Bird Droppings June 21, 2011
Seeing the fluidity of life
“Adverse circumstances test our courage, our strength of mind, and the depth of our conviction in the natural law. There is nothing exceptional about practicing in a good environment and atmosphere. The true test is if we can maintain our practice in adverse conditions.” Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, Advice From a Spiritual Friend
I often start with how the morning is when I walk outside and at four this morning the moon although about half full was glowing. The sounds were over whelming between crickets tree frogs and various other creatures of the night. Today as I ventured out a thought crossed my mind I had been reading for several weeks books on curriculum essentially on education and when I left the high school in May for summer break curriculum was a fixed static word. Even the hopes of a change in state mentality when we went from specific core curriculum to standards which ended up unpacked even more detail oriented. Sadly what had the apparent glimpse of educational freedom became more of a prison as teachers and administrators mapped and cajoled specific details to the most minute point. What was an inch and a half three ring binder for curriculum in a given class was now three inches thick.
“The central theory of curriculum is simple. Human life, however varied, consists in the performance of specific activities. Education that prepares for life is one that prepares definitely and adequately for these specific activities. However numerous and diverse they may be for any social class they can be discovered. This requires only that one go out into the world of affairs and discover the particulars of which their affairs consist. These will show the abilities, attitudes, habits, appreciations and forms of knowledge that men need. These will be the objectives of the curriculum. They will be numerous, definite and particularized. The curriculum will then be that series of experiences which children and youth must have by way of obtaining those objectives.” F. Bobbit, How to make a curriculum, 1918
In 1918 Bobbit used what John Dewey built on in later writings in that of experience, those experiences which children came to school with and had in school. However in today’s world of CRCT’s and NCLB and all the wonderful acronyms specifics are what teachers teach so students pass specific topic driven tests. I went out this morning actually twice earlier I was sitting my eyes closed listening to the steady drone of the crickets the same note incessantly playing yet actually calming not tedious. Across the trees tens of thousands of fire flies sparkling and dancing through the trees and stars scattered about. I started thinking I could very easily write this down specifically illustrating each item I see and hear and generate a story but experiencing what I was would never be adequately detailed in writing. A recording and video and digital imagery would not capture this morning there was fluidity a movement. For many people there were only stars, crickets and darkness and go back to bed I actually did but could not stop thinking about the event I had witnessed nothing different than I had so many previous mornings. Crickets were still playing the same note, the same stars, same trees and fence and grass but was it.
I went out a second time and as I turned facing each of four directions in the world the stars were slightly different as I faced north and turned to the east and south and west. I spied an old friend Cassiopeia the running W constellation. But was it Cassiopeia I could not find the final star I searched above the group and looked away looking again and again and began to think maybe this was not the group of stars I thought. Then as I lowered my eyes I noticed below the group the final star I had been looking in the wrong place.
“The idea of curriculum is hardly new but the way we understand and theorize it has altered over the years and there remains considerable dispute as to meaning. It has its origins in the running/chariot tracks of Greece. It was, literally, a course. In Latin curriculum was a racing chariot; currere was to run.” William Pinar
I was thinking as I watched the stars and fire flies how fluid even in the stillness the tree frogs added a unique touch chirping away in the early morning. But while yes I could write and limit this scene there was so much more to experience so much more happening than could be written in a three inch guide book on early morning wanderings. So many teachers’ educators want a fixed package so each child will get this portion of knowledge. Exams provide the conclusion for that mentality and you can teach to an exam and many teachers now teach a prescribed package to the exam. But what if we were looking in the wrong place for the extra star would we know to keep looking or assume it was the wrong constellation? Would we have enough independence to look deeper even though there was not time in the schedule of this activity and the guide book allotted only five minutes of pondering. Fluids are not solid yet have properties and consistency, knowledge and learning is fluid not solid and in trying to make a solid from fluid we can only freeze it and stifle the true understanding.
Sitting here thinking of curriculum theory and writers and listeners and teachers and thinkers and most of all students who have to sit through classes of content and never get to context all for the sake of a test and that the only measure of what they have maintained at that point in time of that subject and perhaps in a narrow minded way that is what politicians want, a narrow minded populous that will simply do as we ask. I keep picking up old National Geographic, a recent one had several excellent articles on the Grand Canyons formed by the flow of water intricate and detailed but what if it had been formed by a solid and not a fluid? It would be a valley gouged out by a glacier a straight shot no intricacies and details and a pile of rubble where the glacier began to melt pushed along from the ice sadly education is similar. If and when a good teacher comes along education is fluid and students learn the intricacies and details but if a teacher is not and teaches a solid by the guide book the details and real life experiences get left by the way side. Currere means to run which made me think of a scene in Seabiscuit where after seeing the horse is fast but still holding back the trainer gets the jockey to take him in a field and run no track no limits just cut loose and the horse finds himself. He had been trained to run in a circle in a guided limited curriculum. What he needed was fluidity. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.