a tall and elaborate sandcastle, taking many hours of painstaking effort, cooperation, balance, and persistence”

So for today as I do everyday please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Trying to Succeed!

Bird Droppings August 16, 2010
Trying to succeed!

“Succeeding is not really a life experience that does that much good. Failing is a much more sobering and enlightening experience.” Michael Eisner

I wonder when a multibillionaire makes a statement like that how much meaning is in it. However as I read over the statement there is exceedingly a great amount of truth to it. It is not the succeeding that teaches it is the failures where we learn how to succeed in life. This is almost a paradox yet as we go about doing whatever it is we are doing we keeping going till we succeed. When we fail we simply try another way and or correct the failure. It is difficult to instill this in teenagers who feel they must either immediately succeed without effort or they just quit.

“When a man has done his best, has given his all, and in the process supplied the needs of his family and his society, that man has made a habit of succeeding.” Mack R. Douglas

“Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.” Julie Andrews

Success is linked to failure; it requires failure to show that you have succeeded. This seems to be the prevalent thought. I do think it also requires us to be seeking success. This could be having a goal an object in mind and striving for that goal.

“One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” Benjamin Disraeli

What is deemed as success is also important for each of us that in its self could be significantly different. I have a student who if you would ask what is success he would answer always with “money”. For him money is everything, you buy happiness and success. If you have money you are successful. Perhaps in his family he has been told this or lived this way all his life that money is the most important thing in life.

“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

As I read and find further quotes it seems great thinkers have equated success with finally achieving whatever goal it was they were attempting and always they define and address success with failure. But Sir Winston Churchill adds enthusiasm. “without a loss of enthusiasm”. Success is not just achieving but continuing and not stopping.

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Albert Einstein

I so often wonder what great thinkers think at times. I have always liked this statement from Einstein which seems to be in contrast to so many others, yet it may only be a use of the word. It is about not stopping. It is about failure but getting up and trying again. It is not just money or about money. You must be ready for it and far more greater than just succeeding in life is leading a life of value. As I look back on our recent holiday when we celebrate and honor our veterans, and our current armed forces.
So often in war it is about winning, success is defeating the foe. I tend to think as I look at Einstein’s words; it really is not success to simply win. Success is about our values about who we are. So perhaps we should rethink what it is we do as we do battle. Is there an alternative, a different way to succeed without war without armies and strife? Maybe one day we can honor our veterans and sing songs about their service to our country and to us and not have to be thinking about those in harms way. For through value we have succeeded in ending war as a means of solving human issues. Maybe one day we will be always looking back at history as we celebrate and not be concerned about the now. Perhaps our failures will show us the way. But for today a first day of a new school year and if you will please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings August 15, 2010
Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

The need for roots, I saw this idea earlier as I web surfed thinking and pondering this morning or perhaps as I was scrolling through thoughts I had saved over the years along with all of my young herb plants sitting beside me near the window and the concept caught me, to be rooted.

“Roots is not just a saga of my family. It is the symbolic saga of a people. “Alex Haley, from his book, Roots

I have been intrigued with my students over the past ten years that they have had little or no concept of much more than their grandpa and grandma if that. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp. I am doing a substantial amount of work with The Foxfire concept and so much of that in its origin is based on the roots, on history, family and culture.

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots, your past or your history but traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep these people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence while nearly polar opposites. I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to their heritage and to traditions; they are not grounded or anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be to escape, to wanting to be away from or distant from as Lawrence advocates.

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead, noted anthropologist

Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have had our roots stripped away by our constant boxing up and categorizing. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society.

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

Many years ago in a tenth grade literature class that would be about 1965, we read at that time a very controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”. You were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried to destroy family and traditions and roots. They have been always stripping away the top soil, laying bare to the hardpan of a man’s soul. But within it all still with some people through persistence, vigor, and desire soul was still there.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

This is not just a modern day issue, Confucius raised questions over two thousand years ago and used a simple word to explain, integrity. For Confucius it was the integrity of the home and perhaps this is the key to roots. Solid roots can be found in the integrity of a family and home. Is it possible to look at people and judge there character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family, or by their genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow. Back in the day we used EPD’s to judge the quality or potential quality of a breeding animal. I used to know what that meant but specifically in cattle it is the performance data that has been gathered for generations many times and potential for that animal based on that gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given traits you are looking for.

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I find there are answers. EPD’s work because someone cared enough to check to save the information and data. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of on a daily basis I see in real life. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately I have found. So where do I go in this round about effort especially on a day before a holiday for many.

‎”My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled! I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them.” Shinguaconse

As I read this Native American quote from the late 1890’s it could so easily have been said yesterday in a school, home, reservation, college, church, state government, federal government and on any street corner in our town. We have lost much as we leave the soul of family eroded and washed away in the name of the greater good. We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding and often with little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today maybe even a happy birthday greeting. It may be a hug or kind word or ear to listen. But take some time to share to care and keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Experience is the best teacher

Bird Droppings August 14, 2010
Experience is the greatest teacher

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

What a way to start with a line from a fiction book about space travelers. However in the span of ten minutes this morning as I read emails and posts on various blogs the idea of learning through and of experience was prevalent. One fellow mentioned he learned from his friends. Another learned through the doing of something. Still another got into experiential education. We are the sum total of our experiences and great educators along the way have seen this and written about it for many years.

“Any experience, however, trivial in its first appearance, is capable of assuming an indefinite richness of significance by extending its range of perceived connections.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Dewey believed that it was through utilizing the previous experiences of a child that we build their education. As I read more on Dewey’s thinking and subsequent thinkers who have built from Dewey I have found within the research when learning has context and relevance it is retained exceedingly more so than when simple a mass of content. It saddens me to see our children learning what they need to for a test and not what they need to walk out of school at the end of twelve years for life.

“Education, in its broadest sense, is the means of this social continuity of life.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Each day as I wonder what direction will I go today in my reflections and wanderings I always seem to come back to the interconnections that bind us together? It is through the interconnections of the pieces that we learn and through which our lived experiences become actual learning and knowledge.

“To ‘learn from experience’ is to make a backward and forward connection between what we do to things and what we enjoy or suffer from things in consequence. Under such conditions, doing becomes a trying; an experiment with the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes instruction–discovery of the connection of things.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

In looking at behavior I use the terms antecedent, behavior and then consequence to show how a behavior is elicited. The antecedent precedes the behavior which is followed by the consequence which is considered how it is to work according to behaviorism. This is very easily applied and followed in animal research and in many school settings is a standard we call it behavior modification. However I do think Dewey was seeing this sequence differently. In order to learn from experience we need to be able to rearrange and redirect the antecedent, behavior and consequence so as we go those interconnections are literally liquid and flow back and forth rather than this then that.

“Thinking, in other words, is the intentional endeavor to discover specific connections between something which we do and the consequences which result, so that the two become continuous. Their isolation, and consequently their purely arbitrary going together, is canceled; a unified developing situation takes place. The occurrence is now understood; it is explained; it is reasonable, as we say that the thing should happen as it does. Thinking is thus equivalent to an explicit rendering of the intelligent element in our experience. It makes it possible to act with an end in view. It is the condition of our having aims.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Perhaps as I see it behavior modification can work where thinking is not allowed. When we take away critical thinking and imagination then the standard of Antecedent behavior and consequence is firm in charge. As I reflect today this could be why some teachers like maintaining that hierarchy of teacher and students and have a difficult time with Dewey’s ideas of a democratic classroom. When we mass a group of students and loose the individuality in the masses it is far easier to maintain the status quo. Education is notorious for tracking and grouping kids in ability groups or classes. Might have something to do with control again or could be that research show children learn best when they are with their own kind. Fifty years ago this was the premise for segregated schools.

“How one person’s abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher’s business. It is irrelevant to his work. What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning. Mind, individual method, originality (these are convertible terms) signify the quality of purposive or directed action.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Trying to provide the right tools and understanding so that children can learn in a setting that will provide them with opportunities to use what they know and build can be difficult and tedious at times. Many teachers give up on this type of learning because there is more work involved. I look at my room two days from school starting back and know I have a good bit to do. Clean organize and sanitize my humble crazy class room. I did feed snakes today and turtles so a few things have gotten done now to getting computers all checked out and each student’s portfolio set up and I will be ready to rock and roll. One thing I have found is that is about kids wanting to be in a class room. If they want to be there amazing things and learning can happen.

“The educator’s part in the enterprise of education is to furnish the environment which stimulates responses and directs the learner’s course. In the last analysis, all that the educator can do is modify stimuli so that response will as surely as is possible result in the formation of desirable intellectual and emotional dispositions”. John Dewey, Democracy and Education

With only two days left for my summer and I am sitting here in my room writing pondering a new year and ideas. Hopefully my students will learn and go away with something that they can carry through their lives. Each day I have ended my droppings with the same line and do so again. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

School is near can I make a difference?

Bird Droppings August 13, 2010
School is near can I make a difference?

“There is wisdom to be found in examining differences such as between ‘morality’ and ‘moralizing.’ Nouns are treated as completed statues lined up on the top shelves of a person’s character. Verbs are active, no less demanding but requiring constant engagement. They are not structures but are engines.” Ted Sizer, The Students are Watching

I read this book many years back for the first time when our then principal Dr. Steve Miletto used it in a book club meeting. As I went back through the wrinkled worn pages I found it intriguing how morality was pictured as an action word and not as a noun. The idea of constant engagement was a point many miss. You can not simply say I am moral you need to live it and breathe it. I went to watch a movie last night with my sons. Will Farrell is a police office along with partner Mark Walberg and they are investigating an investment banker for fraud. At the end of the movie rather than out takes clips of true banking fraud cases that have been tried and many sent to prison. It was the dollar amounts that floored me literally trillions of dollars taken from tax payers. I have several times started conversations about ethical capitalism and is it even possible and so far it has not really gone very far.

“The white man talks about the mind and body and spirit as if they are separate. For us they are one. Our whole life is spiritual, from the time we get up until we go to bed.” Dr. W.F. Peate, A Yakima healer, Listening from the heart

It has been nearly seven years since my middle son choose to go to Georgia Tech over The Savannah College of Art and Design. It was a far cry cartoon animation to the polymers and fibers. I remember the evening when he told me he had made up his mind he did not want his art to become tedious or to be his work so to say. He always wanted to enjoy doing art. It was not that he doesn’t enjoy the math and science of his chosen field of study but the art is his passion.
For many years I lived on a farm and various chores of farm work were my release from the tedium of the publishing business, be it bush hogging pasture, going to the barn during the night when we were in lambing season to check for lambs or just out checking on cows. As I sit and ponder this quote I have chosen – it has been a number of years since I lived on the farm and the farm now is a maze of houses and lot lines and once hay pastures are now yards and once fields of clover and fescue are now patios and charcoal grills. Soccer fields now fill some of the space I once chased cattle and buffalo across and herded sheep to the barn for shearing. It has been a few years since those days. It is the separation we tend to want to make and we want parameters to various aspects of our life.
I have been reading a book The Deschooling of society by Ivan Illich. In his book he speaks of institutionalizing everything and how we tend to make aspects of life literally things. Our schools have become an entity in and of itself, as do many businesses. Literally education becomes so into itself that we loose what it was intended to do. We so structuralize and institutionalize and categorize we loose fact that children are to learn.
Sitting here in my school room writing later in the day then I normally would thinking are we meeting the curriculum and test scores and are we satisfying the demands of the other institutions state and federal and local. We just heard a short speech by our school superintendent about how we have raised standardized test scores and graduation rates. We have certified more teachers in a system of certifying which really does not necessarily demand the best teacher but only that the requirements have been met. Are we stripping away the various components of life shelving and labeling in some methodology of dehumanizing endeavor.
Once all aspects in life were on and treated as one when an illness came you looked within the whole not piece by piece as so often do now as we do, going to specialist after specialist seeking cures. Watching as I do often sitting back observing I wonder if this is what we have done in our society? Have we taken what once was whole and dissected to a point of which we have such a multitude of pieces and we may never get the puzzle back together? Dr. Peate’s little inspirational book “Listening with the heart” is a series of lessons from Native Americans of thoughts and ideas he has seen as he worked on reservations as a medical doctor. Looking at school it is not about the joy anymore it is about the test score meeting curriculum making the grade. Thoreau left teaching when this hit him and he became a learner realizing his students would learn far more from him if he was learning as well. Borrowing from the first paragraph in a paper I wrote on my philosophy of teaching – In 1845 Henry David Thoreau said:

“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”

I believe in the uniqueness and freedom of the individual and that true learning is through experiencing the event. There has to be context to the content. In my own classroom I try to provide opportunities for my students to learn in a democratic environment. I try to be the facilitator not dictator. I often use hands on learning experiences as well as technology as tools to provide more involvement with students. I do believe students have to want to be there to learn other wise we have simply met requirements of the institution and learning is really only hopefully going to occur. I wrote a few emails earlier telling of an experience several days ago.
As I wander in my random thoughts spiritually and mentally trying to grasp pieces of what others idlely let drift by mesmerized by the tedium of life they choose or are too bored by what to them is common place. By allowing others to explain in either this parameter or that and taking away from the freedom of choice and thought we do so institutionalize every aspect of our being be it religion, school, work or shopping. My wife used to pick on me when I would go out and bush hog or mow often for six or eight hours when we lived on the farm. When we cut hay and time was a crucial element due to rain I would mow field’s dawn to dusk literally institutionalizing the process. So in effect taking away the liberty and awe by demanding I do the task within a given parameter. Pushing a lawn mower in a smaller patch of grass with out the time constraints of hay production gives me back a bit of the freedom though my head is often filled to the brim with pollen and might say other wise.
Our yard is large comparable to yards in the area perhaps a little over an acre. It has been a few years as I mowed in my yard a red tailed hawk had chosen this spot to die in. I had not seen this hawk come here but in the middle of a large expanse of grass and untouched by animals other than ants and insects lay the hawk. I could find no signs of trauma. As I mowed I wondered why this hawk chose me and here. Why did this great bird come to me to rest? I am sitting here having wanted to write since last night tired from an odd week heading back to school and paperwork and pondering papers for grad school and so many small bits and pieces. As I look back a hawk came to me. Often it is difficult in my search for paths and in my journey to reveal and share with others. They see a dead bird probably carried here by dogs but for me that piece is far more significant it has never happened before and why a red tailed hawk and why that day and why this bit and strand in time. Maybe it is time we try and piece back together the whole rather than continue fixing only pieces. Maybe there are reasons midst the jumble and as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Did you know trees can talk?

Bird Droppings August 11, 2010-08-11
Did you know trees can talk?

“Did you know that trees talk? Well they do. They talk to each other, and they’ll talk if you listen. Trouble is, white people don’t listen. They never learned to listen to the Indians so I don’t suppose they’ll listen to other voices in nature. Tatanga Mani, Stoney tribe

Most people would laugh at the comment trees can talk. I thought it was a bit odd as I first read the quote from Tatanga Mani or Walking Buffalo a Stoney Indian from Canada who after being educated in the modern world never gave up his reverence and respect for nature. A friend posted a note like in Lord of the Rings which is what I thought of as I read earlier today. But I have been by the cottonwoods along the Indian cemetery at Fort Sill and stood looking across the plains listening. The rustling of the cottonwoods along the creek can provide a sense of communication unlike anything I could describe. It has been a few years since I was last at Fort Sill in Lawton Oklahoma. This morning I went out before the sun came up and stood listening to the night. Pine needles create a sound unlike the leaves of many deciduous trees. Fading in the background the crickets and tree frogs chirped along keeping time with the slight breeze.

“For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and the woods were all in finished beauty. Winds, rain, snow, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. Birds, insects, and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

When I sit listening my mind seems to be at ease and trouble seems to simply wander off. Around me the sounds of nature and when the sunlight finally makes its way through the dark the awareness of all around me. Butterflies and flowers are all about me and each has a specific purpose and each often occupying and living a very delicate balance in our hectic world. Many people give no mind to a butterfly that only survives with a specific host plant much like the Monarch that only feeds on milkweed. The Monarch also needs a very select forest to winter in as part of its natural cycle. In Mexico timbering is wiping out the winter resting spot for northern Monarchs and soon we may see a decline in Monarch populations.

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

I have many times written about the sacredness of life and all about us. Perhaps in greed we lose this sense of nature. Over the past few years I have learned to be more revenant to the world around me and in turn to people as well. I spent a large part of yesterday talking with a friend about how I see all as a puzzle a great jigsaw puzzle with each piece interconnected to all the others to form a picture of life. Some people hear my puzzle analogy and do not understand. It has been some time since listening to a great speaker talk about how we each influence at least ten people every day. He was referring to the fact that positively or negatively every person we come in contact with is impacted by what we do. The example we set is what is seen and carried away. Life is a constant interconnection of people, places, things and ideas.

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

It has been sometimes since walking across the fields near my home I could hear the buffalo snort and paw the ground agitated by my prescience and letting me know I must move on. Many the times as a child I caught fireflies and filled a mason jar to light my bedroom at night with their glow. There is a point of understanding and reverence that we loose in our greed and selfishness. We tend to rush by and miss so much the world has to offer. I Am sitting writing listening and wondering as I finish today. My dear friends please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

Thinking of others

Bird Droppings August 10, 2010
Thinking of Others

“I think that empathy is important not only as a means of enhancing compassion, but I think that generally speaking when dealing with others on any level, if you are having difficulties, its extremely helpful to be able and try and put yourself in the other persons place and see how they would react to the situation.” The Dalai Lama

Sitting here in my class room officially back in school although no students for another week I was thinking about how do some teachers succeed where others have difficulty. I have for some time used the idea that teachers more than t knowing and understanding content must have empathy. As I read this passage from The Art of Happiness by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Culter M.D. the idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes hit me hard. That is a premise essentially for starting a school year or teaching a class for that matter. John Dewey refers to staring with the students past experiences and building from there. How many times do we as human beings simply assume all know our experiences and everyone is the same?

“What is important is that we have a superior way of life. We Indians will show this country how to act human. Someday this country will revise its constitution, its laws, in terms of human beings, instead of property. If Red Power is to be a power in this country it is ideological….. What is the ultimate value of a man’s life? That is the question.” Vine Deloria, Jr. 1971

I liked this idea of acting human as if most of the time we do not act human. Going back to The Dalai Lama and looking at the concept of happiness a comment is made about happiness is having all of those things you want. Conversely that approach to happiness never is fulfilled since when you acquire what you want you want more. Watching the mega yacht and mega lifestyle reality shows sometimes makes me wonder how you can really be happy when all you strive for is material. It is looking within that real happiness can be found.

“The man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization. And when native man left off this form of development, his humanization was retarded in growth.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

I am sitting in my class room listening to the running water of various tanks and aquariums working on putting up some new photos on my wall and trying to get some cleaning done. The building is quiet save for the running water and hum of my computer. The air conditioning has been cut back and sweat is rolling off my brow. I Just finished a conversation with a friend about this last quote. Sometimes we forget that all about us interconnects and we are simple a piece in the puzzle. We like to believe we are more than the sum of the whole rather than an integral piece. I still have a good bit of paperwork I need to address and sort through this evening so maybe for this dropping I will leave with this. I end each of my wandering in the same way and have now for nearly eleven years. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Ognorance versus the journey

Bird Droppings August 9, 2010
Ignorance versus the journey

“If I want to justify my existence, and continue to be obsessed with the notion that I’ve got to do something for humanity — well, teaching ought to quell that obsession — and if I can ever get around to an intelligent view of matters, intelligent criticism of contemporary values ought to be useful to the world. This gets back again to ……The best way to help mankind is through the perfection of yourself.” Joseph Campbell

It has been so many years ago, at first I thought my goal was to do something for mankind as in some great event or task. As I sit and wonder this evening I find in Campbell’s thought so often it is searching for and bettering your self that we truly help mankind. Earlier I wrote today to a friend about trying to understand and reduce ignorance. I seriously think it is funny how during political campaigns ignorance seems to be rampant.

“Unintelligent people always look for a scapegoat.” Ernest Bevin

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

Working with children it becomes interesting as each day you see pieces of ignorance fall away only to be there again in the morning as parents and all those outside of school can rebuild during the night.

“Ignorance is never out of style. It was in fashion yesterday, it is the rage today and it will set the pace tomorrow.” Frank Dane

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

I live in a place which borders on ignorance and wants so terribly to cross over to the side of wisdom. It seems those in power always want to keep those ignorant folks in the dark hence for example the Dark Ages back in the day. During that period most could not even read or write and those that could were in power.

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

“Naiveté in grownups is often charming; but when coupled with vanity it is indistinguishable from stupidity.” Eric Hoffer

Looking at politics Hoffer may be very right. It does seem that in every election we watch politicians play with words against rhetoric that sounds good to that group that is being addressed. I recall when the legislation to prevent the sale of assault weapons was up for renewal and how ironic that in the midst of anti terrorism it would fall by the wayside.
“The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is ignorance.” Brian Hwang

“When I was fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. When I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” Mark Twain

In a search for knowledge and for understanding so many roads can be walked. We can search in books, in schools, in our families, and in life in general, but it must entail a search. For to assume you are there is to cease the journey and to cease is to assume you have reached the destination. We are born with a starting point, point A and when we die we have reached point B it is that which connects A and B that is crucial.

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

Funny thing in as I am sitting here in my writing spot I was talking with my son and Aerosmith’s greatest hits was playing in the background, coincidence maybe who knows but the journey continues.

“Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation…” Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces

I listen to the words and read the gibberish of the politicians and wonder if a hundred years ago or so would these same men and women be pushing for an Indian Territory and reservations. Today instead it is illegal immigration and Gay marriage that strike nerves in so many people. I was reading a National Geographic account of the salvaging of a slave ship. In 1698 humans were bought and sold for trinkets. Eleven thirteen inch bars of iron would buy a black man and forty pounds of glass beads a black women. On this particular ship the historians believe they were from the Ibo tribe in Western Africa. These people believed no one was greater than any other. It was their life philosophy that made them susceptible to being taken as slaves. This tribe was a peaceful people they were human beings bought and sold as things. Not until a war was fought were black men legally human beings and it was not until the trial of Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe that Indians received the legal term of human.

‎ “Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.” Luther Standing Bear

I have become spoiled sleeping late and forgetting to see the sunrise. This morning I went out and sat for thirty minutes in the stillness of morning. Morning Doves were cooing around me and various other birds just waking up. A woodpecker started on the old black walnut trunk nearby our house and I felt at ease. So many thoughts passed through my mind sitting listening in the barely lit morning. Soon I will be back in my normal rising early and writing reading getting back into the groove so to say. So it is evening now and I must end my day may peace be with you all my friends and please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.