Trying to raise a flag

Bird Droppings February 23, 2012

Trying to raise a Flag


Growing up as a child I recall the many stories my father would tell, stories of World War II, of Grandpa Niper, and my favorite stories of Native American warriors and chiefs. I am amused as my youngest son says back in the day. One story is of my father that happened during World War II as the flag was raised on Mount Sirabachi on the island of Iwo Jima as the American troops moved island to island in the South Pacific trying to end the war. That flag raising has been immortalized in statues, photos, films, and in most World War II history books but I am sure the flag is no longer there on Mount Sirabachi, that bit of land that long since has reverted to its native foliage and habitat.

A good friend asked me about various aspects of his tenure at a former job signs he had been there were long since erased, covered, taken down, and a new blank wall replacing a mural painted by students and more recently a newly adopted school logo.  So often we only see with our eyes we are visual learners. When we landed on the moon, and or Columbus landed in the new world, we and they planted a flag, a visual stimulus to draw attention to the phenomenon, to add support to the effort, perhaps to make the ten o’clock news. Is that what we do simply draw attention? I think back to a recent film based on a novel written by the son of one of the flag raisers on Iwo Jima. The book, Flags of our fathers, sees the event from  a person’s view that actually was there and its impact on the men involved and how so much more happened in that simple act of recognition. 


“The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes.” Donald Schon


Long ago as man clambered from his cave, change became inevitable. He was leaving the warmth of the fire he required clothing. As he became a hunter, he required new tools for the bigger and stronger animals that provided more for his family. As populations grew additional transformations from gatherer to hunter to social being occurred. It was not long till status, power and soon politics were booming. As I thought back to an early society, and whose furs were better, whose cave was warmer, whose club was bigger and whose totem poles and drawings were coolest. Days came and went and we are still finding these symbols of those who were there. Soon furs gave way to cloth and hunting to farming and soon cities and towns sprang up and grew and with that various additional aspects of human nature. I find it interesting as anthropologists uncover as they study the few remaining true hunter gathering societies that as they observe many of the more depressing aspects of human nature are not there. Greed and hoarding do not exist in hunter gathers and appear as we become an agrarian society and begin with the exchanging or bartering of goods. 


“We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions.” Donald Schon


In societies that sprung up each new chieftain made a mark initially in the genetic codes left behind and then in written form and art and other trappings. Soon as new chieftains came much as in the wild where a new dominate male lion will devour all of its former rivals cubs so the new gene pool is only his, we destroy and eliminate. We push our ideals and thoughts.


“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.” Donald Schon


We must move past that base nature of man and build legacy into the souls of those still here. Teaching needs to go beyond a simple memorization of content and into truly contextual aspects of life. We truly need to learn not simply be told.


“A learning system… must be one in which dynamic conservatism operates at such a level and in such a way as to permit change of state without intolerable threat to the essential functions the system fulfills for the self. Our systems need to maintain their identity, and their ability to support the self-identity of those who belong to them, but they must at the same time be capable of transforming themselves.” Donald Schon


We need to get to a point in our system where internal transformation is ongoing even evolutionary as it may be a constant growing and developing, not limited by that individual or idea but perpetuated by the societal needs and identity. I look back at where and when and emailed a friend earlier. I have learned over the past few years for whatever reason in education there is this great tendency to continually revert no matter how effective and how proven an idea is, to a more traditional methodology. I recall a teacher searching frantically for transparencies and a teacher’s manual for social studies many years ago for a subject she had taught for forty years.

Teachers seem to inevitably take the path of least resistance. This almost seems drilled into the teaching psyche. A professor shared the story of five monkeys with me and I have used in bird droppings over the years. I asked several teachers why this is so. Why do teachers come in so excited and in a semester or two end up like everyone else. One wise teacher said fear immediately. I thought about it and perhaps that is so. In the educational society so often administrations work so hard to be feared by students and faculty that perhaps even those who know otherwise fall in to that trap.

Fear drives human nature in all aspects and sorts of human kind we seem to revolve around our fears. Religion is based on fear, laws and rules all are focused and based on fear. Yet how difficult is it to accomplish, truly accomplish anything if fear is the driving force. When the fear is gone all leverage is gone. This is why it is so difficult to work with conduct disordered or sociopathic individuals and students. Yet when you change that fear to one of trust perhaps another story can and will be written. In today’s educational arena in many schools word is this many teachers will lose jobs with coming state budget cuts. Motivation becomes what can I do slightly more of or better than my neighbor teacher so I am still here next year.

When we look back at where is the legacy of anyone, at anyplace, it might be easy to say it was erased. Yet when Bird Droppings goes out each day and when those of us who adhere to ideals and philosophies that were presented and carried on, that legacy is being passed on and expounded upon and who knows where and when that will go. I have set as a goal to teach in the education field in college and hopefully one day will be able to. Today I have to be content with students I have worked with who continue to ask questions and seek ideas as to how to teach and move forward in their chosen vocation and career. Legacies are not in the trappings as much as what is carried away in the heart and soul of the person. The flag raising on Mount Sirabachi only took an instant and yet is etched in hearts worldwide, and truly only time will tell. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks.  



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